Inside the Whitley Awards Week 2024

A look behind the scenes of the 2024 Whitley Awards week in London...

When Whitley Award finalists arrive in London for the prestigious Awards ceremony, they spend the week with the WFN team, where we utilise their visit to the UK by providing support and training to bolster the success of their win.

Winners take in the sights of London
Winners take in the sights of London.

During the week, we host a series of events to celebrate Winners’ remarkable achievements and provide networking opportunities with funders, journalists, country Ambassadors and other conservation NGOs.

These opportunities help Winners to capitalise on the spotlight that results from their win and make new contacts that could evolve into future partnerships and potential project donors.

Papua New Guinea's Naomi Longa speaks to supporters at special networking evening with the Friends of WFN.
Papua New Guinea’s Naomi Longa speaks to supporters at a special networking evening with the Friends of WFN.

We also offer support in some of the core skills necessary for successful project delivery, as well as speech and communications training to help conservationists effectively communicate their work to an international audience.

Purnima spoke to Martha Kearney live on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about her reaction to winning this years Gold Award, worth £100,000 in project funding.
Gold Award winner Purnima Devi Barman spoke to Martha Kearney live on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Through our partners at Boffin Media, we also provide media training for radio and broadcast interviews and facilitate the chance to put these new skills to the test, by using our in-house PR expertise to pitch exclusive stories about the Winners and their work to high profile UK media outlets during their stay.

Here’s a look back on the week’s events:


Arriving into the UK over the weekend, finalists joined the WFN team on Sunday evening for a first in-person meeting over dinner. A perfect ice-breaker for the week ahead, this was a great chance for the team to get to know finalists, hear about their amazing conservation projects and wish them luck for their final interview stage the next day.


The last stage in the process of winning a Whitley Award, on Monday, the 2024 Whitley Award finalists headed to the Royal Geographical Society for a final interview with our Judging Panel.

Up until this point, the application, assessment and shortlisting process had taken place online, so joining the panel for a roundtable discussion and Q&A provided the opportunity to meet face-to-face with external judges and answer any outstanding questions.

Joining the panel was this year’s Whitley Gold Award winner, Purnima Devi Barman, who acted as a mentor to the new cohort during their stay.

By mid-afternoon, all finalists were called together to be given the good news that they had all secured their place as Winners of this year’s Awards!

That evening, our new Winners were introduced to the Friends of WFN – who collectively fund our Gold Award each year.

Guests enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal prepared by the WFN Friends Committee and a chance to meet donors and supporters at a special pre-ceremony networking event. Now officially ‘Award winners’, the conservationists introduced themselves and their projects – giving the Friends of WFN a ‘first look’ at the exciting projects being supported this year.

Thank you to our generous host, WFN Trustee and Friends’ Committee Chair, Catherine Faulks.


On Tuesday, Whitley Award winners received professional media skills training from Boffin Media to help them effectively communicate their work to journalists and the wider public.

WFN plans and manages an international PR campaign during Awards Week, drawing upon our wide-reaching media relations and partnerships to secure press interviews and global news coverage. Practical advice and training helped Winners to prepare for these upcoming radio and television interviews scheduled throughout their stay in London.

Winners practised interview scenarios with Boffin Media’s Richard Hollingham and Sue Nelson — both BBC-trained television and radio producers, presenters, and award-winning journalists.

With these new and refined skills in place, they are then prepared to share the importance of their work on television, radio and in print, capitalising on the heightened interest that their award-win generates.

Following their media skills and interview training, the 2024 Whitley Award winners put these lessons to the test, speaking to various television broadcast and radio news journalists to tell the stories of their conservation projects.

A successful PR campaign can help build local pride for projects on-the-ground, as well as inspire philanthropic support from new sources and potentially even influence environmental policy on a regional, national and international scale.

Thank you to Sue and Richard from Boffin Media for leading our training day, which included bespoke coaching based on the nuances of Winners’ work, and thank you Inigo Insurance for hosting this important and insightful day.

Tuesday concluded with a sightseeing walk along the River Thames, offering some distraction from the building excitement surrounding the day ahead.


Ceremony day is upon us! Wednesday morning kicked off in high spirits with a chance to watch the Winner films for the very first time. Narrated by WFN Ambassador, Sir David Attenborough, the seven short films were produced by Silverback Films and their first viewing made for an emotional moment!

Riding the wave of excitement, Winners then dove into speech coaching to prepare for addressing the 400-strong audience that evening. Olha Madylus provided expert tuition on writing and delivering a successful speech.

After being given a chance to practice their words, Winners participated in a technical run through of the evening’s event before Silverback producer and WFN NextGen Ambassador, Nick Gates, presented Winner with a special gift – the script of their short films, signed by Sir David Attenborough!

After changing into their ceremony attire, Winners arrived at the Royal Geographical Society to a special reception with WFN Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, before WFN Ambassadors Tom Heap and Kate Humble compèred the evening’s proceedings in front of an audience of donors, supporters and country Ambassadors.

Read more about the 2024 Whitley Award ceremony here or watch again by replaying the evening’s livestream on-demand.

A huge thank you to our partners who made the event so special, including Mandy Duncan-Smith, Silverback Films, Floating Harbour and Sea Change Wine.


After the excitement of celebrating their Award-win, the newly announced 2024 Whitley Award winners woke up to international press coverage on Thursday morning, with numerous articles published from the UK and a multitude of newspaper articles sharing their stories in their home countries.

Brazilian Whitley Award winner, Fernanda Abra, was invited to meet Ambassador of Brazil to the United Kingdom, Antonio Patriota, to talk about her work as a road ecologist, and how Whitley Award funding will help her to implement her sustainable solutions for primates to safely cross Amazon forest canopies fragmented by roads.

In the afternoon, WFN hosted a special networking event at Old Sessions House to facilitate connections between Award Winners and targeted conservation NGOs.

Recognising that collaboration is key to conservation success, Whitley Award winners had the opportunity to network and forge future partnerships for potential funding, technical support, and project collaborations.

They were invited to introduce themselves and their projects to the NGOs in attendance, before having the chance to delve into more focussed conversations throughout the afternoon, to reinforce connections and create new contacts.

As one of our guests fed back: “I particularly appreciated the fact that it was not too big so everyone got the opportunity to meet most of the Winners and spend time exploring how we can network and support each other”.

We’d like to thank Old Sessions House and Urban Greens UK for their support with the iconic venue, and all those who shared the afternoon with us.


On Friday morning the Winners joined the team at WFN’s office to sign their contracts and discuss the logistics of successful project delivery, including reporting, monitoring and evaluation.

As is tradition each year, once they’d signed their contracts, Winners added their pin to the alumni map alongside the 220 other Winner pins in 80 marked countries.

Leroy Ignacio had the special honour of adding Guyana to the WFN map for the very first time!

Gold Award winner Purnima Devi Barman spent Friday morning at the office of the High Commissioner of India to the UK talking about her work with the ‘Stork Sisters’ to protect the Greater Adjutant Stork. Purnima’s Whitley Award win will help her to fulfil her ambition to double the global population of the bird to 5,000 by 2030.

The week concluded with a farewell lunch. Joined by the WFN team, Trustees, and Founder Edward Whitley and family, the 2024 Winners had the chance to reflect on the connections made and lessons learned during this busy week.

Congratulations again to the 2024 Whitley Awardees! We look forward to following and supporting your work as projects progress.