About this episode:
Astrid Goldsmith is an award-winning stop-motion animator. After tuition from Great Uncle Bulgaria and 12 years of hand-making models for other people – including Garth Jennings (for “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”), the boy band Blue and the unrelenting Duracell Bunny – she made her debut solo film, “Squirrel Island”. Astrid’s animations question the impact of human policy on the natural world, and her latest commissioned film, “Quarantine”, was nominated for the Debut Director Award at the Edinburgh TV Festival’s New Voice Awards. In this in-depth conversation, we talk grey squirrels vs. red squirrels, badgers as a focus for nationalism, how “good and bad” animals are an unfair human construct, and how anthropomorphic animation lends itself perfectly to deeper reflection about us and about our diverse ecosystem.
Back in the days when “Trees A Crowd” was just a mind-nugget – those heady days before I had even heard of Astrid Goldsmith or Right Angles, or how all podcasts are basically just an .RSS feed full of links that care not a jot for snuffly woodland creatures – there was my deep-rooted obsession with Badgers.
My mother bought me my first badger. His name was (and indeed still is) Dandy. I cannot have been old when he arrived – perhaps 3, perhaps 4 – but Dandy, true to his charming name, glazed with suave (yet squeezable) aplomb, placed himself as my sole playfellow of interest – “Red Ted” left discarded as the cuddly toy of yesteryear.
Other badgers arrived – large ones and small ones, sock puppets and finger puppets, one holiday I even forced my mother into buying me a tray bespeckled with badgers – a tray! My father has bought me badger mugs. My sister made me a badger 30th birthday cake. My nephew and niece have even been cajoled into calling me “Uncle Badger”. And so perhaps, over three decades on from that first mustelid’s arrival, it’s not surprising that I smashed the “Play” button when BBC iPlayer recommended for me to watch:
“Quarantine – Animation. A post-Brexit pagan dance fantasy about a troupe of Morris-dancing badgers forced to confront the animals quarantined in a facility built above their burrow.”
It seemed like someone was making content just for me!
Astrid was the first person I interviewed. She was brilliant, erudite, charming and bubbly. I was underprepared. I’m destined to ask her for a follow up interview when her next film sets sail for Mars. I am indebted to her kindness and openness and keenness to draw Squirrels for me (and for making “Quarantine” JUST FOR ME!)
I hope you enjoy this interview which was the start to a (hopefully very long) journey.
ASTRID GOLDSMITH – WEBSITE:
ARTICLE ON PROTECTING NUCLEAR WASTE:
EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE AND YOSEMITE:
THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS’ “WIND IN THE WILLOWS” TRAILER: