About this episode:
This bonus episode was recorded live at the Global Bird Fair, and is a conversation with the Actor, Director, RSPB Ambassador and Trainspotter-turned-Birder, Samuel West. Samuel talks about his recent experiences shooting the Channel 5/PBS Masterpiece remake of “All Creatures Great and Small” in the Yorkshire Dales; how the rural connection to nature and community helped him and many of its viewers through the pressure of the COVID lockdowns, and how the production team had to wrestle with some unique anachronistic wildlife – Swifts appearing in the June-shot Christmas special, Collared Doves appearing in a drama set in 1940 (despite not reaching Yorkshire until 1958), and extinct Red Kites obsessed with photobombing! Samuel’s love of birds began upon a visit to his grandfather in Kenya, has taken him to film “Death in Paradise” in no small part because of the endemic Guadalupian avifauna on set, and helped him with the pressures of running the Sheffield Crucible Theatre. To Sam, nature is key to contentment: “No matter how nice the person is you might be in bed with, it’s worth getting up and getting out at first light, some of the time…” As an RSPB Ambassador, he takes particular relish in raising a placard board; speaking out against environmental concerns such as the construction of the Nuclear Plant, Sizewell C; but also believes British Wildlife easily competes with the impressive sights of the African savannah having seen 4,500 waders take to the air in one bound at RSPB Snettisham.
I’ve known of Sam since I was a child, although at the time I knew him as Prince Caspian in the TV adaptation of “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. As such I have always assumed he loved nature – he was always so kind to the piratical mouse Reepicheep… – so since getting to know him personally, it has been a delight, albeit not a surprise, to share his love for the wild world.
This recording was a joy – live audiences are something to which both Sam and I are accustomed, and something towards which we are happy to throw ham! It was the first leg in my EV journey up to the Scottish Highlands (https://vimeo.com/showcase/10542601); the first of 4 interviews that week; and it was also my first visit to the Global Bird Fair (Sam had been a couple of times before.)
My experience of the fair was an interesting one – not one I had truly anticipated – for although I share a great deal in common with the man I went to interview, I found Birders of the Global Bird Fair come in a whole host of shapes and sizes. There are the globetrotting ones, the list-baggers, the binocular-obsessed techie ones, and those that want to make headdresses out of feathers. There are Bird artists, Bird-themed Beer Brewers and Birders who only like birds because they can’t watch Dinosaurs in the garden. But the big surprise for me was to find a few at the fair who didn’t necessarily consider Conservation as an integral part of being a Birder. This continues to perplex me. As Sam says in this interview, there are many parties under the umbrella of Birding, and as such the RSPB is responsible for uniting a huge array of different supporters’ voices – not an easy task.
I think this interview does something wonderful. Sam speaks so eloquently about the beauty of nature – how it inspires us, calms us, gives our lives purpose – but he also exposes the threats of climate change, eco-tourism, and of us not using our power to protest. I believe this conversation is the internal struggle that Sam, me and many others have on a daily basis – that of finding equilibrium. Part of nature’s recovery is ultimately for us to leave it alone; of that is the case, where will we find solace, inspiration, relaxation and wonder? It seems to me that to achieve a Green future, an incredibly hard balancing act will need to be enacted. One made all the more challenging when even those who on first glance seem to be united alongside us and our conservation goals are in reality looking in a completely different direction.
Samuel West (Twitter) – https://twitter.com/exitthelemming
Sam’s “Tweet of the Day” – Dipper – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b099xhmg
RSPB – https://www.rspb.org.uk/
“All Creatures Great and Small” – https://www.channel5.com/show/all-creatures-great-and-small/