insideKENT Exclusive: An Interview with Steve Backshall
insideKENT Exclusive Interview with STEVE BACKSHALL
by Lisamarie Lamb
An adventurer, an author, an entertainer, a man who loves the outside world and everything nature has to show him… That’s Steve Backshall. Steve is dedicated to learning, and to discovering, and he loves to share that knowledge, which is why his new one man show, The Wild World Tour, is so exciting. We chatted with Steve as he discussed his tour, his love of a challenge, his writing, and how to inspire the next generation.
What inspired your love of the natural world?
Well, I am very, very lucky in that my parents, my mum and dad, are both wild keen on nature, on travel and on wildlife. From a very early age, my sister and I were pretty much dragged outside and forced to stay there, and it worked—we were infected with it from a very early age. It always seemed natural that whatever I was going to do with life, it was going to be something to do with the outdoors.
So you obviously love a challenge, from getting your degree, backpacking through Indonesia, recovering after breaking your back. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge probably would be an ascent we made on a mountain earlier this year, which actually hasn’t been broadcast yet. It will be coming out roundabout Christmastime on BBC2. And—yes, that was truly terrifying, and we were all very, very lucky to escape with our lives, really.
And you still go back? It’s amazing.
Yes, I remember Ranulph Fiennes once saying that one of the most important things that any adventurer needs is a bad memory, just to remember all the good times, and to blank out all the bad bits. And I certainly have that!
What’s your next challenge that you’d really love to get stuck into?
My next expedition actually is pretty much as soon as this tour finishes, I am going back out to the rainforest in Guyana, going searching for snakes and spiders, going diving with electric eels, and possibly trying to film harpy eagles, so I won’t be resting for a second. I will be straight back out there.
Deadly 60. It’s huge. You’ve inspired so many children to work with animals when they’re older – what advice would you give to those looking to follow in your footsteps?
I would say first and foremost, do it, because it is just the best way to spend your life. There’s no two ways about it—a life that is spent outdoors, that is spent with animals, that is spent having big adventures—it is so much fun, and so enriching, and just gives you something new every single day.
Secondly, the natural world is infinite, it’s huge. There is so much to learn that you could spend every day of your life studying and still not know everything. So get started early, because it takes an eternity to pick up everything about wildlife. And then, later on, go on to study the sciences. Hopefully, if you can, go on to do zoology or biology at university and see where it takes you.
With all your expeditions and TV shows going on, as well as your work on your Master’s, what made you pick up the pen and start writing?
That’s actually where I started off. I was an author for the Rough Guides before I started working in television, and my first degree was in English, so it’s where I came from, where I got started. I’ve sort of moved back into it over the years with both fiction novels and non-fiction novels as well. Writing has always been there, it’s always been something I’ve done. But now, it’s quite a major part of my life when I’m away on expeditions, when I’m away doing things—I’m always writing at the same time. And that’s how I managed to churn out all these books, despite a ridiculous schedule!
Well, it is fantastic, you never seem to stop. You are always, always on the go.
I know. I am a terrible, terrible, workaholic, which is something that I guess I will have to kick at some stage in life, but I’m not quite ready to kick it yet.
You have a one-man show coming up in Kent in November, the Wild World Tour. What can we expect to see in that?
It’s a tour that will take in the world’s wildest places, that will take in expeditions to places that have never been seen before. It will take in species as yet undescribed by science, some of the most extraordinary predators found anywhere on earth. And though I will be talking as if to an audience of my peers, I do always find that on these particular tours, the youngsters, if they’re into the subject, will step up to the mark and they will enjoy it. It always blows my mind, actually, quite how much youngsters, when they’re fascinated by natural history, will listen to a full-on biology lecture, and get it as much as the adults seem to.
See Steve Backshall’s show, the Wild World Tour, on 7th November at Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells. www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk