Steve Backshall - A Wild Life
by Brian Beacom © Evening Times
Steve Backshall has shown on his BBC television series Deadly 60 he’s tougher than rhinocerous skin coated with Teflon.
The naturalist has dived with hammerhead and tiger sharks, caught king cobras, had a deadly redback spider on his hand and had “a bit of a scare” when his leg was inside a crocodile’s jaws.
But it’s when he tells how he once had to battle a much angrier species, in the form of armed Colombian drug dealers, you realise his reputation as one of Brtiain’s greatest action heroes is deserved.
Steve began his career as a writer with Rough Guides, but in his early 20s decided he wanted to break into television. But becoming the next David Attenborough isn’t easy. So he took off to South America.
“I had the idea of going to Colombia with a camera, and stranding myself in the jungle for a month, where I’d film everything going on around me. Then I’d come back, edit the film and then send it to every TV company in the UK.”
But the adventure was more hazardous than he’d imagined.
“I went with a friend, Rob, and in 1996 the country was a really scary place. Rob got himself into a situation with a drug gang, did a runner and went to the police – who handed him over to the gang. I was called in at the point these machine gun-carrying drug barons had a pistol to his head and were about to execute him.
“I managed to talk them out of killing him, saying we were connected to important people, and we were released. But we spent two days in prison. And my friend was so badly beaten up he had to be airlifted out of the country. It was terrifying.”
Steve would have been forgiven had he taken the next flight home. But he didn’t. He went into the jungle, got some great footage and as a result landed a job with National Geographic channel.
Five years on he moved to the BBC with the Really Wild Show. Since then he’s filmed across the world and bitten and stung by all sorts of dangerous creatures. In the Amazon he let himself be bitten by 400 bullet ants – said to have the most painful sting of any invertebrate. Why? Well, it’s in his DNA.
The 40-year-old grew up in a small farm in the south of England full of rescue animals.
“From an early age I was catching lizards and bugs, running feral in the woodland. It was a great life.”
Steve dismisses the notion that kids these days aren’t interested in the great outdoors.
“Stories in newspapers suggest today’s young people are all fat and lazy and spend their lives in front of a computer. But this isn’t true, although it can be harder for kids to get outside.
“That’s why it’s important we show them how we can enjoy life outdoors on their own doorstep, go out and climb a tree or a mountain or whatever.”
However, Steve was badly hurt when he fell 10m onto rock during a “fun” climb in 2008.
“My heel bone went through the bottom of my foot. The pain was like nothing else,” says Steve, who lives in Buckinghamshire.
But Steve is made of stern stuff. He was soon back climbing, sea kayaking and cycling, and that enthusiasm comes across in his TV work. “I hope so,” he says.
Now Steve is set to face a new challenge when he embarks on a national stage tour, talking to audiences at the likes of Glasgow Pavilion about his adventures.
On a previous tour his biggest crowd on one day was 14,000.
“We were geared up to talk to 200 people a day,” he says of the Live and Deadly tour. But on the first day 7000 turned up.”
Scary. But where do the big adrenalin rushes come from these days? Turns out it’s his new kids’ fiction book, Tiger Wars.
“Well, I’ve never written fiction before and people may hate it,” he says. “That’s a scary thought.
And his next challenge? “A big expedition every year, perhaps writing one or two books.”
He adds, with a wry grin: “And I should think about finding a girlfriend and start a family. There’s a real challenge.”
A Wild Life - Steve Backshall
The enormously popular award-winning television adventurer Steve Backshall talks about his expeditions, encounters with wild wonders, the mysteries of the natural world, his new iction novel Tiger Wars, and last book Looking for Adventure. The event will feature film clips of the animals that have inspired him and there will be an opportunity for audience Q & A's. This event will be an illustrated talk and will not feature any live animals on stage. Best suited for adults and families and children of 8 years and over. There will be an opportunity to purchase signed copies of the books.