Explorer, naturalist, presenter & dad Steve Backshall MBE, 48, talks to Liz Nicholls ahead of his Ocean show at a venue near you.
Hi Steve. Can you tell us a bit about your Ocean show? “Yes! We’re bringing marine scenes to the stage, creating the undersea environment inside a theatre which is quite a challenge! Marine creatures will be brought to life through the use of props, life-size replicas of the largest animal ever known on our planet, footage on the giant screen, and interactivity. It’s going to be a blast.”
Q. Is the shark your favourite animal? “It’s up there. One of the things I find most fascinating is that even the sharks we have here in our seas we know little about. Even recently, people used to think basking sharks hibernated, lying on the sea bed for winter. But now we know about their fascinating mating and parenting lives. To me they are the most majestic prehistoric, but not primeval, predators on the planet. There are fewer than ten people every year killed by sharks, but we have this impression of them as malicious, man-eating monsters out to get us. And that’s simply not true.”
Q. You’ve been bitten by a caiman, crawled on by a redback and have only respect for animals. But has any experience scared you? “With animals it’s rare but one stands out. We were diving with crocodiles in Botswana and a hippo came out of the murk and approached within metres of us. I’d say you could have tossed a coin as to whether we lived or died in that situation.”
Q. Did growing up on a smallholding in Bagshot inspire your love of wildlife? “Yes. I had such a halcyon childhood surrounded by our old asthmatic donkey, psychotic ‘guard dog’ geese, guinea fowl, peacocks… Every one was a rescue animal that had been given a second chance of life with us. They were our friends, our housemates.”
Q. What was your favourite book growing up? “Call Of The Wild by Jack London. I still even now read it and get the hackles going up at the back of my neck. Once I got a little bit older Alfred Russell Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago took over.”
Q. Do you love your local wildlife in Marlow? “Absolutely! I now find my best wildlife encounters are not in the world’s most exotic places, they’re here. I’m seeing these things with fresh eyes through my kids. They’re very lucky with Helen [Glover] as their mum, a double gold-winning Olympic athlete who is amazing at everything, and from me they get a love of nature. About two months ago we saw otter spraint at the bottom of our garden and set a camera trap with the kids. We watched the swans, rats and foxes and when we got our first otter we practically blew the roof off this house. It was epic! It remains one of my fondest wildlife experiences ever. Even though I’ll probably never even see those otters with my own eyes, our world has become that little bit more exciting because we know they’re there.”
OCEAN SHOWS NEARBY
Guildford’s G Live on 7th April
Reading’s Hexagon on 14th April
Basingstoke’s Anvil on 19th April
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on 29th April
New Theatre Oxford on 4th May
Many more shows available at various locations.
Visit stevebackshall.com for info & to book.