Monday, 08 December 2014

Documentary film-maker, author and all round adventurer, Chris Terrill certainly has some tales to tell from his days at Brighton College through to today, we managed to find time in his schedule to draw out some of those stories...

  1. When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you 'grew-up'?
    I was at Brighton College from 1965 to 1070 and never had any intention of growing up. I have never accepted that age is about the number of birthdays you might have had - age is about the spirit within you. Allow me to quote from my book "Commando" (page 299) about a promise I made myself when I was 18 - a memory as clear to me now as if it was half an hour ago.
    I was standing in the front quadrangle of my school, Brighton College. It was a glorious Summer's day and all was exceedingly well with my world. I was adoring my studies, had just been told that I was to be the next captain of the 1st XV and was madly in love with my girlfriend, a delectable beauty called Gayle Oliver from St Mary's Hall - a nearby girls' school. I had a terrific bunch of friends and, of course, it was the late sixties - a never-to-be-repeated time of excitement, exhilaration and giddy exuberance. I knew as I stood there that life would never be better than at that precise moment. Nothing could be improved upon. I vowed then and there that I would always be eighteen - or at least hold on to the essence of being eighteen as the years rolled persistently forward.
    I am not saying life has not get better as I have got older - it has of course because life is a never ending adventure; forever exciting and rewarding as long as you approach it in the right way. Part of that approach, I think, is to maintain that sense of wonder and invulnerability that comes with youth. Something I have always tried to do and always will. It drives my wife mad of course.
  2. What are you now you've grown up?
    Well - I am a professional adventurer, documentary filmmaker and author. Proof I think that I have been true to my word about growing up or, should I say, not growing up.
  3. What is your best memory of school?
    I have so many great memories of Brighton College - but I guess some of the best surround sport. Few experiences surpass the glory of leading out a 1st XV team on to the field to do battle against another team in front of a home crowd. In my day we had no girls at Brighton College but the girls from St Mary's Hall (just down the road) would come to watch the first half but were always herded back at half time fro some reason I never understood. For that reason, with girls to show off to, we always played like super heroes for the first 40 minutes minutes but never ever quite managed to summon the same passions in the second half. If those girls had been made to stay the course of the match we would have been unbeaten all season. But perhaps my most abiding memory was when, at the age of 16, I made it into the final of the school mile race on sports day. I was very excited and very nervous as I was the youngest runner in the field but also because later that afternoon I had to report to my housemaster for a beating (I had been caught playing football in the squash courts - almost a hanging offence). The race was fast and furious but I somehow managed to hang on the leading group led my Chris Rees - the school mile champion and record holder. As we approached the penultimate bend I felt a surge of nervous energy and increased my pace - coming up to the shoulders of the great Chris Rees. As we came into the home straight I just closed my eyes , gritted my teeth and sprinted for all I was worth. I won by a yard.
    Ten minutes later, still in my running kit and breathing hard, I reported to my housemaster who was waiting with cane in hand. "Well done on a great run Terrill" he said swishing the birch through the air. "In all fairness" he added "go and put a couple of tracksuit bottoms on - might take the sting out of it a bit!"
    An early lesson that determination, pluck and endeavour have their own rewards.
  4. What was the best piece of advice you were given?
    When I was in the fifth form my geography teacher, Mr Boddy, advised me, in front of the class, to give up geography as I was completely useless, showed no aptitude whatsoever and should not even bother taking the O level. As a direct result I doubled and redoubled my efforts and ended up not only getting an A grade at O level but carrying on with geography to A level and then taking a degree in geography at Durham University and, after doing a PhD, becoming a geography teacher myself. I often wonder if Mr Boddy knew exactly what he was doing and was simply kick-starting me. Damn clever these Brighton College teachers!
  5. What do you do /did you do as a career?
    After doing my doctoral fieldwork in Africa I was appointed Head of Geography at Rendcomb College in Gloucestershire. I was only going to take the job for a year to allow me to write up my thesis but then I discovered a passion for teaching so ended up staying for five years. Eventually I went back to Africa to work as a field anthropologist in the drought and famine areas of Ethiopia and Sudan. That led to an interview with the BBC World Service and the offer of a Summer job with their African section. I ended up staying in the BBC for twenty years specialising in documentary films - particularly those with a geographical/anthropological bent. Ten years ago I left to set up my own company Uppercut Films which I still run with my wife Christine. She does all the hard work running the company whilst I have all the fun hurtling round the world with my camera.
  6. What does your job involve?
    In a nutshell my job is to have adventures and either to make films about my experiences or write books about them. I first have to have the idea for a story and then I have to get a programme or book commissioned. Once I have secured a budget (the hardest thing about my job) I set off into the wild blue yonder. My adventures are not exactly jollies I hasten to add. Much of my work takes me to war zones around the world or other sorts of hotspots - often to live with people who exist in very extreme physical environments. I have a series on Channel 5 at the moment called Living on the Edge which is about people who live in the teeth of nature at her most vicious and unforgiving such as the reindeer herders of northern Norway, the fishermen of Mauritania or the nomads of the Sahara. Otherwise I am fascinated in natural environmental hazards such as hurricanes, tornadoes,firestorms and floods.
  7. What are the most challenging parts of your job?
    Because of the nature of my work and the sorts of places I have to go I need to be careful of the obvious dangers to life and limb. I always work alone, doing my own camera work, so I don't have any back up. I am well trained though, have a lot of experience in survival and, above all, still have a driving desire to see as much of the world and its wonders before I run out of time - even though I am only 18.
  8. What have you done that you are most proud of?
    I think the one thing that I am most proud of is getting my Royal Marines green beret. In 2006 I started making a series for ITV called Commando: On the Front Line and this involved following a troop of new recruits through 32 weeks of the hardest basic military training in the world and then straight out to the front line in Afghanistan. I soon realised that in order to really understand what these guys were going through I had to get stuck in myself so I trained with them. I managed to get through the 32 weeks which culminated in the gruelling commando tests. Somehow I managed to pass those and so was awarded my own green beret - my most prized possession.
  9. What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
    To have more hours in the day. So much to do - and always so little time.
  10. What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
    My green beret - it goes everywhere with me. A rugby ball to kick around. A camera - I might as well make a film before I am rescued.
  11. How would you like to be remembered?
    Someone who at only 18 should not have died so young.

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