Caught By The River is a new arrival on the London festival scene – and an incredibly welcome one. As a nation renowned for rejoicing in all things bucolic, this festival with a concern for nature as well as incredible music should be pretty special. A glass of red wine watching Lauren Laverne interview Chris Packham followed by the always-wonderful live experience of Super Furry Animals is our definition of idyllic, and that’s just the Sunday. We can’t wait to party by the river, and if you want to party with us then you’re in luck, as we have four pairs of tickets to give away for the weekend, and all you have to do is go the end of the article, and let us know your favourite London venue.
Before all that though, we’re thrilled to say we caught up with Chris himself to talk all things nature and music and, in an effort to redefine ‘spurious’, linked each question with a classic Super Furry Animals song.
Hi Chris, and welcome to London In Stereo. Some of us are amongst probably your least-favourite nostalgists; those that watched The Really Wild Show and want to talk to you endlessly about it. Fear not, though – this is no jaunt down memory lane. Instead we’re focusing on the here and now, and on the headliners of Caught By The River; the incredible Super Furry Animals. We’ve chosen a selection of our favourite songs by them and crowbarred in nature and wildlife based questions, to suit those songs.
We guess there might not be much wildlife on show at the festival, as critters seek refuge from the all the people, but are we wrong? If we keep our eyes open, what might be out there, and when the festival is packed up and gone, what would we find inhabiting the banks of The Thames? Is it a unique environment?
CP: The Thames is a great conduit for life, a route, a resource, so there will be plenty of wildlife there, it just may not be easy to see. That said, the world’s fastest animal, the Peregrine Falcon, nests relatively nearby so there’s always the chance of a fly past.
Do you feel the Government does enough to protect our countryside and wildlife and do you feel their interest in these areas is reflective of public opinion? Do you predict any fall out, post-Brexit, due to shortfalls in EU subsidies?
CP: I don’t do public party politics as I want to maintain the impartiality that I so value in the BBC’s public service broadcasting remit…but obviously like many I have grave concerns about our environment post-Brexit. The EU has pros and cons in this regard but its environmental legislation, when implemented, is a real benefit as are many aspects of species and habitat protection. And yes, the subsidies and grants have been essential in the UK. As it stands I don’t see any decision makers, in any party, having the understanding that now is the time to absolutely prioritise the environment. They are all short-termists preoccupied with their next five years and chasing economic growth, and that, a child could tell you, is disastrous. I’m afraid we are in waiting for a new generation of politicians.
The popularity of Spring/Autumn/Winterwatch and the likes of Countryfile just seems to keep soaring, what do you put the popularity of such shows down to? Do you think it’s a uniquely British obsession?
CP: I think Springwatch’s success is built upon its down-to earth-enthusiasm for familiar species. It’s all you can’t quite see yourself that’s going on in your garden or over your fence, and a lot of new stories and science about the same. It’s a bunch of folk in a field with a load of technology sharing their passion with people who get it. And occasionally we throw in something really sexy, like a Golden Eagle, and we never take ourselves seriously, and we invite everyone to get involved…and they do!
We’ve recently become a bit obsessed with the TV show Finding Bigfoot, and love the enthusiasm and genuine belief of those that are trying to find sasquatches. Given how many new species of animals are discovered, and how many unexplored parts of the world there are, do you have any faith that creatures like this could possibly exist? We appreciate science isn’t on our side here.
CP: There are still plenty of species to discover, almost certainly some larger animals, but there is no Bigfoot. I don’t get this desire to keep this myth alive, it makes no sense scientifically. Large mammals which are slow to mature need large populations to persist and thus need large areas to exist. I’m sorry but neither of these occur in the western United States and besides, almost all the ‘evidence’ has been exposed as ‘fake’. I wish we’d spend as much time looking after real species as we do fantasising about cryptozoological nonsense.
And lastly, a question about yourself. We know you’re a keen music fan, dropping musical references to The Smiths and the like into your TV shows, so which acts are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?
CP: I had Temples’ Sun Structures in my ear for quite a while but since they’ve come over the ocean I’m hoping I can just stand back and Low will play ‘Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me’, or we could live in hope that there’s no need to worry that this dinosaur act will throw some ones and sixes and cue the strings for a gentle landslide of dreamy pop…I’ll get my coat!