Sharing a life in the wild

COLIN Stafford-Johnson has had a lifelong passion for wildlife which has taken him from his native west coast of Ireland to the forests of India – and now he is coming to Frome’s Cheese and Grain on Friday 19th October as part of his first ever live tour of the UK.

He grew up loving the natural world, and when he finished school he took off for six years backpacking around the world. As a wildlife cameraman Colin has since travelled the world, but he always comes home to Ireland, where he lives on the coast of beautiful remote County Mayo. His latest adventures were seen on BBC4 in the two-part Wild Ireland documentaries, in which he travelled along the west coast in a traditional currach (rowing boat).

These films gave a completely different view of Ireland, views from out at sea, some from above the water, but many at sea-level, changing the viewer’s perception of the landscape as it might be seen by a whale or a seagull.

Back from his travels, Colin took a course in film-making and biological imaging at the University of Derby. The course was linked to the BBC and the day after he left university he got a job with a cameraman in Wales.

Then he went to India to work as a cameraman on what would become the first of many visits, to film wild tigers. One in particular became very important in his life. Christened “Broken Tail,” the tiger was first filmed as a cub on a reserve. He ended up dead a long way from his home and Colin set out on horseback, to find out what happened.

Broken Tail: A Tiger’s Last Journey, produced by Crossing the Line Films, follows Colin’s quest to discover the fate of the young tiger who was killed 200 kilometres from his home in a supposedly well protected tiger reserve. This compelling documentary exposing the plight of India’s last surviving wild tigers, won top honours at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and at the International Wildlife Film Festival.

The beauty and fragility of the natural world is hugely important to Colin: “More and more I want to do something to change things,” he says. “Individually this can be something as simple as changing the way we garden. We can all encourage biodiversity. There is more to gardens than lawns!”

He is fascinated by the way wildlife can adapt to living in proximity with urban human beings: “So many of the things that live among us don’t have a place in the wild any more. We can help them – for instance, lawns can become wildflower meadows.”

Colin did his first live tour last year in Ireland – he was very nervous but soon found that he was enjoying it, as surely did his audiences who had the chance to meet the man behind the camera whom they had previously only “met” on social media, and now he is looking forward to his first UK tour.

The talks, illustrated with film clips and stills, and peppered with anecdotes recounted in that warm Irish voice, are divided into three – the tiger adventures, films and explorations closer to home, and a chance to answer questions from the audience.

Other West Country dates on Colin’s tour are 9th October at Swindon Arts Centre, 15th at Bristol’s 1532 Theatre, McMillan Theatre at Bridgwater on 16th, Teignmouth Pavilions on 17th and Exeter Corn Exchange on 18th.

Pictured: Colin Stafford-Johnson with a tiger; a seal pup on the Blasket Islands and a puffin, both images from Wild Ireland, copyright Crossing the Line Films.