Naturalist and Wildlife presenter Chris Packam was the subject of an RTS Southern Centre In Conversation event held in Southampton in November, hosted by BBC South’s Inside Out presenter, Jon Cuthill. The hundred strong audience was made up of Southern Centre RTS members and students from Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth.
Pictured: Jon Cuthill and Chris Packham
A clip of a punk Packham from The Really Wild Show which pre-dated the births of most of the audience was a reminder of his longevity as a TV naturalist and presenter. Today’s Packham showed a self-shot piece to camera he’d recorded recently in Namibia featuring three minutes of passion and detailed knowledge as he extemporised about his first sighting of a Pangolin, a scaly reptilian species which is getting scarcer by the minute. It was a graphic reminder of his ability to draw in an audience and get them to engage with something they had probably never heard of before.
Despite a willingness to shoot his own material Packham voiced strong support for those with traditional TV craft skills such as camera operators, sound technicians and editors calling them the hardest working people in the programme chain. In his view, good committed individuals such as these make the best programmes and he constantly seeks them out to be part of a team. He also presented a spirited argument for the value of public service broadcasting as exemplified by the BBC, despite gaffs such as excessive executive pay offs.
The event was deftly handled by Jon Cuthill who brought a lightness of touch as well as audience involvement to an evening which discussed many of the big issues facing TV. On a more personal front Packham admitted that he’d sometimes made mistakes in his appearing on programmes beyond his own subject matter. However, the audience thought that his recent outing on Desert Island Discs was a good move with one person saying that his dad thought it was the best DID ever! The ever self-critical Packham said he hadn’t been able to listen.
Overall the event revealed Packham to be a programme maker of passion and integrity, something which his young audience and commissioners alike seem to recognise.