Kirsty Young's castaway is the Sky TV news correspondent Alex Crawford. She's won the Royal Television Society's Journalist of the Year award an unprecedented four times - reporting from the world's worst war zones and hot spots. Where most people would do anything to stay well away from trouble she seems drawn to danger , whether it's covering the Ebola crisis in Liberia, hunting for Rhino poachers in South Africa or being first on the scene as the drama of Libya's revolution unfolded. She spent the first five years of her life in Nigeria, where her family survived two political coups. After childhood in Zambia and subsequently what was then Rhodesia, she came back to Britain as a teenager to go to boarding school and then got her first job as a trainee reporter on the Wokingham Times. She's been shot at, arrested and interrogated. But it's a job she loves and is still passionate to do. For her, there should be no 'no-go' areas for journalists and journalism remains an essential pillar of freedom and democracy. Producer: Sarah Taylor.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello on young. Thank you for downloading this podcast desert island discs from BBC radio for for rights. Reach the music choices, are shorter than in the radio broadcasts for more info, nation about the programme. Please visit bbc dotcom, dont, uk slash radio My customary this he's the tv news correspondent Alex Crawford. She is one we'll television societies, journalist of the euro ward, an unprecedented four times, reporting from the world's worst war zones and hot spots, where most be would frankly do anything to stay well away from trouble. She seems drawn to danger weather its covering the abode of crisis in liberia, hunting for rhino
coaches in south africa or being first on this as the drama of libya's revolution unfolded. Maybe chaos in flux are comfortingly. For me, She did, after all, spend the first five years of her life in nigeria, where her family survived to political coups, most swashbuckling border partners will extol the virtues of keeping a cool emotional distance from the story. By contrast, she says you ve got to be able to feel the pain If you become desensitized, you need help its but putting your hand into a fire if you don't feel it you're going to get burned up and so welcome ex crawford. That's a very interesting thing to say that you have to be able to feel the pain. How much pain is safe to feel? I think when it gets- too painful. You realize you can't cope, and I remember what am I am editors. My furniture told me right at the beginning, when I was just starting myself, foreign correspondent see stint of my career. He said you ve gotta, be careful because you will.
Up, and so that's filling up with the emotional impact then, and the sadness. Presumably there's a lot of sadness that wales up you can't escape the scars. The left after seeing people die or get horribly hurt or maimed. I mean you'd have to be a road, ought not to be affected by that one of the most famous, and certainly one of the most notable points in your career must have been when you broadcast live from Libya from the back of a pickup truck. It was his Rebels were claiming victory over colonel gaddafi and his regime. All the other journalists hold up in their hotel rooms, presumably watching you'd rather jealously on tv. How come you go out there and they didn't? What did you done? I have no idea why I was there and they weren't, really don't
and I saw all these on trucks going and they were saying they were going in to Tripoli. We was on the outskirts, wishes slightly safer and I said to my producer: listen you stay and will go, and then the producer at the last minute jumped on and thank god. He did because we, everyone played the really fundamental role and he was the one who came up with the idea of attaching the big I'm so that satellite dish is a tiny piece of kit and it was pretty. Predictable is about size of a laptop and for that signal to work. You need to be stationary We found ourselves in this long traffic jam of rebels, which was getting more and more busy in full as we drove into the center tripoli, and so he said well, let's try fix it up using the cigarette. Lodgers pack has also it drains back pray. So you need to have power and he just kept manually moving it and repositioning it. And somehow it worked. Tell me about the first,
choices this morning, then, what we're gonna hear first off at the first one, is patent passer by Miriam a cable and she was a stone king, anti apartheid, civil rights activist from johannesburg, which is why I'm living at the moment she brought, a zulu song to the west and made it cool and highlighted so much injustice in in the world. At that time currently in south africa,
many, a macabre and patter patent so Alex Crawford. Your job title is, I believe, special correspondent for sky news. You have been posted to south africa since twenty eleven given that that his home it's time to spend home not as much said like him and have lived there for years. I still don't know, have loads of obvious place. isn t address book, but my family, traded leah, tolerant of are you wanna almost hilarious amount of awards when I was going through them? I thought this is starting to get ridiculous, but let's from moment concentrates on your back to that unity. One in twenty fifteen for your coverage of the about a crisis in liberia. Those importance bits of footage that you got in the reports that you ran, made an image, x and you decided you want to go back for a second time. While I want you to get back straight away because I realized it was
as its drawing it was going to get much worse. When we all saw what was going on. I thought that it's gonna spread very quickly because offers story was there were twelve people fighting it in the epicenter, with very little government help We spent hours getting there through this no roads and when we got there, the epicenter had no one there. The epicenter we tutors intuitive gazillion, where is everyone came running down at eleven people, have died today, None of this is actually being recorded. The figures are so out of date already and they are all terrified. The reaction when you went back the second and the third time was much more extreme, because people were starting to say you have to be an ice asian for three weeks and all of this sort of thing- and I was in the middle of my true or in the middle of covering the oscar pistorius trial, and we have took time off from the oscar pistorius trials
go into sierra leone, and we followed the body collectors who were like it, but the front line of this because they literally went into the shacks picked up there. People men, though incredible human beings, and I wanted to give a sense of of what these people were feeling and what the body collectors were going through to do it the first day. I was with my true and we went out, we came back and we would like that was cheese. That was hectic as avi say. It's like wall to wall, dead people being picked up and huge fear in the community, and I looked at the pictures guys. I think we're gonna have to go check it out. Just don't feel like we're getting real sense of what's going on here they looked at mansard. What's so, we went out again my camera, I got this amazing footage. There was silence, but you could hear the fear less. Have your second disk then tell me
that's what we're gonna hear what go after by she cura, oh, my god, what a song! I love it because we were just arriving my family to live in south africa around about the time this was coming out. We missed the world cup, unfortunately there, but this song felt like it our aim in africa. I just love. It is time for africa. If people that was working
by security featuring freshly ground. There was the official twenty ten world cup seem for south africa out scoffer. Let's talk from about your background, then your parents were in nigeria right up until your birth. What had taken them to nigeria, where they went separate they met and married in nigeria, which in itself is quite extraordinary. My mother was half chinese and she was born and brought up in shanghai and then bombed, and they all would put in prisoner of war camps, have found issues in a big family of six children and cheek at she came to britain as a refugee to england as a refugee, and then I think their circumstances were quite different issues that I think is very luxurious and she seemed to have spent most of her tea desperate to go out and be independence, as she saved up for a one way: ticket gazettes. All she could afford on a ship french male boat to night,
syria to join her much older sister, who is already married and working in nigeria and my father will use scottish also seem to spent most of his child working hard to get out and travel and things, and he first ended it gained to australia and then went to nigeria again to work and they, in the same company. Here's the interesting thing you father was the son of a minor from sterling should, in scotland and in his generation. It would have absolutely been the case that the sons of minors went down the mine, a single child, although his grandmother came from one of thirteen, they oversee took conscious decision wilderness, focus our entire lives on this one child and he got a scholarship.
And he went down the mine- and I remember him telling my sister and I you don't wanna, go down a mine and he was just determined to get out. He went university and he went to university and he just wanted to get away. He loved scotland. He continued to have this incredibly strong scottish accent and was scottish abroad. You always citing in a robbie burns and singing and save it dont. You haven't been in scotland for twenty years. He had oh, one, the lust, and he wanted to explore adventures and that's what you did. Let's have some more music tell me about your third lulu was one of my father's favorites, not just because you scottish, but also because she was someone who made it from a pretty poor background and she represented hope she was really feisty. She had this
incredible voice and he just loved everything about turn that when we did to you know you'll make me want, not yet but was gonna thing over there with shows. We both were enjoying that hell. It's crawford, missy, say memories of your father scottish background and all that As you were growing up, would you school in nigeria, where you'd move by then no we'd moved with spent the first five years, and I draw my sisters, one then removed we had like her less than a year england, and then we all winter zombie he got
open zambia, use an engineer. Yeah he's a civil engineer: that's what we spend on weekends, doing going round his houses that he'd built his roads, that he built dams and there were a good sunday outing, each of us. Then we first went to the convent and kitty little town. Those didn't have anything in it, then, and then, when I was about eight nine, a sentence bring school in what was then rhodesia now zimbabwe, because they felt those a limited amount of educational opportunities in kids. We owe you a good school girl on articles pretty bad, I mean I was good it sport and I liked doing it. I wasn't very academic remember sitting in the rooms catching flying ants, along with all the others who perpetually hungry hate, but will you easing their yeah, so you, We ended up being sent to
school in can't? Do you a levels and that must have surely been actually quite a significant sculpture shock, given argued spent your days yet israel gear change? I'm indictment. My parents spent a long time trying to find a school. We thought would be sporty as well. very into sport, but also be liberal enough, and they found a really lovely school, but I remember when we first when their thinking everyone spoken. These really strange accents, which I now have the sounds very snooty to us. Is it true that you started a girls, but I dont know if it was a football team? Are rugby team? It was rugby until one of them got a broken?
Allah Berne, and then they asked me to stop it, and you started the school newspaper to hear it was a newspaper run by pretty much one person wishes mickey corralled a few of my friends in, but I used to go into the art, room and printed off and then handing out it was never an official sort of thing. I think I look now at the school and they ve got a very fancy magazine. The newspaper think Let's have your next piece of music we're on your force wisely chosen this Alex Crawford. We were in india for about five years myself, my family, it's my first foreign posting. And slumdog millionaire came out when we were there. It was quite controversial film in india, because the indians felt it was unfairly representative of that actually was cracking phil, lamb and partner
It was in hospital at the time and who is sitting there on the day of the oscars and the doctors just kept coming it. We ve got four, we ve got say so guy, who is the the big song of the moon and it's brilliant, I think these they paid the film slumdog millionaire that was Jai who, by a roman, how come you chose journalism, but was it whom I think you know I was always unwittingly.
Interested in it. There are no jim, listen. My family there's no background at all in it. You couldn't do a university degree. Then you basically got work, and you begs people too to take you on a rather ridiculous leads to play radio at home. I don't even know why I did that, but I remember saying this is unex crawford on the radio news, but I didn't think of such as a career exit seemed like too much fun. It was my mother who sir said she brought me. A newspaper advert witches calling on people to apply for this key. Then I went to a couple of the entities, but where you conscious of looking at tv in thinking her I'd I'd like that job, that that seems good. No wasn't we didn't have tv when I was growing up. I remember when tv started in I'm here and it started with one our night and it was black and white and it had the flintstones on only came to england. When I was sixteen and
remember going for this anti t, J training course and applying for it and Lee test was all current affairs and I remember sitting doing and thinking I don't know the answer to many of these, and I obviously didn't get anywhere on that one and I went back without gees. If I really want to be a journalists, are neatest reading more newspapers that sixteen seventeen I wasn't reading these, I was in boarding school, we weren't even allowed access to tv in boarding school. So when I left school, all ahead will set a rather poor conflict nations that wouldn't really get me into anywhere. When it came to the thomson regional newspapers interview, you did well, you got the job as a trainee and what sort of tasks given was it sort of covering the dog shoe wonder mechanism learnt the basics on the training and then from then on? You did everything I had an
valuable training the working times because it was small. I was basketball, correspondent and covered the theatre reviews and of his film critic loved that one and I applied to the bbc's on their training course. with such fun in such fun in those days, let's have some more music store for. Tell me about this. Is your fists, big bills and cry by figure among the lethargy and This was the song that was on my iphone when I was travelling through afghanistan endlessly on trip. After trip of the trip- and it just reminds me of that time, when we would driving through all this jagged countryside and going off to meet armed fighters and poor people.
the far reaching of afghanistan by the girls, don't cry via fergie am zoo Alex. Of course it is clear from talking to you that there will have been many times in your working life when you have feared for your safety. Is there, however, a particular I'm when you have genuinely feared for your life they have been in. Moreover, but the one that absolutely stands out is when I gotcha
trees to milan, Martin smith, who my crew the time in a mosque in libya, and we won't just trapped in the mosque, we're trapped in the town for four days, so the mosque lasted for about four hours, and that was probably one of the worst experiences outside of my life. It's very hard watching people get killed and there were a lot, and it was also very, very frightening- we're right next to the permit wall of the mosque and outside. They were at least to tanks and if you're, right on top of the tank and its firing. Its an enormous, powerful booming noise. And there was lots and lots of machine guns and rifles and a forty six going as well. Is it just a huge, funny of noise
smells of people bleeding and a small, The story- and I was sitting in the corners- watching this feeling, one useless, because I couldn't do anything help these people, because it is also wasn't a case of being on one the other, because these are civilians remember. People had little brief cases because they on the way to work. It's not hyperbole to say it was terrifying. When we got out of their cause, this fighting stopped. There was a low in the fire, thing and they took us out in an ambulance and re- starts through and they Finally, just in the ambulance, so it's like terror upon terror. Fear upon fear is even threatening recounting I can tell I can tell by the look on your face she don't want to think about it and when its
Hurrah like that. I find it almost impossible to talk about it and I'd rather shut. It often a little room and closed the door. Why having bids Something like that. Do you continue to do the job you do. Why not say option Shutting the door on on that part of my life
in tat moment. I don't ever want to go back there. I I'd rather not say something like that again, that's for sure, but I think if I shot that door and didn't do the job that, I think is a worthy job. If you do it well, I feel like I was failing a wonderful. How much you think you ve been marked and changed by the job. You do, I think, have been really mocked at sometimes in a bad way, but mostly in a good way about the bad way. Is I'm really irritable and serve the intolerant of people? I'm gonna work on the good way is when I see people who were really brave like the door
Does he took his out even like the the nurses who were helping people that is incredibly inspiring it's time for some music Alex Crawford? So let us do that. Tell me about this: we're gonna go to your six disk. This is one of my most favorite songs in the world. It's like incredibly optimistic. I wanted cling onto it and rapid round me all the time and my daughter flow. My youngest daughter, flattened thing is when you, when you have children, I'm sure you ve found this itself user. Think first ones while had anything like it. You think the secular nor be if cracked it and second will be exactly the same as the first one, and then you realize, then nothing like the first words. Like start small ever get rough got to the fourth one and she is so
rice and positive about absolutely everything and you love singing so thought. I want her to sing my most favorite song in the world and she does. It really well thank. You nice? a wonderful world sung by my castaway, Alex Crawford's youngest daughter, flew edmonson sue Alex Crawford. You ve, been, I think, arrested, detains almost abducted interrogated, faced life bullets to your gas, mortar shells and on it goes as we know you say your mother for children
when you return from those intense postings. oh, easy. Is it for you and how easy as it for your husband and children to welcome you back? I don't think it is easy. I think it's hard for them much then le ways. I think my children have gone through different phases. Being angry, set up, ignoring me, however, when they were younger you, my own, the door to know these to say I m, we you don't like us as much as work, which listings listings cosette the day all my world and that the childhood go so quickly. I look back, and I remember my partner rick saying that you're gonna regret it and love me does regret spending too much time away from them when they were little. It goes so quickly, but to see an end,
Do you think it's time to stop now? No, no, of course, now known not so not. How do you do with regret, then, because you, you know you right just cry. I think I think you miserable selfish idiot. Why did you spend marks an occasion. They answer wallow in this nostalgic sedative. You ve done, this should have done that. But I have go friends who are stay at home mums and my close friend tells me you'd- be exactly the same You know if you were stay at home mom, you still feel guilty. I think it's just a cross that we have to pay our men, but you know talking to my kids about eating frances going to eat, because the kids in back don't get that
wonder them saying things. Mattie saying will go back to the kids in Baghdad there, nor take it to the kids in Baghdad, because we don't want them. They want their time whether mom tell me about your seventh, then. What are you gonna hear now that this is a bang bang by jesse, J and co workers, arena gandhi and humanistic? I like this, not only because it is a foot stomping, fantastic song. It also seem to either I really like the collaboration of the three women who rule really different and yet managed to do it in an incredible arms through each other, weighing the riddle system
so the way he made. That was bang performed by jesse james arena, grundy and Nicky menage many journal, to put themselves in difficult circumstances say this. It is important, that the stories are told in order that we understand our world better and it is so important that foreign correspondent give a voice to people who very often do not have a voice, but I wonder in going into conflict zones,
a voice to people who would otherwise have a voice. If you were to die doing that job, do you feel that the equation would have been worth it? I don't want to die, definitely don't want to die. I got too much in my life with my children, my family. I definitely don't want to die. I think there is luck and I've been very, very lucky and am aware that that look only goes so far an essential pillar of freedom and democracy. That's what we should be in it. We should be the people that are finding out the uncomfortable truths, we're going. The places where no one goes because this is something that needs to be found out about, but why does it needed to be you? I think everything that you ve said
I believe that works broadly in journalism would say: well three choose to that: their follow up sort would be, but it does need to be me I'll. Let somebody else do that. I thought I've always going out with my children were very small. Every store I had to do think even more so now, but every story that took me away from them at all really be worth it. Otherwise, was not worth being away from little. One crying at night or teenagers. Going through really difficult period at school. It has to be Otherwise, what is my doing it? You know if you just make it difference to one little girl who's been kept in sexual and domestic slavery. come out of that and new thing that actually makes you feel they actually. Influenced and change someone else's life course. then being stranded on a desert island on my own,
because I don't much like being on my own, a much prefer being with people. I dont whether I'd covert hefty you, but you go into here lets you my final piece, much prefer being with people typically, because my three girls are I mean I'm struggling to find an adjective that actually encapsulate how strongly they feel about being feminists cause. They or like the most ardent, the most fervent and this bit of music, encapsulates what they feel about the world. The irony that beyond c users and the reading in it is the kind of man and I sort of thing- might be the worst mother in the world. I might not have maternal instinct in my body, which is what one kind of man, and I sort of thing might be the worst mother in the world. I might not have a maternal insight,
my body, which is what one of them said to me. But if the thing this is the way to be worked, we teach girls to sell us to make themselves. We say it's a girl, you can have ambition, but not much. You should aim to be successful, but not a success rising threaten the matter because I am female. I'm expecting us aspire to have expected to meet my life choices, always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important Jim Amanda goosey a teacher, and I have to say that our castaway Alex Crawford is not absolutely delighted because we didn't play exactly the bit. You wanted for reasons of fur, taste and decency in the morning on radio, for how many chose it for that we're going knight of the books, then every castaway gets the bible in the camp, It works if shakespeare to take to this island and they get stick a book of their own along with them. What will your book b.
the books, then every castaway gets the bible in the complete works of shakespeare to take to this island and they get take a book of their own along with them. What will your book be? This is also in the aid struggled with, but the one per. I remember that made a real impact on me when I was a child and now then under alone, to luxuries to something that will make life a little bit more bearable alone on the island. What we will naturally be, can I take his scuba. Diving can obviously because see it's because I thought about photographic, albums and luxury to something that will make life a little bit
beautiful alone on the island to what we are not should we be. Can I take his scuba diving kit oversee, because I thought about frederick rafik albums, and I know my my whole family will be appalled that I haven't gone for. The full works of not frankie, muddy flow enriches. All huddled ran various different parts of the world, but that that's in my head. I thought scuba diving kit, which is the thing that I love most about doing with my family plus down there. Even I can't talk at its beautifully com. You may certainly have that if I were to ask you two pictures, one disk of the eight above all others that you'd safe, which would it be think, that's no way neck as it's got to be flows. What a wonderful world, because it combines everything my family flow, fantastic song. That would actually keep me happy right. It's whose than ex crawford. Thank you very much for letting us here. Your desert island discs thanks for inviting me
you ve, been listening to download from the bbc you'll find more information on the radio for website bbc co uk slash radio. For to a download from the bbc you'll find morning. Nation on the radio for website bbc not code on uk slash radio for
Transcript generated on 2022-06-19.