« Desert Island Discs

Simon Reeve, broadcaster and writer

2022-01-09 | 🔗
Simon Reeve is a broadcaster and writer best known for his TV documentaries which combine travel and adventure with investigations into the challenges faced by the places he visits. His journeys have taken him across jungles, deserts, mountains and oceans, and to some of the most dangerous and remote regions of the world. He’s dodged bullets on frontlines, dived with seals and sharks, survived malaria, walked through minefields and tracked lions on foot. Simon grew up in Acton in west London. He experienced anxiety and depression as a teenager and left school with few qualifications. He eventually found a job in the post room at the Sunday Times and from there progressed to working with the news teams, filing stories on a range of subjects from organised crime to nuclear smuggling. In the late 1990s he wrote one of the first books about Al-Qaeda and its links to Osama Bin Laden. His expertise in this area was quickly called upon after the 9/11 attacks in the USA, and he became a regular guest on American television and radio programmes. The current pandemic put Simon’s overseas trips into abeyance and he has turned his attention to the UK, recently making programmes about Cornwall and the Lake District. DISC ONE: Eskègizéw Bèrtchi by Alèmayèhu Eshèté DISC TWO: Vissi d’arte - from Puccini’s Tosca, performed by Kiri Te Kanawa with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Pritchard DISC THREE: It Takes Two by Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock DISC FOUR: We Will Rock You by Queen DISC FIVE: Mr Brightside by The Killers DISC SIX: Wiley Flow by Stormzy DISC SEVEN: You’re Lovely to Me by Lucky Jim DISC EIGHT: Rocket Man by Elton John BOOK CHOICE: Moonshine for Beginners and Experts by Damian Brown LUXURY ITEM: Bird seed CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Rocket Man by Elton John Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
BBC sounds music radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island rights reasons. The music is better than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. I the my castaway. This week is the customs and writer, Simon reeve. You might know him as the intrepid onscreen adventurer, whose dodge bullets on frontlines walked through minefields, track lions on foot
being detained for spying by the kgb, but his media korea began much earlier after he wrote one of the first books about Alan I d back in nineteen. Ninety eight it was ignored when it came out, but three years later, in the wake of nine eleven, he found himself on television screens across amerika. He circle gate at the world three times and visited a hundred and twenty countries, though perhaps the most dangerous johnny he's taken was one europe, only recently his troubled path to adulthood, ass, a teenager. He suffered poor mental health and by seventeen he left school with one jesse. Good job and facing an uncertain future, getting hired as a post boy at the sunday times helped him turn things around, along with the advice from a kindly benefits clerk to quite literally keep putting one foot in front of the other. He says: I'm not traveling to film a holiday brochure, but I'm trying to do is get people
to take an interest in our world Simon wave, welcome to desert island discs. Thank you so much as a enormous honour, while the thrill to happy in your feet, Simon, must be in Credibly itchy by now covered nineteen as obviously curbed year overseas trip. So instead you be making programmes about the uk. I wonder what surprised me most about filming on home turf of learnt loads. That's been the biggest surprise, what's being the biggest insightful you, oh goodness, it was, we about river ree wiggling, because over centuries we ve been straightening our rivers and it's one of those things when it pointed out to you sort of go: oh yeah, they don't normally code. I don't do that and you start to see how we've shaped our landscape in profound and and tiny ways for hundreds and perhaps even thousands of years. So I think here and seeing that in the legs, just off the top of my head was with a big surprise. But it's what I love about the journeys, I'm I'm not just about me trying to
Show people when and teach them about what I'm learning all the time. That's why absolutely loved them every hour every day, Simon you'll films can be. Hitting and I've seen you in tears a few times when presenting very difficult stories about the effect of war and poverty on individuals and communities that you're connecting with. Why do you think it simple to show your emotions. I think I've always been affected. I think the team initially when, when I first started working on these programmes and think the team were caught, simons crying again, but more obviously, perhaps I do with my wife and my oh, my god, This is amazing. You, you need almost a little bit of a joke for me as the presented to be reminded that what we are seeing is either extraordinary or upsetting or should be inspiring. polly, why, I repeat some things back at people Castello sort of monitor in voice. You know we fought a battle with a thousand people from the other community, an analysis
very normally in the translation comes back as though they're talking about I'm having lunch the previous day and all respond, then unpacks with a bit too much emotion, say you for a battle with so I'll get a bit carried away with my response, and it is partly cause, I'm thinking of what to say next, but it is also really just try and bring home to anybody watching that this is this matters it's tangy, first desk. What have you chosen and why you've taken it with you today, a this number one is taken from the album ethiopia. Eight from swinging add, is nineteen sixty nine. Ninety seventy four is the musician is my who should take and the song is ask it gives you the bushy, and I think it's just. We just have to linger on the fact it is from Ethiopia, nineteen sixty nine to nineteen seventy four and on If we all ask ourselves what preconceptions and stereotypes we have of ethiopia, I think it's that so I love it the music, primarily by the end of the story.
I love where it's come from and I love what it says about the place in the deep, deep culture that exists there. That challenges are sometimes simplistic pricking. actions husky gazing patchy by Allama. You were shooting so Simon Reeve many listeners will fill up with travel the world with you, but they might be surprised to learn that your family holidays once quite so adventurous. When you were growing up, though they would it's true, they would lovely, they will warm. They were traditional in the sense that we would go down.
onto the south coast. Year after year, my dad had seen an advert in a church magazine for a holiday rental cottage. Ludicrously cheap price and it meant we were able to have an affordable. family holiday down, in where dorset and then we'd go to study beach and startling bay. We didn't go abroad. I didn't get on a plane. until I was an adult. I think that's partly why I am so grateful for the journeys have been on, since I don't take them for granted as yours, whom the rest of the year was acting in west london, where you were born it dad's allen was a teacher. How would you describe your relationship? Difficult is. The word springs to mind by I feel a betrayal saying that there was love absolutely it was. It was loving, but it was deafening difficult. He was, he was a tough teacher from a poor background and he had a play book. I suppose, which came from being a teacher in one of the toughest coups in
country at the time, at a time when, when discipline was challenging and physicality was acceptable from teachers, I think- and I think that was how he tried to parent and those roles are different. It doesn't work quite that way when, when you're back at home- and I was I trouble. I was a problem and I was struggling to find my way and we week we didn't have the natural connection that I hope I hope I have my lad when he reaches the same set of early teens sort of age, but yes, they were too things thrown thing smashed. I put my foot through the door, a wall I had physical arouse with my dad. There's a lot of screaming- but I was young- I was ten eleven twelve thirteen. Those were those with troublesome times. Tell me about your mom.
Ah, ah, my mom cindy's is a rock to that. To this day she saved my life literally multiple, really times when I was a child. When I had many Joyce's ten tonnes The lightest then been death, pneumonia and I'll her. I have almost everything you were close to your grandmother lisi. What did you enjoy that the time is spent with her He was the perfect grandmother in so many ways. She was warm and large and cuddly, and she had polio when she was a child and she had a caliper on on her leg as a result, but she could get out and about. I. I owe a lot to her because I think she really helped to spark a love of travel and adventure in my little heart and head because she would take James and I my brother out on what we called magical mystery tours.
in her adapted, call, no wonder what did they involve. She would basically in the back and strapped in carefully, of course, and she would say right? Where shall we go and james noise of sixty five six? He was, I was Seven eight may be nine ten. This alleged, if we I have to say, go down grandma was down there and we bailouts they got left travel down here- and she was quite do have right turn, but she would react very. She was willing to do a hard turn if we wanted to explore. Really exotic places like hounslow wembley park trading estate- these, We were able to honestly learn a lot about west london, where we lived and also just cultivate and develop love of name. What was round the corner? What was spot was over the hill as it were, grandma helped to widen the horizons. Abed.
At the time, sumo, music, Simon second disc? What is it and why he had taken it with you? We didn't play loads of music at home when I was growing up, because dad was coaching, students at home, doing private coaching to earn the small money and but then he would he would eventually come out and he might put a bit of operon at the end of his very long twelve fourteen hour day of work, I need often play the song v c dota from Tosca, and it might well make me shed a tear or two hearing it the yes, yes, yes,
the yeah, the the the these he darted from talks Tosca by deem curative canada with the london philharmonic orchestra, conducted by sir John prescott, Simon reef, by the time he reached you the teens. I think it's safe to say that you want exactly immortal pupil. What were you new friends getting up to we're doing naughty stuff. I grew up in
on the edge of the city, london and come from the leafy suburbs? a knife by the time I was twelve thirty I notice that does that is, but it was. It was an abnormal for the time and I think it's still not as abnormal as as we would all want. To be. You will lie in fires seaward as well as carrying. I think he was selling knives at one stage. I mean: how do you do but not now, can see how it happened: I can see the path really, but no you're right on the page. Not good are not proud of. It are not proud of,
things the I did or sore or people. I knew her up to some of the estates near where I grew up. People would light fires to get the five. Why, as on, and then took petrol bombs on at them? That's not something I am proud to have not proud of known known in some ways: those people too it it wasn't something I did, but I certainly sat cars that do not belong to the people who were driving them, and I knew What I was doing was wrong. I got away with a lot and then my head health. Just when I lost my confidence, I lost my way and by the time it got to proper exams and sky willing. I was in a terrible state had mean turning up to school. I hadn't been studying. I was just a home in beit a lot of the time and I spiral down. I've been having counselling as well in truth during that time,
because people the doctor could see. I wasn't in the best of ways and my mum was trying to get help for me, and so so your mom could tell things weren't. My mom could tell things were not right, definitely and was trying to, and encouraging me in and leading me to to help, but I would want to change. If I go back and talk to that live now I would want to try and help him find a path that would give him purpose in meaning, because I think that was what was lacking Mostly my existence then, and that was when my confidence started to really go, and I started to panic about existence and we'll find out what happened next in a minute. We've got to make some time for the music right now, though Simon. What are we going to hear and and why have you chosen it to day number three
We are going to hear it takes two by rob base and dj easy rock. I remember my brother putting shouts out on pirate radio to be from frenzied south pirate radio stations on the top of tower blocks in That's me state, and this reminds me of the whole time and a whole world of music. It takes too it takes to rob me an dj, easy work, salmon reef, you left school at sixteen,
one jesse and little prospect of getting a job. I know you it'll health at the time was still fragile too. How do you look back at that time? Had you remember it now? I drank too much and I was in bed most of the time and I didn't I couldn't face life. I couldn't face existence. and I found myself on the edge of a bridge, but I I stepped back in every possible sense. I was the wrong side of railings and I I I kind back, and I cannot fully explain why I think partly it was fear of ending more than fear of going on, but
Wasn't the most conscious of decisions it was. It was close and I bounced along the bottom for a long time, and eventually I say eventually it was maybe months it wasn't years but month, I went to my brother said you got guns sign on and I managed to. It was terrifying for me, but I went and signed on the dough. I went to her. dss office as it was then, and I tried to them they would let me sign off. The dollar was too young to sign of income support and I listened to the advice I was given in there. The lady who signed me on she was warm and ring. Even though I was just another person in us, each factory really in a place where the furniture was screwed down, and but she listened- and I said I didn't want to do- I don't know in a kids, we told have apply.
have a five year plan. I sit up, I can't get out of bed and she said to take things slowly, just take everything step by step and that that got me out and it did start to help and their first steps. I took my first steps and then Then I came up with this mad idea that I was going to go to scotland yeah glencoe glencoe, specifically, it was legendary my world with small. I didn't have a connection to scott it was really. was really because I'd watch the movie highland right. Ok, please, hurry arise already that the real reason and I loved the idea of going to scotland
going into glencoe. I just ambled around there initially, but then I decided I was going to try and see if I could go for a walk up the hill as it were just to that bush over there. Initially, I can go to that bush all right. What about that rock over there? Ok, oh I've made it to that rock. Did you have any of the care or anything had no kit, no food. I do so what you and your train, as some in my train is. I've got my desk cuckoo from shippers, bush market and I'm going out this at this reached. The top of this region gang cut up the lost valley in england, cohen, a paper coming back down. It's the entertainer, telling me turn around you silly boy, and I'm saying oh, no, I'm going to turn around any minute by go on. I'm like a walking advert for what can go wrong, but I made it to the top, and I did it all following the advice from this woman in the job centre of doing oh putting one foot in front of the other step by step.
with a sense of physical achievement like I'd, never experience, since it was astonishing how things should have some ease exam I'd love to. We will rock you by queen island ozma gateway the queen. There was a lot of the music in the music in the movie and we will rock. You is one of my absolute favorites, I make a big knife and does not ignore you got your bag the the and we will look here by queen Simon reeve. After a few false starts, then you got job at the sunday times, starting out in the post room door. Member first day
yeah. I remember the first few days. I was terrified my mum kay with me on the cheap, just to make sure I got there. I was sick, physically sick for the first few days before going in, I couldn't ate, but I went a did it and I'm so proud of myself. For coming through that, but every day I was there. My my confidence grew because it was brilliant avis, perfect. For me, nothing was really expected. Assorted, the post I'd put man into pigeon house a gun fighter, Be things for people and soon I was volunteering, and I was asking people if they wanted any help with anything, and so when, when one of the senior was daft, I was so in the post. One of the senior people came up to me. He says Simon. I need you to go to Boston there's,
ooh south african neo nazi terrorists, on the run on an eg to come, find them, and that was her first assignment my big break up. I was in a complete state, of course, Boston. I've never been in a plane. I didn't passport. I didn't tell him berwin round everyone saying what we can do and they should come down. It's ok, it's than in lincolnshire. It'll be ok and I start working on other investigations into organised crime, terrorism, nuclear smuggling. By the time I was, nineteen. I was working on the cover on some things. I felt that I could do this stand him uneasy what's next time and what we can do here. I think I wanna the killers killers looking to hear, MR whiteside wavy chestnut when I remember very vividly driving around mogadishu in somalia tricky time in
the story in history of that country I was in the the cab of what's called a technical, which is a like a poor man's tank, a pickup truck with a anti aircraft gun mounted on the back. We drove around the corner came up again since a gang from another warlords mercenaries and were confronted with looking down the barrel of the opposition's weapons, and I ought to have a sense of acceptance about the situation I had hoped that wiser heads prevailed. Fortunately, they did. the screaming went down an ox to shouting and then it went down to another, not to just swearing, and then they are, the guy's went first and we drove on as if nothing had happened. Mr side was playing very loudly and is a tune I love still play. I can never listened to it without thinking back about avoiding death.
How lucky of me ass his eyes? I saw mister bright side. The tools Simon eve in ninety ninety three there was a bomb attack on the world trade center in new york and the attack tat linked to Al Qaeda. You research, the story for the sunday times, then wrote a book about what you said to us: the new terrorism and its lead. to osama bin laden. How did you approach this complex subject? I was living. The life avert
but in their early twenties, living in flat shares in north london going to pay these having a social life and then being on the phone and meeting people from Pakistan The intelligence in the american joint terrorist taskforce- it was completely surreal and I was so but nobody else is really talking to these people, so they were willing to even talk to me. This young brit, I think because they were worried. They sense that there was a a threat growing the other people, one list two in the corridors of power when they were trying to warn about this new It is of a more apocalyptic type of terrorist and people didn't realize what was coming at us humans,
published in nineteen. Ninety eight and honestly didn't cause much of a ripple at the time, but then nine eleven happened and everything changed for you. What you remember of the early days after the attack life change for all of us and for other people in so much more profound ways me, but of course, I'd spent time in the towers I knew people who, with their I'd spent years, is researching the first attack on the world trade centre. So I felt very connected to those images that I saw. I was pooled and horrified ice wade. I remember almost feeling this is. This is almost too much to taking, but by the time the second howard, been hit. My my phone was ringing and it just didn't stop had written really the only book in the world on the group responsible. Inevitably,
the media were, my door within a couple of hours, quite literally at quite literally satellite trucks outside I was really just being shuttled from new studio, two new studio, azure. As upon the I suppose you were twenty nine. I was borsier whatever age. You are how does one deal with a situation like that? I just did the best. I could it's time for your to extract Simon. What's gonna be when I owe big to storm the because having storms e on and what a stand up desk and drinking a law of tea, as help me do felt quite a fair bit boy work I have to so thank you, storms, ie and next choice. Gonna be widely flow. If you can't you
Thank you for a sweet, and I don't want to hear notes about numbers, my youngest one, plus ten cents, when he sent hundreds of thousands flowed them. Every single mountains for progress to be made on those that can be closed in as much as you take, so they are trying to get me on the road I broke it, especially in its call for please my lists, the adults and told the fundamental you consciously under costumes. And wily flow Simon reef. After all, the attention died down. He caught the eye of the BBC and he started making document trees travelling to places we dont often see on screen. You won't said a little bit of danger is good for us. We should embrace it when it comes. What did you mean by that? So yes, Do you want to go out in the middle of the night and try and see bears in the forest? Yes, of course, I do you want to go in cross this border and try and make the
battled endangered chin people in western burma. Yes, yes, we should do that think about the risks, mitigate them, of course, but embrace life and take chances on planet earth. This is the way to feel alive on screen Simon, you ve got what seems like a very scripted unrehearsed presenting style and for the viewer. It sometimes feels, like anything, could happen to what extent you feel responsible for the crew, the production korihor with you, because following you around and in effect you dictate where everyone goes I'd like to become up dictating, but note you mean we make yup we make as we go along and in there is a moment. Yes, and there have been times where I fell off too. It's flip act that was dangerous. I was in a south african township and we were trying to find out where what was the source of the strange new drug and somebody said you need to go talk to the crazy man. He lives down the road and I thought that sounds like a good idea.
and we went down a walked in and as we're going in, I realised, oh, my goodness, we're stepping into a gangs drug then here and the guys I was with two colleagues filming me: try not to trip over me, and I was the point man with the eyes out front, and that was a point then, and since that I've thought I should have taken a few more precautions and thought through a bit more. So I do feel a sense of responsibility in that sense, by work with people who, I trust, and I hope trust me. We are alert to risk and danger probably more than more than most people and and we try and mitigate and and design that out, wherever possible salmon have spoken very poor, neatly boats, how important it is to look after the environment's how'd you juggled. The needs of your programmes with your own carbon footprint is a tricky one and I obviously many a time like a hypocrite. Personally, I would like to think that result
tiny value in the programmes I make, and I hope that my two gates in some ways the enormous footprint the I haven't. We have making these journeys we ve tried to incorporate from the beginning. True honest stories about what's happening what planet and ultimately the only way we're going to know what's happening out there is by going out there and faithfully capturing it and bringing a bat for people to see and be shocked by I'm not sure we entirely get it right, but I think there is a value and importance to doing it. Let's go with the music Simon. It's your seven choice, will you take it with you to the islands? This is my wife and you're, my son. I think it was in a road trip to denmark many. Many years ago we heard your lovely to me, and I knew that was the king at the person. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this. This incredible woman who,
in inspires and guides and leads in shares and partners with me and makes me laugh and your lovely to me. my and our soppy lovely so the the gatt lived vandals and lovely to me. Is the scenarios that I see now you're sharing, but that can make your mind. It is lovely to me by lucky, Simon reef, you die
Alan passed away in two thousand and one and, as you said, you didn't always see eye to eye with him. When you were growing up. Were you able to sell you differences by the time of his death? We were we had not just by the time of his death. Even years before things had gone dramatically better and we had some lovely family times has seven Would you mind going to the cinema? I remember with my dad and my brother and I in my twenties or twenties, and we had to park a distance away a hand, we were running down the road without dad and I remember king aimed mainly at such a beautiful here smile of joy. On his face he was running along to get the cinema with his two big sons. He was happy that point and we were properly back together. much more understanding of each other. You
wife on you have a ten year old son of your own, now jake and enforce it took very geneva the difficulties you had conceiving him. How has becoming a father changed you? We did enormous difficulties. Yes, summoned to the point where I was told one point that I was infertile and it would be impossible for me to have a child, so How is it change me? It's he's got nothing I've ever experienced before no adventure No encounter no experience. I have had anywhere on planet earth and in truth I have had quite a few. Nothing comes close to the emotion and the joy on the purpose and meaning that I've had from that little lad popping out and then attempting to raise in the best possible way. He's
he's. Absolutely everything to me, Simon, you've been to so many inhospitable areas of the world that I'm quite sure our desert island will hold no fears for you, but I do wonder how you'll get on all alone that because, as he said, travel for you is all about the people. It's all about the encounters, I think I'll handle it pretty oddly, actually I'm not losing beckoning, enjoying my splendid isolation and a chance to get away from me. I know I'm going to be missing. My son I'll be missing my wife, I'm going to be missing our dogs, my family, my friends, home life existence, I'm always happy to come home from my. At ease, but so now I'm going to be working my way of lords desert island. Sorry, oh well! Before we get there, then I think we should here you'll find the disk will. If I do get stuck in a concave off the island right, then I think this final track will really help me because it it always
has me singing up to the stars. Whenever I hear it fills my heart and soul and makes me makes your chest swell as I'm singing it really does, is out and rocket who's, gonna love me out in june and look at me, I'm so sorry The time has come. I'm gonna send you away to the island, I'm giving you the bible on the complete works. If shakespeare, you could also take a book of your own choice. What will happy? I would like a big
as all muppets guy to making your own moonshine. Oh ok, one of the soundtrack stoa upbringing was dad trying to make not the most magnificent. It has to be said fruit wine in these demi johns that would sit on every available space. They would constantly being popping as fruit wine. Would ferment and then be butler as chateau reeve and give it away is as cheaply presence yet good enough at that long enough? moonshine myself Simon. I can offer you Moonshine for beginners will that do perfect. You can also have a luxury item. What would you like? I go for supply of bird seed, need a few pet summit, this island, some hoping that the the bird seed would draw remain, finally, which one of the eight track that you share with us today. Would you rush to save from the waves if he had to rocket man, it would keep me going. It really would
Simon. We thank you very much for letting us here. Your desert island discs spin such a pleasure and such an honor. Thank you the enjoy my conversation with Simon leave him to experiment with his coconut moonshine might be an acquired taste, now we ve castaway many of the travel broadcasters underwriters, including john moorish, Michael Paine, and bill bryson. You can find thereafter votes in a desert island discs programme archive, of course, through BBC sounds next time. My guest will be the writer Deborah levy. I do hope. You'll join
color. I've got a story to tell it's called the coming store, a new podcast series from BBC
yeah for the world service. On january, the sixth, twenty twenty one a mob stormed the capitol in Washington DC. It looked like a strange fantasy gripped america about how a cabal of satanic paedophiles had stolen an election. All of this is black magic. I'm Gabriel Gatehouse and I've been looking for the origins of this twisted tale. It was a puzzle and it kind of compiled a story, but what began as a quest to understand a conspiracy theory known as q anon turned into something else, something bigger. It is remarkable where we've ended and we haven't ended up. We subscribe to the coming storm on BBC sounds
Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.