Sir David Attenborough admits he wishes he could have filmed in Britain more as legendary broadcaster admits ‘BBC politics’ prevented him from producing documentaries at home
- He has captivated viewers since the 1950s with glorious wildlife dispatches
- He is now rectifying the issues in a new series, Wild Isles, later this year
He has been captivating television viewers since the 1950s with his glorious wildlife dispatches from the furthest corners of the globe.
But now Sir David Attenborough admits that he regrets not making more programmes at home.
The beloved broadcaster said internal politics at the BBC prevented him from producing documentaries about Britain for most of his career, something he is now rectifying in a new series, Wild Isles, to be screened later this year.
He said: ‘If there is one thing I regret, and to be honest there isn’t a lot, it would be that I spent so much time doing overseas natural history.’
The 96-year-old said British landscapes mean more to him than exotic locations because they represent ‘a continuous thread’ in his life, explaining to the Telegraph: ‘I went to Sierra Leone in 1954 on my first overseas trip and it was unforgettable, but I haven’t been back. But this [British nature] has always been there.’
NATURAL TALENT: Sir David Attenborough filming new series Wild Isles and, far left, on Life On Earth in 1979
He has been captivating television viewers since the 1950s with his glorious wildlife dispatches from the furthest corners of the globe
Sir David said he was prevented from filming in Britain early on in his BBC career by ‘a chap trying to establish Bristol as a centre of natural history’.
He insisted he was pressured into focusing on global wildlife, while the BBC’s Natural History Unit, founded in Bristol in 1957, would make any films about nature on home soil.
Sir David said: ‘He knew which strings to pull and I could see things coming to a head. Eventually, we had a meeting and it was agreed I wouldn’t look at British natural history at all. Instead, I would go to Africa, South America and so on and [they] could deal with natural history in Britain. And I stuck to that until very recently.’
This year marks the 69th anniversary of Attenborough’s first appearance on our screens in 1954, having started at the BBC in 1952.
His groundbreaking Life On Earth series, which began in 1979, really put him on the map.
But the broadcaster prefers to look forward, insisting that ‘the present is much more potent than the past’. ‘That is the thing with wildlife,’ he said, ‘it is continually regenerating.’
Sir David is heartened by the environmentally conscious mindset of the younger generation, saying that he receives up to 50 letters a day from children.
‘They now don’t write to me about The Wind In The Willows,’ he said. ‘They write about the real things. How disgusted they were when they walked along the beach with their mummy and picked up a sack of plastic.’ He credits this change to teachers, who he says do ‘a fantastic job’.
But Sir David cannot ignore his age and admitted he was astonished to be back on set filming his new BBC series, a five-part documentary devoted to the nature of Britain and Ireland.
‘I’m fantastically lucky,’ he said. ‘I can hardly believe it’s true.
‘Here I am in my mid-90s and I’m still as active as I was in my 60s, or my 30s even.
‘It is amazing that one can carry on.’