Archives for May 2012

Punk Britannia: Do you remember 1976?

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Andy Dunn Andy Dunn | 13:33 UK time, Wednesday, 30 May 2012

June 2012, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, a heatwave in the headlines and a double-dip recession well underway.

What better time for BBC Four's Britannia strand to tackle the story of British punk?

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Watch the Punk Britannia Trailer

My sister was born slap bang in the middle of the summer of 1976, my all-time favourite film Taxi Driver came out that year and of course in those 12 months punk rock mutated from a few like-minded London bands to the national cultural phenomenon we know it to be today...

... but I wasn't there.

My sister is a couple of years older and by the time I came along post punk and new wave were well underway and punk had been reduced to an excessive hairstyle on a postcard.

So it was with an open mind that myself and the two other thirty-something directors set out to tell the story of Punk Britannia.

Well it's our version of the story at least.

It's impossible to tell THE story (if that even exists) so we decided firstly to follow the music, wherever possible to hear the story from the horse's mouth and attempt to convey a sense of the conditions in 70s Britain that gave rise to this most confrontational genre of rock.

Each episode had its own distinct challenges.

I directed the first programme in the three-part series.

To be honest it's the bit most documentaries on punk fast forward through to get to the juicy controversy of the Sex Pistols swearing on telly and upsetting the Queen.

But for me the fact that this early period (1971-1976) is less well trodden made it all the more exciting to explore.

It became clear that the origins of punk lie in a generational struggle for identity.

The momentous progress made in music, art and civil rights in the previous decade presided over by 'the hippies' had lost its way by the early 70s.

Kids coming of age in the early 70s did an about turn and began looking back to before the 60s revolution in an attempt to recapture the excitement and simplicity of the original teenagers in 50s America's dances and diners.

Punk's hard, fast tunes and its rebellious, tribal culture owe a great debt to a cast of unsung heroes who decided to launch an attack on the overblown prog rock and stadium super rock which rock 'n' roll had morphed into by the 70s.

John Lydon, lead signer of The Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd performing on stage

John Lydon, lead singer of The Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd

Alongside the likes of John Lydon, Mick Jones and Paul Weller, many of the characters interviewed in the first programme aren't exactly household names and never will be, but that's what makes them so fascinating.

Knowing that without them there may never have been a Sex Pistols, The Clash or The Jam.

It's this depth that BBC Four can bring to the subject that makes this series different to any previous punk series.

The second episode documents the big moments in punk, but so much more besides and the third episode contains music and stories that have never been seen or heard before.

That said there was no way we could ignore the white heat of the key moments in British punk and for me this boiled down to a diverse cast from Siouxsie Sioux to Humphrey Ocean recounting their collective epiphany on experiencing the Sex Pistols for the very first time.

We also decided where possible to film the interviews with the fine men and women of punk wherever we found them.

Minimal lighting and wide angle shots tell their own unflinching 'where are they now?' story of the cast.

Glamorous punk is not, and to their credit I've never met a group of musicians who remain so dedicated to the values that defined them in their heyday.

Kursaal Flyers

The Kursaal Flyers

My personal highlight has to be the driving soundtrack in the first episode - there are so many rare tracks from bands like The 101ers and The Kursaal Flyers that I hope will inspire people to discover these bands for themselves.

There are also quite a few artists that for various reasons didn't make it into the final cut.

Fitting everything in to 60 minutes was the toughest part of making this and I hope to fit the likes of Jesse Hector into another programme in the future.

He's a true original and leader of The Hammersmith Gorillas (look them up!).

In Punk Britannia we tried to tell it like it was, to celebrate the energy and excitement of the music and acknowledge the social and political effect of the movement.

Oh yes, before I forget, there's SEX, VIOLENCE, SWEARING and SPITTING in there too (phew!).

Andy Dunn is the director of episode one of Punk Britannia.

Punk Britannia starts on Friday, 1 June at 9pm on BBC Four. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Read a BBC Music blog post by executive producer James Stirling about the Punk Britannia season of programmes on BBC Four and 6Music.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

The Great British Story: A People's History

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Michael Wood Michael Wood | 16:45 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012

I'm writing this blog post in London remembering the last time I was in such warm sunshine. It was during a break in filming and I was enjoying a coffee in the Luv Café in Govan Road, Glasgow last September!

Outside sunlit rows of brown sandstone tenements stretch away to the BAE shipyard and Fairfields with its memories of men pouring out of the great gates in the days when they built the liners here. History all around us.

Michael Wood looking at finds with schoolchildren in Old Deer

Michael Wood looking at finds with schoolchildren in Old Deer, Aberdeenshire

Beyond the yards the soaring Victorian Gothic turrets of Govan Old Church, which stands on a site sacred since prehistory, is home to Britain's most amazing collection of Dark Age carved stones.

It's typical of The Great British Story: layers of the past everywhere.

Nowhere in the UK, I suspect, is there a landscape or a cityscape which is not rich in memory and meaning.

It's been a fantastic experience making The Great British Story: A People's History for BBC Two but the schedule has been one of the toughest I've ever done.

Following Alexander over the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan or the Conquistadors through the jungles of the Amazon was actually less taxing than trying to film in all regions in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in one year!

The idea of the series is to look at history through the eyes of ordinary people, so much of the filming has involved community events.

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Find out how you can engage with local history in your area

Inevitably they take place over weekends so it's been non-stop since we started last May - but also a delight to walk the streets of the Black Country, Manchester and Swansea and the countryside of Devon and Suffolk, Antrim and Gwent.

Because we are the best documented country on earth for the last 1,000 years we can inhabit those landscapes with the people of the past, imagine their lives, and see the living connections with us.

Coupled with the energy, enthusiasm and knowledge of local communities, schools and groups across the British Isles, that has been the key to the making of the series.

Stand out stories? There are so many it's hard to single out any one, but here are a few:

Our first shoot was on the Royal wedding day last year with the Indian community at their temple in Tividale near Birmingham, and then Kibworth in Leicestershire (setting of our last series Story of England) for their raucous street party complete with a Jamaican gospel choir. That somehow set the tone!

Then at the communal dig at Long Melford one summer weekend we had half the town digging up their back gardens making amazing discoveries of their unknown Roman roots.

Michael Wood with local residents discussing finds at the Long Melford dig in Suffolk

Discussing finds with local residents at the Long Melford dig, Suffolk

At Llancarfan near Cardiff the village open day celebrated the sensational discovery of their whitewashed medieval wall paintings.

On Merseyside and the Wirral a DNA project took Scousers on a pilgrimage to their Viking roots.

In Halesowen in the Black Country, where the history of metal working goes from 13th century cutlers to the chainmakers who made the chains for the Titanic, the children at Cradley Primary School collected the first hand stories of those chainmakers for us from their grandparents.

In this year of the Jubilee and the Olympics there is much talk about legacy and thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund The Great British Story will, we hope, have its own afterlife.

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Watch a clip from episode one: the roots of early Britain

To go with the series, the Heritage Lottery Fund have created a brand new grant scheme, All Our Stories, to give communities and groups across the UK and Northern Ireland the chance to come up with schemes that will enable them to find out more about their own local stories.

But in the immediate future I am off to Liverpool for one of the Great British Story History events that are happening all over the country - once I have admitted that I am a proud Mancunian and a stalwart red I am sure we will have a great day!

Michael Wood is an historian and the presenter of The Great British Story: A People's History.

The Great British Story: A People's History is next on on Friday, 1 June at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Silk: Maxine Peake on playing Martha

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Fiona Wickham Fiona Wickham | 09:21 UK time, Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Series two of Silk opens on BBC One tonight, with Martha Costello now a QC. Actress Maxine Peake answered our questions about the return of the courtroom drama.

How has Martha's character developed in series two?

I don't know whether Martha has developed much as a character as we seem to stay well away from her personal life in this series and focus on her cases much more.

I think if anything she's becoming tougher but it hasn't been easy.

Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) stands in court in wig and gown

Maxine Peake as Martha Costello QC

You said "it would be extremely challenging for me to play Martha" when series one came out. What was most challenging about it?

I think convincing myself I could credibly play a barrister.

When you have an accent as specific as mine people do tend to pigeon-hole you. Especially as far as class and education are concerned.

I think people associate being middle class with a lack of accent. That is not the case, especially up north, and that a university education would neutralise any accent. We really need to change our way of thinking!

The amount of dialogue to learn too bordered sometimes on the impossible!

How do you get into character?

I have to create a detailed back story for each character I play.

I find it really useful to use music, literature and art as keys to their personality. What they like to listen to, read. Art that stimulates them. I find a song or painting which I think represents them.

A friend of mine, Lex Shrapnel, said to me after a Fleet Foxes concert that the beautiful thing about music is that you can tell a whole story in a few minutes and I think that goes for encapsulating a character's inner life.

Peter [Moffat] very kindly would adapt his scripts to fit my back story too. Which was fantastic.

Tell us a bit about Clive and Martha's relationship and how they test each other over the series.

Martha and Clive are now the best of friends and as with the people you love the most, they challenge and taunt each other.

I adore their relationship. As Rupert put it perfectly: they are like brother and sister who sometimes get a little confused!

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Martha annoys Clive by calling him a 'note taker'

Did you do any further research for series two?

I went back to the Old Bailey for a couple of days with Rupert this time and we sat in on a murder trial.

I also met up with a female QC at a chambers in Manchester and she talked me through the highs and lows.

With the cuts to legal aid it's very difficult at the moment and hopefully if Silk goes to a third series Peter might highlight that.

How do you feel during this period between finishing shooting and the programme airing?

I fortunately went straight into another job so didn't give it much thought. Although this year I felt we became much more of a team and did miss everyone a little.

We had the fabulous Frances Barber, Indira Varma, Phil Davis and Shaun Evans on board so we all had to up our game.

Can you enjoy watching your performance on screen or does it make you uncomfortable?

I hate it! It sends me into the depths of despair!

Which of the actors did you most enjoy working with?

I love my scenes with Neil Stuke, he's such an open and energetic actor you just have to react to him.

I bloody love Rupert, he's funny and terribly self-deprecating and I was over the moon when Shaun Evans joined us. He's such a great actor and I've always had a wee bit of a crush on him, but don't tell him that!

What was your personal highlight?

Getting to finally meet Frances Barber. What a woman!

Maxine Peake plays Martha Costello QC in Silk.

Silk returns tonight at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

BBC Young Musician: A music prize like no other

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Clemency Burton-Hill Clemency Burton-Hill | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 11 May 2012

There's often this moment backstage at BBC Young Musician when a competitor is about to walk on stage and I wish them luck and my voice cracks and suddenly we both realise, in that same instant, that I'm probably more nervous than they are.

Clemency Burton-Hill on the set of BBC Young Musician 2012

Clemency Burton-Hill on the set of BBC Young Musician 2012

As the presenter I try and play it cool, obviously, but inevitably I'm a gibbering wreck by this point because the tension and excitement levels are so unbelievably high.

It's substantially more nerve-wracking than being backstage at something like The X Factor - I know, I've been there - because these young people have worked for most of their lives to get here.

On BBC Young Musician there's no such thing as overnight success.

These teenagers are like our top athletes, dedicating themselves with a staggering degree of commitment to the thing they love most: classical music.

I'm so proud to be a part of it and thrilled that our growing audience numbers, which are up by around 150,000 from the previous competition, seem to reflect what I believe: that this is a uniquely enthralling show!

The way the competition is structured means I get to know the competitors quite well over the course of a few months.

It's a huge privilege and pleasure to see them at school, meet their families and friends and teachers, find out who they really are off-camera and away from the stage.

But this also means I become very emotionally invested in each and every one of them and I often experience this wave of panic when the jury are about to announce the winner when I suddenly think 'Nooo! Can't they all win?!'

After the verdict I always seek to reassure the ones who don't make it through that they are all winners. Sounds corny but it's true.

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Watch highlights from BBC Young Musician 2012

It's a huge achievement in itself to get to the category final stage (when there are just five left in each of five instrumental groups, down from hundreds at the start) let alone for the five who then win their category final and make it through to the semi-final.

In their disappointment, which is understandably crushing, I can sometimes see them thinking 'yeah right'. But I really mean it.

They are all outstanding young musicians and on a different night, with a different jury, a different twist of fate, any of them might take the title.

When I was younger I used to play the violin very seriously and once entered Young Musician myself.

I got through the first two rounds but didn't make it to the final. I don't think I had anything like the dedication these kids have! So I am bursting with admiration and respect.

I know all too well how much is at stake here and how terrifying - as well as exciting - it can be to face a jury of this calibre.

They are looking not only for musical and technical brilliance (that much is a given) but for that extra special something.

Who's got it? Who knows? On the night, anything might happen...

One thing's certain: for a young classical artist BBC Young Musician is simply the prize to win - there is no other international platform like it.

You can see that from the incredible careers that former winners like Nicola Benedetti, Guy Johnston and 2010s sensational champion Lara Melda have gone onto have.

This years strings category winner and semi-finalists Laura Van Der Heijden playing the cello

This year's strings category winner and semi-finalists cellist Laura Van Der Heijden

So the pressure is on.

And yet, amazingly, if you put the high stakes aside our finalists are basically just lovely, normal, hard-working, passionate teenagers. 'Ordinary', if you like.

They just happen to have a talent that is anything but.

Clemency Burton-Hill is the presenter of BBC Young Musician.

BBC Young Musician is next on on Friday, 11 May at 7.30pm on BBC Four. The semi-final is on Saturday, 12 May at 6pm on BBC Two and the final is on Sunday, 13 May at 6pm on BBC Two.

For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Britain's Biggest Hoarders: Lifting the stigma for mum

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Jasmine Harman Jasmine Harman | 09:52 UK time, Tuesday, 8 May 2012

After the amazing response to My Hoarder Mum & Me, the filming of which was mostly brought about through desperation, we have now filmed a follow up - Britain's Biggest Hoarders.

Before the first documentary my mum's house had become so full of clutter that she couldn't get through the front door without a struggle.

Vasoulla Savvidou and Jasmine Harman at Vasoulla's home

Jasmine Harman with her mum Vasoulla Savvidou at Vasoulla's home

She was sleeping on a scrap of floor in the hall as each of her five bedrooms were inaccessible.

Yet she was not still unable to face letting any of her possessions go, nor could she seem to resist the temptation to accumulate more and more stuff.

I think mum wanted to show other hoarders and their families that they were not lost causes and I wanted to continue the work we'd started, both in the house and raising awareness.

For years we all thought mum was just messy, lazy and reckless with money.

When my youngest brother (then aged 11) was removed from her home when his school insisted that it was not a suitable environment for a child, instead of motivating her to 'tidy up' things got even worse.

Although she desperately wanted him back she was paralysed and received little support from social services or the NHS.

Mum was just supposed to get on with clearing out the house on her own!

In my opinion this would be the same as telling an anorexic to just start eating, or an alcoholic to just stop drinking. It's not as easy as that.

I have to say it has been a huge relief for me not to have to hide this 'shameful' secret anymore.

Even the few people I had told about my mum's house didn't really get it and would make comments which clearly demonstrated their lack of understanding such as "I know what you mean, I'm a complete hoarder too! I've got a whole box full of magazines that I can't throw away!"

Hold on a sec, my mum will show you how to be a proper hoarder!

I really hope that through this documentary I have helped my mum and Alan and Richard, who as you'll see in the programme also struggle with too much stuff.

Alan and Marion Burgess outside their home with Jasmine

Alan and Marion Burgess outside their home with Jasmine

When I first arrived at Alan's house I saw the 5 ft high sea of clutter that filled the front garden and I could see the front door, but was left wondering how on earth I'd reach it.

Then I spotted a tiny gap which was the narrow pathway to the house.

Inside books, videos, ornaments, clothes, boxes and other items were stacked floor to ceiling, meaning the only place his wife Marion had to sit down and eat her dinner was on the toilet.

They sleep on half of a double bed as the other half (and the rest of the room) is covered with Alan's belongings and they are forced to visit friends in order to shower as their bathroom is bursting at the seams.

Alan and Richard each have different views of their hoarding.

Whilst Alan feels everything is useful and will only let perished items go, Richard sees that much of what he holds onto is rubbish but still struggles to part with anything.

He has the need to check everything which is frequently the case with hoarders.

One thing they had in common with my mum is that a crisis brought about the need to tackle the hoarding.

For Richard it was his health. When we filmed with him he had just come out of hospital suffering with chest and circulation problems, probably not helped by the fact his house was full of dust, spores and was freezing cold!

Jasmine Harman and Richard Pout at Richard's home

Jasmine and Richard Pout at Richard's home

Alan's house is an eyesore and I understand that neighbours' rights must be considered. But I'd like to see local authorities offering help or support for people with his problem.

Instead the course of action Alan's council took was to threaten to prosecute him for the second time.

I feel there are other ways of going about it.

I hope the programme has gone some way to removing the stigma attached to hoarding.

Yes it's messy. Yes it's smelly and unpleasant. But people who make rude comments are the ones who should be ashamed of themselves.

After all you wouldn't laugh at someone who had any other type of illness!

I hope now many hoarders will find the courage to come forward and ask for help and I have set up a website which offers online support and resources.

Hopefully the medical profession will soon give full recognition to Hoarding Disorder and I feel proud of my mum for having been one of the first people in the country to stand up and tell all about the challenges she faces every day.

I think she has been incredibly brave and we've become closer than ever as a result of the documentary.

Crucially I now understand some of the reasons behind her hoarding and we even can have a laugh about it!

UPDATE 3 August 2012: If you are interested in being part of BBC One's follow up series to Britain's Biggest Hoarders, please see Jasmine's new post on the BBC TV blog for details.

Jasmine Harman is the presenter of Britain's Biggest Hoarders.

Britain's Biggest Hoarders is on Tuesday, 8 May at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Planet Earth Live - Presenting a wildlife soap opera

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Julia Bradbury Julia Bradbury | 09:15 UK time, Friday, 4 May 2012

Planet Earth Live is a project of a lifetime.

A globally live wildlife series!

Julia Bradbury on a boat in Monterey Bay, California

Julia filming in Monterey Bay, California

I'll be on location with the black bears in the Northwoods of Minnesota for the whole of May when we go live on BBC One.

Richard Hammond will be in Kenya with the lions and elephants and there'll be a team of camera people and experts around the world who will be witnessing first hand macaque monkeys, meerkats, giant otters and polar bears.

I met most members of the crew for the first time at Heathrow airport and there began our first leg over to San Francisco to film the California sea otters.

From there the plan was to head on to Mexico to film gray whales and then journey far north to find the black bears.

All in nine days.

This initial filming trip was to establish an on-screen connection with some of the animals and set up some of the stories before the live series starts on 6 May.

In picturesque Monterey, California I had an encounter which you'll see with a mother otter that has chosen an alternative lifestyle.

Rather than living in the open water in the kelp as most of the otter population do she has chosen to live in the rather grand marina surrounded by humans, expensive boats and fishermen.

Food is not plentiful and it's a risky environment - especially with a pup.

After visiting those two I had planned to kayak out to the open water otters and slide up close in the thick green kelp forest.

But that afternoon the weather closed in and the swell was too high so we had to use a rib (a kind of boat) instead to film the impossibly cute otters feeding and grooming.

Sea otter and cub in Monterey Harbour, California

Sea otter and pup in Monterey Harbour, California

We thought we'd try again the following morning but conditions hadn't improved so we had to hit the road for our 10 hour drive to Los Angeles.

You can plan and plan back at base but if things don't work out you have to adapt.

In Baja, Mexico we set out on two tiny boats in an attempt to spot the gray whales with their calves.

The lagoons in San Ignacio are a warm water retreat for the whales - a chance to nurse their young and prepare them for their mammoth migration back north towards the Arctic waters.

These animals undertake the longest migration of any - it's estimated that a gray whale can travel up to half a million miles in a lifetime!

At first we saw them breaching and spraying in the distance - lots of them. And you could tell they were moving in twos by the enormous dark shapes in the water.

And then two shapes approached the boat.

At first the adult female approached seemingly to check us out - all 50 tonnes of her. I got sprayed twice right in the face - Mama was saying hello.

Then she nudged her calf towards us. It is weird and wonderful behaviour that hasn't been explained - why does an adult female push her vulnerable offspring towards a potential threat?

I leaned over the boat and stroked the calf. It is the most incredible feeling - to have physical contact with such a grand and, I think, beautiful creature.

We filmed with the whales for hours and hours - getting different shots, using the underwater camera, filming from boat to boat.

We were incredibly lucky over two days and managed to get everything we had wished for and more.

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Julia has a close encounter with a gray whale mother in Baja, Mexico

It doesn't always work out that way filming wildlife. Some members of the team had been to Baja before and had waited 11 days for any action.

Having a little one myself (my baby is nine months old) I'm chuffed to be based in Minnesota.

It's a beautiful landscape of lakes and woodland and a reasonably safe place to live and work for a month.

The purpose of our flying visit was to meet the expert Dr Lynn Rogers who is known as 'The Bear Man'.

He has studied the black bears of Minnesota for 45 years and keeps track of them for his research.

He introduced me to my first wild black bear when we went together on foot to a den in the woods.

Dr Rogers wanted to check on the collar (tracking device) of a female bear before she departed her den for good following hibernation.

Over years of painstaking study with bears Dr Rogers has developed a call he makes which the bears have learned to recognise as him.

They've learned when they hear it that they are safe among friends and so the arrival of humans doesn't startle them.

After making some 'hey bear' calls, incredibly, a large female emerged from the den.

I stood in awe of the scene beside me as Lynn went in to examine her collar.

Black bear cub and mother playing in Minnesota, USA

A black bear mother with her cub in Minnesota

There is much more to tell you but you'll have to watch the programmes because my adventure with the bears is a drama we're going to be living together through the series. (Yes I was frightened.)

We are all incredibly excited about Planet Earth Live - nothing like it has ever been done before.

This is a real chance for you to get close to the wildlife and follow the animals' stories from around the world.

The creatures will be going through a very important time in the animal kingdom as their offspring fight for life.

It's going to be a wildlife soap opera.

Julia Bradbury is one of the presenters of Planet Earth Live.

Planet Earth Live starts on Sunday, 6 May at 7.50pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Presenting Indian Ocean: From curried fruit bat to armoured underwear

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Simon Reeve Simon Reeve | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 2 May 2012

We covered a vast area and huge distances while filming Indian Ocean.

Starting in South Africa we travelled up the east coast of the continent, then around India and back down through Indonesia to finish in south-west Australia.

Simon Reeve in a boat on the Indian Ocean surrounded by blue water and blue sky

Simon Reeve in Indian Ocean

We visited 16 countries in all and spent more than six months filming, putting in some serious miles on the road.

The immediate image that people have of the Indian Ocean is tropical islands but of course it's a much larger area than just the beautiful parts.

It's the third largest ocean on the planet and a home to the paradise islands of countries like the Seychelles but also Somalia which is one of the most difficult and dangerous places to film, as well as desperately poor countries such as Bangladesh.

It's a region with a complete mix of life and we tried to reflect that in the series.

I'm the presenter and also closely involved in all aspects of the shows from initially coming up with the idea through to helping to decide what we film, then editing, scripting and voiceovers.

We're a small team and I loved the whole process of discussion - and occasionally heated debate - as we decided what we were going to film and where we would visit during our travels.

We couldn't visit every country around the edge of the ocean and we certainly couldn't travel every mile of the coastline so we had to pick the best spots for filming based on the likelihood of us actually being able to tell a story, show an issue or see a stunning sight.

It largely comes down to probability. The question we ask is how likely are we to be able to get to a place, see what we need to film to tell a story and then get out again without vast expense?

The end result is TV with a blend of travel, current affairs, wildlife, history, culture, global issues, local concerns and of course, some weird food.

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Watch Simon eat curried fruit bat

You've got to have some strange food on a journey like this.

On the road the other team members were drawn from a small but brilliant pool.

Four of us went out from the UK and there was a slightly different team for each leg of the journey.

I also had two of the best cameramen in the business, Jonathan Young and Craig Hastings who each filmed around half of the series.

They have a remarkable talent for capturing stunning footage, spontaneous encounters and tricky situations.

And remember they do everything I do, often going backwards and carrying more than 12kg on their shoulder.

Together we were privileged to visit some of the most glorious islands in the world while filming this series and one personal highlight for me was meeting Brendon Grimshaw, an 86-year-old Brit on the island he bought in the Seychelles in the 1960s for £8,000.

He's been living the dream in paradise ever since.

But for the third programme in the series we travelled to Mogadishu in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places on the planet, where we needed flak jackets, helmets and even 'blast boxers' - armoured underwear - to protect us against IEDs and grenade attacks.

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Watch Simon on a mission with AMISOM soldiers in Mogadishu

We had Ugandan peacekeepers from the African Union Mission In Somalia (AMISOM) looking after us and they took us to the frontline several times during active combat.

Their organisation is battling to stabilise Somalia and halt piracy and it's a frightening and tragic place.

Producer-director Andrew Carter, cameraman Jonathan Young and I were the small team.

We've all had extensive experience of similar situations and completed Hostile Environment courses where you're taught the essentials of survival.

But when you're there the main thing you think about is getting the story on film.

That's the whole point of a series like this: to show viewers what life is like in these remote parts of the world.

Simon Reeve is the presenter of Indian Ocean.

Indian Ocean continues on Sunday, 13 May at 8pm on BBC Two and BBC HD (except for analogue viewers in Northern Ireland and Wales). The series will be available to watch in iPlayer until Sunday, 10 June.

For more information about analogue television and the digital switchover please visit Help Receiving TV and Radio.

For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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