Chris Packham: Force of Nature

This event is great for:
Understanding other people’s experiences.

Watch a video of naturalist Chris Packham’s 2016 Book Festival event and explore the topics that he raises – including childhood, struggles and perspective.

Chris Packham is best known as presenter of The Really Wild Show and more recently the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch. In a 2016 Book Festival event, he talks about his memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar which documents his often solitary childhood and his obsessive tendencies, as well as the importance of his early relationships with animals, including a young kestrel.

Watch the video and then use our discussion points to start a class conversation.

Activity – Discussion Points

  • An obsessive childhood

Listen from around 3 minutes – Chris tells some stories about his childhood.

What words would you use to describe the stories he tells, and the childhood he paints for us?

Talk about what you think his childhood might have been like from these descriptions.

  •  “The allure of being plagued with uncertainty”

Listen from 34 minutes – Chris states that in his opinion people who don’t struggle have a much less fulfilling life.

I like the idea of struggling. I like the idea of having a very determined purpose and a need to achieve things… It’s about continuing to strive to improve or to achieve what you’re setting out to do and if you reach a stage where you become content I can only imagine that with that comes lethargy and slovenliness and therefore you wouldn’t be driven and as passionate.

What do you think? Discuss if you agree, or what effect you think this might have?

  • The effect of point of view

In his autobiography, Chris writes in both the first and third person, as well as from the point of view of other people.

Read the following excerpts from his book. What effect do you think the different points of view have, and why do you think he’s chosen the point of view which he uses in each piece:

I’d had a powerful urge to sprint over and start to clamber up but from somewhere I’d summoned some control and dutifully remained hidden in the shadow of the hawthorn, fidgeting on a spotty bed of its mouldering confetti. As the morning warmed, I’d gaze unblinking at the bushes opposite, bunched across my horizon like a row of freshly permed heads in a cinema, waiting, aching for the next round of Kestrel action.

He wondered how many of the old people he’d seen but didn’t know had already died. He would die too, one day. But he didn’t want to. All this thinking about dying made his chest ache, he was nearly crying. There was a dead ladybird stuck in the bottom of the jar. He shook it hard to get it out but it wouldn’t budge until he used the grass straw to dislodge it and flick it away. He didn’t like it dead.  

She pursed her lips, nodded, and pondered his rationale. He was not rash, he was obsessively self-controlling, but he had also presented a paradoxical collusion of the considered and the recklessly unpredictable. But she already suspected this unpredictable had always been carefully deliberated. So, he would have likely Googled the drug’s name and researched its efficacy, he would have calculated the collective potential at his disposal and undoubtedly the only reason he was sat there now was because there had not been enough tablets in the jar.

Think of an important memory from your past and briefly write up the event in both first and third person, as well as from the point of view of someone else there.

Read your extracts and talk about which comes more naturally, and what effect the different points of view have on your writing and the effect on the piece.

Further information:

For further information on Chris Packham’s life and writing, visit his website: