Tell us about the young Mr Wright
Well I went to a 20 year school reunion not long ago in my
old school in Ipswich, it was unbelievable. There were
so many people there and the old head master. He said: "
Ahh, Mr Wright, yes. Always getting other people into trouble,
When I was at school, it was in the height of the mods and
rockers revival. So half of my mates were teddy rude boys
and the others, like me, were sort of rockers or hippies.
We used to go out as groups and there were always fights in
the playground. I remember being hoiked in front of him in
his office once. He looked at me and said: "Whether you
have long hair or short, whether you're being mods or rockers,
you are all flowers of the Cobblestone School garden".
What were you doing before you became a TV presenter?
I went to art school, and did a lot of painting. I loved it.
Then I did a lot of little jobs, made money and went travelling.
The jobs were brilliant. It doesn't matter what you do, it
is all about who you work with. I did cycle couriering for
a while, and got fit, at least! I also had a market stall
in Spitalfields Market in London. I used to make paints,
jewellery, weld things up, make candlesticks, clay artwork,
jams, chutney and mint sauce and sell them there. But you
have to be so business-minded, so I wasn't making much cash!
I also worked at Hoxton Community Centre doing clay,
drawing and painting. I was so busy... The record was five
plays in three weeks! I also taught art and drama to kids
aged between five and twelve. In fact, that was the hardest
work I've ever done. I use to enjoy taking them out of London
for a weekend. At first, the countryside is a shock for them,
they almost think carrots come from a tin, they are scared
of the horses, and the night seem so much darker than in the
city! After a couple of days, the magic is there and they
don't want to go back to the city....
How did you get the Globe Trekker presenter job?
I was also doing a bit of video, which is a great medium.
A friend of mine saw this ad in the newspaper for a presenter
young, enthusiastic, done a bit of travelling. I had travelled
to Egypt for a couple of months, Nepal and
India for seven months, Guyana for three months,
hitchhiked though Ireland, and the whole of Europe. I sent
a show reel for a laugh, Channel 4 loved it, and I've
never looked back since!
What do you think distinguished you from the others wannabes?
You know, in any show reel, the first 10-20 seconds are the
most important. You see, they have thousands to look at, and
about 90 percent are identical. You've got to start with the
biggest punch you can so that people carry on watching!
My showreel was a joke, five minutes long
me in Liverpool
Street Station (London) and all my bags fall over, I slip
along the floor, hit my head on the camera and start the piece
to camera: "Here we are in London
" Then I
was trying to change money on the black market, getting beaten
up. There was a sequence when I was on the toilet talking
about the rich food and advising visitors to take it easy.
Then I was getting arrested, ended up in jail
it for a joke, although part of me was hoping
got the letter back for the interview!
What is it like with the crew on a shoot?
If you get a good crew you get a good show usually, or you
get a relaxed show. On one hand the crew might be good, but
unfortunately there is not so much to shoot in the country
and it's a struggle. Or on the other hand there might be brilliant
things, but the crew might not be functioning so well. It
only takes one person or two
The worst crime on a shoot
is lack of imagination. If the director can't see things,
or is not opened enough, just keeping to the script all the
time, you can't let anything breathe. For the pieces to camera,
I like to be natural and spontaneous. To try to restrict me
to pieces that are word-perfect, you might as well get someone
else, don't use me! If you have absolutely no control over
what you are saying you become a mouthpiece and that's not
how I work.
In Nepal, we were a great crew, but things went wrong
anyway! The kit didn't turn up and we lost two days. Then
we went to the Monkey Temple and after two hours the
director got bitten to the blood by a monkey, and was at risk
of death from rabbies. It was a disaster! But honestly most
people who work on these shoots are so brilliant, really!
There are really so many sweet people in TV, contrary to what
some people might say sometimes.
Which country have you enjoyed visiting the most?
Every single country you go to just blows your mind! You know
with this job you always get five months condensed in three
weeks! The final programme gives you a splash of colours,
a smell of the country, and that's where its success is I
But Mongolia sticks out. It is just phenomenal. I love
places in the middle of nowhere, no one is there, and the
landscape is phenomenal. Cambodia as well is just unbelievable.
You have pre-conceived ideas, which often everyone has, and
all you know is the killing fields. So the first five
days you see it, but after that you forget it. People are
young, they live for now. And Phnom Penh is such a
brilliant capital. I went clubbing there and the atmosphere
was great. Just like anywhere in Europe, young people happy
and enjoying music! The DJ was there in a cut Beatle car,
mixing and sending friendly messages to the travellers!
I also love places above the Arctic Circle. It is so
extreme, so absurd; it has nothing to do with your usual life.
It is mind-blowing. Greenland was just phenomenal.
Almost the size of Europe, and only 55,000 people, amazing,
a big wonderful ice-cube. In Nuuk, the capital, there's
a tower block and one percent of the population live in it!
Ethiopia was good, Cuba
ahh so many places,
What's the one time you wished you weren't there?
It has never been because of the country. Sometimes things
are going wrong, but simply because you are there for the
purpose to film. The only time it goes wrong is when you are
not hitting sixes with the film. But that's not a reflection
on the country. There has never been a place where I couldn't
find that. Never.
Have you ever gone back to a place on holidays?
No. I'm away six or seven months in a year, for a holiday
the last thing I ever want to do is getting on a plane again!
But there are certain places I would like to go back to, maybe
Greenland or Easter Island.
What is the one don't-leave-home-without
essential you always take with you on trips?
I never travel without my sketch book, but that's about
it! There is no secret, there is nothing mysterious about
a rucksack. All you need is money, passport, a change of clothes,
and forget the rest.
How do you manage to achieve all these stunts, show after
I love it! I'm like an adrenaline junky. That's my nut side
coming out! It always seems more dangerous when you're sitting
there in your comfy room watching it on TV, but most of the
things I do I'm in control of. I know what is possible. I've
done loads of stupid stuff as a kid, so I know my limits.
The most boring thing would be to die doing television! Although
I did a bull ride in Mexico, and that was a little
bit out of control, because all you have to do is obviously
slip off the back, get kicked in the head, and it's all over!
So there are risks involved, but you know there is not too
much that I've felt really quite scared. Once in Vanuatu,
between the Solomon Islands and Fiji, lava almost
hit me. With the crew, we went right up to the top of the
volcano, the whole thing is shaking, and I see bits of lava
flowing down. The noise is just phenomenal, it bubbles up
like living colours. I've never see an extraordinary orange
like it. As it gets dark, the lava cools down and becomes
more ferocious. We didn't realised that the wind had changed
and suddenly an explosion sent lava literally five meters
from us. At the next explosion we started to run down the
path. It was mad! But that's what gives the extra buzz!
Do you often get time when filming to meet the locals?
Yes, there is plenty of time. The good thing about my job
is that you meet the people of the country to hear it from
the horse's mouth. That is what makes it so special. Sometimes,
I meet just ordinary people doing normal things, like anyone
else. And now and again you meet very special people, like
in Japan, when I talked to an atomic bomb victim. All
these people, they are the interesting ones, I'm just the
boring glue that sticks it all together. They are the ones
with the stories. I always try to make them feel relaxed and
comfortable to get the best out of them. I tell them to forget
the camera. It is weird for them, imagine this camera right
in front of them in the middle of Mongolia! But we
just chat, and they feel relaxed. Usually I tell them, "look,
just forget the camera, let's talk about this and that."
And they think, "thank God for that!" Taking the
time to talk is essential. I often spend three or four hours,
which for an intense conversation is a long time, just me
and a chap. And then you move on. We are rarely staying anywhere
for more than a couple of days. Usually the crew and myself
build up a nice relationship with drivers. In Tunisia
the driver was really sweet. He was brilliant, 70s style,
listening to Pink Floyd. In other places, like in Mongolia,
drivers are rockers, listening to ACDC and Status
Quo, and again, they are brilliant! I am really bad at
writing but now and again I send them tapes.
Who's the most inspirational character you've met on your
Tons! A lot because of what they have been through. You just
can't comprehend, and you realise that you've done nothing
in your life, and that you are just so lucky to be born in
England or a Western country. The atomic Bomb victim,
a phenomenal person, she must be about 80 now. She was in
a hospital when the bomb dropped, and was the only building
still standing, a big concrete thing. She was in the toilets
and looked out. You just can't imagine it. Just
looking out and your whole town is devastated. She said she
walked around for three-and-a-half days just in daze, walking
round the bodies, and felt guilty that she couldn't help anyone.
She's had about 25 cancer operations. She believes she's only
alive to tell the story to others. She goes around and tells
it. And when she's telling it, it upsets her every time. You
walk along the street in Ethiopia and you chat with
someone on the street, you meet a guy who speaks five different
languages and has two degrees and is working in some little
job for nothing.
Do you shop a lot when you travel? What are the worst and
best souvenirs you've bought?
I love shopping! I love it! I rarely buy for myself, just
a few little things which have a sentimental value, but I
enjoy buying for other people. I love tack; I love crap presents!
The best that I have ever bought for the Pilot Productions'
office was in Romania: a tray with a bottle in the
middle, cups around the sides, and when you lift the bottle
up it plays a tune. And the best present ever is from Syria.
I found it in a women's underwear shop. A crotch less g-string
made out of tiger fur, and inside, there is a little circuit
board. You turn it on and lights flash right on the crotch.
Plus, it plays tunes as well. Happy Birthday, Love Story
I bought loads of them, the best present ever!
I bet you're friends can't wait for you to return!
Now they are sick to death. They've got so much crap! One
friend once told me, "no more, just bring me back a small
What kind of friend are you? Do
you see them much?
You know, my job makes it difficult. I've been travelling
around for seven years
I make sure I squeeze everybody
because that's important to me; I don't want to lose relationships.
But I don't chill out. I don't complain because travelling
is great, and I've chosen it. I'm just glad that most of friends
are in cycling distance really!
How do you relax?
The best is to go out for a big meal. There are so many brilliant
restaurants in London, and cheap if you know where
Also I love playing football. It is like yoga for me.
For two hours, your mind is completely clear; nothing else
comes into it but getting that ball in the goal. And you are
physically moving, exercising your body, it is extreme and
you feel good. I also like to go to down the pub and watch
football with my friends!
What is your favourite food?
I like to try anything, I remember trying cockroach
in Cambodia! But what I like the most is Southeast Asian
food. I love it. And in Asia, even if you are in the middle
of nowhere, you know you are going to get a fantastic bowl
of noodles anyway. Whereas in most western countries, in the
middle of nowhere, food is usually disappointing, particularly
if you are travelling low budget. What sums it up is, in the
USA, our driver once telling us "Are you hungry? If you
want a quick snack, we can go to the store, but if you want
a proper meal, we can go to McDonald's!" Anyway, I am
vegetarian, although not for the show
Are you into music?
I love dancing and I love music. But that is a different thing.
There are quite a few clubs in Manchester or in East London
which have a good beat... I love dancing to 70s and 80s music,
disco, country, jazz
I know you like painting, how would
you describe your style?
I mainly paint landscape. When I travel I'm always sketching.
One of my favourite artists is Albert Pinkham Ryder,
an American artist of the turn of the century. He paints a
lot of night scenes; so layered and layered that it is all
cracking. It is quite dark, but within that darkness there
is so much going on. He has also done incredible seascapes
where the water is boiling over.
I'm not so attracting by conceptual art. It is close to philosophy,
but I think it alienates and excludes people. I am very visual,
if you see a picture, why should you also have to read a book
about it? Don't get me wrong - I love abstract - but not conceptual
art. It is just a little club.
Will there be a stage when you think
you'll stop trekking the world?
Eventually yes, but not yet! Every time I think that maybe
I've lost the buzz for it, I meet fantastic people and I realise
I adore it. The only thing really is that I wish I had more
time in London.
Are you working on other projects?
At the moment I'm working on a prelude to the World Cup. I'm
just coming back from Japan and soon going to South
Korea, looking at their sports and at the football
influence. You know it's only been there for 15 years
in Japan but it's huge and they've gone for it!
What is your ideal lazy day in London?
I don't have any lazy day cause I get bored! I'm actually
a real pain. I can't lie in, unless I've had a really long
night and then it's fine. Once I've woken up I'm up. So a
lazy day often means doing as much as I can, mainly painting.
My best days are spent painting when I feel it goes well!
Where do you dream of going to where
you haven't yet been?
Definitely Vietnam. I love Southeast Asia. There
is such a buzz on the streets there, the food is brilliant
and the people are just buzzing! Siberia, and Antarctica
as well. But you know, there are always so many amazing places
in your own backyard. England is wonderful. From London
you can just jump on the train and you can be out in the country
in an hour, walk, have a lunch in a beautiful country pub
and then come back. Suffolk is particularly beautiful.
There are rivers everywhere, it is stunning, so many little
I have a friend who leaves in the smallest
village you can imagine, when I visit him everything just
goes fffffff, and you're just so relaxed. As soon as you turn
into a one-lane road, you feel the pressure and the weight
coming off your shoulders, you just chill out! There is something
about being with nature, being in the country, there is no
stress. That's the nicer thing about travelling; you leave
some of it behind and just concentrate on what is going on.
The sea is always a beautiful thing to see. Even just going
over bridges in London and looking at the Thames gives
you this little magic instant.
Finally, do you have your own philosophy
Not really. You see, if you spend too much time thinking about
it, then you miss it! Things come. Keep looking, meet different
people, and exchange ideas. There is no rule.