The Panda Awards, dubbed the ‘Green Oscars’, celebrate and honour the very best in wildlife filmmaking and tv presenting. David Attenborough presented the award which Chris received to a standing ovation. His award was given in recognition of his significant contribution to wildlife filmmaking, conservation and increasing the public’s understanding of the environment.
Had we been there, we would have stood and cheered and applauded as loudly as everyone else, not just for his professional achievements, which are many, but more for the personal commitment he has given to wildlife conservation campaigns, and especially his work on raising awareness about raptor persecution.
Many of us first met Chris in 2014 when he joined the #sodden570, standing all day in torrential rain in the Derbyshire Peak District at the very first Hen Harrier Day. He wasn’t paid to be there, he didn’t have to be there, but he was there, because he cared as passionately as the rest of us about hen harrier persecution. And he didn’t just flit in to say a few words and then clear off to the comfort of a warm, dry hotel room, as some ‘celebrities’ might have done. No. He stayed for the entire event and spent hours and hours and hours, soaked to the skin, talking to people, having his photograph taken, signing souvenirs, and ensuring that everyone who wanted to meet him was given that opportunity. He was one of the last to leave that day.
Since then he has been at the forefront of this campaign, on social media, at public events, and at further Hen Harrier Day rallies in 2015 and 2016. Perhaps most significantly, he also put his name to the latest petition to ban driven grouse shooting in March this year. But he didn’t just put his name to it and then forget about it, he campaigned for it, working tirelessly to promote the issue and raise awareness.
When, with Mark Avery, we told him we wanted to make some videos to help the public understand the environmental damage caused by driven grouse shooting, he jumped at the chance to help. Unbeknownst to many, he turned up the evening before we were due to start filming with a chronic back injury that rendered him virtually unable to walk. Did he cry off? Did he hell. He got himself an emergency medical appointment early the next morning, got dosed up on pain killers and joined us for two days of filming out on the moors without complaint or excuse. Again, he wasn’t paid to make those films, he didn’t have to be there, in agony, but he (and his film crew, who also volunteered their time and expertise) was there because he cared.
There is no doubt that Chris’s involvement in this campaign helped the petition to reach the required 100,000 signatures and why the issue of driven grouse shooting is heading for Westminster this month. He has an outspoken passion but it is delivered with integrity and professionalism, and the general public responds to these qualities. And that’s why the grouse shooting industry targeted him with their (unsuccessful) campaigns to get him sacked from the BBC. They could see how much the public valued his opinion and they could see how his advocacy was helping the campaign gain momentum. For all the personal abuse they’ve hurled at Chris, whether it be on social media or in the national press, his dignity and resoluteness has been astonishing.
Massive congratulations, Chris, for a well-deserved award.
Photos of Hen Harrier Day 2014 and film work on a North Yorkshire grouse moor, July 2016 (RPUK)