A couple of decades ago, the spiritual home of stand-up comedy was arguably the working mens clubs of the industrial north. Sure a few of the top artists made it to TV spots but the thought of Michael McIntyre, John Bishop or Lee Evans filling an arena, historically the preserve of headline music acts, was at best, far-fetched. Stand-up comedy has broken new ground, broken new records and broken new audiences. The same needs to be done for nature.
Spring/Autumnwatch goes some way towards bridging the gap between science and a mainstream audience, but does it reach beyond Middle-class, Middle age, Middle England? Possibly yes, but it’s a two-dimensional platform.
The other night I finally got around to going to an Andy Rouse talk in Warrington. By a quirk of fate I was passing through (no disrespect to Warrington but this is not an everyday occurrence). The hall was packed and encouragingly, a generous splattering of young couples were present – the sort that might go and see Michael McIntyre at the O2. Now I’ve know Andy a fair few years but I’d never seen him speak in this context, so I was intrigued, not so much by the show he put on, but by the reaction of the audience to his rather ‘non-conformist’ style. I’ve got to say I winced a tad at some aspects of his approach, but the crowd were taken along, not on an evening of natural history, but on an evening of entertainment. Yes entertainment. Even nature-lovers like to be entertained!
I dare say the real purists would have recoiled at the occasional sexual innuendo and the anthropomorphic interpretation of some of his images, but the purists are not the ones who need convincing. Andy entertained first and educated as a consequence; it’s much more difficult to pull that off the other way around and my hat goes off to him for that.
Whether you agree with the Rouse approach or not, there is no question over his passion, drive and photographic ability. Factor in that rare resource amongst nature photographers, humour, and it’s an entertaining combination. I’m not sure he’s ready for the O2 just yet but I’m sure someone once said that to Michael McIntyre. I for one, would like to see more Andy Rouse’s sticking their head above that very serious and often painfully tedious parapet, that is traditional nature photography. Andy has fun and so does his audience. Job done.