Ben Fogle From Reality TV to Real-Life Adventures

Being an early reality TV star in BBC’s Castaway, Ben Fogle hated that there was no substance or depth to his fame which is why he took on the hardest marathon in the world, the Marathon des Sables which led to the start of him “planting my own flag in the ground.”

Ben was in conversation with Sophie Van Brugen on Saturday evening for a fundraising event for The Kenton which opened with a video of Ben taking part in the extreme challenges which have included rowing the Atlantic and competing in the South Pole race with James Cracknell and climbing Everest.

The evening started with Ben recounting his experience in the 2001 BBC hit series Castaway which saw Ben living on an Outer Hebrides island with strangers cut off from the rest of the world for a year.  Ben described himself as shy and said, “Afterwards I lost my anonymity. It was really confusing as integrally I’m very shy.  I’d watched the red carpets all my life which looked very exciting but had to put my armour on (and still do). I’ve had to adapt to overcoming my shyness over the years.”

After 5 years of presenting Animal Park, Countryfile and Cash in the Attic where Ben said he learnt his TV craft and respect for the TV team/crew, he signed up for the Marathon des Sables whilst he was drunk in a pub. After failing to get the programme commissioned, he decided to fund the filming himself.  It was later aired by the BBC, after which James Cracknell got in touch.  On competing in the Atlantic Row, Ben said, “I just wanted to complete it and arrive alive, James is a hard taskmaster and it is gold or nothing.  James was in it to win.”  He spoke of trying to sleep in the cabin (nicknamed the coffin) on a plastic bed as they had forgotten to bring a sheet, their clothes disintegrating and rowing naked to stop the chaffing.  On reaching the finish, Ben said, “We were the first boat in by 2 days. I’ll never forget that feeling of coming ashore.  There is no other experience like it.”  He proposed to his wife Marina the following day with a ring made of rope from the boat.

Ben spoke about being proud of writing all 13 of his books despite being dyslexic.  Earlier on the interview, he recalled writing to Condé Nast for a job at Traveller magazine and because he had miss-spelt the title the letter went to the Tatler magazine instead where he started his first job as a PA.

After the interval the audience got the chance to ask questions which included how they found the people that appear on Channel 5’s New Lives in the World.  Ben said that they had an incredible team of detectives and many of the people Ben has met through the series have become lifelong friends.  He was asked about his next adventures, where he would live in the world if he could choose, who inspires him, would he adopt a rescue dog and what he would say to his 8 year old self.

Ben said, “Life is a journey not a destination.  I want my children to have a Dad that has done the things he talks about.  The most inspiring people are every day folk. You find inspiration in the most unexpected places.   Aged 8 I wish I had more confidence.  I would say to myself, just enjoy it, don’t try and conform to the exam grades.  I got there it’s taken a few bumps to get there.  Don’t always believe what other people tell you.”

Lottie Pheasant, The Kenton Manager said, “We were delighted and privileged to host An Evening With Ben Fogle here at The Kenton, in conversation with BBC Journalist Sophie Van Brugen. It was incredibly inspiring and humbling to hear Ben talk about his life in such an intimate setting.  Ben very generously gave up his time to join us on Saturday as part of our fundraising campaign for the theatre to help ensure the long-term sustainability of our beautiful theatre.  We are hoping to have raised over £8k during this sold out show including proceeds from the auction and none of this would have been possible without Ben and Sophie’s support as well as those who donated gifts for the auction and Sofas & Stuff for helping with the set.”

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