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TV adventurer talks to Freetime about festival in Henley
IT’S a long way from abseiling off South Africa’s Table Top Mountain to the elegant gatherings of Henley Literary Festival. Charley Boorman is not fazed. "It’s a dangerous journey," he muses, "I might slip into the Thames."
But that’s hard to imagine for the adventurer, who has thrilled TV audiences with his exploits across the globe. Charley will be talking to the Henley literati about his latest book, a tie-in with the TV series Extreme Frontiers Canada. But he’s not stood still since then: he’s just back from doing crazy things for the next series, Extreme Frontiers South Africa, which will be on our screens this autumn and promises thrills and spills as before.
Charley’s love of motorbikes features in all his trips, as does his passion for helping others through his charity work, so when Royal Marine amputee Ben Baker asked to join him to bike through Africa - onehanded - he couldn’t deny him the chance. Charley recalls: "When we asked Ben how he’d stay on his GS1200 on the off-road sections, he replied ‘Just gaffer tape me to the bike - I’ll manage!’." They came up with some smarter kit than tape to make the adventure possible.
While Charley’s two biking road trips with his actor friend Ewan McGregor brought a blaze of publicity - their trips through Asia and Africa were screened worldwide - his career began with film acting as a child. Charlie, now 42, had his first role at the age of six, thanks to his film director father John Boorman, with numerous roles following until he found a new role as extreme adventurer.
So - actor, traveller, author - which is the real Charley? And then there is the charity work. He promotes UNICEF in his TV shows, is President of Dyslexia Action and works hard for Help for Heroes.
Charley explains that he loves every aspect of his life and work: ""It’s the tremendous thing about what I do, there is so much variety. Acting has always been part of my life. What I do with bikes is a real passion. I love coming up with fresh ideas for our TV shows. It’s nice never knowing what is coming up next.
"I love being involved with UNICEF, which does incredible work. They inoculate 40 per cent of the world’s children - imagine the complication of getting that to the kids. I’ve seen some amazing and some tragic things and always visit projects and include them when we are filming."
The most memorable? "There was one girl in Uganda who was the most angry child I’ve ever met. She had been captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army about five years earlier and forced to do terrible things in its child army. After multiple rapes by war lords she escaped. But back in her home village they were scared of her, and wouldn’t go near because she was pregnant with the baby of a war lord. Aged 15, she had had no childhood, no schooling. It was UNICEF’s job to give counselling, get her back into a normal life and give her some skills. My own daughters are 15 and 16 so it was very moving."
Back in Henley-on-Thames, having an author on stage who is dyslexic will be an encouragement to anyone with a similar problem with words. "It’s not held me back with my books and TV shows," he explains. "I just need to think differently, which is an advantage in many ways. And I find people to help me." He was lucky as a child, he adds. At a time when dyslexia was not widely recognised, Charley happened to be in the US where his father was directing a film, and the problem was diagnosed there. "Back home in Ireland, I was this seven-year-old kid explaining dyslexia to the teachers."
Charley Boorman appears at Henley Literary Festival on September 29. The festival runs from September 24-30. Go to www.henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk
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