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From Mears To Eternity: Ray Lights The Way For Worthing Theatres’ Powerful Personalities Programme.
By Sandy East, Local Blogger

I wish I could take each one of you with me out into the forest…” mused Ray Mears somewhat dreamily to Worthing’s Pavilion Theatre audience last October during Born To Go Wild, his oratory and demonstrative journey of the history and necessity of bush-craft, survival and fire. And, by means of a large screen, a conscientious well-bearded cameraman and a safely set-up stage with a fire bucket at the ready, he succeeded in doing just that.

In an age of technological wizardry, Mears’ methods of sharing illuminating insights of life in the wild and the “magic of fire” through clips and camera close-ups might have appeared somewhat simplistic at first. However, it soon become apparent that when presenting the power of all things woodland and pyro that the down-to-earth, dedicated Mears’ factual and physical mastery of a forestry and fire-crafting nature set against images of verdant woodlands, fervours of fire, and sun-scorched, wild terrains was more than enough to enchant the audience and sweep them away to different countries, cultures and “a time before fire”…

For a man renowned for his self-deprecating, grounded manner, Mears made the intimate setting of the Pavilion Theatre his own and did so not only through an array of traditional firelighting demonstrations for which he drew on the support of eager helpers along with cheers after each successful ignition, or through his staggeringly chronologically-precise bushcraft knowledge but also through his passionate, poetic and subtly politically-charged stance on his subject. “A fire means life; it is an outpost of humanity…” was just one of many thought-provoking declarations Mears shared matter-of-factly during the evening alongside stories on how firemaking techniques are “a recipe for parenting” and how “when people make fire they carry it in their minds and in their muscles”. All this and more conveyed how committed the practical and philosophical Mears is to our natural world and determined to rally people to protect our planet.

In the diverse, sometimes dizzying world of TV personalities it could be easy to view Mears as an underperformer in terms of what TV critics might deem to be a “screen success” despite the huge popularity of his TV shows, but Mears’ genuine, robust anecdotal style burns brightly. He deals in life at its most raw and spirited, and does so with humour, capability and a deep care for his work. “Skills are a means of communicating with other people,” Mears offered towards the evening’s end in regards to building relationships with strangers in other parts of the world perhaps not quite having realised how he had proved his point admirably with his own talents and the captivated audience before him, who he had taken to another place just as he had wished…

Wishes, wonder and other people’s worlds are just some of the driving forces in Worthing Theatres’ Powerful Personalties Programme for 2017/2018. From the admirable, articlulate Professor Alice Roberts: Tamed, an exploration of the domestication of wild species to the much celebrated Dr John Cooper Clarke (plus Special Guests), poet, rock star, comedian and social commentator for our times, Worthing Theatres are offering up an opulence of orations and observations from a range of entertaining TV names from all walks of life. The diverse and dynamic schedule for the next year includes: Peter Snow and Ann Macmillan’s War Stories, accounts of ordinary men and women who demonstrated astonishing acts of bravery; An Evening with Ant Middleton, adventurer, soldier and survival expert; Countryfile’s Adam Henson’s stories of farming life and thoughts on British Agriculture; and football legends Geoff Hurst and Gordon Banks in conversation. With the list of Powerful Personalities steadily growing Worthing Theatres looks set to provide a season of erudite, educational and eclectic entertainment.

To explore our upcoming talks, click here.