Tony Hawks comes to Suffolk for the East Anglian premiere of his film, Round Ireland with a Fridge, and talks of his support for World Land Trust (WLT) and his adventures swimming with piranhas in Paraguay
Tony Hawks’ new film, Round Ireland with a Fridge, was shown at the New Cut Arts Centre in Halesworth, in support of the World Land Trust (WLT). An inspiring British comedy-drama, Round Ireland with a Fridge is based on Tony’s best-selling book. It tells the story of a 'schoolboy bet' which resulted in Tony’s 1997 journey around Ireland as he re-evaluated his life and career, found romance, and met a wide range of bizarre characters. Tony has also recently finished filming Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, another true-story based on his subsequent best-selling book. To support WLT, Tony donates the Public Lending Rights of all his books through WLT’s Green Ink programme and often takes part in fundraising events. He talked to a packed house at The Cut which raised £1,100 for WLT’s conservation projects across the world.
Tony and the Paraguay adventure
Tony first became involved in WLT’s work about 10 years ago and in 2008 went on a site visit to Paraguay with John Burton (WLT CEO), to discover more about what was being achieved with his donations. WLT is always keen to introduce supporters to our overseas project partners and see how they are directly helping to save some of the most threatened habitats and wildlife in the world.
"Paraguay was fantastic", said Tony. "We had the chance to see different parts of the country, from the Dry Chaco to the Pantanal wetlands, and met the guys working on the ground there. I think these smaller countries are really up against it, whereas the bigger countries can flex their muscles a bit." He added: "I don’t know what it is, it’s hard to articulate, but there’s just a great atmosphere."
Tony was joined on the trip by two other committed WLT donors, Bob Finch and WLT council member Kevin Cox. After a failed attempt to track down a Jaguar on horseback, some of the group decided to make their own entertainment and swam across the Rio Negra river to neighbouring Bolivia.
“The river is full of caiman [alligator-like reptiles] and piranhas,” said Tony, “so when you tell this story people think you’re very brave. But the locals do it all the time; there hasn’t been a piranha attack on a human virtually forever. But even so, I think a few people thought we were mad.”
The group also went wildlife spotting up the river on a boat.
“The bird life is great”, said Tony “Kevin is a real twitcher and he was pointing out some quite rare birds.”
That evening they went on a night-time river safari and found themselves surrounded by caiman.
“If you shine a torch at them their eyes reflect back and you can tell how big they are from the distance between their eyes”, said Tony. “If there’s a big one you have to be a bit careful as they can flip the boat over. That was exciting.”
Protecting the natural world: why it matters to Tony
Despite the thrill of wildlife spotting in Paraguay, Tony would not describe himself as a staunch naturalist:
“I’d be less upset than Kevin [Cox] would if the ‘Lesser-spotted whatsit’ disappeared forever, because I didn’t even know there was a ‘Lesser-spotted whatsit’ and they’re probably nasty little things anyway”, laughed Tony.
That’s not to say that he isn’t passionate about protecting the natural world.
“For me, it’s more about the arrogant and pointless advance of human beings, for no real quantifiable gain”, he said. “We’re not becoming happier as we use more and more resources, it doesn’t work.”
Tony believes that we have to stop growing economically, as it is not sustainable.
“I think we’re on a ludicrous collision course with the planet”, he said. “I think the public would get it if they were told the truth. But I don’t think they are ever told the truth. Whether a massive wake-up will happen, I just don’t know. It’s what I’m waiting for.”
So Tony got involved with WLT to help counteract human exploitation of natural resources? Not really; instead, a few drinks at an art gallery that was sponsoring the WLT and Tony’s impulsive nature did the rest.
“It would be lovely if I could say something more inspirational than 'red wine drove me to it!'", laughed Tony, "but since getting involved, I genuinely see what the charity does and I just think that it’s a very good idea. Buying land to stop it being destroyed; once you’ve done that, there’s no better way of protecting animals."
Tony has now been supporting WLT by donating all his income from Public Lending Rights for 10 years and continues to give generously of his time to WLT.
Buy a signed DVD and help support WLT
Order a DVD of Round Ireland with a Fridge signed by Tony Hawks for £10 (plus £1.00 postage and packaging) and £5 will go to WLT’s conservation projects across the world. To get your copy, call our office on 01986 874422