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Interview: Jeremy Wade on navigating the Congo and surviving man-sized piranhas at Cheltenham Town hall

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: March 17, 2014

Jeremy Wade picture: Daniel Huertas/Icon Films

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HE’S navigated the Congo, survived man-sized piranhas and even embarked on an ambitious hunt for the Loch Ness Monster – but Jeremy Wade still manages to get lost in Cheltenham.

“It’s rather embarrassing but when I came back and survived the Congo, which is a pretty demanding place, a friend and I went out in Cheltenham and couldn’t find the car,” he admits.

“We ended up getting lost. It’s quite embarrassing.”

The explorer and presenter of the ITV series River Monsters is, believe it or not, no stranger to the town.

“I actually went to school in Cheltenham,” he says.

“I got a scholarship from Dean Close. My sister also lives near Cheltenham so I visit on occasion.”

The fifth series of his hugely-popular River Monsters TV show – currently on our screens – is, Jeremy says, full of more memorable moments.

“There are only so many big, scary fish in the world and it has forced us to think more laterally,” he said.

“There are more memorable moments this time.”

Among them, a search for parasites that involved a trip to North America.

“I managed to attach them to myself as I wanted to see what it was like,” he says.

“It’s definitely got the squirm factor more than before and there is more geographical variety, like Iceland and Norway.

“We also visit a cooling pond in Chernobyl, after hearing rumours of fish attacking a diver.”

Better still, they try to answer the age old question of whether Nessie exists.

“We may not necessarily find the monster but we do look behind the rise of the myth,” he says.

“In true River Monsters style we are not to be disappointed and towards the end of the series, as always, we reveal a dramatic creature.”

So with lots going on could this be Jeremy’s toughest challenge yet?

“It’s certainly a more diverse series and more physically demanding having to camp in both Bolivia and Columbia.”

So what can we expect from his accompanying theatre show which heads to Cheltenham Town Hall on Friday?

“I want the audience to come away with more than they would get from the TV programmes,” he says.

“The audience will be given the chance to look at the behind the scenes equipment as there is a lot that goes on.

“We’ll show the process of filming as I know that will interest a lot of people. Also there will be a chance for the audience to ask their own questions on whatever they are curious about. “You never know, I may give away a few trade secrets.”

He’ll also touch on his own personal history which saw him go from biology teacher to hands-on presenter.

“I worked in London, which is a challenge in itself,” he says.

“Teaching is hard work but it is quite the transition going from a few classes to an audience of millions across the globe.

“The jobs aren’t as different as you would expect though. I’m still there to educate and get people interested in the natural world, even if it means using myself as the bait.”

In the last series of River Monsters they filmed the first 3D episode of its kind in Botswana but there won't be a repeat.

“Not in this series,” he says. “When it comes to 3D you must choose your subject carefully. “The camera is very heavy and on an expedition like that it had to be hand-held.

“That made things difficult. We are changing location every day and so it becomes almost impossible.

“However we’re not ruling it out so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.”

Tickets for his 7.30pm show at Cheltenham Town Hall on Friday cost £16. Snap them up by calling 08445 762210.

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