The inside story on the Wild in Me series - an interview with John Muir Trust’s Kevin Lelland

Through spring and summer of 2019 LWimages partnered with the John Muir Trust to produce a series of three films for the Trust’s Wild in Me Campaign. We spoke to Kevin Lelland, the John Muir Trust’s head of development and communications, to get the inside story on the ideas behind the campaign and how important the Wild in Me films are to promoting the Trust’s work.

Friday, November 15th, 2019

What is the message of John Muir Trust’s Wild in Me campaign and how did you hope the series of three films would help spread that message?

We wanted to highlight the connection between people and places and the different but equally valid ways that people think about wildness. It was also about having individuals featured in the film who could communicate the sort of values we have as a membership organisation. In doing so we hoped the films would raise awareness of the John Muir Trust, and resonate with them by inspiring them to think – yes, that's how I think about wild places and why they matter. Producing a series made sense as seeing wildness through the eyes of a poet, a climber and photographer, and a renowned journalist we could communicate the concept of the 'Wild in Me' out to different audiences each time. What is satisfying is that there doesn't seem to be one film, which a majority of people call their favourite. I've had various people tell me that they 'loved' a particular film, often that'll be because of their connection or interests to the areas featured, but they also say they liked the other two. Again, it has validated producing these as a series of three films. We are also continuing to find ways to use them and build them into new campaigns. That's been a real bonus and highlights they are relevant enough to communicate our strategy in different ways and settings.

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The first Wild in Me film features poet Helen Mort with her call for young people to experience wild places to bring out the 'wildness' within themselves. How important does Kevin think it is to engage younger generations who perhaps haven't experienced wild places yet?

Very important. If we don't support the next generation to discover, explore and conserve wild places through experiencing them then we can't expect to pass on the values and principles at the core of an organisation like the John Muir Trust. That's why the Trust invests in its John Muir Award engagement initiative – work that supports 30,000 people a year to be actively involved in conservation.

The second Wild In Me film follows photographer Dave Cuthbertson as he captures the beauty of Ben Nevis. Even though the mountain is well known as Britain's highest do you think many people still underestimate how stunning places like Ben Nevis and other wild areas of the British countryside are?

It's important to create both an introduction to wildness but also to inspire people's ambition to become even more immersed in it. We quite often talk about the fact that people are a part of nature, not apart from nature. Dave has used his skills to visit the sorts of wild places many others have not yet had a chance to. Through his experience and knowledge of some of the UK's most remote crags and ledges; including at Ben Nevis, Dave has seen first-hand the rare arctic-alpine flora and fauna, witnessed the wildlife and become attuned to the delicate balance of mountain ecosystems. I don't think people, therefore, underestimate how stunning places like Ben Nevis are, rather I think we all tune into these places in different ways and like all things in life some of us are more practised in certain ways of thinking and being than others.

Dave Cuthbertson Cubby Scotland Ben Nevis photography filmmaking studio LWimages

Jon Snow, the TV presenter, features in the third Wild in Me film how did he become involved in the film?

Jon wandered onto a Trust stand at an event in England a few years ago and saw work we were doing as part of a partnership called the Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership. He signed up as a member immediately because of his own passion for trees and because of the parallels to a couple of other organisations he supports. When we were looking at people to feature in the films we approached him knowing how busy a person he is and were delighted and a little surprised when he said yes. He was very gracious with his time and went as far as to support the team to access the Channel 4 studios. We're really grateful for his support.

In that film, Jon talks about trees on many levels from personal well being, to wildlife habitats through to their importance in combating the climate crisis. How is the John Muir Trust managing their woodland to achieve similar aims?

We're focussed on all these aspects. For example, we're proud of a partnership we have with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity where we've been gradually planting a forest with their service users and in doing so getting people out into nature as part of their recovery. We've also been working with local communities and private and public landowners in Highland Perthshire on a significant partnership project that is connecting woodland corridors enabling wildlife to flourish across a bigger landscape scale. Finally, we're committed to planting at least 50,000 trees across our properties in the next three years. Each tree planted will remove more than half a tonne of carbon from the atmosphere over the next 25 years, making a small but important contribution to tackling net-zero carbon emission targets.

Jon Snow Chanel 4 ITN production company LW Images

On a personal level do you have a favourite part of the films?

The atmosphere and feeling generated by Dave [Cuthbertson] being on the CMD arête on Ben Nevi is my favourite as it’s closest to my idea of the challenge of getting out into wild places and being fulfilled by that.

Sandwood [the coastline in that featured in the film with poet Helen Mort] is also a particularly special place for me. I spent 24 hours in solitude there shortly after my father died a few years ago and found it helped as part of my grieving process. So, I always love to be there, but also to see it on film and in pictures. I like it in Helen's film when her hand brushes the sheep wool caught in the wind with the beach and sea visible as a backdrop.

THANK YOU for your time Kevin!