Born Survivor Bear Grylls tells Alison Jones how important he feels instilling a sense of 'risk and reward' in our children is.
A stage show with Born Survivor Bear Grylls is never going to be just a cosy Q&A with the audience.
It would lack the adrenaline-pumping, heart-stopping thrills we have come to associate with the real-life action man – former member of 21 SAS(R), conqueror of Everest and someone who has been known to eat dead animals and drink his own urine for viewers’ entertainment (and his survival) on his TV shows.
Instead he will swinging from the rafters, tackling fires and grappling with snakes at the NIA on Friday, March 23.
Then he will wrap it all up with a nice sing song.
“We get the Scouts on at the end,” says Bear, who is Chief Scout to 28 million Scouts worldwide. “I’ve always played the guitar and always take one with me on expeditions so I get bullied into singing at the end.
“The whole show is pretty action packed so it is a fun way to finish.”
He first tried out the idea of a stage show in Australia, where they sold out.
He has a global following thanks to his TV shows. Man Vs Wild was broadcast in nearly 200 territories around the world. However, he has just parted company with the Discovery Channel, who produced that and his Worst Case Scenarios series, in a contract dispute.
He responded to this setback in typical Bear fashion, tweeting that he was “Looking forward to the next set of Adventures!!” and adding “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
It may seem incongruous, bringing a character who is all about facing the elements and inhospitable terrain, indoors but Bear says it gives him an opportunity to connect directly with the people he is trying to inspire,
Audiences, mostly students, dads and kids, have lapped up his tales of daring do as well as the stories of the behind the scenes struggles.
“We get a lot of young aspiring climbers and adventurers come to the show.
“My message is you have got one life to live, you have got to live it boldly. Don’t listen to the dreamstealers. Just get out there and go for it.
“I think it is a message young people in this country want to hear.”
He also wants to encourage them to be daring, to seek adventure, feeling that we have become too hamstrung by rules, as paranoid parents and teachers are discouraged from letting children enjoy the same independence they did when they were young.
“I hate health and safety,” exclaims Bear.
“I know I am meant to be more safety conscious as Chief Scout but I hate it. I am always trying to encourage people to have a looser regard for those rules.
“It doesn’t mean you are any more dangerous, you can be just as safe. It is empowering young people to learn how to manage risk.”
Bear, who was born Edward but has now legally adopted his childhood nickname, learnt at his father’s knee. The late Sir Michael Grylls, a Conservative MP, taught his son to sail and climb.
By the time he was a teenager, Bear had started a mountaineering club at Eton, learned to skydive and studied karate.
His childhood ambition was to climb Everest. This was temporarily derailed when he crushed three vertebrae in a parachuting accident but he achieved it 18 months later, at the age of 23, briefly claiming the record as the youngest person ever to scale it.
Bear has tried to pass on this same spirit of daring to his three young sons, Jesse, Marmaduke and Huckleberry.
“I think you do kids a disservice if you don’t trust them ever. My kids are always climbing up stuff, climbing trees and swimming but they are always safe. I suppose that is what we try and do through Scouts – empower young people who would never normally get the chance to do these things, teach them how and then help them to do it.
“All young people want adventure, it is just about how they get hold of it. You show me a girl or boy who doesn’t want to canoe across a big river. Kids love it!”
There are times, however, when even he wishes his children were a little less enthusiastic about conquering the great outdoors.
“I get home and all I want to do is put my feet up and have a cup of tea. They are the ones that want to go and play in the grass and eat worms.”
Now 37, Bear admits that he has lost some of the cockiness of youth. Years spent testing himself and the limits of his endurance on his shows as well as on expeditions, such as taking an inflatable boat across the North Atlantic and up the Northwest Passage, jetskiing round the UK, paramotoring over the Himalayas, holding a dinner party beneath a balloon at 25,000 ft and attempting to scale an unclimbed peak in Antarctica (which had to be abandoned when he broke his shoulder kite skiing across ice), have taken a toll.
“I definitely feel less invincible now than I used to. I have had so many accidents – broken my back, almost been drowned in big rivers, been bitten by snakes, chased by sharks, fallen down deep crevasses – and there have been hundreds of moments that I have wanted to give up.
“You try and minimise those and maximise the times when you are safe and you get out of there all in one piece, but they definitely shake your faith.
“You realise you don’t want to use your good luck cards too often.”
Understandably a little wary after these close calls, Bear insists he has dialled down his gung ho attitude.
“The (TV) crew say I used to be 120 per cent reckless. I am now about 90 and I think that is good progress. My wife Shara wants me to get to 60 but that is a journey in progress.”
* Bear Grylls – The Mud Sweat and Tears Tour will be on at the NIA on March 23. For tickets call 0844 875 8758 or look up www.beargryllslive.com