Worcestershire’s Brett Westwood tells Jo Ind about getting an award for wildlife reporting.
BBC producer Brett Westwood is a big fan of radio but it should be no surprise to any who have heard his programmes that his first love is for natural history.
Brett, who lives in Stourbridge, has received one of the wildlife sector’s newest accolades, a Dilys Breese Medal, awarded by the British Trust for Ornithology to recognise excellence in raising the profile of bird conservation. His award was in memory of the work of the late Dilys Breese, broadcaster and producer with the BBC’s Natural History Unit.
“Working for the BBC in the same department in which Dilys Breese produced so many of her memorable programmes, I was delighted to receive the award,” says Brett, who works on the Nature programme and BBC Radio 4’s World on the Move series as well as writing for the popular BBC Wildlife magazine.
“It was also a great honour to receive it from the British Trust for Ornithology whose research into our British bird populations has never been more timely.
“I came to radio through wildlife. I was educated at King Edward’s School in Edgbaston. There was a big nature reserve next to the school and an Ornithology Society founded by Autumnwatch presenter Bill Oddie.
“That got me into birds and from there my interest in natural history generally grew. I joined the West Midlands Bird Club and the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. I’ve been building on an interest that started when I was very young indeed.” But Brett, who is aged 49, never thought he could make a career from his love of natural history. He did a degree in law, worked for Dudley Council and was made redundant 16 years ago. At that time he was approached by BBC Hereford and Worcester and asked to make a piece about his favourite walks in the counties. He ended up getting a job there and has been working with the Natural History Unit ever since.
“Radio works very well with natural history,” he says. “You can bring things that are immediate to listeners straight away. Glitsy documentaries that are visually spectacular work very well on television. Radio is more immediate and is a better medium for explaining quite complex ideas.”
One of the pieces for which he won his award was for his investigation into the degradation of the habitat in Africa where birds like the nightingale and cuckoo migrate and which might explain their declining numbers here.
“I never lose my interest in natural history,” he says. “It’s a connection with the past.
“Each spotting of a bird reminds you of the first time you saw it, so you never lose your childhood. That connection is almost like a drug. I have to get out every weekend and do something. There’s always new things to learn.”
* Radio 4: www.bbc.co.uk/Radio4
* Worcestershire Wildlife Trust visit www.worcswildlifetrust.co.uk