The Island with Bear Grylls, the ultimate survival challenge that abandons ordinary Britons on uninhabited islands in the Pacific, is back this spring.
This fourth series looks at the generation gap and if stereotypes about the young and the old ring true. Who is better equipped to thrive in a survival situation?
Of the thousands who applied just 16 were chosen to take part. As they face treacherous weather conditions, severely limited resources, environmental hazards and near starvation, the two groups have a long, hard battle ahead of them.
Bear Grylls explains: “I think it was the hardest season we’ve ever done. We had horrific conditions, beyond anything we’ve ever seen over four series of this show. Every hour brings a fresh twist and turn. And it’s a full-on mental, physical, emotional and spiritual assault.”
The Island With Bear Grylls will once again break new ground as this time we’ll discover what happens when two different generations are pushed to the very limits of human endurance. With ages ranging from 18 – 66, there are almost 5 decades between the oldest and youngest castaways.
Bear talks about the generational theme: “It was so revealing, doing the whole male and female theme last time. One of the things I always think is that young people get a really hard time. Everyone’s got opinions about young people, and those opinions are not always great. Sometimes young people lack opportunities, but one thing they don’t lack is ambition. So, I thought, let’s see if the exuberance and passion of youth can triumph over the experience and dogged determination and hardiness of so many older people. That’s another whole demographic that everybody has an opinion about, but my experience of slightly more senior people as that they are often hard as nails.”
Bear begins the experiment by dropping off by boat our two groups from different generations on a pair of neighbouring islands. Shooting everything themselves, the Islanders will have to fend for themselves armed only with some survival training, the clothes they stand up in, filming equipment, medical supplies, some basic tools and fishing equipment and enough water for 24 hours.
Across six episodes airing on Channel 4, they will become part of a select few who get to experience what it is really like to survive on their wits and determination.
In episode one, as they struggle to establish their respective camps, the older group’s water supply runs dry. Facing dehydration, they have no choice but to find a new camp and flee their island. But will they make it to the larger neighbouring island, and what will happen if they discover the younger group?
During the series, survival takes a dramatic turn with the arrival of storm season. Facing Mother Nature at her most ferocious, our castaways have to face violent and brutal weather conditions. After weeks of near starvation, do our Islanders have what it takes to stick it out until the end?
This year’s Islanders come from a range of backgrounds and careers. An electrician, florist, shop owner, retired police officer and an 18-year-old gap year student will be joined by a hard working 66-year-old businessman and a 50-year-old Detective Constable amongst others. All the Islanders will face their own personal battles, but for some, day-to-day life in such extreme conditions so removed from modern life may prove too much.
The two groups will include four trained crew (two men and two women) who film life on the island. The embedded crew will live alongside the other Islanders in exactly the same conditions and face the same challenges of finding food, water and shelter and lack of personal space! All Islanders will be able to film in order to candidly capture the highs and the lows of surviving with limited resources. Each group has one medic in it; an A&E doctor in the 18 – 30s and a paramedic in the older group. They are the first port of call in any medical situation.
As with the previous three seasons, islanders receive key survival training prior to being left on the island. Though it has been ensured by Bear’s team that the island has sufficient indigenous resources to sustain the Islanders – it’s up to the old and young groups to use their initiative to find and exploit these resources.
However, once the young and the old groups are dropped as close to the shore of the island as possible, they are alone. Each group is provided with some basic tools and fishing equipment, including two knives and two machetes, whistles and a medical kit. They are also given enough water to last one day, and a radio and satellite phone in case of emergency.
Bear explains why he believes life on The Island can’t be underestimated: “The Island doesn’t care where you’re from or what your job is. It just requires you to work hard and be kind to each other. People on The Island look at me a bit strangely at the beginning when I say it comes down to courage and kindness, but they’re two words that we underestimate how important they are in real life.”
MEET THE ISLANDERS
Freddie Wilson, 18, gap year student from Argyll
At just 18 Freddie is the youngest Islander ever. Feeling unchallenged during his gap year, he decided to put himself to the ultimate test, with the added objective of making his family proud in the process. He describes himself as ‘smiley, optimistic and upbeat.’ He hopes that his positivity coupled with his experience working on his family’s farm in the Scottish Highlands will be key assets to his time on The Island with Bear Grylls.
Kaggy Burn, 23, Events Manager from Swindon
Bubbly Kaggy wants to be taken ‘completely out of her comfort zone’ and have a once in a lifetime experience. A lover of social media who’s constantly glued to her mobile, The Island with Bear Grylls will be the ultimate test for Kaggy but she’s more than determined. ‘I’m more capable than people think I am. I want to prove that to other people and myself.’
Jordan Turner, 23, Graduate from Hertfordshire
As a lover of the outdoors, Jordan has watched The Island with Bear Grylls religiously since the first series. Up until last year her life had plenty of focus, securing a Masters in Oceanography but after applying for numerous jobs with little success and with friends and family constantly asking her what she was planning to do with her life, she lost some self confidence and decided to apply for the series. ‘I want to get my confidence back and I need some direction in life’ Jordan says, as she prepares to take on the biggest challenge of her life so far.
Ben M, 26, Video Editor from London
Fascinated by the subject of survival, Ben hopes that going on The Island with Bear Grylls will help him find out more about himself and appreciate life and those around him more. ‘You only really find out about yourself when you’re pushed to the edge.’ Ben wants to learn survival skills and thought what better place to do that than The Island with Bear Grylls. Ben likes to find the most efficient way to solve problems. However, he’s not used to taking orders and is likely to rebel against anyone who starts behaving like ‘a dictator.’
Emma Findlay, 29, Camerawoman from London
With her 30th birthday looming, Emma thinks The Island with Bear Grylls would be an incredible opportunity, symbolising the ‘last hurrah’ before settling down and starting a family with her boyfriend. With previous experience of working in extreme environments including filming in temperatures of minus 27 in Finland, outgoing Emma would describe herself as a positive person. ‘I say yes to challenges! I was turning 30 and it’s such a great opportunity.’ She cites her only negative trait as getting grumpy when hungry.
Ben Cooper, 29, Electrician from London
Uber confident cockney Ben has no doubt about his abilities, ‘I will eat the island for breakfast.’ Working from the age of 15, he has a strong work ethic and will bring fishing expertise to The Island with Bear Grylls. He adds, ‘I want to have a caveman experience; every man has an inner survivor and I want to test mine. Quitting is the last thing on my mind. I’ve never quit anything in my life.’ He hopes that his practical skills from his day to day life will transfer to The Island with Bear Grylls and that he’ll be a real asset to camp.
Emma McFarlane, 30, A&E Doctor from Buckinghamshire
One of two medics on the series, outdoor obsessive Emma applied for The Island with Bear Grylls to have a break from technology. ‘I really love adventure and the outdoors but the idea of having some time away from modern day living really appealed.’ Having worked in the same hospital for some time now, Emma is craving a new adventure and can’t wait to do something different. With the ability to keep a cool head in emergencies, Emma says she is ‘able to laugh through hardship’ but has a very competitive nature.
Richie Carr, 30, Cameraman from London
Richie originally trained in the military and wants to put his tough side to the test again hoping The Island with Bear Grylls will be the massive challenge he’s looking for. Believing ‘what you see is what you get’ with him, he says he’ll get on with his fellow islanders if they’re nice people. Richie thinks being able to understand people and their emotions will be his most useful skill on The Island with Bear Grylls. ‘My military background will bring a sense of leadership and clear direction.’
Steph, 35, Camerawoman from London
Experienced camera operator Steph is particularly curious to see how she will respond in a remote island situation. Outdoorsy and capable, Steph says, ‘I’m a feral little creature, I like being self-sufficient when I can, and love the thrill of being able to look after myself in the great outdoors. I’m a great adventurer by heart.’ She hopes everyone will bring a different skillset to the camp.
Jager Docherty, 37, Florist from London
Viewing this as ‘an experience of a lifetime,’ florist and alpha male Jager wanted the opportunity to go back to basics and escape the London rat race. A tough upbringing and being one of five siblings have equipped Jager well for life on the island. Describing himself as ‘an efficient doer,’ he feels The Island with Bear Grylls is a great opportunity to inspire his three children with his ‘can do’ positive attitude to life.
Aran Blunden, 42, Paramedic from Surrey
For the second of our series medics, alopecia sufferer Aran sees The Island with Bear Grylls as a huge opportunity. ‘I want to prove to myself and to people around me that I can commit to something and see it through to the end.’ No stranger to adventure having previously climbed Kilimanjaro, Aran can be very assertive when he needs to be, particularly in an emergency and he is more than willing to play the role of camp mediator.
Jane Gates, 49, Retired Police Officer from Northumberland
As a former police officer, Jane has found the transition back to ordinary civilian difficult, ‘my nickname was GI Jane, now it’s just Jane.’ There’s got to be more to life than housework.’ Jane is resourceful, practical and has some fishing experience up her sleeve – she’ll also be celebrating her 50th birthday on the island but isn’t expecting a cake… She also feels she’ll be able to call on many skills from her police force days such as playing arbitrator.
Karen Bretagne, 50, Shop Owner from Devon
As a people pleasing mum who works seven days a week, chatty Karen hopes The Island with Bear Grylls will finally be her chance to experience an adventure and rediscover herself. With her greatest strengths being truth, humour and her hard-working spirit, she hopes she can find out what is most important to her. ‘The Island with Bear Grylls has come at a great time; I’m seeking adventure and not pleasing anyone anymore.’
Jacqui Redgard, 50, Detective Constable from Oxfordshire
With 25 years of experience in the police force, mum Jacqui declares, ‘I’ve got to the ripe old age of 50 but there’s life in the old dog yet!’ With the idea of getting away to an unknown environment particularly appealing, Jacqui is a firm believer that kindness conquers all. She sees herself as being able to work well as part of a team with the ability to remain calm in tough situations, something that stems from her high-pressured career.
Phil Coates, 50, Cameraman from Yorkshire
Experienced cameraman Phil has worked in the industry for 25 years but is always on the hunt for a new challenge. He’s worked in extreme environments around the world from the Arctic to the jungle and is looking forward to getting back to basics. Describing himself as ‘a genuinely nice bloke,’ he loves his job and says it keeps him young. He thrives on the feeling of being immersed in nature and can’t wait to get stuck into The Island with Bear Grylls, hoping it will be ‘an enlightening life experience.’
Frank Rothwell, 66, Businessman from Oldham
Having sailed around the world in his own yacht, family man Frank – at 66, the oldest Islander this year – just sees The Island with Bear Grylls as another adventure to add to his long list of escapades. Incredibly practical, and having worked since the age of 13, Frank says, ‘later in life I don’t want to be in my rocking chair thinking I could have done that, I shouldn’t have done that. The Island is an opportunity you can’t buy.’
INTERVIEW WITH BEAR GRYLLS
What can you tell us about the new series?
I think it was the hardest season we’ve ever done. We had horrific conditions, beyond anything we’ve ever seen over five years of this show. You never know what you’re going to get but this year The Island with Bear Grylls really did go quite Lord of the Flies. Every hour brings a fresh twist and turn. And it’s a full-on mental, physical, emotional and spiritual assault.
The show is back for a fourth season. Why do you think it continues to capture the public’s imagination?
I think it does well for two reasons: one is that the wild is so unpredictable. You could try and script it and it would never be as exciting as just letting it happen.
The other half of it is that you really see people at their limits and it’s fascinating to see how they react when all their masks and their identities are stripped away. We spend so much of our life walking around and saying, ‘I do this job, I live here, I play this sport’. But when that’s all gone, you get to really see what people are actually like. It’s a great leveller.
The third factor is these stereotypes – old and young, male and female – and see how true they are. But on The Island, they’ve got to fight against these stereotypes and show their true character traits: positivity, resourcefulness, courage and determination. That’s when you break the mould, but it’s hard.
Where did the theme of the split generations come from? Was it your idea?
Do you know what? It actually was my idea! It was so revealing, doing the whole male and female theme last time. One of the things I always think is that young people get a really hard time. Everyone’s got opinions about young people, and those opinions are not always great. But my experience is seeing, in the half a million Scouts we’ve got in this country, that young people can be incredible.
Sometimes young people lack opportunities, but one thing they don’t lack is ambition. So, I thought, let’s see if the exuberance and passion of youth can triumph over the experience and dogged determination and hardiness of so many older people. That’s another whole demographic that everybody has an opinion about, but my experience of slightly more senior people as that they are often hard as nails. They’ve been battered around by life and they’ve realised that sometime life hurts, sometimes it’s grim and sometimes you’ve just got to power through and work hard for everything. Does that count for more than the speedy recovery that young people have? We didn’t have the answer to that question before making the series, and it was very revealing.
One thing I’ve learned through doing this show is that initially, when you get that shock of conflict, people do go to their stereotypes. I saw that with the women and men, and I definitely saw that again with the different generations.
The initial shock, when they’re dehydrated and exhausted, does mean conflict happens. But then you get over that and you get a bit battle-hardened and they figure it out. It’s a reminder that ultimately, whatever your gender, whatever your age, life is all about your attitude.
It sounds like the weather nearly broke them though? Tell us more.
They got caught in these horrific storms and got absolutely smashed by torrential rain and crazy winds that lasted day after day after day without let-up. Trying to keep a fire going in those terrifying conditions becomes near-impossible. It really became a case of, ‘can you just stick this out?’, because it became truly grim. There was a bunch of other stuff that we have never seen before, in terms of relationship dynamics.
Do you feel the generation gap is widening?
I do think it’s growing, and I think that’s really challenging for both sides. The young get a hard time and the old get marginalised. I hope the show says that we should be careful of judging books by the cover. Young people can be incredible but society lacks opportunities for them to shine. When they have no focus, opportunities or achievable goals to aim for that energy can get directed towards bad stuff. When you give them a focus and a purpose, it’s amazing to see kids from a tough background being incredible.
And with the old people, they get written off for being stuck in their ways or not up to date or whatever. We had one guy, one of the oldest there, who had the most incredible work ethic. He might have lacked a bit of patience and empathy, but he made up for that in this fierce resolve and courage and non-stop 24 hours a day graft.
So many of us just live in our small social circles that we’ve been born and brought up. But actually, what we teach in Scouts is this tolerance of different people which is so important on The Island because the island doesn’t care where you’re from or what your job is. It just requires you to work hard and be kind to each other.
People on The Island look at me a bit strangely at the beginning when I say it comes down to courage and kindness, but they’re two words that we underestimate how important they are in real life.
Do you think young people are too reliant on technology?
It’s a balance. You don’t want to miss out on life and just be staring at your phone and not seeing what’s going on around you. But on the other hand, technology is amazing and you have to roll with it.
Mobiles are a tool. When people say, ‘Oh I hate it when my kids use maps on their phone and drop pins to go and find their friends’, I’m like, ‘No, I love that’. It’s a tool. It’s just the same as a hundred years ago when we used a compass. It’s serving us.
But when you get lost in your phone, and you’re not really doing anything, you’re just drifting through stuff, and then you become a slave to it. It can become a habit that’s hard to break that gets you stuck in this zombie-like state. I always look at it like, are you a slave to it, or does it serve you?
Do you impose any rules on yourself to make sure you don’t get sucked into being a slave to it?
Yes definitely. I love my phone. I plan all my exhibitions and all my TV shows on my phone. I even write books on it. I very rarely these days sit down at a computer.
But you do have to be disciplined about it. I have to go, ‘No, I’m not going to have it in the bedroom, I’m not going to look at it when I go for a pee in the night’.
I don’t let it interrupt anything. I never have my phone on anything but silent. If I’m walking with my kids or whatever, put it away, that’s fine. It can wait. We all have our own different boundaries but it’s about protecting your relationships.
So many of us lose that connection with our families, with our friends. One of the lessons that’s so clear for the survivors of The Island is the actual relationships between people eating together, working together, helping each other, looking each other in the eye, picking fleas out of each other! Actual human contact is the greatest thing we have.
And maybe after being on The Island they’ll put their phones away over dinner, which seems to be normal these days when it used to be incredibly rude?
It is, and without being too strict about it, I do think having your phone out at dinner says subliminally to the other person, ‘You’re great, but there might be something more interesting happening.