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Sunday, 31 December, 2000, 08:47 GMT
A year in the life of TV's Castaways
Taransay Island
Taransay: 29 of the original 36 castaways remain
For 29 people the New Year will mark the end of an extraordinary social experiment that has been filmed by BBC cameras.

A self-made community on the remote island of Taransay, off Scotland, has survived the most extraordinary highs and lows.

At the outset, 36 people, made up of families, couples and individuals, were brought together by producers to live for a year on the wilderness island.

They have had to build their homes from scratch, as well as their relationships and community.

Castaways 2000
Castaways make Taransay their home and are forced to cope with gales
Meningitis scare on the island
Ray Bowyer leaves after fighting with fellow exiles
Ron Copsey returns home after squabbles with community
Carey family's religious beliefs thought to have led to departure
Hilary Freeman heads home after homesickness
Royal Navy destroys explosive ordnance washed up on island
Residents prepare to leave island

From the start, tensions were evident and over the year seven people have left.

The programme has also made stars of some Castaways, such as Ben Fogle.

Producer Jeremy Mills said those who remained shared a profound experience.

"For some people this will have changed their lives forever and made a real difference.

"They will go back to their lives and look at it in a way they have never looked at their lives before.

"They will have moved on as individuals, been through all this amazing experience, physical, spiritual and psychological."

As families and individuals the Castaways have coped with 100mph gales which destroyed homes they had built, a meningitis scare, emotional departures and the challenges associated with living on an isolated island with only strangers for comfort.

They have also had to learn to deal with differences, which in other circumstances would be simpler to avoid altogether.

"When you put people in an intense experience even the most mild-mannered of people have to cope with something they don't have to face in life as it is normally," said Mr Mills.

"The biggest thing they are talking about on the island is how in real life you can walk away from situations.

"They can't do that on the island. Is that good or bad?"
Taransay island
The islanders have built a real community on Taransay

Some of the Castaways chose to leave when they seemingly could not cope with confrontation.

"Leaving was their way of dealing with it," said Mr Mills.

Castaways such as Ron Copsey and Ray Bowyer left amid highly-publicised flare-ups on the island.

The Carey family of four left with suggestions that their religious beliefs - they are Seventh Day Adventists - were not compatible with the rest of the islanders and that they had been bullied.

The seventh islander to leave, Hilary Freeman, a 52-year-old mother of three, did so after a brief reunion with her family on the island.

The producer denied that the Castaways had been chosen to force tension deliberately and to make for good television.

"We chose people who were in the middle of the psychological profile of ordinary people.

"They were not extreme extroverts or introverts. They didn't have very polarised view on life."

Mr Mills' favourite moment was when the families came over for a brief visit.
Ben Fogle
The programme has turned Ben Fogle into a star

"They, the Castaways, suddenly realised when they brought outsiders in, just how much they had achieved."

In the last remaining episodes of the series we will watch the islanders prepare for departure.

"For some people it will be a welcome release to go back to their lives. For others it will be a difficult time.

"We have always said that the psychologist will be available to them to discuss any aspects of going back to their lives.

"I hope we will be following some of them and seeing what happens in the next 12 months."

Castaway was one of many so-called reality TV programmes in 2000.

But Mr Mills was keen to draw a distinction between Castaway and programmes such as Channel 4's phenomenally successful Big Brother.

"There is a distinction between those that are entertainment and those that are entertaining.

"Reality programmes tend to get lumped all together. Big Brother was a great gameshow, a fantastic gameshow.

"The only prize the Castaways have is achieving something themselves."

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See also:

02 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Castaway heart-throb 'fed up'
29 Jul 00 | Scotland
Rare reunion for island Castaways
10 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Castaway in talks after island hop
10 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Castaway Ray flees media circus
06 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Castaways adrift over flu
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