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Monday, 8 January, 2001, 16:40 GMT
Quiz castaway Peter Jowers
Quiz Castaway Peter Jowers
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Peter Jowers and his wife have returned from Taransay and are beginning to adjust to normal life. Peter and his wife Sheila answered your questions in a live forum on Monday.


R Cook, Christchurch, NZ :London, UK:

"Castaway" made great television, but how successful was the project as a "social experiment"?

Peter Jowers:

I think it was a sort of curate's egg. We managed to do the basic things - the gardening, the horticulture, the animals, the rotas etc. - all the functional stuff and that worked very well but the community itself was more problematical.
After some very early conflict it settled down into a very good group and it would have evolved very well but by September everybody realised that it was a short-run project and that we didn't have to invest a lot of emotion into it. So in the last three months there was a sort of cooling period and we evolved into different friendship groups.

Mike McLoughlin, Plymouth, UK:

Would it have been possible to extend the Castaway experience to, say, five years? It would be very interesting to see if relatively "permanent" self-sufficiency could have worked.

Peter Jowers:

I think it could have done. I think it would have been a much better experiment. However, I suspect what would have happened is that many people would have left and we would have had to incorporate new people and that we may well have evolved into different villages.

On Taransay itself there were at least four or five old villages that had existed and it seems to have been a natural way for the thing to have evolved rather than us all eating together communally. I think different people with different affinities would have gone off into different groups and probably started trading - but yes, it was entirely feasible.

Philip Melling, Leeds, UK:

In the first few months there seemed to be a lot of conflict and arguments on the island - yet in the later programmes things seemed to have calmed down. Could you identify a turning point in the project - where things improved and the community started to all pull together?

Peter Jowers:

It was obviously linked to the departure of certain individuals who had clearly come for the TV exposure and were not committed to the projects of sustainability. Once that was sorted out, the sense of fairness etc. began to spread and that contributed to it - so it was around about July that things started to evolve and improve.

David Mercer, Aberystwyth, Wales:

Do you feel that you are a lot less materialistic now than you were twelve months ago?

Peter Jowers:

I do yes. We weren't very materialistic beforehand - well everybody says that! But yesterday we had to go and see some relatives and we ended up in Milton Keynes shopping centre - that was my idea of hell - which it had been previously - but the feeling had intensified.

William Girvan, London:

You have promised to return to Taransay, but are you intending to make permanent changes to your lifestyle as a result of your castaway experience?

Peter Jowers:

I am certainly going back - and in certain ways yes I am. I think I am going to have a much lower media input - we didn't listen to the news; no radio etc. and I found that since I have come back I haven't wanted to read newspapers, turn on the radio etc. So I think that is a fundamental change. But we live quite a self-sufficient lifestyle anyway.

Ellen Plocka, Swindon, Wiltshire:

Has a year on Taransay affected your long term outlook on life and what changes would you need to make in order to accomplish new goals?

Peter Jowers:

I don't think it really has changed my long-term outlook. I think it has made me a little more sensitive to people and a little less trusting - mostly because of the engagement with the media. But in terms of long-term goals, I found we can live with far less space. Living in the pods taught us that we can live in a very, very small physical space and be very happy with very few goods. So we are now looking to throw a lot of things away.

Sheila Jowers:

We lived in a small space but that was possible because we had the whole island which we could walk around and be free and escape from the centre of activities and that made a huge difference.

Howard Gale, Guildford:

What do you think your greatest challenge will be fitting back in to UK society?

Peter Jowers:

One of the things that attracted us to the island was that I feel very passionately about light and noise pollution. I live in the Forest of Dean which is very rural but even there seems incredibly noisy after having been on Taransay and at nights the lights glow. So we looking for somewhere that is dark and has natural sound - something that is very restful, tranquil and peaceful which is hard to find in Britain.

Lesley, Wales:

What is the one most valuable lesson or memory that Peter has taken back to 'real' life after time on Taransay, and why?

Sheila Jowers:

It was possible there to have time, because when you leave out the media and travelling that one normally has to do - going to work and so on - it was just incredible to have so much time to think and do things that one always had hoped to have time for but never would normally have.

Peter Jowers:

I think what I have learnt is to be more focused and less distracted by the opportunities of multi-media available to one. To focus in on one's own creativity was the main lesson that I have learnt.

Sheena Hastings, Leeds, West Yorkshire:

Have you had a chance yet to view the programmes broadcast during the year, and if so, do you think the edited results of the filming give an accurate portrayal of you, the rows you were involved in, and life in the community in general?

Peter Jowers:

No, we haven't had a chance at all to view the programmes - we have been busy dealing with the media and we haven't had a full copy of the programmes, although many friends have said that videoed them.

Sheila Jowers:

Much more emphasis was put on the conflict and the social side than perhaps was representative of the whole experience. There was much more than just the conflict.

Peter Jowers:

I would like to say something about the whole media process. We were signed up for six programmes and we ended up making twenty hours and more and it is still going on and I was quite happy with that and so was Sheila, but half the community were very upset about that.

So as the year progressed and we all became much more media-astute and it had a big internal effect on the evolution of the community with this constant realisation that one was liable to be misquoted or to have a video made when one had had a disagreement.We felt we were in the stale genres of popular television, but the TV company explained to us that they felt this was the best way to get certain serious points through in a popular medium.


But some people would say that you did sign yourselves up for that.

Sheila Jowers:

Oh yes, without the media we wouldn't be there in the first place.

Peter Jowers:

Yes, but it was the intensity of it. There was a bit of naughty editing.

Mike Bartley, New Zealand:

Even with the best intentions, television programme makers have to edit footage to make an interesting and entertaining programme. They choose what to put in and what to leave out. The choices that the editors of Castaway made have you [Peter] looking aloof, superior and sometimes pompous. Do you think you or any of the other participants in the programme were unfairly represented?

Peter Jowers:

What we learnt on the programme was that between us there were 36 perspectives, and then we learnt that the editors have their perspectives. I was in fact edited by somebody that had never met me and I began to realise how I was being portrayed - maybe that is a fair representation - and I had to learn to live with that. It was like looking in a mirror and not liking everything one sees about oneself and modifying one's personality and that was a very valuable lesson.

Sheila Jowers:

I don't think Peter is a bully - I think that is how he was represented but in the large amount of filming that was done you could extract those parts that would make him appear to be a bully - but I do think it is exaggerated.

Peter Jowers:

Every programme needs an ogre, don't they?

Sheila Jowers:

Also it starts off like that but by the end there was a bigger picture of Peter's character.

Peter Jowers:

I think I also recognise the game the editors were playing. In the terms of the young ones, they wanted the development of relationships - because that is good TV. But with those of us in stable relationships it was a different matter.

M Cook, London, UK:

Have you had any positive or negative reactions from members of the general public since your return? Are you recognised and if so, have you appreciated your "fame"?

Peter Jowers:

Yes, people have recognised us and it has been very, very positive. People have come up with comments such as "You deserve a medal", "I couldn't have done it" or "Well done". But very positive and pleasant - however I do hope it is a two-week phenomena.

Sheila Jowers:

People in general were very positive. They enjoyed all of us doing something that they couldn't imagine actually doing themselves but that they quite liked the idea of it. People have been very supportive.

Peter Jowers:

It has been boring having to repeat certain things and there are things that we don't choose to say - i.e. we don't want to go into some of the intricacies of the relationships on the island - just out of respect for each other.

Craig Harris, France:

What is the one most important piece of advice that you would give to somebody contemplating spending a year on Taransay (under the same conditions as you and your wife undertook a year ago)?

Peter Jowers:

Get good waterproofs! Also know what you are letting yourselves in for in terms of the media.

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See also:

04 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Wannabe Castaways apply in droves
03 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Castaways face the reality of home
01 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Tearful Castaways head home

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