Introducing Richard Benwell, AFON Mentor and Parliamentary Programme Manager for the RSPB.
Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?
The thrill of the law… the terms for a teacher… the hope in medicine… the gadgets in science… When you’re a young person choosing your path in life (or picking your way day by day), there are a thousand different options ahead. So many young people with green hearts and wildlife-filled lives end up settling for grey day jobs because of the perception that more traditional career paths are safer or more grown up. Certainly, it’s hard to get a foot on the nature jobs ladder. So, as a mentor, I hope to help one or two more young folk convert their conservation conviction into conservation career. The more people saving the world the merrier!
How have you helped/could you help potential mentees?
Not all conservation careers start with binoculars on a windy clifftop (sadly), or with a science degree. My route has been via academia, politics, policy and Parliament. It’s been fun and fascinating. I’d be glad to offer some guidance to anyone interested in environmental policy.
What’s your top piece of advice for a young person starting out their career in nature conservation?
Remember what we’re fighting for and never let it become just a job! With every career, there will be some tasks you don’t take to and some days that are difficult, but remembering we’re part of a movement keeps every day feeling positive and worthwhile. As it happens, that’s good for your state of mind and as well as your career – we’re always on the lookout for folk with the drive to make a difference. Good luck and have fun!
Read on to find out more about Ceri Levy, Gonzovationist.
I have often mentored people in the past and enjoy the teaching aspect as this always teaches me something new as well. There is nothing more satisfying than helping younger people to articulate their skills and thoughts through the medium of film. Learning the art of storytelling with visuals is an important part of film making and one that is imperative in this day and age when everyone has the capability to capture an event, thought or action on film. Expressing this in a cohesive way is vital to stand out amongst the noise of the 21st century.
Again, I would suggest that having written several books and made an amount of films and videos I am in a position to understand what makes a decent vehicle for a message to be related to an audience. Creativity is about bouncing ideas around to find the perfect way to tell a story. Sometimes the simplest thing can be missed when working solo. Teamwork is an essential part of creating film. Writing less so, but I have always relied on my editor to help me on the final ascent to completion of a book.
Try things. It is important to experiment. There is no such thing as a mistake. As my partner-in-chief on our Gonzovation Trilogy of books, Ralph Steadman says, “ A mistake is an opportunity to do something else!” Always allow a breath before ignoring something before you.