In the news: Peter Jowers

December 21, 2000

The survivors of the BBC's Castaway 2000 experiment are nearing the end of their year on the remote Hebridean island Taransay. The series brought together a cross-section of society, isolated them from the everyday bustle of modern life, and recorded their bid to establish a community.

Peter Jowers, on leave from lecturing in environmental philosophy and politics at the University of the West of England, emerged early as a would-be leader. At UWE, he headed a postgraduate course in ecology and society that included environmental ethics and economics.

The 52-year-old has the look of a stereotypical Open University lecturer, bearded and bespectacled, with open-necked shirts and chunky sweaters. He does not wear his learning lightly, and some of the other castaways were uncomfortable with his erudite vocabulary and philosophical musings.

Series producer Chris Kelly has said that the castaways' self-governance system was threatened because Ray Bowyer, a combative former builder, who subsequently left the island, felt Mr Jowers was "becoming something of a control freak". The academic was also accused of provoking Gwyneth Murphy, who had worked in a primary school, into wanting to leave. The series' heart-throb, Ben Fogle, former picture editor of Tatler, confessed that Mr Jowers made him feel guilty "for a little bit of loafing now and then". Mr Jowers had said: "The young have not got the discipline that we have got. It is hard to get out of bed after a piss-up on the home-brew."

His wife, Sheila, an art teacher at the Royal Forest of Dean College, often proved an emollient influence. The couple are not newcomers to self-sufficiency and community living. Since 1975, they have shared an old country house in Gloucestershire with four other families, living on their own organically grown vegetables and poultry.

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