Why did you agree to go to Greece - was there any personal reason?
"First was the notion
of the Olympics Games coming here, but also how little one knew of
Greece. I’ve been there before and filmed there, spent
Easter there, stayed with friends, but I didn’t really know
Greece and couldn’t really join it up. I couldn’t
think where places were and how many times it had been invaded and
overrun by different empires. The whole thing seemed
fantastically thrilling – gods and legends and myths – and
how much our country and the whole of the western world owed to Greece.
It seemed ripe for a visit. Any excuse…but this was a pretty
Which places did you most enjoy visiting and why?
"The Mani peninsula,
south of the Peloponnese. When we went there it was spring and it was
as if the whole of the Chelsea Flower Show had tipped its flowers on
the ground. I’ve never seen such a blizzard of wild
flowers. Because they have no spray or chemicals down there and I
realised that this is how nature intended it to be. That was very
Throughout filming what I found staggering was to be in the same place
as all the myths and legends and gods that have such a place in
history. I couldn’t believe I was on the spot where the
Delphic Oracle sat, with the rain slicing down as it was when we were
there. You almost have to pinch yourself."
What surprised you most during your visit?
surprise me. The mountains surprised me. I had forgotten
that Greece had so many and the sheer beauty of them. I had kind
of got used to the notion of Greece being a place for beach
holidays. I hadn’t expected this extraordinary range of
places and culture, this tapestry of, nightclubs in Athens, tobacco
growing Muslim villages high up in the hills, vineyards, vast pebble
beaches, finding out about the British influence from the occupation of
Corfu. It all seemed utterly unexpected and it all made me go,
“Good grief, why didn’t I know this?”
It’s fascinating and one just wants to know more, but hopefully
what we’re able to show will whet the appetite of people
The encounter with Nana Mouskouri, seemed to move you intensely. What made it so special?
"I’ve always admired her and thought she was great. But I was
struck by this sense of her never having sung at Epidavrus.
Because she was trained as a classical singer and she was meant to sing
there when she was young, but was turned down because she was a pop
singer. They were very snooty [about her pop career] so as a
young girl she went away and cried because she was so upset. And
then there she was for the first time singing for us with no orchestra,
on a Monday evening with very few people there and light rain
falling. And I just couldn’t stop myself from crying, I
think at the thought of what it must have meant for her."
The weather didn't seem brilliant.
"We had gorgeous days and we had days when it rained as well. But
I quite like the idea that we don’t think of places as purely
picture postcard holiday destinations. I think there’s more
to Greece than that."
How bad was your vertigo when you were filming the reconstruction work going on high up on the side of the Parthenon?
"It was literally a near death experience. I did manage to mask
it, because I’ve watched it back, but I became almost
petrified. They asked me if we could do more filming up there and
I just said no. My heart was humming, my pulse was going at one
hundred and ninety a minute for about an hour afterwards.
With vertigo, first of all you’re worried that you’re going
to fall off and die, but also you have a compulsion to jump over the
railings and die. Even talking about it now I feel strange."
What do you try to give to the viewer when filming a programme about a journey like this one?
"The viewer is my best friend when I’m making these
programmes. I think of myself as if I’m talking to the
individual person watching. I want them to be interested, so what
I want is if anyone watching goes, ‘I didn’t know that,
I’m going to go to the library to find out more,’ or if it
makes them decide to Google for more information, or, best of all,
think, “I’ll get a ticket, I’ll go there.”