“Everywhere Thomson goes, he finds good stories to tell” New York Times Book Review.
Hugh Thomson is an award-winning writer and film-maker
who believes strongly the world is not as explored as we like to suppose.
In his last book, One Man And A Mule, Hugh Thomson brought together his interests from
his previous work by having what he calls ‘a South American adventure in England’. He made
the coast-to-coast crossing from the Lake District to the Yorkshire Moors with his trusty mule,
Jethro, acting as a pack animal, much in the way Hugh had been used to travelling in the Andes.
For The Green Road into the Trees, he first explored England as if it were
a foreign country: ‘An immensely enjoyable book: curious, articulate, intellectually
playful and savagely candid.’ The Spectator.
It won the inaugural Wainwright Prize for Best Nature and Travel Writing
Tequila Oil: Getting Lost in Mexico was an account of an early journey
through Mexico in a classic Oldsmobile 98. It was serialised by BBC Radio 4.
His first book, The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland, was the result of a
twenty-year long quest to explore and understand the Peruvian Andes in the area
beyond Machu Picchu.
Exploration: In 2002 he co-led the expedition which discovered the Inca site
of Cota Coca. The team then returned to Peru in 2003 and made extensive finds
at Llactapata, near Machu Picchu, showing that this site was far larger and more
significant than had been previously realised, and included a sun-temple modelled on the one in Cusco.
These discoveries in Peru – and his interest in the pre-Columbian civilisations that
predated the Inca – led to his second book on Peru, Cochineal Red: Travels through Ancient Peru
(published as A Sacred Landscape in the USA).
His interest in mountains also took him to the Himalaya:
Nanda Devi: A Journey to the Last Sanctuary (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) is about
the celebrated Nanda Devi Sanctuary on the border between Tibet and India,
long closed to all visitors by the Indian government, but briefly re-opened
to the outside world for an international expedition of which he was a part.
Hugh has also had a long career as a director and producer of documentaries,
of which he is a passionate advocate: he was a founder member of the group of
film-makers who established the Sheffield International Documentary Festival,
the first festival in the UK to concentrate exclusively on the genre.
He was BAFTA-nominated for his ten-hour series Dancing in the Street:
A Rock and Roll History, which set out to tell the epic story of the ‘devil’s own
music’ from its beginnings in the 1950s to the present day. It took four
years to make and went on to win numerous awards for the BBC around the world.
For his next series, Indian Journeys, again made for the BBC, Hugh collaborated
with William Dalrymple to make three ambitious films about India, winning
the Grierson Prize for Best Documentary Series. He later collaborated
with Jonathan Dimbleby to make another major series for the BBC, this time on Russia.
His many other films have followed interests as various as surfing, the Conquest
of Mexico, and Oscar Wilde. They have included Pacific Hell (C4), about the epic first
solo crossing of the Pacific in a rowing boat, and Highsmith: Her Secret Life (BBC)
on the strange and obsessive world of Patricia Highsmith. He also made a
Dispatches Special for C4 on Afghanistan, travelling across the country from Herat
to Kunduz, with the Oscar-winning journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.
His most recent BBC series, Treasures of the Indus, with Sona Datta, ranged from
the Buddhist heartland of Gandhara to the city of Lahore and ‘the shadow side’
of the Taj Mahal: ‘Visually rich and intellectually fascinating’ Sunday Times
‘Hugh Thomson is an adventurer…’
Tishani Doshi Interviews Hugh Thomson
“Thomson belongs to a rare species of explorer.
He is a writer who explores and not an explorer
who writes. And it is Thomson’s extreme humility
in the face of both danger and extraordinary success that places him in the same tradition as Eric Newby.”