Review: Life At The Limits - An Evening with Sir Ranulph Fiennes in conversation with Anton Bowring, Ipswich Corn Exchange, May 13.

Anton Bowring and Sir Ranulph Fiennes at the Corn Exchange in Ipswich for the BooksEast Festival. Ph

Anton Bowring and Sir Ranulph Fiennes at the Corn Exchange in Ipswich for the BooksEast Festival. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

Part of the inaugural BooksEast Festival, Fiennes and long-time friend and collaborator Bowring took us through the incredible story of his life so far.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes at the Corn Exchange in Ipswich for the BooksEast Festival. Photo: Sarah Lucy Br

Sir Ranulph Fiennes at the Corn Exchange in Ipswich for the BooksEast Festival. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

On a stage simply set with a chair, sofa and table, Fiennes opened with a potted history of his family to date. It was an eye-opening introduction to his ancestry, taking in the Battle of Agincourt, a family member featured on the Bayeux Tapestry and an uncomfortably placed red hot poker.

At the heart of the evening was the story of Fiennes’ life as an explorer, occasionally illustrated with thrilling archive footage. We discovered it was his beloved wife Ginny’s idea for the pioneering TransGlobe expedition. Fiennes was the first to circumnavigate the Earth overland via the two poles and she worked it out on her six inch plastic globe of the world.

It turns out his life is the stuff of a Boys Own adventure - floating for three months on an ice floe in the Yukon River with just the odd Canadian polar bear for company, digging out landmines with a Swiss Army knife, cutting off the frostbitten tips of his fingers with a fretsaw on a Black and Decker workbench.

However, to see him just as an adventurer would be to do a disservice to his fundraising efforts; he has raised millions for charities over the last 20 years. This was covered in the last part of the evening and drew the largest applause of the night from the packed audience.


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Throughout the evening Fiennes was wonderful company; every tale of intrepid derring-do was leavened with his dry and self-deprecating sense of humour and casual sense of understatement.

My one regret was that there was no question and answer session at the end of the evening; I’m sure the audience were full of questions for him but maybe that was the problem – if we’d started how would we stop?

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Inspiration is an overused word, but in our increasingly sedentary and digital times Fiennes is a true inspiration for anybody who wants to lead a life less ordinary.

Read entertainment writer Wayne Savage’s chat with Fiennes and Bowring here.

Mike Rawden

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