Caught by the River

Gonzovation Conversations

Ceri Levy | 20th April 2022

Ceri Levy reflects on the birth of Gonzovation, and introduces a brand new podcast by he and Ralph Steadman.

I remember well how Gonzovation came into being. I was chatting online in our usual end of day get-together with Ralph Steadman, my partner in our books Extinct Boids, Nextinction and Critical Critters.  Something appeared in our conversation, and I realised we had hit on an important moment in our work with nature. 

We were talking about conservation and one thing we had discovered over our period together was how many creatures had populated many of Ralph’s old images. He had begun exploring old pictures and was finding that subliminally he had been channelling animals for a long time.

Ralph: I’m starting to believe I’ve always been interested in wildlife. Look at this picture… Birds in the background and more flying high in the skies. Animal Farm is naturally full of creatures but look at other work there are whales, lizards, cats, dogs and a mix of animals in so much of my work that just appeared from nowhere. I was never even aware of them coming into existence, but I’ve always been drawing animals. I just never realised it before. And of course, there are bats, lots and lots of bats. 

Ceri: The bats are very Gonzo and now here we are working on conservation… It’s sort of like… Gonzovation!

Ralph chuckled: That’s very good, that’s clever. 

He leant forward and spoke in a hushed tone.

Ralph: I like it, but we need to speak with the Gonzo powers that be to discover if we can use this new creation. 

He sat back in his chair and was quiet.

I realised that he would have to clear it with whoever kept an eye on all things Gonzo and I really hoped they would see the wealth in this new word. A collision of worlds of Ralph’s art and messaging in 11 newly connected letters. Never been done before. Perhaps we could get this word in the dictionary. That would be something. To create a new word for dictionaries all over the world. But I was getting ahead of myself as my mind raced forwards. Firstly, I had to get this word through an apparent vetting process, and I didn’t know what was involved in that. Was Ralph about to send emails or make calls?  When would he do this and who would be involved in the decision-making? Is that what he was mulling over?

He was looking pensive and then he leant forward again and looked directly at me. I gulped…

Ralph: I’ve consulted with the powers that be and the decision has been made… 

There was a huge pause, worse than all those reality TV programmes to find out who has run their course and who stays or goes…

The artist took a huge breath.

Ralph: The matter has been considered deeply and it has been deemed fit and proper to use the word Gonzovation. Write it down immediately and don’t forget it, not like that time we came up with the funniest joke in the world and then forgot it because we were laughing too much before you had written it down. One day, we might find it again, but I doubt it.

I smiled, breathed a huge sigh of relief and picked up my pen. We had just given birth to Gonzovation. 

Over the last year, we have taken Gonzovation further than ever before and we have many exciting projects coming up: the first of which is a podcast series in which Ralph sent Ceri out to chat to people about their love of wildlife, whether they be a birder, a conservationist, a musician or just sticking up for the little guys on this planet. We came up with a catchy little title, Gonzovation Conversations, and the series launched yesterday.

In the series we will chat to an eclectic mix of people, including Radio 6 Music DJ Marc Riley; Sophie Pavelle, writer and conservationist; Nathan Eagle, an environmental journalist in Hawaii; Will Burns, the poet and novelist; the Urban Birder, David Lindo; Jenny Lonsdale from the Environmental Investigation Agency; writer, conservationist, and straight talker Lucy McRobert; cartoonist Tony Husband; musician Jimi Goodwin; Global Birdfair organiser and conservationist, Tim Appleton, and the Saving the Manumea project in Samoa. Plus, we can also promise a visit from Ralph and daughter Sadie Williams.

Disappear into our guests’ worlds and discover their points of inspiration in the natural world. They share different adventures, perspectives and loves of nature and their motivating and thought-provoking stories show why they are all Gonzovationists. 

Available on all streaming platforms. 

Welcome to Gonzovation Conversations.

For all things Gonzovation click here.

Gonzovation Conversations is released as part of the HWY61 Network.