Howie Watkins is best known for presenting BBC1’s Really Wild Show, a job which allowed him to, in his words ‘put off growing up’ for seven years and indulge his passion for wildlife – travelling around Britain and the World.
Since the birth of his daughter, Amy, in 2005 he has accepted that he has to be a grown-up and has settled down to a quieter life in Devon to run a specialist public relations and communications consultancy specialising in medical education and the public understanding of science.
In 2019 he decided it was time for a career change, and went back to university to qualify as a school teacher.
Howie divides his time between: multimedia production projects, science writing, lecturing, campaigning on behalf of various conservation organisations, and running the Art Alert Project (an environmental art co-operative.)
Animals and nature have been life-long passions for Howie. His early years on the Island of North Uist (Scotland, UK) may well have something to do with this. Free to explore at will with his dog Melanie he developed a fascination for the natural world that has never left him.
Howie graduated from Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1990 to find the world unprepared for a biologist quite like him – so he moved into a zoo, Penscynor Wildlife Park in South Wales.
He spent four years there as the Education Co-ordinator where he was involved in everything from running captive breeding and public education programmes to aid endangered species, to giving impromptu talks at animal feeding times, handling animals, running drama sessions and locking himself in empty enclosures (he claims this was to illustrate aspects of enclosure design).
The Penscynor experience was instrumental in Howie’s decision to become the world’s first (and quite possibly last) fulltime Performance biologist.
Reluctantly, he left Penscynor in 1994 to give more time to his broadcast career.
In addition to seven series of ‘The Really Wild Show’ Howie has filmed two series of ‘The Really Wild Guide to Britain’ for the Natural History Unit of the BBC. Other credits include: ‘Animal Planet Unleashed’ for the Discovery Channel, ‘The Essential Guide to Weather’, ‘The Countryside Hour’, ‘Science in Action’, ‘The Complete Guide to the Twentieth Century’ and ‘The Weather Show’ for the BBC, ‘Crazy Creatures’ for HTV-Wales and for Channel 4, ‘Stop, Look, Listen’. [Full broadcast and video credits]
In 2001 Howie reduced the amount of Broadcast work he took on, concentrating instead on science, writing, and lecturing projects.
Away from TV, Howie has developed a number of one-man shows including ‘Beastly Behaviour’, a two-hour live show for families. This show, developed to promote the ‘Wildlife Explorers’ (junior membership of the RSPB) the toured the UK for over four years.
1997 saw Howie’s first journey into the world of pantomime, playing Wishee Washee in Aladdin at the Assembly Rooms in Tunbridge Wells. His reviews included this from The Stage ‘…a thoroughly loveable Wishee Washee who clearly relishes this opportunity to use all his skills as an entertainer.’ Other panto roles have included the Queen’s henchman in Snow White, an Ugly Sister in Cinderella and Dames in Snow White, Dick Whittington, Aladdin, and Jack and the Beanstalk. His successful partnership with That’s Entertainment Productions has seen him return to directing – bringing up the curtain on two productions of Dick Whittington and two of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Howie was a founder member of the South Wales Porpoise project, a volunteer research organisation working to understand more about the lives of these poorly understood members of the Dolphin family.
Other research interests include: the public understanding of science, weather prediction and the application of observational research techniques to better understand how children and young people use open spaces and play areas.
Howie writes features for magazines and has contributed to ‘Birdlife’, for young members of the RSPB and ‘SciTech’, a magazine aimed at teenagers with an interest in science. A number of articles have been republished on this website.
Howie co-ordinates The Art Alert Project, a collective of artists, designers, teachers and others all united by a desire to show that art isn’t something done by artists in studios somewhere in Art-Land, but something we can all get involved with and enjoy.
Since the project started in 1990, Howie and the team have delivered everything from street theatre and stage shows to multi-day interactive performance art installations for a wide range of clients. All the projects have conservation and environmental themes and use recycled materials.