Broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle has said he hopes his latest TV venture will not “damage” the fragility of the location.
As part of Ben Fogle & The Lost City, he spent 10 days in the off-the-grid community, meeting the people who chose to live in Slab City, a remote community in the California desert.
The 48-year-old spoke of fears that drawing attention to the community could lead to an influx of tourists and interference from local authorities.
“I’m really worried that this show might give her too much of a spotlight,” he told the PA news agency.
“When you highlight something extraordinary, it has the potential to damage it by suddenly illuminating millions and millions of people… I think people are going to be pretty blown away by that, I was.”
Many Slab City residents retreated to the Sonoran Desert community after feeling marginalized from society.
Fogle said most viewers and tourists would find a “miserable place” if they visited.
He added: “What I would say to put people off is that the reason it was so extraordinary was because I actually immersed myself.
“I was among people, I lived there, I was a part of it.
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“And I don’t think you would necessarily see that as a tourist driving through. I think you would actually see a pretty miserable place.”
It’s not the utopia I kind of wished for, but it gives people hopeBen Fogle
Fogle added that this isn’t the first time he’s worried after filming a show in a remote location.
He said: “There are places I’ve been on shows, like the Chernobyl documentary, where I think it was probably just Covid stopping a massive surge in people from looking because the people of Pripyat really were blown away and this whole extraordinary place.
“And the same goes for Slab City. And I hope that by doing the show, I haven’t and won’t damage the fragility of this place.”
Fogle told the PA that his interest in alternative lifestyles stemmed from struggling with physical education and science at school, which meant he didn’t feel like a “conformist”.
He said: “I’ve always been a bit alternative. A lot of people might laugh and say, “What do you mean? How can you be alternative? You wear chinos and a shirt and have short back and side parts.
“But it’s just more alternative in that I’ve always been curious about other people and how they live their lives.”
Fogle said the residents of Slab City are almost completely cut off from events in the rest of the world, which they refer to as “Babylon.”
“There were people who didn’t notice Covid, there were people who just didn’t care about Covid,” he said.
“I haven’t met anyone who was concerned or worried about Covid. I think they’re more concerned about having a roof over their heads, having enough to eat, not being burned out, making something of their lives.
“So I think if you’re somewhere like Slab City, in the outside world, outside the news, you don’t need to add that as an extra burden to what’s already a pressure on your life, and make no mistakes, there’s In.” Slab City still live huge pressures.
“It’s not the utopia I kind of wished for, but it does give people hope in a world, Babylon, where we just don’t tolerate homelessness, we don’t tolerate drug addiction, and we’re not very good at interacting with people with to work with or accept fairly serious mental health problems.”
Slab City derives its name from the concrete slabs left behind after a training camp was destroyed in World War II.
Ben Fogle & The Lost City airs April 21 at 9pm on Channel 5.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/ben-fogle-genuinely-worried-about-the-impact-of-his-new-show-41566306.html Ben Fogle is ‘really worried’ about the impact of his new show