Peter Lord Q&A: “Follow your interests and something good will turn up”

The founder of Aardman Animations on the Magic Roundabout, Tudor portraits and Trump. 

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Peter Lord was born in Bristol in 1953. He founded Aardman Animations, the studio behind “Wallace and Gromit” and “Chicken Run”, with David Sproxton in 1972, and is the executive producer of every Aardman film.

What’s your earliest memory?

Playing “shops” with my grandmother in Bristol, on the steps of a church that had been flattened in an air raid. Remember shops? We used to have them back in the 20th century.

Who are your heroes?

In childhood, my hero was Dougal from The Magic Roundabout. Now, it’s the singer Martin Carthy. 

What book last changed your thinking?

I own up to reading for pleasure and from interest and to be delighted, challenged, provoked, bewildered, informed, puzzled and amused. But honestly, very seldom do I read anything that changes my thinking. I felt Citizen by Claudia Rankine was an education.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Tony Benn. I don’t suppose he was always right, but he seemed a man of genuine integrity.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

With a bit of revision I could do OK on the history of Aardman.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Was there a better time to live? Probably only if you were rich and powerful. I’d love to see Britain in the Neolithic, but I’d only survive a couple of weeks before I died of some ghastly disease or got eaten by a bear.

What TV show could you not live without?

I loved The Wire and Father Ted.

Who would paint your portrait?

I fancy a Tudor portrait, ideally full-length with those voluminous trousers and loads of pearls everywhere. Is Holbein available?

What’s your theme tune?

I sing to myself quite a lot. This week: the Top Cat theme.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

My father never articulated it into a memorable phrase, but from him I picked up an optimistic take on life. It was something along the lines of: “Follow your interests and keep your eyes open, and something good will turn up.” It’s worked in my life and I’m very grateful.

What’s currently bugging you?

Can I say Trump? “Bugging” doesn’t really cover the waves of panic, fury, incredulity, loathing and contempt that sweep over me daily watching his performances. So retreating to a domestic scale I’ll say the squirrel that keeps eating all the birds’ food.

What would make your life better?

More bookshelves.

When were you happiest?

Whenever it was, it would have involved the priceless combination of nature, good weather and family – that’ll do it for me.

In another life, what job would you have chosen?

I would love to have been an actor. There’s something heroic about it to me; and when I see them at the curtain call, all fired up and united, I think how wonderful that shared experience must be.

Are we all doomed?

Sorry to strike a gloomy note, but yes. Finite globe, ever multiplying number of humans – many of them consuming so far beyond our needs, the natural world being destroyed… Yes, doomed I reckon. 

Peter Lord and David Sproxton’s “Aardman: An Epic Journey Taken One Frame at a Time” is published by Simon & Schuster

This article appears in the 28 November 2018 issue of the New Statesman, How the Brexit fantasy died