18 May '15

RIP Dean Potter - But your memory lives on in film 18 May 2015



Just before bed last night Facebook came alive with the tragic news that Dean Potter had died in a BASE jumping accident in Yosemite along with his friend and wingsuit flying partner Graham Hunt. In the twenty or so years I've been immersed in the world of climbing and other adventure sports there has been many a sad day when news of the passing of a well known athlete breaks, but few, if any, can compare with Dean. It's been said in a thousand personal eulogies online what a visionary he was, a free-thinker, a moon-dancer. Of course he was all of these things yesterday as he walked up to his launch spot at Taft Point with Graham, but to quote a very apt cliche you don't know what you've got till its gone. I'm not a wordsmith and there are many out there who have written and will write some amazing things about Dean, but I do programme an adventure film festival and wanted to share some thoughts.

This year the festival was 10 years old. Some of the feedback left me speechless. Somebody said that it was life-changing, another life-enhancing. These are not throw-away phrases and I finally came to realise that adventure film festivals are genuinely important things. They inspire and encourage people to try harder, to do new things, to take risks in an increasingly risk-averse society, and to literally change their lives for the better. They do this by showcasing moving images of people like Dean pushing his own boundaries. Not a year of the festival has passed without a film featuring Dean doing something amazing - he started out climbing, then speed-climbing, slacklining and highlinging, and finally to BASE jumping, wingsuit flying and free-BASE, each time explaining his reasons and thoughts in an uncompromising and totally honest manner that would often get him into trouble with sponsors and the authorities.

And here's the thing. Without Dean and his kin there would be no adventure films, no festivals, no tribal gatherings in Sheffield, Kendal, Banff, and a thousand other cinemas and community halls where crowds of people gasp in shock and amazement at what the human being can do if we really put our minds to something, leaving the auditorium vowing to do something different and to live more colourfully. To everybody who's ever left a screen feeling like this let's thank Dean, Graham, Sean and the rest of the fallen for being strong enough to make the choices that they did to help the rest of us attempt to live in full colour as they did.