Ferg’s favourite pastime is ‘free climbing’. It worries his friends as much as it does his family. He says free climbing is one of the things that makes him feel human.
There are very real and dangerous consequences to such an extreme form of climbing. Do you fear death? “No, I don’t fear death. I fear not living my life in ways that fail to test what I may be capable of as a human being. Challenging myself mentally and physically has been important to me for as long as a I can remember. As a child I applied myself to my education in the same way I did to skateboarding. I did the very best I could and to enjoy both. In life we never stop learning and there will always be new challenges. My approach has always been to face them full on and to adapt and grow as a person. It has helped me to be comfortable with who I am and informs my world view. I hope that by being an accomplished free climber I am able to give something back. Be it helping other climbers or loving my family and friends. I have nothing to prove to anyone and perhaps it allows me to see clearly and appreciate the good in people and in nature”.
In all you do you are constantly reaching higher. Would you say free climbing is a metaphor for your philosophy on living a full life? “I guess we could all take an aspect of our life and see that it reflects something of how we like to live. I think free climbing has taught me a lot about myself and about others. It has asked questions not just about mental and physical endurance but the bigger questions in life. What we see as freedom and whether it is something which can exist in the mind or if being physically liberated is the only way we can feel free? It is interesting that it takes something like an extreme sport for people to take an interest in my life in ways that might suggests I am in some way different. We are all different and all individuals and the mistake some people make is believing there is some sort of ranking system. They say things like ‘Oh I could never be that good’ or perhaps their view is that there is an element of competition in all that we do. I’ve never thought like that. It may sound cliched but even when doing competitive sports at school I always said I’m not interested in winning. The idea of winning automatically suggests someone lost. I don’t subscribe to winning or losing and see those constructs as one of the symptoms of a flawed society. I recently saw a piece of street art which said ‘Blowing someone else’s candle out doesn’t make yours burn brighter’. I smiled when I saw it. We are not encouraged to focus on what matters most to us individually. Often it’s deemed not good enough to simply enjoy an activity. You must achieve in a system that has been assembled into a competitive framework or one which can be scored. Those ideas embed themselves in our minds and can begin to negatively inform how we see others, society and the world. We begin to judge people based on what they scored in an exam or whether they got a trophy! It can lead to people trying to satisfy others rather than following an instinct of what makes them happy. It’s a road to ruin. It was the Desperate Bicycles who sang ‘You don’t need skill, just the interest, you don’t need skill just the desire, the interest and desire to do what you believe in…’ They were singing about shaping your own future and not being constrained by societal norms. How many people have been told they are no good at art because their drawing or painting is rubbish? I personally believe there is no such thing as a rubbish painting or bad art. Of course that raises bigger questions about what is art? But my point is that once we start to consider the forces that shape our lives many of them are negative. I guess if I have achieved anything it is breaking through some of those negative forces to find myself and a life I am happy with. One where I am true to myself. And to answer your original question which I appear to have dodged! I’d say that I have always reached out in all directions including reaching in to discover who I am. I don’t see free climbing as a metaphor for anything. It is something I do which has helped me become a better person.“
You have been approached on many occasions by sponsors and have always turned them down. Why is that? “Oh please don’t get me started on corporate sponsorship! How businesses like to appropriate everything on the planet and somehow turn it into money. Firstly, I’d like to think it is clear to people who are aware of me and my climbing that I don’t do what I do for money. In life it is not what drives me. Secondly I’m not a billboard for their advertising. It saddens me how no matter what it is everything is turned into an advertising opportunity. Just look at professional sports. The clothes sports people wear are nothing to do with sport. They have become human billboards and many seemingly with little regard to ethical credentials of the businesses they are endorsing. It’s the same in so many walks of life from pop stars endorsing banks or film stars endorsing perfumes. They are all about building brands both corporate and personal. My life has nothing to do with either. I am grateful that over the years I have had people who have supported me financially but they have never done so for any personal gain. Some have become the best of friends. I see the financial support they have given as acts of kindness. They understand me and I have grown to know them. We have given one another far more than anything which can be measured in pounds or dollars. The flags I fly under are kindness and friendship…“
What record would you most like to put into our jukebox? “Ask me that next week and I’ll give you a different answer but for today it is Fools Gold by The Stone Roses“
“Before you finish may I mention a film featuring Alex who is a good friend of mine? Well, I will anyway because it’s brilliant and I want everyone to see it, so you need to promise me you’ll watch it! It’s called Free Solo and the trailer can be seen HERE“
The full interview with Ferg can be read in the upcoming April edition of I Scream Dreams
As quoted by Ferg: Skill by The Desperate Bicycles
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