Journalist Oliver Thompson, 26, from Holmfirth, works as a TV news reporter 8,000 miles from home on the Falkland Islands – in the middle of a global pandemic.
Oliver learned his trade on Kirklees Local TV in Huddersfield and covered Huddersfield Town matches.
Here he answers a few questions from Huddersfield Hub about his life on a sparsely-populated South Atlantic island no-one would have heard of had Argentina not invaded the British territory in 1982.
When did you go to the Falklands and how did the job come about?
I arrived in the Falklands a day after my birthday on the 4th of December 2019 and straight off the plane was put in a penguin suit and had to do a dance for the Christmas play in front of hundreds of people I didn’t know! That’s one way to start a new job!
After completing my masters degree I took a year out and worked for a variety of companies in the media such as local newspapers, football clubs and TV stations just to get an insight into which aspect I’d like to work in and enjoy.
Video production came out on top so my next insight was to see which aspect of journalism I’d like to venture down ie politics, sports, community etc so I thought the best way to do this was to travel abroad and be given the opportunity to explore all avenues.
The Falklands Island TV job application came up whilst I was scrolling on Twitter, and I just had that feeling that this was definitely the next step in my career. As they say sometimes, you just know that it is the right decision.
It’s 8,000 miles from home and it’s not as glamorous as the United States or Australia as a place to work so what appeals to you about the Falklands?
The Falklands is really a special place, yes there are very few people but the scenery and the wildlife is unbelievable and because the wildlife haven’t seen many humans before they are not scared of you and generally you feel as if you are their visitor.
On a lunch break you can go to a beach which is a five-minute drive and have you cup of tea with a penguin rookery when there is nobody else around.
But ultimately the Falklands has well-built infrastructure. There’s supermarkets, shops, a police station, bank and even its own legislative assembly in the capital Stanley.
Away from the capital you can go for a drive in a vast countryside surrounded by stunning landscapes and visit people who live in ‘camp’ (basically the farm owner who own farms bigger than Guernsey!) I feel like a travel agent now…
Describe daily life on the Falklands, and what does your job entail?
I know this is cliche but my job differs every day. One week I could be talking to the Governor, a business leader and then filming on board a ship for a variety of different news pieces for the weekly show.
The next week I could be sent to an isolated Island to gather stock footage which has been happening recently to do pieces on the wildlife or discover the SAS raid on Pebble Island.
As a journalist here you speak to so many people all with different interests and personalities!
It’s important as well not to just focus on work life here as you have to be social so outside of work I play a variety of sports or generally meet with a few friends for a coffee at a cafe or go for a drive.
I remember I did a piece where Short Mat Bowls was established in the Islands last year and I went along to give it a go.
I enjoyed it that much I went every week to the point of I was selected to represent the Falklands in Bowls at the 2021 Guernsey Island Games which were cancelled due to Covid! Always next time!
What do you miss most about Huddersfield?
Can I say at this current moment in time not much? No, I’m kidding! Huddersfield has always been a base for me and a place I can go back to as if nothing has changed.
I’ve always tried to spread my wings and visit new areas but sometimes you just need to recuperate at home for a couple of weeks.
I do miss watching and reporting at Huddersfield Town matches though, we certainly have a loud and passionate fan base!
You can fit the population of the Falkland Islands in the away stand and still have some space left over.
Margaret Thatcher took Britain to war in 1982 after Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. That’s nearly 40 years ago. Do people on the island still consider themselves to be British? Does it feel like a part of Britain?
Yes absolutely! There are Union Jacks flying proudly around everywhere. There is even a national day called Thatcher Day to celebrate Margaret Thatcher, and Liberation Day to remember those who fought and died in the conflict.
It does feel like a small town in the UK (think Holmfirth) with red telephone boxes, a friendly atmosphere and the most southern Post Office.
Saying that, the community is rather diverse with different nationalities such as Philippinos, Chileans and Zimbabweans. You also get a lot of short term ‘contractors’ from places like the UK who come and work here for a year or so.
What’s the best thing and the worst thing about living on the Falklands?
I think I had already mentioned it but the best thing is both the landscapes as well as the people here who are very friendly and welcoming.
The worst thing is sometimes it can get quite lonely especially if you’ve come down by yourself. Nevertheless, there is always something going on from BBQs to horse races, you’ve just got to get yourself out there sometimes.
The UK is still in lockdown. What impact has Covid-19 had on life in the Falklands?
So I have heard and hopefully it’ll be lifted soon! Covid-19 has had very little impact on life in the Falklands as it is business as usual we can still go to pubs without a mask, no social distancing etc.
New arrivals must quarantine for 14 days as it is this that acts as the line of defence, but the population are currently being vaccinated.
It is a bit surreal to be honest, I covered the German Lufthansa flight landing and for the first time I had to wear a face mask and adhere to the social distancing protocol (no objections).
But just to see the passengers wear masks and to see the drivers in their hazard suits etc where for a large period I have been freely going out into the community and reporting on a variety of stories it kind of hit me that this is real. (I haven’t been back to the UK since December 2019).
You must miss family and friends and can’t come home even for a holiday. How tough is that?
I’ve always been a bit of traveller and wanted to see more. I do miss my family and friends but ultimately I think I am in the best place at the moment and I will hope to go back for a short holiday in the summer! I frequently message my family and connect with them over Zoom so we’re constantly updating each other!
Even so I do keep up to date with local news either via the newspaper, my former employer or now Huddersfield Hub as I’m always interested in what is going on!
How long do you plan to stay on the Falklands? Don’t worry your boss won’t read this!
Fortunately, I’ve been asked to extend for a further two years! I will see that out and see where I am then and make a decision on my next step.
At the moment I am swaying towards working in America in journalism for a short time just to experience how different their media is to the UK but how long is a piece of string. At the moment I am loving what I’m doing!
Stay safe, Oliver. And send us a postcard!