Comedy of errors

Comedian Steve Punt on why he wants to make biodiversity cool - with a new rock opera for kids.

Children are always fascinated by the idea that things die out, or the idea that things are in danger. They have a sort of intrinsic interest in the what's happening to the planet

Steve Punt

Protecting the planet’s dwindling habitats and wild creatures has been a key campaign for Friends of the Earth this year.

But it’s always refreshing to get an alternative perspective on things.

Rockford's Rock Opera

Rockford’s Rock Opera is - a musical tale about extinction that is by turns funny, cautionary and poignant.

Punt rose to fame in the 1990s with TV sketch show The Mary Whitehouse Experience.  He co-wrote Rockford’s Rock Opera with a friend from school days, musician Matthew Sweetapple.

 I came in on it slightly after the beginning. Like some of the best children’s stories this was begun privately, as a little tale for Matthew’s nephew and niece.

Steve Punt

In the story a boy, Moog, and his dog, Rockford, embark on a fantastic journey after they encounter a strange animal in Battersea Park.

The creature leads them to a magical island, where the last members of extinct species must go – and there they learn a secret about humankind’s future.

Sweetapple, the tunesmith behind the project, says that the facts behind genuine extinctions are even more dramatic than Rockford’s epic storyline.

“The passenger pigeon was the most common bird in the world 150 years ago, but it’s now completely wiped out.

"Just that simple fact is stunning in its own right,” he says.

You can either read that and say ‘that is so sad’, or you can use it as a lesson. Our story is about telling children that it’s not just pretty animals that are worth saving.

All of which is true - but could the message be a bit heavy for kids?

As a father of two, Steve Punt is certain that serious messages are not beyond the grasp of children, especially when mixed in with a sprinkling of gags.

“It’s a bit like in Beatrix Potter where a rabbit is told that his uncle was put in a pie,” he says.

“You shouldn’t over-sugar things for children because they’re capable of coping with more than you think.”

Download the opera

You can get the first part of Rockford’s Rock Opera as a free internet download.

Parts two and three can be bought as part of a three-CD set (or as downloads) to complete the adventure.

For more, visit http://www.rockfordsrockopera.com/

Read more on Friends of the Earth's campaigns for a healthy planet.