‘Just go away’ – Giles Simpson is the G&S Dorset Island Discs castaway

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Farmer, agronomist, chairman of the Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show, and fan of Magnums, Giles Simpson shares the soundtrack of his life with Laura Hitchcock

Giles Simpson: Image Courtenay Hitchcock

Giles Simpson, the Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show chairman, is a farmer and an agronomist – when he’s not lost in To Do lists and committee meetings.
He received a good job offer straight from college and then moved to an even better job a few years later. Ten years after graduating from Sparsholt College, he finally decided it was time for his gap year – and spent nine months in Australia:
‘I worked for six months of it, and then just enjoyed the rest. I’d recommend it to everybody. Just go away; Australia, New Zealand, Canada … anywhere, just go away. Even if it’s only for two or three months. Everyone within the agricultural industry should just do it.’
On his return from Australia, Giles was offered a job at local firm Pearce Seeds LLP, a seed and agronomy company based near Sherborne. He has been with them for 21 years this year. It was his job that got him involved with the G&S Show:
‘I worked alongside Mike Simpson (no relation, and sadly no longer with us) for three years. He was very heavily involved with the Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show, a past chairman and president. He was the one who got me involved. He basically just told me I had to do the livestock car park, actually. Then he told me I had to start at 5.30am. I did that for ten years, probably. Four years ago the then chairman Richard Curtis asked me to be his vice chairman, which meant no more livestock car parking! And then in 2022 I became chairman.’

And so to Giles’ choices for the eight tracks he’d want on his own Dorset island:

Little Lies
Fleetwood Mac
I’d been given a cassette when I was about 17 or 18, and I just remember driving home from harvest late at night. This was always playing. I’d open the sunroof, drop the windows and put it on full blast. It was just the best thing, driving home singing away to yourself where no one can hear you. It’s got some great lyrics, of course, but for me it’s just a really good tune to sing along to late at night. Every time I hear it I’m that teenager driving home late after harvest.

Holding Back the Years
Simply Red
Mick Hucknall is unreal – so recognisable. Even now, at whatever age he is (He’s 62. You’re welcome. – Ed.), his voice is just the same. I watched him performing live on TV recently, and it was brilliant.
And Holding back the years is a classic. A group of us travelled up from college to Crystal Palace in the late 80s for one of his concerts. It was such a good concert, and a great night.

All Of Me
John Legend
I had to add this one in, it was the first dance at our wedding!
But I did have to ask Mary what it was. I could remember the song, I could! But I couldn‘t remember who sang it. She had to tell me …

A Sky Full of Stars
Coldplay
Yeah… (long happy pause)
Stars is just… Chris Martin is unreal. This song always makes me stop. Coldplay are brilliant. AND he’s local! Went to school in Sherborne. He’s a fantastic writer.
We were meant to see them during covid, but obviously it was cancelled. Then Mary was going to buy tickets to see them at the O2 for my Christmas present, but it clashed with the show, so I told her I’d better not.

In the Air Tonight
Phil Collins
Just … always Phil Collins. All through school I listened to Phil Collins. This is another one that it doesn’t matter how many times you hear it, you can put it on the radio and it never gets old. It’s when you watch him doing it, too – to play the drums the way he does and sing the way he does … When you watch him performing this one, he comes in just singing quietly, then moves and sits at the drums and lets it build. Amazing. This song in particular always reminds me of a cool evening, lots of stars … and I have no idea why.

Money For Nothing
Dire Straits
This is my first Young Farmer’s Area Weekend when I was 16. We left for Newquay at 9 o’clock on the Friday morning, and the whole way down the driver played Dire Straits, over and over again. There were four or five of us in the car, and we just listened over and over, and this always reminds me of that. It could have been anyone of those songs, you know? Walk of Life, Brothers in Arms, Ride Across the River … any one.
It always reminds me of my first Area weekend in Newquay.

I am a Cider Drinker
The Wurzels
This is Young Farmers again! And what amazes me is that, even now, all the 16 and 17 year olds still know all the words! Last time I saw them live was probably five years ago, and I couldn’t believe that there were young teenage farmers at the front, singing all the words! The Wurzels have been about for donkey’s years. And this song still makes me laugh even now. They were characters, absolute characters.

American Pie
Don McLean
This is college, pretty much whenever we were in the bar (I was there quite regularly …)!
I was Student Association chairman, and my vice chairman was absolutely mad on Don McLean. I It would get played nearly every night, everyone would be on chairs or standing up, all singing together. It’s a long song, eight or nine minutes, but we never used to last that long! But it always reminds me of the college bar at Sparsholt, and all of us singing it together.

The little comforts
My book would be Call of the Wild by Jack London. I don’t read a lot (probably not since I was at school). But I remember reading White Fang and Call of the Wild, and I went back and looked at them when I was choosing this. It’s about a dog stolen from California and sold as a sled dog in Alaska. Through the book he becomes ever more wild, forced to fight to survive. By the end, he sheds the shallow veneer of civilisation and relies on his primitive instinct and experience to emerge as a leader in the wild.
It always makes me think about how close we are to being right back there in nature. And that our animals are still wild at heart. Dogs are pack animals, people forget that. It really riles me when you see badly behaved dogs. And it’s not the dog, it’s always the owner.
I did have to think about this one. I spoke to Mary about it and she said: “Well, you can’t pick Farmers Weekly and you can’t pick Classic Tractor.” I’d be quite happy with Classic Tractor on my desert island, to be honest. According to Mary I look at it hundreds of times a month…
And my luxury item? A big freezer (with a magical power source, obviously), and a supply of Magnums.
It’s a very badly kept secret that I’m a bit of a fan of a Magnum Classic (my customers and friends even send me pictures of them, asking me ‘have you had one yet today?’).
Mary will probably kill me …

Click here to listen to Giles entire playlist on YouTube

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