Harry and Frank Savage from Channel 4's Hunted on readapting to normal life
PUBLISHED: 11:27 30 April 2019
Jim Holden www.jimholden.co.uk 07590 683036
Having provided some of 2019's most exciting television so far, Hunted brothers Harry and Frank Savage are readapting to normal life
Anyone looking for heart-stopping television in 2019 should have watched the final minutes of Channel 4's reality game show Hunted.
Having evaded the black-clad hunters for 24 days, brothers Frank and Harry Savage were close to clinching the fourth series' £100,000 prize. But with only half-an-hour to go before their escape by helicopter from a Birmingham car park roof, Harry was caught in the city centre – leaving 24-year-old Frank alone. His desperate race to the top of the car park and final capture, with only two-and-a-half minutes to spare, completed the series' first clean sweep of contestants – an event soundtracked by howls of anguish and “fix” from fans on social media.
Back at his farm and campsite just outside Alfriston the day after the final episode's broadcast, Frank isn't bitter about the money slipping from his grasp. “I did the best that I could,” he says. “Harry had the map of where we needed to be, so I was lost running around Birmingham – it was a fluke that I saw the right place! I was so physically exhausted I threw up after they caught me.”
Frank and Harry, now 21, proved a formidable foe to the team of professional hunters – who are drawn from the police and military – and to the camera crews assigned to follow them across the country. From their initial drop-off in the centre of Liverpool to the final scramble across Birmingham, Frank estimates the brothers walked between 250 and 300 miles – including all 110 miles of the South Downs Way in just three days. “We killed a few camera crews,” he laughs.
For Harry it was a similarly arduous experience – not least because he had forgotten to pack sensible walking shoes and had only shorts to protect him against the waves of stinging nettles the pair encountered.
“Our main water source was animal troughs,” recalls the former drama student. “Frank knew how to lift the ball cock so we always got fresh water. The camera crew had their own food, but we had to get our own. There were two days when we didn't eat a thing. One day we only had four Jaffa Cakes left – that's when the arguments started: 'Why is there only one Jaffa Cake left and it's only 11am?!'”
It was the potential of sibling rivalry which may have led to Harry and Frank being picked from the 40,000 applicants to Hunted series four. “I loved the show,” says Harry who applied to evade the hunters on his own. “After they met me they asked if I would come back with somebody who I had spoken about in the audition.”
Frank – perhaps due to his experience running the campsite – seemed the obvious choice, although a squabble in the next interview left Harry thinking they might have blown it. “When we left the interview Harry went his own way back to the railway station,” laughs Frank. “He said I had ruined his chances of ever being on television. Then three days later we were shortlisted!”
Harry feels the way the brothers were portrayed on the show reflects how they really are. “I am very clumsy and don't like the outdoors,” he says. “Frank just tells me to get on with it.”
The show's psychologist pointed out how different the brothers were in temperament – something they underlined in their own descriptions of each other: Frank as someone who lived outdoors and didn't know how to work an iPhone, while Harry liked moisturising and couldn't climb a fence.
As the six episodes of the show unfolded, so too did their real tragic story. Only four months before the show the brothers had lost their mother to dementia – a condition which first surfaced five years ago following the death of their father from a heart attack at the age of 55. For those five years Frank had been responsible for running the family business on their 100-acre farm – selling firewood through the winter before the campers arrived for the summer months. “It takes over my life, 100 per cent of the time,” he says. “There is always something to do. This is all I know and all I have ever done. I have made a lot of sacrifices.”
What wasn't revealed in the show – but which came to light in a Daily Star article – is that the family may have until September to save their farm. Harry told the newspaper: “To keep it we need to put money into it. If we can't do that we'll have to sell it. The land has been in our family for generations but we're at risk of losing it. There's no way around it other than to get some money together.” Speaking to Sussex Life the brothers reveal that the situation is complicated – involving a long-running family court case – but there's no doubt the £100,000 would have provided a good safety net. “I was 18 when my dad passed away,” says Frank now. “I have run the site by myself ever since. To lose it all would be soul-destroying.”
Some viewers seeing Frank's near miss have started their own GoFundMe pages to support the brothers and fellow finalist Nate who was also captured in the last few minutes. Looking back though Frank says it was never about the money for him. “You can't put a price on that experience,” he says. “We were miles from any roads on some days. When else do you get the opportunity to wander the country and do whatever you want?”
With ten contestants all vying for the prize over the six episodes there wasn't time to show all of the Savages' exploits. “There was a lot of stuff that wasn't featured,” says Harry. “Two hunters stayed at the campsite for a couple of nights.”
“They put a fake rat in the toilets and showed it on social media to wind me up,” adds Frank. Other incidents included the interrogation of their sister Lizzie – who met up with the pair briefly at a coffee stop near Kingston Roundabout and slipped them £50 – and the tearing up of Harry's bedroom in his drama school digs. “It didn't make TV if it didn't get results,” says Frank, adding that as his friends can find it hard to get hold of him, the hunters had little chance.
“We knew the hunters were on our trail,” says Harry. “They visited people we stayed with, but were always about a day behind. The hunters have said we were the hardest people to find – they didn't know where the hell we were! They couldn't understand why we weren't using people from home to help us.”
Instead the pair walked along abandoned railway tracks, knocked on doors at random asking for food or shelter, haggled with shopkeepers, and even gatecrashed a garden barbecue. “There are some really nice people around,” says Frank. “There is so much disaster in the world and things going wrong – but there are plenty of decent people out there.” In particular the pair remember a passerby on the South Downs Way who gave them £20 for some lunch, and their first night, when a lovely couple in Congleton, Cheshire, took them in and offered them both a bed and a curry.
It was a stark contrast to their first night camping out. They ended up in a ditch in Leek being bitten by midges. “I said to him: 'Remember who signed us up to this',” laughs Frank.
The experience has strengthened their relationship – they now talk to each other every day. “People online have said Frank and I should have our own show,” laughs Harry. Having completed his course at East15 Acting School, Harry says there have already been offers to do more reality shows, but he wants to take time to think about it.
In contrast as soon as Frank was home from Birmingham he was back on the farm working. As he prepares for the new season he has been joined by a small herd of alpacas who are bound to capture the hearts of his campers.
He now lives alone after his sister – who shared the home which was bugged by the hunters during the show – has bought her own house in Cheltenham. “Hopefully I can work hard and keep muddling along,” he says. “This year will be a big year.”
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