In the late 1990’s, Russell Harris presented a television show with a twist. Along with his cameraman Shaun Fenton, Russell travelled over 18,000 miles based purely on the whim of a dice. He was taken all over the world, from Poland to Iceland, Germany to Hawaii, and Denmark to the USA. The travel show has been aired in over 60 countries. Read about how he embraced luck, chance and surprise in our interview below!
Hi Russell. Could you start by telling us a little about ‘The Diceman’ show and the idea behind it.
The idea for the show came from when I was staying with a friend in France – He had a copy of the book ‘The Diceman’ by Luke Rhinehart. It’s the story of a Psychiatrist who’s bored with life and decides to start living based on the roll of a dice. I Read the book and thought almost immediately that it would make a good travel show – this idea of cutting free. So Shaun and I conceived the program and came up with 2 rules: 1. That we wouldn’t disobey the dice and 2. That we wouldn’t break the law because it’s TV! The ideas for where to go came from people we met on our travels – We’d stop people on the street and ask them to give us an option. Then we’d roll the dice and go where it told us. I think the appeal of the show lay in the fact it was genuine– we just cut loose and did it. I think it really captured people’s imaginations – people from places as far afield as Poland and New Zealand have come up to me and said that they’ve seen the show.
What was your most interesting experience from the show?
Probably hiking for 3 or 4 hours over a live volcano in the Hawaiian Islands with lava flowing from the ground below. And the day before that we’d been diving off Hawaii and had all our film kit stolen, so we were walking over this volcano with this really heavy equipment we’d had to hire!
Are there any dice-decided decisions you regret?
I think to make dice-living an interesting concept there’s always got be something you don’t particularly want to do included in the options. When we were on the Isle of Man the dice decided that we should go to a Castle and hear ghost stories – I really wasn’t looking forward to it – But it turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences in the program for me. The serendipity of chance really comes out when you give it opportunity to – Living and travelling by the roll of a dice allows you to meet people and encounter situations you’d never usually come across.
Would you do it all again?
Yes I’d love to do it again. I don’t think it would be a commercial thing but I’d love to do it just for the fun of it. Although I’d probably be a bit more nervous about doing some of the things now than I was when we did the show…
Did the experience change how you approach life?
No it didn’t really. I thought that it would but in my home life I like to be in control of things. The show just offered a kind of license to do things differently for a while.
Why do you think chance in life can be a good thing?
It’s liberating. Everyone creates patterns in their lives and I think as we get older we get safer and safer in the things we’re prepared to do. But when you let chance enter your life, it allows you to experience new things. If you go to a Chinese takeaway and order your food by the roll of a dice, you’ll end up with a dish you wouldn’t have usually ordered. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t. There’s also a sense in which the dice takes away responsibility – If it tells you to do something and you don’t enjoy it, then you can blame it on the dice. But at the same time, I don’t think it would be wise to live by the die all the time, it would be too problematic.
When was the last time something lucky happened to you?
In ordinary life? I would say I’m lucky every day, I’m a lucky man! But I don’t think luck has played a huge role in my life in terms of individual experiences – I haven’t won the lottery or anything. I like to have an optimistic approach to things generally – I have a lovely home and a lovely wife – and I think there’s a lot of hard work which has got me to where I am now.
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