Clive Kelly - The Cartforth eco-warrior off to save the rainforest

PUBLISHED: 15:07 12 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:54 20 February 2013

Clive with his book Kelly’s Eye. ‘Just about the best book I’ve ever seen,’ said Clive. The wooden staff belonged to an ancestor of Chief Raoni

Clive with his book Kelly’s Eye. ‘Just about the best book I’ve ever seen,’ said Clive. The wooden staff belonged to an ancestor of Chief Raoni

An eco-warrior from Preston has returned to South America to continue his fight for the indigenous people, as Paul Mackenzie reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson

Clive Kelly has always rather stood out. As a child it was because he changed school nine times and was constantly the new boy with the slightly different accent. These days, its more the traditional Amazonian tattoos, the headdress and the feather through his ear.

Now living at Catforth near Preston with his Brazilian tribal bride Jacyara, the 72-year-old has made a name for himself as an environmental crusader and is now back in South America campaigning against the building of a huge dam which he says would have a devastating impact on the local people and wildlife.

Its all a far cry from his time as a nightclub owner in towns across Lancashire as the sixties began to swing when he put on gigs by many of the biggest bands of the time, including the Beatles.

I have always had an Indian spirit, he said. Before I ran away from home I used to camp in the woods and eat veg I stole from the fields. I went to sea aged 13 in a canoe and was picked up by a ship. Ive always had a desire to discover new things.

Clive had a succession of jobs 67including a stint operating rides at a fairground and on pleasure boats at Blackpool but after five years running his clubs the sex, drugs and rock n roll years are documented pretty graphically in his new book, Kellys Eye he yearned for adventure.

I got fed up of going out at night and thought it was time to go back to sea, he said. I went to South America. I had seen a television programme years earlier and thought the country looked amazing and decided I wanted to know the tribes deep in Brazil.

I had always tried to help animals and natural people, people who are not part of the silliness of the capitalist system.

I went there with an awareness of people and ecology and animals and my time in Brazil was a time of success. I made jewellery and sold it and opened a shop and made good money.

He developed a deep love of South America and devoted himself to protecting the rainforests, marine environments and remote tribes.
Clive introduced rock star Sting to his friend Chief Raoni, head of the Txucarramae tribe, and his film Raoni, made with Marlon Brando about the indigenous people of central Brazil and their struggle for survival, was nominated for an Oscar in 1978.

Clive has spent much of the last 40 years on board his 55ft trimaran Survival now re-named Avatar after the James Cameron film which Clive says was about him and he added: When you live on the ocean 24/7, you start to notice when changes happen.

You notice the effects of fishing with dynamite and bleach and I decided it was time I did something about that. I saw the most incredible colours and beauty in the reefs of the Bahamas but two years later after locals had been injecting bleach into the reef it was all burned black and dead. This is what civilised humanity is doing, we are destroying the planet and somebodys got to do something about it.

His latest battle is to stop the construction of the multi-million pound Belo Monte dam, which would be the worlds third largest hydro-electric dam on the Xingu river in Brazil.

To follow his progress, and to read his book, log on to

The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Lancashire Life

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