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This week has seen the British Inventors Show come to London, with brilliant minds from around the world coming together to share their ideas. Look To The Stars was there to speak with Joanna Lumley about her unique partnership with an inventor.

Joanna Lumley opens the British Invention Show in London

The iconic actress/philanthropist has chosen to personally support the life-saving inventions of Alexander Bushell, who told us how their partnership had come about.

Lumley had been introduced to his work via a mutual friend, and instantly felt drawn to his humanitarian inventions. She became an investor in a bid to help make the items available to those in need.

While Bushell has created a number of revolutionary items, on display on Wednesday were his startlingly-inexpensive Raincatcher and his Solar Desalination Systems — practical devices that could impact lives around the world.

Joanna Lumley opens the British Invention Show in London

Bushell told us, "I developed about six different types of products over the past 3 years, they’re all humanitarian based, we have just got more on trial in Africa. One of her colleagues has been following the progress of what we’ve been up to with this G1HHT and Multi-cook and Micro-hospital system, and because we’ve got them cleared now, we’ve tried to look for somebody to come on board to help raise the profile of the technologies.

“Joanna came forward, and she chose a couple of the smaller products for us to show with her this year — Raincatching systems, which are humanitarian, horticulture, animal and emergency options to produce water from rain, or from streams, where you have your own filtration systems within the actual unit.”

Having travelled extensively, Lumley has seen dire conditions and the critical need for clean drinking water, so when she learned about these inventions she wanted to help make them available to people everywhere.

When asked if her support has made a difference, Bushell enthused, “Oh, crumbs, this has all been done in 4 months. So, with the willpower, four months — everything built, everything manufactured, so marvellous, yes.”

Inventor Alexander Bushell shares details with Joanna Lumley

Upon her arrival, the Absolutely Fabulous star greeted Bushell with a warm hug and big smiles. Proudly gesturing at the display, she exclaimed to the assembled guests, “Isn’t this thrilling?”

We asked Joanna what excited her about Bushell’s inventions:

“I’ve travelled hugely, travelled so much. I’ve travelled in Himalaya regions, and sub-saharan Africa, and in deserts, and in rain-forests.”

She added that her travels had made it unquestioningly clear that “Clean drinking water is essential, without that: nothing. It’s the most important thing. The thing that’s diminishing on the planet is clean drinking water and the amount of communities, the amount of millions of people who haven’t got access to clean drinking water just breaks your heart.”

Explaining what in particular drew her to these products, she said, “I saw stuff that anybody can understand, and anybody could get one. Everybody can maintain it. It doesn’t disrupt the countryside, you don’t have to dig big aquifers. It’s small, it’s light, it relies on nature, which is what I believe in always, because nature will always show you a way out. I feel so privileged to be involved in this.”

Lumley then introduced us to Lin Sharp, from the Gurkha Welfare Trust, of which Joanna is Vice Patron. The two discussed how much of an impact they feel items like the rain-catching systems to have in Nepal, saying, “We know the complications of clean drinking water. We know the effect it can have.”

Joanna added, "I was in Senegal earlier this year for Oxfam, and doing Shwopping programs for M&S, wearing my Shwopping hat – everything we do goes to Oxfam – and in the slums of Dakar, there are 1.5 million people living without any kind drainage systems at all, any sewage or drainage. So they are living in sewage. And every year like clockwork, the monsoon rains come, and drum down onto their useless, ill-provided houses and canvas tops, smashes straight on to the ground where it just becomes a flood, mixes with the sewage. So not only is there a flood, which then can’t drain, but it is sewage water as well, so they can’t drink it, use it, wash in it. There are women there who spend 8 months of every year in their houses with water up to there," Joanna indicated up to her hips, then added, “with babies.” The distress in her voice was clear.

Not only does Lumley know the worlds in which the products are needed, but she also impressed us with her knowledge of the items themselves, explaining how each device worked, and telling us about how the Raincatchers are light enough that anyone can set them up, and how the filters require no special chemicals to clean them, meaning they are easily maintained.

She finished by showing us the desalination systems for horticulture. “What I love, too, is this: you can take salt water, straight from the sea, into here. As it goes down it is cleaned and goes straight on to plants — a desert is suddenly made paradise.”

Admiring the display, she said proudly, “I just think it’s wonderful.”

The duo hope to open up distribution channels for the systems through major charities, socially-conscious businesses and other philanthropic groups.

For more information on the Raincatcher systems, visit

We would like to thank Joanna and Alexander for taking the time to share these inspiring products with us.

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