Ten Things You May Not Know About The Bald Explorer

Ten Things You May Not Know About Richard Vobes, AKA The Bald Explorer …

1. Richard lives in Worthing in West Sussex, close to Brighton on the south coast of England. His house is often referred to as the ‘Pink House’ due to the colour. He would love to paint an old map of England on the front really!

2. The first town featured in the Bald Explorer TV series is Lewes in East Sussex. It was chosen because of its proximity and its historical significance in Sussex.

3. In 1996 and 1997, Richard wrote, co-produced and starred in a children’s television comedy series on British television entitled ‘Snug and Cozi’. These were the adventurous mishaps of two crazy aliens who crash-land on Earth.

4. In the late 1980s and very early 90s, Richard appeared as a regular background police office in the ITV series ‘The Bill’. There were three units filming on the same set which at times caused quite a bit of confusion.

5. In his mid-twenties, Richard attended a three course at the Desmond Jones School of Mime in Shepherds Bush, London. This amounted to a year’s tutoring and he went on to perform mime plays and skits across the UK and abroad.

6. Richard is also learned a number of circus skills from which he made a living on the corporate entertainment circuit. These skills included, juggling, unicycling, fire-eating, stilt-walking, walking on glass, lying on a bed of nails, slack-rope walking and knife throwing!

7. In 2006, Richard caught a bug that began, over a four-year period, to destroy his left eye. It was Acanthamoeba keratitis, an amoeba which ate the cornea, resulting in three cornea transplants, each of which failed to take hold. At the end of July, Richard’s left was removed. He now wears a prosthesis.

8. Richard left Forest Boys school, in Horsham, at 15 in the late 1970s, with 8 CSE (Certificates of Secondary Education). He worked for two and a half years as a reprographics printer before leaving to work in a recording studio.

9. Richard was one of the first four British podcasters in the UK and started recording and uploading a 30 minute comedy podcast show in January 2005. He maintained this daily for 500 shows, then continued with five shows a week until he reached 1800 shows. This podcast ceased in 2012. He won an award for the Best Sounding Tour from the Peoples Podcast Awards in 2005. He continues to record a daily audio journal podcast, a behind the scenes of his life, called The Naked Englishman which commenced in January 2006.

10. Richard’s only vice is books, mostly secondhand history books. These mostly include British history and English social history. He cannot pass a secondhand bookshop without diving in and making a purchase.

The Bald Explorer in 2014

My job, if you can call it that, with the Bald Explorer programmes, is to look back in history and follow a story from the past with the perspective of today. In other words, I am retracing the steps of people or things that have gone before us, whether they are the smugglers on the Romney Marshes or a Shropshire canal that has long since been abandoned. I also try to discover the historical highlights from small, perhaps lesser known, towns and villages in the British landscape.

The documentaries, which are broadcast on the Community Channel, a not-for-profit television station and freely available to most of the British population on various digital platforms, as well as on the internet website, Youtube, are completely self-funded. By that I mean, the production budget, such as it is, comes directly from my own pocket or the kind donations received from viewers and fans who appreciate the series. I am not, at time of writing anyway, in receipt of any payment for the programmes and they currently do not make any financial return.

Although these somewhat quirky, individual, and hopefully unique, programmes are not what could be strictly described as ‘expensive’ to produce (I visit places and present the material to camera), there are costs associated with each episode. Travel expenses, overnight stays, liability insurance, food and, occasionally, location fees can be listed as the necessary out-goings that I have to find. To date, I have been lucky, in that it has been possible to cajole friends, offspring or interested parties to give up their time for free and assist me with the making of the Bald Explorer episodes. The subjects covered and locations visited have, for the most part, been within easy reach of my home, or a friend’s home, and as a result, the programmes have been made possible to produce. However, as we move into the future, and with 2014 around the corner, I would like to broaden the scope and reach of the Bald Explorer documentaries. Travelling further afield and exploring places that are genuinely ‘new’ to me would, I am certain, add value, as well as, audience enjoyment, to the series. The problem is financing it all.

I have experimented with a fund-raising campaign on Kickstarter, but the results, although optimistic, did not bring in enough pledges to make a series of several episodes in one go – the most cost-effective method of making television programmes. As a consequence, I am forced to continue making each episode one at a time and simply try to cover the basic expenses. Naturally, at this stage, I am more than happy to give up my free time to produce the episodes (they are very important to me) but, self-funding them as before, is no longer possible.

The question, therefore, is can the viewing public help and how can this be managed?

In an ideal world, it would be great to have a dedicated fund-raiser to take on the role of managing the fundraising process. I am not sure I can do this myself, for I know my limitations and although I maybe good at researching the shows, scripting the episodes, pre, shoot and post production processes, the marketing and money-finding is definitely not one my strengths. So, I would be curious to see if the readers of my website and enthusiastic fans of the show might like to help or could suggest ideas towards raising the necessary cash to make the future episodes of the Bald Explorer happen?

Before I leave you, as always, may I please draw your attention to the donations button on the top right hand side of the Bald Explorer website, where your generosity is much appreciated. Thank you.

St Albans – a bloody history!

Yesterday I jumped on a train and stepped off in a city that has been the site of plenty of murderous history in its time. I was in St. Albans. I was surprised to learn it was a city, being that it started and remained for most of it’s life a ‘one street town’. By that I mean, like many places in Britain, it grew up around a through road, and in this case the famous Roman road of Watling Street.

The city was named after Saint Alban, the first British Christian martyr who was beheaded by the Romans for refusing to give up his new faith. Alban, originally a Romano-British pagan, was so impressed with the piety of a Christian priest that he sheltered from religious persecution that he cast off his pagan beliefs and became a Christian convert. When the Romans came calling, Alban offered himself up in the place of the other priest. As a result, when this was discovered, the Romans became so angry they beheaded him. Later, when invaders returned home to Rome, the Roman City of Verulamium became known as St. Albans.

Before that, Boudicca, queen of the British Iceni tribe, led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. She and her tribe of warriors went on the rampage against the invaders attacking what is now called Colchester, London and St Albans. It took place in AD 60-61. Below the ground of these three towns archeologists have discovered a layer of carbon and ash. It is the remains from the sacking (burning down to the ground) of these Roman occupied centers.

battlefield-bookI was here, not to attack or rampage the place, but to meet up with author Robert Bard and his assistant Leslie Abrahams, to talk about the two battles from the War of the Roses that also took place on this historic site. Robert’s book, London’s Lost Battlefields, explains that there were two important conflicts fought here. The first, on 22nd May 1455, kicked off the numerous battles of the 32 year feud between the most powerful families in England at the time. Each side, represented by the colour of a rose, was vying for right to be King.

This war should have been called the War of the Car Parks; it is hard to believe that in an unassuming St Alban’s car park (one that Robert found a unique way of getting his car into – through the closed of bollards) opposite a pub, the first confrontation of the War of the Roses began. It would eventually lead to the death of Richard the Third and a burial in another car park in Grey Friars Street, Leicester. However, as you stand in the first car park, picturing how the Yorkists faced up to the Lancastrians for the first time, there is no official plaque or marker to tell the visitor of this important historical moment.

A great amount of detail from the two battles that took place during the War of the Roses in St Albans has been recorded. There is plenty of gory descriptions by those that took part, and also from observers living in or visiting the town. You may walk up the high street, between St. Peter’s church, at one end, and the Abbey at the other, with a 15th century clock tower near the middle, and picture the carnage and death that was happening 558 years ago. Many of the original buildings remain standing.

I am planning to return with my camera and make an episode of the Bald Explorer in the new year (2014) and tell part of that story.

If you would like to help make this happen and would like to be one of the first people to enjoy this episode, before it becomes broadcast on the Community Channel, then please make a donation on the right hand side of the BE website. Without out your support these important programmes, which incidentally are not funded in any other way, cannot happen. Thanks very much.

Episode 8: Taking the Water

Richard Vobes is the Bald Explorer and in this episode he is in search of the spring water of a Spa town in Kent.The Chalybeate of Tunbridge Wells – that’s pronounced ‘kal-eeb-ee-ot’ by the way, means iron water. In the programme to be aired on the Community Channel early next year, Richard will tell how the original orange coloured waters were discovered, by whom and how a fashionable resort arose from nothing at the beginning of the 17th century.

This is the 8th full length in the series of programmes, funding by Richard and some of his followers. You can help fund the next episode by making a donation on the right of the website.