Help Make the Next Programme!

So it’s 2014 and the Bald Explorer is polishing his head and getting his walking boots out the cupboard for another year of exploring the British landscape. He will be winding up the clockwork mechanism on his camera and getting out to make another set of programmes for you to enjoy.

The next place I have my eye on is St. Albans in Hertfordshire. Boudicca attacked and burnt the Roman town there, the great Watling Street runs through it and the first engagement in the Wars of the Roses happened in a car park there. And there is plenty more besides …

In the past I have funded the (to date – eight) documentaries myself with the occasional help from generous fans of the show. The Community Channel really like the programmes and I get emails and messages from viewers who think the series should be on mainstream channels. Take this one from Jill C on Twitter:

Just watched @BaldExplorer on @ComChanTV exploring the canals of Britain. Here’s a programme needs more exposure! A ‘must watch!’

and this one from Les Benson via BE page on Facebook …

Brilliant programme. Presenter shows real interest in the subject and not with himself as is the case with most presenters.

Many are surprised to learn that the programme has, in fact, no budget at all, and that there isn’t a large crew of people running around making it happen. In the reality, it is just myself and one other and often that other is my son, Billy.

However, it does cost money to make the Bald Explorer documentaries. Apart from the wear and tear on filming gear and copious cups of tea and coffee required, there are also fees to contributors, insurances, fuel for transport, over night accommodation, sustenance and, on occasions, props to be bought.

The normal 45 minute programme takes about 6-10 days of filming and the further it is away from home, the more expensive it is to produce. Then, of course, there are the days before production starts, when I make a reconnoitre and find out where to film, meet the contributors, assess the problems likely to be encountered, such as parking, aircraft noise, access to locations, toilets and so forth.

So, I am now asking for additional help from the lovely supporters of the programme; would you help contribute? Even a small sum like £10 helps pay for parking costs. Last year, I did try the Kickstarter thing, but we didn’t reach the target and so none of the pledges ever reached me, even though plenty of people offered considerable sums. I do, however, have a Paypal donate button on the right hand side of the website and any money collected goes straight into a special production account of the Bald Explorer programme.

If you can help, it would enable me and the crew to make another episode at the beginning of the spring when the weather is warmer and the colours are bright. Thanks so much.

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.

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.

Bald Explorer’s New Video Channel

Finally, and I do not know why it has taken so long, I have gathered all the Bald Explorer video strands together and placed them within their own channel on Youtube. This will enable fans to find all the programmes a lot more easier, and also they can discover additional video snippets too – like the teasers and interviews that I do.

Over the years I have taken out three Youtube accounts and not really taken advantage of the benefits. I have the main Richard Vobes account, the video production account, Vobavision and now the Bald Explorer one. Of course, Youtube themselves haven’t really helped too much as they keep changing the interface and how to use it. I think they have settled down on a format they like. From what I can see they wish to encourage ‘channels’ – themed or niche channels with content that is searchable and easier to organise.

I do like the ability to make your own playlists and have, in effect, mini channels within the main channel. I would rather have more control on branding the layout, I don’t like it terribly much, but then, I can embed the videos into my own website any way I want so I really shouldn’t moan. 🙂

I hope shortly, to record a regular Bald Explorer video blog – something I have tried before and not kept up. With so much going on, it is tricky to keep everything in shipshape and Bristol fashion, but it would be good for the site to have a regular video newsletter. Watch this space!

Anyway, www.Youtube.com/BaldExplorer is the new Youtube hub, so please do subscribe and you will receive all the updates as they come along. The new episode, Taking the Water – the story of a spa town is complete and will be available to watch soon as well as broadcast on the Community Channel. (www.CommunityChannel.org)

The Bald Explorer is a self-funded television series broadcast on the Community Channel and Youtube. If you enjoy what I make and would like to see more programmes, please help make it happen. Do, if you can, make a donation towards the cost of the production by using the donate button on the right hand site of the website. Every little helps to pay for the costs! Thank you.

History – leave it to the professionals!

History: leave it to the professionals. This was the message I was getting from my radio when I listened to Juliet Gardiner’s programme, Presenting the Past, How the Media Changes History on BBC Radio 4’s Archive on 4 last week. I got very angry and wanted to submerge the FM receiver in the bath water, except that, it would have ruined a perfectly good old fashioned wireless and I didn’t want to do that.

Juliet Gardiner might well be an eminent historian who studied at university and obtained fabulous qualifications in history studies, enabling her to teach, write about and appear on TV programmes, but it made me wonder, is the pursuit and telling of history really only allowable in the hands of those that went in for high education?

I came away from my comprehensive school with a bunch of CSEs (Certificate of Secondary Education) and I went off to learn many skills, most of which were self-taught. Book reading has been my passion for as long as I can remember and in recent years I have been keen to learn as much as possible about local history as well as that of Britain’s past . I am passionate about it and when I see people walk past a timber-framed house, for example, built in the Elizabethan period and now turned into a trendy coffee shop or wine bar, I want to scream and tell people that it was originally a wool merchants house or whatever. Too many of us, brought up in England, Scotland and Wales take our historic properties for granted and do not even think of them as terribly significant – just as old quaint buildings. But while they are that – they have a past and a story, and that has an impact on all of us.

I do not have any qualifications in the study of history and I suppose that is why the BBC and other television channels may never want to use me to present any of their programmes, but that hasn’t stopped me wanting to share my thirst for knowledge of our fascinating past with my fellow citizens through the medium of film and TV.

The Bald Explorer is a documentary series that tries to introduce its viewers to the heritage of this nation and tell some of the stories from the past. I cannot call myself a historian, but I do not see that it matters. Provided I research my subject well, communicate the main points and do not make stuff up, I do not see why I should not be allowed to do this. However, listening to Juliet Gardiner, the other day, I was given the distinct impression that I should leave well alone. To my mind, the more people who can engage with history the better. If I can enthuse my passion and persuade others to take a second look at that timber framed building, pick up a book (one even written by Juliet Gardiner) and learn a bit more about where we come from, then this is a good thing.

I am not sure what axe she has to grind with ‘amateurs’ having a go, but I think it very shortsighted.

The Bald Explorer episode about Taking the Waters at Royal Tunbridge Wells is now complete and will be broadcast on the Community Channel early next year. If you would like to help these programmes and can afford to give a small donation, you may see the programming before the transmission dates. Head to the Bald Explorer website (www.BaldExplorer.com) to find out how to donate. Thank you.

Enhancing the Image

Work is nearly complete on the next Bald Explorer episode, Taking the Waters; a documentary about the discovery of the spring water at Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. However, there are still a few things to make it complete and hopefully assist the telling of the story.

When filming, particularly on a limited budget, it isn’t always possible to match the same production values as the big boys. The BBC love to take their presenters into museum archives and have them presenting pieces to camera while at the same time handling original texts, books and scrolls. It is as if they need to demonstrate visually that what they are telling the audience is factually true. To be honest, I do wonder how many people would know whether the so-called 17th century manuscript written on vellum and scrawled in ink by a quill pen is genuine, or that it is the book in question or even if it proclaims the things we are being told. We have to take all this on face value – but they do love to show you this type of thing, so you can ‘believe’ it is authentic.

I am afraid, I do have to cheat a little here. Whilst I try to give an as honest account as possible, I cannot pretend to be a leading authority on any subject, nor do I have the money to access the genuine original materials – but I am not really sure that I need to in order to tell the same story convincingly.pantiles-1650

However, cheating is really only there to help the message be understood. For example, in the first picture, (above) you will see me sitting in my kitchen with a few samples of what looks like chalybeate water. Chalybeate is actually crystal clear if taken from source, but it does contain quite a large amount of iron, which leaves an orange tinge in the glass. I filmed watered down Ironbru to colour the water slightly. I wanted to distinguish it from tap water and I am hopeful that using this commercial product it would even contain an element of iron!

Secondly, my kitchen is old fashioned, and no science lab – so to give it the feel of authenticity and help paint the picture of an old Victorian chemist’s lab, I added in post production a couple of period medical posters. Yes, they were not there when we filmed, but adding them afterwards gives the impression of a laboratory without me actually saying I am in one. Dramatic licence at work here, I think.

I also used a little computer graphics to create imagery of the original Pantiles and source of the spring water. We know from historical text it was surrounded by a shed and small fence and we are told a number of timber framed properties were built in close proximity before the current constructions were erected. I haven’t found any reference material for these early buildings so I have made an educated guess and the short animation is merely there to illustrate the descriptions.

The main aim of all this deceit, if one wants to call it that, is really to engage with the viewer, encourage people to either read further about the subject or visit the spring waters for themselves and make up their own minds.

The programme will be broadcast in the new year on the Community Channel. I make these programmes for free and as yet I do not gain an income from them. If you would like to help get these episodes produced and get to view the finished documentary before its first transmission, then please visit the website and make a small donation. You can find the Payal button on the right hand side. Thank you very much.