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.

Episode 7: Crumbling Churches

The parish church is one of the oldest buildings in the British landscape. Most of them have been here for over 900 years and some date from the Saxon period. They are ubiquitous; their steeples point above the rooftops, the bell towers chime on a Sunday, pews of some age are lined up towards the altar and their churchyards are packed with ancient headstones of once prominent members of the the locality.

The importance and role of the village, or town church, is hard to over state; and yet, these very buildings, where men, women and children have been baptized, married and sent off to life beyond (if there is such a thing) are in trouble. The parish churches are crumbling away and there is not enough people supporting the faith, attending the congregation or concerned about it’s up keep.

Richard Vobes, the Bald Explorer, is on a mission to find out if we should continue to try and preserve these icons of our history or whether it is better to allow them to crumble away gracefully.

New Series – Hidden Heritage

be-sixtowns In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Alec Clifton-Taylor made a series of programmes with the BBC entitled Six English Towns, Six More English Towns and Another Six English Towns. He was principally interested with showing off the wonderful survivors of beautiful architecture that was available to discover in our towns across England. Although a simple premise of looking at buildings, he did it with such charm and authority, it became a landmark series. That was thirty years ago. Much of what he showed us still remains, fortunately, but in that time towns have expanded enormously and a lot of our heritage has been swallowed up and tucked away behind the commercial hoardings, large plate-glass windows and new utilitarian constructions; what survives nowadays is often ignored or taken for granted.
I am planning to go in search of my own six towns to explore the hidden gems that are under our noses and often overlooked. To fund this, with the help of the Community Channel, a Kickstarter fund-raising project will start towards the end of June this year. (More information on that will announced soon.) This will mean, with a small TV crew, I shall be making a jaunt in the autumn and spending one week at each of the following towns:

Lyme Regis – Dorset
Lyme Regis is a coastal town in West Dorset, England, situated 25 miles west of Dorchester and 25 miles (40 km) east of Exeter. The town lies in Lyme Bay, on the English Channel coast at the Dorset–Devon border. It is nicknamed “The Pearl of Dorset.” The town is noted for the fossils found in the cliffs and beaches, which are part of the Heritage Coast—known commercially as the Jurassic Coast.

Barnstaple – Devon
Barnstaple or is a former river-port, large town, civil parish and the capital of the local government district of North Devon in the county of Devon, England. Since 1974, it has been a civil parish governed by town council.

Monmouth – Monmouthshire, Wales
Monmouth is a traditional county town in Monmouthshire, Wales. It is situated where the River Monnow meets the River Wye, within 2 miles of the border with England. The town is 36 miles north-east of Cardiff, and 127 miles west of London

Bridgenorth – Shropshire
Bridgnorth is a town in Shropshire, England, situated on the Severn Valley. It is split into High Town and Low Town, named on account of their elevations relative to the River Severn.

Newark-on-Trent – Nottinghamshire
Newark-on-Trent is a market town in Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands region of England. It stands on the River Trent, the A1, and the East Coast Main Line railway.

Sandwich – Kent
Sandwich is a historic town and civil parish on the River Stour in the Non-metropolitan district of Dover, within the ceremonial county of Kent, south-east England. It has a population of 6,800.

I do hope you will support our fund-raising efforts, tell your friends and family about the project and following the progress here on the website and on Twitter (@BaldExplorer #BaldExplorer) and of course Facebook too.

The Bald Explorer on TV

I am very pleased to announce that from next week – Monday 22nd to Wednesday 24th October 2012, the Bald explorer will be having its first television transmission in the UK on the Community Channel. The first three episodes will be screened consecutively over these three days with my visit to Lewes on Monday, my look at historic journeys on Tuesday and the examination of old English Smuggles on the Romney Marshes on Wednesday. Who would have thought that 18 months ago when the Lewes episode was being filmed that the programme would get to a television screen near you? I am very thrilled.

The Community Channel is a digital network available on Sky, Freeview, Virgin and BT Vision so it has the potential to be seen by loads of viewers in the UK. It will also no doubt feature on their website as well, so of course that means anyone anywhere can watch the exploits of the bald man who loves towns and history in England.

If this goes well, I hope to increase the series with more episodes on the Community Channel in the coming months. There are more scripts being developed for further adventures and also DVD sales with additional extras scenes to be made available soon.

If anyone based in the UK would like to help make this series, get involved or has some suggestions of subject matters for the Bald Explorer to investigate, then please do get in touch – I would love to hear from you. Oh yes, and do let me know if you liked the TV series.