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.

Lost Battlefields of London

Every now and then someone sends me an email to say they have a great idea or subject for the Bald Explorer. Sadly, I am not always able to follow up these ideas because the location is too far away or the cost to make such a show, for me at the moment, too prohibitive. On other occasions, I get in touch with someone I happened to have spotted either on a website or via Twitter that takes my fancy.

Robert Bard is one such person I am meeting up this week to discuss a possible collaboration on an episode about the lost battlefields of London. His book, Lost Battlefields of London, I believe recently published, gives a terrific insight to numerous key places where fatal disputes have played out between the Crown and aggressor over the years from the Roman era to the First World War.

Robert obviously has a healthy interest in death, destruction and conflict in our capital city, having written a number of books the subject, including a search for the plague pits, lost graveyards, the Tyburn Tree (the site at Marble Arch where many a felon was hanged, often dragged from Newgate Prison on a hurdle and later disemboweled and hacked to pieces and distributed either around London or the country), and other places of execution.

Looking at his profile on Amazon, it tells us: Robert Bard PhD was born in London, 1956. The author attended University of Liverpool, then preferring something glamorous to work, he became an airline pilot. After a number of years discovering that it was actually hard work, he went into the family confectionery manufacturing company where he remained until 1990.

He has also written a number of local history books about the towns close to where he lives in North London.

I have yet to tackle a Bald Explorer episode in the capital city. There is so much to explore it has been a difficult decision to know where to start. Filming on such busy streets is also a problem, especially when it comes to recording sound. Having tried to shoot a few pieces here in the past, I have been surprised by the deafening noises from pedestrians, trains, buses, taxis and aeroplanes. That is not to say it is impossible – there are plenty of TV shows that are based in the great city and they do not have problems.

Stories obviously abound and it is knowing which to concentrate on within the limited 45 minute format that the Bald Explorer series takes. With the help of an expert on hand to guide me to the sites of old battles, I am sure we shall manage. I am fascinated to see where, for example, Wat Tyler was beheaded at the end of the Peasants Revolt of 1381, the bloody battle for London Bridge took place during the rebellion of Jack Cade in 1450 and learn more about the plundering and burning of Newgate Prison during the Gordon Riots of 1780.

London’s Lost Battlefields is a great introduction to gory events that took place on the Capital’s streets (not really forgotten) but often lost from our minds as we rush about trying to get from important meeting to new exhibition when visiting London. Many of the original buildings have disappeared or have been rebuilt over the past 2000 years and so you need to bring your imagination with you as you follow in the footsteps and picture the struggles that went on in our glorious and impressive past. It is a super book and has some cracking photographs too to help you explore these macabre sites.

You can purchase Robert Bard’s book, London’s Lost Battlefields by following this link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Londons-Lost-Battlefields-Robert-Bard/dp/1781552487/ref=la_B0034Q983W_1_1/279-3321448-2869943?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384156505&sr=1-1

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.

The Eddystone Lighthouse

There are many places I would like to go and film for the Bald Explorer – as you know the programmes are self funded at the moment and because of that I am very limited in the locations I can go. It takes about ten days to shoot an episode and the great expense is accommodation. I suspect that there would be far more costs involved to do a piece about the Eddystone Lighthouse.

My previous post was about the Great Storm of 1703. It was an event which although caused colossal devastation and an estimated 8000 deaths, not to mention a terrible blight to the Royal Navy and other sea faring ships, it goes pretty unnoticed in most history books. The tempest, as written about by Daniel Defoe in The Storm, published in 1704, does get its biggest claim to fame in the destruction of the first Eddystone Lighthouse.

The Eddystone Rocks are an extensive reef approximately 12 miles SSW of Plymouth Sound, one of the most important naval harbours of England, and midway between Lizard Point, Cornwall and Start Point. Taking a wide berth meant almost hugging the coast of France. Many ships had come a cropper and become wrecked on these treacherous rocks.

England has been on and off at war with France in our 2000 year history and it was deemed sensible to provide a light or warning beacon to the position of the rocks, particularly so that mariners were able to navigate to and from the Plymouth harbour safely, especially in bad weather.

Henry Winstanley was a showman and an eccentric who had become famous for his waterworks near Hyde Park; it was a popular attraction for tourists and travellers both in Britain and abroad. Winstanley also lost cargo in his own ships to the hazard reef and decided that something must be done. He designed a lighthouse and informed the Admiralty of his intent to erect it on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks.

Work commenced in July 1696. Finding a suitable place to build such a thing wasn’t simple and it took a while to survey. He was provided with a man-of-war the Terrible, which enabled him and his men to get close and row out with supplies. However, only the rods, roughly twelve feet long, part of the foundations, had been drilled and positioned into the hard rock by the end of the summer and the team had to wait until the follow year to continue the work.

The following year much better progress was made and by the end of June, Winstanley thought it safe enough to stay overnight in the shell. The construction was fine, he just hadn’t expected a French ship to come alongside and kidnap him. Fortunately, he was released and returned to work.

On 14th November, 1698, 60 candles were lit in the lantern room and finally the much needed warning light drifted over the Plymouth Sound. In the spring of 1699, Henry returned and discovered that much deterioration had occurred in such a little time to the wooden superstructure, that he decided to adapt his original building by encasing it with an outer layer, four feet thick of stone and he also raised it an additional 40ft higher. Some people refer to this as the second Eddystone Lighthouse, giving the impression that it had either fallen down or been completely rebuilt from scratch. In fact, this was really a modification and strengthening to the original.

Sadly, when the 1703 storm came, Henry Winstanley, so convinced of his design and strength of the lighthouse made the decision to sit out the night in it. His fate was sealed, for although it had lastest well for five years, the waves and wind were like of which that had never been seen before. The lantern was smashed and water filled the innards of the building. Winstanley and the other men with him all perished.

The Bald Explorer is a self funded project, making and producing TV programmes that become broadcast on the not-for-profit Community Channel and on their Youtube Channel. If you would like to help and see more episodes produced, you can assist by making a donation to the special Paypal account – the donate button is on the right hand side of the Bald Explorer website. Thanks so much.