I had the great pleasure of addressing the Sussex Mills Group at their annual general meeting last night at Blatchington Windmill in Hove, East Sussex. The venue; a beautiful and lovingly restored 19th century windmill. I was thrilled to be given a brief tour up all five floors. A curious mill, for it sits upon a brick building whose original purpose is unknown, although possibly it was a coastguard lookout tower used to keep an eye out for smugglers.
The twenty or so windmill society members – either windmill owners themselves or members of windmill trusts and involved in the restoration of mills in Sussex – were gathered principally to elect and re-elected committee officers, approve minutes from the last meeting, air gripes and sort out any-other-business. After this a speaker usually gives a presentation on some aspect of heritage. It was my task to fill this 45 minute spot with something engaging. Naturally I told them about my heritage videos and how I made them.
However upon learning that the trustees and owners, who, shall I politely say, were of a certain age, weren’t promoting their windmills on social media, and actually shunned the likes of Facebook, Youtube and Twitter as newfangled and solely the frivolous domain of the young, I quickly changed tack. I suggested that while they weren’t on these platforms the rest of the world was and, as a result, they were missing a trick.
After thirty minutes of demonstrating the benefits of video and posting short clips to social media I think I convinced them to open their eyes. I reminded them they held fabulous assets. The public would love to come and explore. I went on to say they needed to attract young enthusiastic members to help keep up and promote these examples of Sussex heritage. It was all possible if they moved with the times.
Instead of dismissing my message as beyond their capabilities, as I feared, I was thrilled when a buzz in the room broke out. Questions were asked, opportunities seen. I suggested I would help by filming my walks around their windmills and post them on my website.
All in all, it was a very rewarding experience and I look forward to encouraging these lovely people to step into the 21st century.
People are always asking how I manage to get my video footage so smooth. Sometimes they are surprised when I tell them I shoot solo and there is no cameraman. “Who is holding the camera?” they cry. “I am!”
How is that possible? Easy when you are in the know. Let me explain.
My tiny GoPro5 action camera is mounted in a gimbal – a sort of low-budget steadicam rig. Three servo motors hold the camera in a fixed plane giving a smooth action when walking. Using an app it’s possible to adjust camera settings remotely, although I don’t do that, or rather can’t, because when recording, my spare hand is either holding a stick microphone to interview someone or gesticulating wildly trying to get over a point.
My voice, when working solo, is recorded via a tie-clip mic on to a digital recorder bolted at the bottom of the gimbal and the microphone’s wire is threaded behind my shirt, out of shot, before attaching to the recording unit.
And yes I do get funny looks from people when I stride down the street apparently talking to myself, but I have learnt to ignore them and just keep going.
A button on the gimbal handle flips the camera round 180 degrees enabling me to shoot the scene ahead, giving a point-of-view shot.
So it’s really easy and a great piece of kit for those smooth results I crave. Just get rid of the idiot in front of the camera and I’d have better videos!
‘Discover Worthing!’ Judy Fox, the town council’s marketing lady, exclaimed sitting behind a table at the Leaflet Exchange event at Michelham Priory the other day.
‘No need, I live there’, I retorted.
‘Who are you?’
‘I am the Bald Explorer!’ I informed her and, do you know, I think she was impressed.
Anyway, I gathered a load of publicity brochures from all the exhibitors who were promoting exciting places in Sussex to visit. I told them they needed the enterprising Mr Vobes and his camera to explore their impressive castles, stunning gardens and magnificent heritage railways, and instead of blank faces, this suggestion was met with great enthusiasm.
So it seems I shall be busy this coming season investigating the best of Sussex’s attractions. I shall seek out the history and show off the beauty of destinations such as Bateman’s House and Gardens, Bodiam Castle, Penshurst Place, Coombes Farm and Bewl Water to name but a very small few. They’ll be interviews, demonstrations and participation. It’s going to be a hoot! Filmed in glorious HD and presented on the Bald Explorer channel.
I also aim to take the show to some venues and broadcast LIVE while out and about!
One of the greatest pleasures making the Bald Explorer videos is meeting new people and working with guest presenters on the show. As well as Martin Snow, Harriet and little Lola, regulars on the channel, I am thrilled to have Julia Hartley-Neal joining me on my travels. Unconventional, enthusiastic and utterly lovely, Julia brings a certain magic to the productions.
Our recent visit to the fabulous Crowhurst Yew, an ancient tree residing in the graveyard of St George’s church in the tiny Surrey village, was a joy and Julia made it extra special with her love and fascination for nature.
Taking people with me on my travels brings the videos alive. Ed Warren from Northchapel, Elizabeth Housden from Liss, Chris Monk from Newhaven and of course, Dumpman, (Chris Bedford) from Henfield are just the sort of folk that make the programmes fascinating, increasing interest from the growing audience. I constantly seek equally enthusiastic guest presenters to accompany me on my travels.
Julia and I have more videos planned, not least a mini adventure, a three day expedition to mystical Glastonbury in Somerset in April. This trip, fully funded my my wonderful patrons, promises to produce some fabulous viewing. Keep coming back to the website to discover what the Bald One and his lovely cohorts are up to in the coming months. This year promises to very special indeed.