In summer 2015, we met Dr Ellen Harris, a Handel scholar that took us on a tour of Mayfair and introduced us some of the characters that were the great composer’s friends and neighbours for an insightful video for Handel House Museum. The video was inspired by an exhibition on display in the museum at 25 Brook Street which was itself based on Dr Harris’s book: George Frideric Handel – A Life with Friends
Since filming, Handel House has changed its name to reflect its fuller history and new exhibitions. Handel and Hendrix in London now includes a full replica of Jimmy Hendrix’s apartment. Hendrix lived at 23 Brook Street in the late 1960s and the museum has expanded to incorporate a fuller musical history.
Every summer, the Horniman hosts a large outdoor event and, for the second year, we were invited to capture the community coming together in Forest Hill. This yeah, Africa was the theme for the whole of the summer in the museum and gardens inspired by their incredible African collections. Africarnival was the culmination of all the events and activities that had happened before it.
We were really struck by the scale of the event and the incredible atmosphere across the gardens as audiences watched acrobats, danced to live bands, paraded in the carnival, took dance workshops, ate Ghanian street foods and generally smiled from ear to ear. It was truly joyous to share in the experience with such a diverse crowd that could only be found in London.
Thissummer we had the pleasure of working with Chelsea Physic Garden to create a video exploring the many aspects that makes the garden such a lovely place to visit and support. Through insightful conversations with staff and volunteers, it was clear how much passion there is for this “hidden gem”. It was wonderful to have the garden and its history open up to us yet still leave us feeling like there is much more to discover.
The Horniman completed their on going project to review their collections earlier this year and we were invited to capture elements of their final theme, War and Peacemaking. We worked closely with curator Tom Crowley to film a number of incredible objects from the store and were introduced to contemporary cultural practice and art pieces that are directly linked to these objects. It was a revelation to hear how seriously museum professionals take the display of weaponry and indeed how loosely the the understanding of what makes a weapon may be in some cultures. There were a great many messages, ideas and events to capture for this film and yet we still only feel like we were scratching the surface of this complex topic.
I would encourage you to watch the film and leave your comments or visit the Horniman’s website for more information.
Earlier this year we were commissioned to by Heritage Lottery Fund to capture an evening of events discussing the involvement of the Empire in the First World War. The event was to draw attention to their funding stream encouraging people to investigate how their community was involved in the war. It was a completely fascinating event and we met an exciting range of people including veterans from the West Indies, currently serving officers, actors, historians, authors and interested secondary students.
The contribution to the war effort by soldiers from India, Africa and the West Indies was not something that I was at all familiar with and the more we learned the more fascinating we realised this hidden story was. Simple facts like there were more Indian soldiers fighting in the war than White British Stories to individual stories of young black men rising through the ranks to lead troupes made me question how such fascinating and emotional stories could be missing from the narrative of the First World War. One veteran of the Second World War, Sam King, who was also the first black Mayor of Southwark, told us of one example where this was case for him:
Please watch this video and then research some the background to these stories and find out how the Great War really was a world effort, hopefully more stories will emerge thanks to this funding stream from the HLF.
We recently completed a film for the Handel House Museum exploring the composer’s connection with the Royal family during his time in London. It was a fantastic opportunity to speak with knowledgeable and enthusiastic people about a fascinating period in London’s history. We heard all sorts of rumours including one hinting that Handel may have been a spy when he first arrived in London but, as ever, not everything can make the final cut.
We spent one lovely serene day filming between the grey walls of the room where Handel died in his bed and treading on the (squeaky) original floorboards that Handel would have trodden on between bouts of writing not only The Messiah but the great pieces that can be heard in the film, all pieces that were written specifically for members of the Stuart and Hanoverian dynasties.
The Horniman runs a very inclusive volunteer programme providing public facing activities and experiences for their visitors helping them to engage with the museum and garden collections. Engage in nature, it is also Engage in name. The Engage Programme was started five years ago in 2009 and to mark this anniversary we were invited to make a short film explaining the work that was shown as part of the celebrations at an Afternoon Tea in the Pavilion of the Horniman Gardens.
With so much to cover we had a packed day giving is a real insight to the variety of opportunities available to volunteers. We were able to see, not only how much the visitors get out of their interactions with the hard working volunteers, but how much the volunteers get back by speaking to former volunteers who are now employed – both at the museum and in other organisations.
Luckily we had really beautiful weather which really helped capture the feeling and atmosphere of this successful addition to a wonderful museum.
A little while back the Horniman invited us to cover an event they were hosting exploring amulets and amuletic practice. I wasn’t sure what an amulet is so it was fascinating to see and explore the amulets from the Horniman collection that ranged from a First World War intricate heart shaped tin keepsake to a necklace made of human teeth.
Speakers at the event included representatives from the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall as well as anthropologists from UCL and international artists.
As a non-specialist observer it was interesting to hear those involved debating what it is that makes something an amulet, which was one of the key questions that we wanted to answer when we were first asked to cover this event. For some it seemed it can be anything that we might use as a lucky item. Although I am not immune to superstition I realised that I don’t have any amulets myself but I do wonder how many people do hold special or lucky items with them, particularly for special occasions.
We have been engaged by Heritage Lottery Fund to create a series of videos to promote their
#YoungRoots funding stream. You can read more about the programme on the HLF Young Roots web page.
Our filming strategy to create three different videos involves visiting a tiny fraction of the projects that are currently happening across the UK and our first stop was with The Family La Bonche in Newcastle. They are a young circus group working with Circus Central who were just as excited about us coming as we were about getting to visit them:
This was the first time either of us had been to Newcastle and to say we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. The city is beautiful and the riverfront in particular is spectacular.
It manages to feel both large and compact all at the same time with culture round every corner. We spent a good couple of hours filming some location shots of this beautiful city before meeting up with the La Bonches around lunchtime. We walked in on trapeze acts, juggling, and uni-cycling.
It was a real pleasure to meet this group of young people, who really stretched the entire age range of the Young Roots age range 11-25. They are so passionate about their chosen discipline. They had endless energy to repeat tricks and seemed to enjoy impressing us as much as we enjoyed being stunned by their skills.
Lunch was delivered by unicycle, naturally, and juice was balanced on heads before we headed off to the wonderful Discovery Museum which is home to the Tyne and Wear Archives, the partner organisation the group had been working with.
They have been looking into the local archives of circus and fairground memorabilia collected by Arthur Fenwick, the son of a local businessman who had started Fenwicks department stores, after he had returned to the family business following a few years of having run off to the circus: something these young people could easily connect with. Their enthusiasm for circus was such that the archives could never have been boring to them but were instead a treasure trove of heritage and stories. These stories were pouring out of everyone and sadly we already know that very few can make it into our final films.
Once we had finished looking around the archives and learning about women who went shopping with their live pet crocodiles once upon a time in Newcastle (True Story) we juggled and stilt walked back to minibus and headed out to the countryside to a beautiful moor just outside the city limits which is the traditional home of visiting circuses and there we filmed some lovely shots of the young people engaging in their chosen skills. They never failed to impress and kept raising the bar so we got some fantastic footage and had a wonderful day with this family of entertainers who have an amazing Young Roots project and very bright futures.
The video is just over two minutes long but because it’s in time lapse it covers three full working days of material.
We started by going in a few days early to his spit and polish so that he would be leaving looking his best. There was a very surreal moment when Christopher Biggins arrived to take a couple of shots of the walrus and then disappeared again. Nobody seemed to know why and the museum wasn’t even open yet. Anyway the walrus looked very clean and relaxed at the end of that day.
On Monday we did arrive at what we thought was a “very early” 0715hrs to begin filming his departure but contractors and museum staff had been in since 6am to prepare for the moment everyone was very anxious about. Lifting the one tonne gentleman over the cabinets by way of a winch. We did question why they couldn’t just move the cabinets but turns out that the beautiful Victorian casing is much more problematic to move than an overstuffed walrus.
There was a lot of excitement in the air, with a slight hint of nervous tension, and there was a lot of interest surrounding the fact that he was getting x-rayed before he left. Apparently this is the first time he has ever had his insides examined. I overheard two Natural History curators casually discussing if they thought any of his bones were still inside. They both agreed that his skull and flipper bones must be there as the shape of them was accurate compared to his over stuffed body. They were of course proved correct. I love it when people obviously know what they are talking about. Expertise at work!
To create the sliding effect whilst maintaining the time lapse effect can be done with a very expensive piece of equipment or with a lot of patience. On this occasion we went with patience. We placed the camera on our slider and moved the slider a quarter of a centimetre every three seconds. The result is a dynamic and fluid shot.
This is why when the moment came for the walrus to fly over the cabinets I missed the whole thing. I was fully focused on moving the camera a solid quarter centimetre. I managed to get a look of his while he was suspended in the air which was rather awe inspiring. There was a palpable sense of relief when he touched the ground again and applause spontaneously erupted for all those involved. It was a great job, well done and exactly to plan.
I think I'll have seen about everything, now I've seen @HornimanWalrus fly!
After a little bit of crating he was allowed an early night because the next day he was wrapped up, padded and battened into his crate for the journey to Margate. He looked rather peaceful and we decided he looked like he was going to Margate for a spa treatment. His crate was then fully closed up and he was left in isolation.
The next morning was another very early start and we all hung around in the gardens waiting for his grand exit. The conditions were arctic, perhaps to make him feel more at home, and after waiting for some time he was lifted into the lorry very quickly and easily.
Spent the morning filming & senses being attacked by icy cold winds & noise of the traffic on the south circular #glamour@HornimanMuseum
We thought we had very little time to get into position to see him leave the site so dashed off but in reality everyone else went off for a cup of tea and we stood on the south circular in rush hour traffic in windy and cold conditions waiting for everyone to return. In minutes it was all over and off he went to Margate.