Yes, I realise it’s been a while since I wrote an update here. ‘What happened in 2020 then, Rich?’ I hear you ask. Well, despite that there virus, and despite revelling in the social distance thing, things have somehow ticked over. I have now begun the relaunch of my Dark Harbour Tales book series. Having learnt a lot of things about self-publishing, I realised my books would benefit from a revamp, now I know what I’m doing. So the first one, Halo of Fires, is currently relaunched and available, and the second book isn’t far away; I’m looking to release that one in May. Although these two books are reworkings of my original releases, there is a brand new tale in this series, Into The Fires. This is available right now exclusively through my other website, so make sure to check that out. It’s free!
Aside from those books, there is a third Dark Harbour book in the works to complete the trilogy, and that’s not too far away. As for my other book, the vampire story Broken Melody, I’m looking to turn that into a series with an upcoming sequel. That’s not too far away from completion either, although it’s on the back burner for now. 2021 may well give the illusion I’m somewhat prolific. I’m really not!
I’m also working on something completely different, which I’m aiming to release around November. This one is absolutely nothing supernatural, no blood and guts or anything like that. It’s set in the real world of my home county Lincolnshire, and how much realer can you get than Lincolnshire?
So, lots to look forward to. In amongst all this, I also desperately need to schedule in a haircut, as currently I’m rocking a serious lockdown mop. The last time I got it cut was just before lockdown 2 in early November. The cat doesn’t seem to mind my dishevelled look though.
One summer’s day seventy years ago, the great Walt Disney visited a tiny Lincolnshire village 17 miles from my home where he created a secret portal that would magically transport people to his Disney World theme park in America. Okay, so maybe not all of that is true… but remarkably some of it is.
True story time: Last month I realised a lifelong dream when my wife took me to Disney World in Florida (it coincided with me turning 40… yay!). I found it a pretty surreal experience being there, this place that, as a kid, I could only dream about visiting.
Norton Disney or Walt Disney World. Can you guess which one?
When my brothers and I were young, our aunt and uncle once gave us this VHS tape that was essentially a publicity video of all the attractions of Disney World. They’d visited Disney World themselves (they’re American, so it was a tad easier to get to than it is for us). I don’t know how many times I watched that video, but I was completely enthralled, vicariously enjoying attractions such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the Haunted Mansion, even the animatronics of the Hall of Presidents.
A Dream Called Walt Disney World, PAL version
The video incorporated some archive footage of Walt Disney talking about how the idea for Disneyland came to him as he was sitting in a park eating peanuts (that detail always stuck out in my mind for some bizarre reason). Even though I was enthralled by the magic of Disney like every other kid, I think that video was the first time that I’d actually seen Walt Disney himself. It had never occurred to me who the man behind Walt Disney was. ‘Walt Disney’ seemed to mean something much bigger than one man.
As the years went by, the dream of going there myself inevitably began to fade, so last month it really was like reanimating a forgotten childhood dream as a world-weary adult, and as I wandered around the park and kept seeing the various attractions in Magic Kingdom I would keep thinking back to the footage I’d seen of them in this vintage video, unlocking these deep childhood memories. While I was over there, I had a dig around YouTube and found someone had uploaded this particular video if you fancy seeing it.
Freeze! It’s the FBI! Put down the camera and obey the copyright!
Since I’ve been back, I dug out my copy of the video (it survived the great VHS tape cull of 2007, naturally) – coincidentally my aunt was over from America and her eyes lit up in surprise when I showed it to her. My brother reminded me that it was a Christmas present, circa late 80s / early 90s. Watching it back, I love how US videos start with this stern FBI warning. I imagine the feds will bust down my door now for illegally copying even this warning sign (presumably the guy who put the whole thing on YouTube is on Death Row now). My cousin and I once made our own comedy film with this very premise… but that’s another story.
Fancy a swim?
While we were over in Florida, we spent a day at Magic Kingdom and a day at Hollywood Studios, which, as an adult, held an even greater pull for me with the new Galaxy’s Edge area that has been created there. I think if it was 30-year-younger me visiting, I would have happily also spent a day at Epcot and other places like Universal Studios. My sensory capacity threshold as a 40-year-old is definitely a lot lower, however, and so we also spent slower paced days visiting the beach and checking out the Florida wildlife (we even found some alligators!)
Right before I took the Millennium Falcon for a spin
The cool thing about Galaxy’s Edge is that it’s a really immersive experience and you feel like you’re walking around a Star Wars world. So the filmmaker in me couldn’t help but get creative and I found myself putting the camera in my wife’s hands and getting her to film me being daft again as we made another offbeat video.
Another Magical Adventure
Remember the New York video? The tiny Lincolnshire hamlet that shares a name with an American metropolis? I thought it was time for another one of those. There’s no villages around me with the name of Orlando, or Galaxy’s Edge, or Hollywood Studios, but there is a quaint little place 17 miles away called Norton Disney which just happens to be the ancestral home of the Disney family. So that’s the particular Lincolnshire village where I had my next magical adventure…
As I started making this video, it reminded me of a story I’d once read where Walt Disney himself had popped in to this very Lincolnshire village one day back in the summer of 1949. He was there to research his ancestry, and as I re-familiarised myself with the story, I became quite fascinated by it. One photo of the event shows him standing by a road sign which also happened to have my home town of Sleaford on it. Somehow those two things just don’t go together, but with Disney of course, anything is possible…
In the very spot where Walt Disney crouched 70 years earlier
So I’ve also started making a new video about this fascinating little story, along with my friend Dan Sumpton (he’s the librarian in the phone box) as we try and find the very spots where Walt Disney once stood exactly 70 years ago. Stay tuned for that.
Alas, a busy guy like Walt Disney didn’t stay long that day in Norton Disney. He wrote in his diary that he had to ‘pop off again’, hence my final line in my video.
It’s never been a particular ambition of mine to be involved with a Christmas number 1 single, yet strangely I find myself in that position for the third time with what is most definitely the best shot of the lot. This time I’ve been working with a television legend who’s been on our screens for over 50 years, the one and only Basil Brush!
The man behind the camera with the fox in front of the camera
It was back in October when I travelled with my fellow filmmakers Chris Clark and Dan Sumpton to ‘Brush Manor’ in Oxfordshire for a three day film shoot of ‘White Christmas’. The single was the brainchild of radio legend Mike Read (currently appearing with Basil in panto) and he got some top record producers to arrange and record the song.
The cover for the White Christmas single. The song is available for download now on Amazon and iTunes!
It was a bit of a rerun of last year as Chris directed the music video and I mainly filmed a behind the scenes documentary. I was also on hand for the main shoot, naturally, holding a blue screen here and there, doing some B camera work, creating some fake snow. Chris then spent a few weeks in post production making it look all Christmasy and even more snowy, even though we’d been filming during a warm and sunny October!
The story was something our local BBC news team reported on, with Look North coming out to interview us while Basil was interviewed by Peter Levy.
I bet you’ll never guess what Basil is getting for Christmas!
On the set of ‘White Christmas’, me between Dan Sumpton and Jonathan Owen (the producer of the video). Photo: Basil Brush.
Chris Clark the music video director chatting with Basil after we’d finished filming.
It was quite a hectic few days we had; whenever Basil was waiting between shots I would squeeze in some little interviews with him to use in my documentary before Chris was ready to film their next scene. The shoot wasn’t without problems, like how we would maneuver a great big trampoline over a hedge for an important shot.
In my video you’ll get to learn which famous Christmas TV advert was the inspiration for this particular shot. You’ll also hear about which other musical legend created his music in ‘Brush Manor’.
Although it would be nice to get Basil to number 1 this Christmas (that little fox has some fine lungs on him let me tell you!), the aim of the single is to raise money and awareness for a children’s charity called Shooting Star Chase. Whilst I was putting together my documentary, I looked into the charity and what it was all about. It was extremely sobering to learn about some of the cases of these children, so I really hope that Basil’s single is a success and can help raise some money for them.
Please do check out my video too, and don’t forget to buy / download the single and help out some kids who are not as fortunate as ourselves.
Radio legend Mike Read with Jonathan Owen, Dan Sumpton and Basil.
A couple of months back I had an email from Photobox about a book they were going to publish, made up of images of the Royal Family taken by members of the public. It had presenter Jennie Bond and historian Dominic Sandbrook behind it, and was inspired by a photo that a member of the public had taken of Prince William, Kate, Prince Harry and Meghan last Christmas, an image that then went viral.I thought back to the only images I’ve ever taken of the Royal Family, which were on one particular day in November last year. I happened to be in the capital one Monday morning with my fiancé. We’d spent the weekend there seeing a show (The Toxic Avenger Musical no less!) and visiting the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. With time to kill until our train back to Sleaford, we wandered around seeing the sights.
Buckingham Palace on Monday 27th November 2017
We’d seen the news as we were getting up that morning, the announcement that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were engaged, so somehow we gravitated towards Buckingham Palace. As we walked up The Mall, there was a police presence, and no vehicles on the road until a motorcade came right past us. We could only assume that it was Harry and Meghan onboard. For some reason we thought that they might make an appearance at Buckingham Palace so we hung around there until we found out that actually they were going to appear at Kensington Palace. With hours still until our train, we decided to trek on over there. Incidentally, by foot that’s actually quite a long way so it felt like quite the expedition!
I stopped to take a photo of this squirrel and magpie on the way in Kensington Gardens.
Media people outside Kensington Palace
When we arrived there, we saw that the world’s media were already there, a long line of television crews shooting endless reports and footage of the palace, waiting for Harry and Meghan to appear. We took a spot by a gate, and soon afterwards the crowd we were in swelled with paparazzi, reporters, royal fanatics and random onlookers joining us to get a glimpse of the couple.
With a dish that big I bet they were able to broadcast all the way to Tatooine.
Look! That’s Lizo Mzimba! And maybe Jane Hill?
Eventually Harry and Meghan appeared. I cursed myself for not bringing my longer lens with me on this trip, but as it happened, it was probably a good thing. The image I submitted to Photobox had other people’s mobile phones creeping into shot, a bobby at the edge of the frame quietly watching on. It probably encapsulated well what Photobox were after: the more spontaneous, ‘behind-the-scenes’ type photographs that regular people take of the royal family, not the clean, slick and polished photos that you see in newspapers and magazines.
My photo of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the Crown from the Crowd book
I found the whole process fascinating – fascination with other people’s fascination, I guess. I took plenty of video on my DSLR, and just watched as the journalists went straight to work on putting their articles together. We were even interviewed ourselves by a reporter from one of the papers.
And I interviewed this guy. He was awesome.
Afterwards they let the riff raff loose in the gardens where Harry and Meghan made their announcement
Amazingly, and much to my delight, my photo was chosen for the book. I had a sneaking suspicion it would be when it was used in an article about the book in The Mirror.
There are some fascinating photos in this book stretching right throughout the decades, and I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s going to be presented to Harry and Meghan on their wedding day so I hope they like the snap I got of them. You can get a copy of The Crown from the Crowd from Photobox and all profits go to Help for Heroes.