Category Archives: Video

Summer 2015

I feel very guilty as I’ve not written a blog all summer and it’s mid-September now – don’t worry, I’ll get over it.

Not sure why not, I’ve been very busy but I also think I just wanted a break if I’m completely honest – but hey, I’m back so panic over.

What have I been up to?

Well the first part of summer was taken up with the Manchester International Festival. Every two years, Manchester hosts an arts festival where every performance is a premiere.


Two years ago I was gutted to miss out on tickets for Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth, so this year we signed up to become a friend of the festival, which, for a small fee, meant we got advance notice of all the shows and priority booking. Despite some glitches with the booking website we managed to see some great shows, including; Damon Albarn’s ‘Wonderland’ musical (interesting), Maxine Peake in ‘The Skryker’ (brilliant), Charlotte Rampling in ‘Kneck of the Woods’ (disappointing), Adam Buxton (very funny), Bork, various exhibitions and two full days of talks called ‘Interdependance’ (fascinating). We also saw Professor Brian Cox talk about his upcoming ‘Age of Starlight’ show, which looks amazing.

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On the filmmaking side, I’ve been involved with Bokeh Yeah and we shot our latest short film in Cheshire last month- we’ve finished the edit and are waiting for my son, Alex, to complete the music – very exciting.

We have several other films in preparation including, at least two poetry films – watch this space.

The big project we’re considering at the moment is the Shining Tor Film School.

Can’t say too much at present, but we’re planning to run some basic film-making courses for absolute beginners, probably starting in the new year – if we can find a suitable venue!

Last week, Lady Hughes and myself came back from a rare holiday. One scorching week in Malta. More to come about that trip later, when I finally manage to organise the photos, etc.


The main thing is, we’re okay (thanks for asking) and we’ve a lot happening so stay tuned for more adventures.



TEDx Salford

TED is a global set of conferences where a variety of speakers talk about a variety of subjects – usually for fifteen to twenty minutes each.

I’d come across these by accident a few years ago, as many of the presentations are on YouTube, which is nice as a ticket to a ‘proper’ TED conference is hundreds of pounds. From what I can tell, TEDx is a franchised version where organisations like Salford University can run their own conference under the TED banner.

I recommend catching some of the videos on YouTube as they are fascinating and often very inspiring. I’ve seen experts talk about wooden skyscrapers, paper towels, how the brain works, drones and much, much more. Probably my favourite speaker though, is Sir Ken Robinson, who is apparently the most viewed TED talk on the web, here’s the video in case you’ve missed it:

Interesting eh?

Now imagine my excitement when a few weeks ago, Lady Hughes called me up to say there was going to be TEDx Conference in Salford, at the Lowry Theatre, and I could get a ticket for the whole day for £30!

Ticket booked and paid for, I turned up on Sunday hoping the Salford version would match what I’d seen on the web.

My worry was that instead of internationally renown speakers and globally respected experts in their field, we would have a collection of local activists and council departmental heads outlining new initiatives to address anti-social behaviour in Broughton. You see, I hadn’t been able to find out who the speakers were, except for one who was talking about ‘Cliteracy’ whatever that was? The positive thing is that they only talk for a relatively short amount of time, which meant that even if you don’t like one, you know another will be round in a couple of minutes – like waiting for a bus.

I needn’t have worried, the parade of speakers was varied, international and inspiring – too many to list here so here’s the link to their site:

My personal favourites were Massimo Marchiori, Tawakkol Karman (Nobel Peace Prize Winner), Jack Sim (Mr Toilet) and Jack Andraka (teenage cancer scientist).

The only down-side to the event was that I entered with a sniffle which developed into a full-force man-flu through the course of the event. So bad in fact that I had to leave before the end and missed out on the last few speakers – but that’s hardly their fault I suppose.

Great event and I can’t wait for next year’s so I can stock up on vitamin C and see the whole thing.


Diving at Ecclestone Delph

After last weekend’s descent into old age, we decided to up the ante a bit this weekend with our first proper dive of the year (I’m not including Trefor Pier!).

So off up the M6 to Ecclestone Delphi dive centre.

We’ve dived here several times in the past and the visibility can vary depending on the weather and how busy it is. The hope was that by going on a weekday it’d be a bit quieter and less stirred up.

Other countries may have beautiful warm waters and shimmering coral reefs, Lancashire has Ecclestone Delphi, 10 degree water, 6 metre visibility and sunken transit vans. I made a video last year, as my alter ego – Jack Custard, to showcase the many underwater delights.

We had two good dives exploring the various wrecks and watching the fish, including some dazzling koi carp.

In Bermuda divers may jump in with just their shorts and a t-shirt on, but we had thermal undersuits, drysuits, gloves, hoods, thick socks and extra weights to make sure we could actually sink with all the kit on – such are the joys of British diving.

Still, the last dive we did meant extra underclothes, long-johns and fleece jumpers, so today felt vaguely tropical.




Almost Diving at Trefor Pier

The plan was to make our first dive of the year a simple, easy one at Trefor Pier in Wales.

That was the plan anyway.

I was diving with Mark Rogers and my wife Clare.  None of us had dived Trefor before but we’d spoken to people who had and it was a nice easy dive along the wall and then under the wooden pier where we were promised  lots of exciting wildlife including giant spider crabs – sounded ideal.

First test was the tide times.  To get into the water just before high tide we’d have to be there at approx.  8am .  Which meant setting the alarm to 5am so we could set off before 6am.

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No problem, got there dead on 8am and the weather and conditions looked great, relatively calm and sheltered with sunny blue skies.  Mark got there just after us and we started to kit up.

As we were getting ready a local asked us if we could attach a buoy to an old one just off the pier.  When we looked it was 30 meters away in the middle of nowhere.  He explained that they’d tried to do it themselves with a boat but they’d got tangled in nets and had to call out the lifeboat to rescue them.  Needless to say, we made our apologies and politely declined our chance to get lost in the Irish Sea dragging a bright orange buoy and chain with us.

Once in the water we soon realised that the visibility was not as good as we had hoped.  In fact it was virtually non-existent.  Probably less than 6 inches in reality (see the video below).  Hoping it would get better, we moved further along the wall but nothing improved.  Laughing that we’d have done better diving in a bath full of gravy granules we headed back.

I think I got down to an amazing depth of 4 inches.  Essentially we were the best equipped snorkelers in Wales as we simply surface swam along the wall and then back again.

I took some time to walk the beach and take a few shots but then we headed home.

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Trefor is still on my to-do list, but probably in Summer.

I made a short video of our ‘dive’ as my alter-ego Jack Custard (Lancashire’s answer to Jaques Cousteau) – enjoy.

Until next time fellow adventurers,


Searching for Solitude on Kinder Scout

This week’s adventure has been a climb up Kinder Scout in the Peak District with my lovely wife Clare.

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Kinder Scout is the biggest hill in the Peak District, and at 636 metres it’s not really that big on a global scale but it’s got lots of character, can still be challenging, and is the first proper hill I ever climbed so I like it.

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Now as much as I love climbing Kinder with Clare, I had another agenda on this excursion.  I’ve written a short film set, in part, on Kinder Scout, so I wanted to scout (forgive the pun) a few locations and take a bit of test footage with my DSLR camera to see how it came out.

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So, everything looked great right, weather was good, sunny and unseasonably warm, Care took our dogs, Bobby and Jet and I organised the camera, etc.

All we needed was a bit of quiet.

That became the problem.  We just couldn’t escape everyone else.

We parked the car in Edale to discover there was a 45 mile fell run finishing there.  There was also a helicopter loudly transporting materials up and down the valley all the time we were there and that was before we started.

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Once on the hill we joined a queue of hikers making their way up to the tops.  If we walked they chased us, if we stopped, they stopped right next to us.  At one point we I thought we were being stalked as every time we waited for one particular group to go passed they sat down and waited for us to move on so they could stay with us.

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The Peak District is apparently the second most visited national park after Mount Fuji in Japan, and yesterday I could believe it.

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After a while I gave up trying to shoot video and switched to photography.  This helped to alleviate my stress as it was a beautiful day, but I may need to re-think my strategy for the film as I’m aiming for haunting and desolate, which could be a challenge if there’s a constant procession of loud, brightly dressed ramblers stomping through every scene.

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Anyway, here’s what video I did manage to get from the trip.


Rest and Poetry

Strange week.

My new mission to get out of the armchair more and live a little, is still on track, but this week has been more of a mush-mash than an adventure.

I’ve kept up with my goals of continuing with writing group on Mondays, swimming on Tuesdays, pub with friends Wednesdays, climbing Fridays and try to have a little adventure at the weekend – though I skipped the adventure this weekend.  Don’t worry fellow adventurers, I’m not slipping off the bandwagon.  My excuse is that I’ve got a stinking cold and the weather’s awful.

That being said, I’ve used the time to get back into playing the guitar (which I used to do, but haven’t for years) and catch-up with my writing.

One unusual event this week was that I was asked to do a poetry video on Thursday.

Does this count as an adventure? 

Well how often do you get the chance to film a poet reading his own work for Virgin? (the company, not the er…  you get what I mean?)

The backstory is; my wife Clare works for Virgin Rail and she has a colleague, Patrick (picture above), who writes poetry.  He has written some announcements for the trains as poems and has been invited to submit them by his managers.  They wanted an audio recording but Clare suggested a video to capture the performance better.  That’s where I come in.

Funnily enough they recently had Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy doing announcements, such as “wash your hands, you filthy animal” in the gents, but there were complaints.

So, on Thursday evening we set up the lights and backdrop and turned our conservatory into a little studio, ready for his recital.

Normally I’d include the video itself, but Patrick is unsure about copyright so we’ve agreed to hold on releasing it on the blog until he gets the okay from Richard Branson.  All I can show you is a still from the finished video (above).

So, if you find yourself on a Virgin train in the near future and the announcements strike you as strangely poetic and beautiful, please smile and realise that I had some small part in that production.  You heard it here first folks!

Fame at last!

So, the plan now is to get over this cold and have a proper little adventure ready for next post- stay tuned.