Marching and remembering – are we making dignified or binified sounds?

Valise Noire Storytelling Theatre invoked the spirit of service in their Great War rememberence pieces, using people’s own words in letters and inventories to bring audiences together around some universally shared feelings. Contributing one last piece of sound design to their final performance of the last four years of the centenary, I found myself wondering about the rallying vibrations of today’s words – especially having been surrounded by them at my first ever proper political protest, two weeks earlier.

 

This yearʼs Armistice Day was, of course, the 100th. A big deal. One that seemed to draw world leaders to France to listen to Emanuel Macron preach about the brilliant French lifestyle, or something. But I wonder if this momentously round number may fearfully mark the official forgetting of Europeʼs blood-spilling modern history. And for me, it felt incongruous to be out of Britain for the date.

Four years ago, I was asked by Hazel and Michele, in their shared guise as Valise Noire Storytelling Theatre, to develop some sound design with them for a very special project – Poppy Fields. A performance piece commemorating the Great War. The two other projects that the three of us have worked on together, The Girl and The Shoes and Cargo have been beautiful experiences to help create, with the sort of imaginative humanity they weave in their writing and telling. Beautiful work. And Poppy Fields was touching on something vast in its historic effect – but they tackled it as perhaps the best storytelling can only do, with personal intimacy.

They researched letters and information about veterans from our part of the world, the Poole and Bournemouth area, and we found ourselves in my shed reading these documents and weaving them into impressions of the war in sound. And to listen to this simple flow of testimony was just moving. Something that hit you from their words; these historic people from my neighbourhood were ordinary and their extraordinary sounding experiences were, in the end, just stuff that they had to get on and cope with.

None of it simple fable, is it? It was just life. Common or garden complex living. Caught up in events.

On Armistice Day this year, Michele and Hazel performed one last piece of the project in Poole Park, and I couldnʼt be there to see just how the new sound worked around their movements. I hear it rained in the middle and everyone felt it together like tears.

Now, I’m no believer in sombriety for the sake of it. But I couldn’t attend this meaningful piece of art with my friends because I was doing something so contrasting it feels odd to contemplate – larking about as I found myself doing on a shoot with other creative partners trying to bring to life something with a very different tone to Poppy Fields. You have to be where you have to be. But tapping to some of the stills I saw on my phone after their performance, sitting in another time and climate and creative zone, I could still feel the effect of what they’d made on that November day in England; it caught in the throat a little as I scrolled through what Iʼd missed. Sensing how oddly unifying is the thing they were most invoking.

Grief. Unprecidented loss.

Timing can give you new perspectives, I guess. I wasnʼt in Europe for Remembrance Sunday but I was in Florida for the most significant midterm elections in decades. And staying with folk whoʼs political perspective is rather different to mine. Who spoke not once of their politics while we were there, but who left me quietly a fan of how they expressed their evident values. These friendly people whose vote on one particular issue was inexplicable to my own.

The first thing I did upon return was run a bath to soothe the CO2-chugging jetlag and watch Peter Jackson’s remarkable They shall not grow old, broadcast as part of the centenary Armistice rememberances. A painstaking edit of original footage of the first world war and sound archives of soldiers’ later testimonies that was also brought to more vivid life by colourisation. These were no longer black and white images of the war to end all wars. These were young Tommies getting on with it. An impossible situation to live through, which millions didn’t. And they did. With haunting ordinaryness.

You don’t need me to tell you that the war was complex and far reaching. But it was ended ultimately by revolution from within, rather than clear military strategy from without. Something talked about little by anyone, uncluding Jackson’s ground level documentary. What the film did do was show British soldiers’ impressions of the captured Germans – and they said what should be obvious: “They were just like us, really. Nice boys, doing their best.” Ordinary people, caught up in all the bullshit. Caked in the mud that stuck to absolutely everything. Many of whom actually went on to rise up against the bullshit of imperial folly and depose the mad Kaiser. Ordinary three-dimensional people on the other side of the fence in the imagination of millions of allies, doing momentous things that they never got to hear about in the middle of their own stories of the war.

Which does make you remember, doesn’t it? The binification of us today is bullshit. And obviously there is one word on British lips at the moment that embodies the idea of division.

DIFFERENT TIMES

It’s getting close now, isn’t it? The crunch. When the B-word in some form or other is enacted for real over the once supposedly United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And the only thing that seems to be truly certain in the middle of everyone’s brittly brutal certainties is… uncertainty.

About what this latest dramatic story will really do to my country. I’ve said it many times, what is the fruit of it so far? Most of it is toxic ooze. Coating everything we eat. And gulp down.

Now, I’m such a painfully balanced and probably indolent sort of chap that I am absolutely part of my generation’s problem. I’ve been asleep to many things I should have been fighting for, largely because I haven’t had to fight for much culturally and partly because the things deserving the fight are so big I don’t know where to start. How depressingly normal of me. But I also try to see both sides in a dispute. If I had the courage, such an outlook might one day make me a good writer. Once I’ve really counted the cost of losing a fight.

I hate Brexit. The word itself is so godawful it sums up just how crap the whole idea, framed as it was, has always been. How fake, and hubristically ill-thought through. Entirely a willful gamble on quieting the barky end of the Conservative party, which worked out not so much, eh Dave? And we are all left with a country more divided culturally than by any economic policy championed by generations of right-of-centre economics.

Why has it gotten to us so much? This fake debate?

Because, regardless of any possible intervention into our heads from sly front line assaults in our global culture wars, on the torn-up turf of our social media streams, I think we are wedded to the question deeply anyway. Deeply enough to inspire the biggest vote turn out for anything since the end of the second world war. And forgetting any potential influencers and their links to other global events, and the fact that the Leave campaign technically broke British democratic law in its spending, which all signals significance in Brexit’s whole existence to me still, the culture wars have polarised us all across the world, not just under the shadow of Brexit. We’ve allowed ourselves to be pushed apart, staring across a carcassed muddy soup of no man’s land, going nowhere. Lobbing shells. Only one side or the other to choose from, all across our headlines. Some weird Lord of the flies we’ve decended into on our little island as much as anywhere. Something Stephen Fry might say is part of the infantilising of us. Something creative director Dave Trott I believe called the binification of us.

Perhaps the putting of us in the bin. And the loss of much dignity.

Well, if we’re talking binary certainties, I do think there are arguably two things going on in our Brexit debates, whenever we personally join in. Two things that have driven our wranglings around it, that would have driven it even without any help from outside influences.

One is the politics of strategy. What do we think is in the UK’s best interests now? We look for facts, figures, projections. But I think we do so more often than not in the light of the second thing. The politics of identity. Ignoring all the ‘agendas’ we imagine out there, our own connection to the Brexit vote comes down to this question: How do we see the EU in our minds? Of those who could be bothered to vote, we seem to picture either an imposition on our sovereignty and a threat to our democracy, or we picture a peace-fostering culture of co-operation that looks to a future beyond borders.

There’s no room for much in between. Despite the fact that something as massive as a pan-national cultural platform like the Europe project is just going to be a complex thing to neatly judge.

For me, all this is obviously a false narrative. Like most internet discussions – because we tend to force-frame the question. I’m not sure many of us are interested in getting at the truth, in a more Pompous Ancient Greek Philosophy Club hope, we mostly just want to justify how we’re feeling, it seems. And something about the world has us feeling much deeply at the moment, like a pile of dry tinder under our message threads.

Right now, we act as though we want each other to conform to our view of that one subject, and when we can’t find us as allies to our predispositions, we see us as Them. And click a blizzard of Likes to online criticisms of Them. We collectively sound a lot less forgiving than the armed Tommies going over the top into actual bullet blizzards a century ago.

Now, in my own instinctive Them-ising, this is something I’ve obviously tended to imagine happens more on the Leavers’ ‘side’ of the arguing than the ‘side’ I more instinctively identify with – not least because I do feel the whole thing was a set-up in the first place, rendering shouts of “Project Fear!” as one big projection from the real Project Fear – Project Division.

So you might think that a rally of remainers would be a tonic to me as a weary Europhile and condescending liberal snowflake. To hear voices of pleasant reason joining in unison, reminding me I’m not in fact taking the crazy pills we all feel we’re taking. Proving my assumptions comfortingly right again.

Attending the biggest of its kind to date in London, my first proper protest march experience was certainly a very polite and friendly affair, a far cry from some band of Tommy Robinson fetishisers. But it didn’t have the effect on me you might imagine.

I came home feeling rather heavy about it.

 

RALLYING CRIES

Something made the lovely first lady of Momo and I actually go to this one. The People’s Vote March. And on a bright sunny day belying any autumn chills, we found ourselves surrounded by nice people. The nice brigade. It had finally turned out. Ordinary middle class folk. Possibly 600,000 of them turning the streets of the capital into a very safe feeling festival of witty placcards and surprisingly single-minded intent, rather than the usual rabble of different protests that get swept up in lefty parades, you might scoff.

But, even though I began to see past the immediate whiteness of the demographic and spot a more diverse mix of Brits in the ranks, and certainly a diverse age range of us, I did feel something slowly sink into me as the day trod on. The gnawing sensation that all these nice people were still not listening to those who voted out. And why.

I’ll have no truck with any whitewashing of the sickening racial side of the Leave campaign, levered even in the past fortnight as I write by the Prime Minister, hoping to “end free movement once and for all”. Like this is a good thing. Not a tragedy for progress. Or with her idea of European citizens ‘queue jumping’ immigration lines somehow, like the UK wasn’t always responsible for its own immigration policy, firmly outside the Shengen Agreement as well as the Eurozone, but a lead member of the EU and its values. I won’t forget that the papers and UKIP and various others played heavily on fears of tides of terrorists sweeping up to the front door. All that happened in front of our eyes and we all let it get to us.

But it is true, I think, that for most Leave voters the issue was really about a sense of sovereignty. A perceived injustice to Britain’s. And that we should be able to talk about openly. As openly as fears about anything, including racial swamping of towns. No one should be getting labeled for speaking up. Not if we’re truly inclusive, and confidently so.

After all, the fulcrum of that much spattered about Greek-seated word democracy is the debating chamber. It’s the very shape of the Commons, the seat of the UK parliament. We have it out. We profer and challenge, argue and counter-challenge. We beat out the truth, right?

Or, in the end, we just create an awful lot of heat and little light at the end of the tunnel. Because no one wants the actual truth any more, right? We project fake news everywhere.

The thing is, I don’t want my friends demonised by asking questions. And I don’t want to be. If we imagine the modern world has brought us anything good, that choice, that voice, that right to be wrong or just different was built in significant part out of the enlightenment. A flowering of impirical scientific testing. A lusting after truth. A certainty in it that produced plenty of hubris and arrogance and pompous silliness along the way as ever we produce it today, but which also opened up the world to a totally different future. A future beyond the fudal.

So I don’t want to be labeled a remoaner. Because it’s divisive, pejorative bullshit. Which means I definitely won’t call you a brexshiteer. We know each other’s names, after all.

Now, I’m not sure how easily I take offense. I’m a preachy hypocrit and a little bit of a lush and I make wantonly un-hip unsellable music, so pop away. But I don’t want to be insulted as any one thing in my attempt to respond to my times. I also don’t want my EU rights taken away. Which they will be if Brexit happens as democratically expected by Leave voters.

Whatever I do or don’t want, I desperately don’t want us to forget the true costs of war; of how insidiously divisive language can craft us apart, all in our own imaginations. Of how much we depend on culture to keep us together, much more than military might. We should take note of the reframing of historic stories across the world, as certain leaders want to infantilise our devotions to much simpler narratives of winners, losers, black and white.

I won’t ever be truly unpartisan. Who is? I am bent into a liberal sort of shape and there’s probably no saving me now, I should say, and I do feel that in a time of such testing, the only thing left when the fires of fighting pass will be our values. Something we are lots of us feeling perhaps – the need to assert who we are and what we believe. And I feel like my values are being tested alright. Do I know what they really are, and can I live up to them? How infantalised am I still? Are we, still?

The challenge to us all at the moment might be to consider: What are my values worth? But not just to me, to the world?

The very adult point facing us is surely this: Right now, someone is going to lose something significant feeling from all this. And in our binifying culture wars, we will begin to find peace I think only when we acknowledge that we are all losing by this two-dimensional division.

Then we might begin to accept something that could really bring us together after conflict. Help us begin to heal. See each other as human above everything.

Grief.

We shouldn’t bury this shared experience in history. In fact, it is art that will be how we will best make sense of it, recovering from the conflict.

But for the sake of dignifying each other, it’s surely time to put the bullshit in the bin.


 

Now, as a post-script, I realise this is a swerve to the ‘left’ here. I’d be interested to know your own reaction to this speech by MP for Tottenham, David Lammy. To me it feels like waking up from a fantastical nightmare. To hear a speech for something, and ideals that drove the UK’s cultural prominence beyond its days of Empire. It feels to me like Brexit will surrender such hopes and squander such assets, giving it all to the least deserving of us and most culpable for the planet’s ills.

But here I am succumbing to another fable, right?

Well, all visions start with stories. Understanding is shown in how you apply them out in the real world.

What’s your guiding story?

“Total independence is a fantasy…Sovereignty is not an asset to be hoarded. It’s a resource which only has value when it is spent.”

Unique short Two Feet Tall is officially released

Momo is reminded of a favourite score, as writer director Andy Robinson opens his remarkable film to general release, sharing ‘a day in the life of a pair of shoes’.

 

An audience favourite in many festivals over the last couple of years, Two Feet Tall finally sees the outside world, giving a glimpse into a true film lover’s art – and how the art of collaboration sits at the centre of it. For Andy Robinson’s short fairytale is a story of ingenuity and partnership as much as boldness of storytelling – something the bloke from Momo:tempo can attest to, after working with the director on the project.

“Andy knows how to craft a vision,” Timo Peach explains, “but he also knows how to trust those he chooses to join his production team. Working with my dear mate is always a joy – and I feel like I’ve completed a module or two at film school.”

Two Feet Tall is shot entirely from the knees down, without dialogue. It follows the fortunes of one character walking through her ordinary day, and how she comes to see her days a little less ordinarily by the end.

WATCH TWO FEET TALL:

 

WATCH MOMO SHARE HIS APPROACH TO SCORING TWO FEET TALL:

 

 

The Devon film maker had to employ some of the tricks of the true budget movie production trade to improvise everything from tracking shots to effective puddles, but Robinson describes it as: “one of my favourite filmmaking experiences to date.”

“When music and film are paired together, and the cogs mesh, a wonderful alchemy can take place where the sum is truly greater than its parts” he says. “In our film, there are such moments for me”.

A sentiment echoed by Mr Peach heartily.

“It’s a film that hits the emotional sweetspot” he says. “It’s clever but uncomplicated, and it connects very directly somehow, all without facial and vocal acting. It harkens to the earliest days of film in a beautiful way.”

READ MORE ABOUT THE BACKGROUND TO TWO FEET TALL IN THE ORIGINAL MOMO PROMO ARTICLE HERE >

“I am proud of the work Andy inspired in me for this one,” Timo adds, “it’s a score I’m very  happy to have written for such a film. After this, it’s been a delight to have his head so squarely involved in helping to develop my own project The Shape of Things To Hum – he’s bringing all the human connection of Two Feet to it beautifully. Anything I can do to champion Andy’s brain and outlook I will do wherever I can. The world needs his creative soul, frankly.”

Of his own film, the director himself simply concludes: “Two Feet Tall is unrepentantly a feel-good movie. And in a strange, fairytale way, an empowering one too. I don’t know about you, but right now, I think the world could do with a few more stories like that.”

Culture war.

It’s a culture war we’re caught in. If it’s everyone who loses in a retreat behind borders, our first line duty is to put Art back in the forge.

 

God knows, I love stories. So do you. And – don’t flinch, Captain Culture – storytelling is going to be a useful word for a while yet, in framing our views of the world, when all views are being challenged. Go on, I dare you to use it without a twitch in front of your colleagues who are so agile they smirk at the word agile. Do it. Say storytelling in a *creative strategy* meeting. Make them roll their eyes, it’s adoreable how leading edge they are.

But, I feel reminded by an event this week. The future won’t simply be told, it will be made. And if we’re going to save it for all of us, in some grand notional declaration in a time of ugly conflicts, then here is one: It’s not weapons we’ll need, it’s tools.

If you’re an activist-minded person who’s even half awake, you’re going to tell me we are above all at this point in human history in a culture war. And actual fascists are martialling actual funds to seize actual political power across the west – so when will anyone go out to actually meet them?

And you’re right.

But meet them with what?

Lastnight I took a train to the capital to attend a thing. Been to a couple of them in recent months, things. And at these things, lots of nice clever people turn up and want to listen to other clever and often nice but better known people talk about things. Especially now, when there’s rather a lot to talk about. Lastnight’s thing caught me with it’s title, which is why I went: “Here and Now: A Creative Vision for Europe

Run by DiEM25, the progressive democracy in Europe movement, it brought together some jolly cultural sounding people indeed – art music god and Bowie chum Brian Eno, rockstar economist Yanis Varoufakis, actual rockstar from Primal Scream Bobby Gillespie, the artist Danae Stratou and the erudite Rosemary Bechler of Open Democracy, among others.

And they were all inspiring and well articulated in the discussion hosted in Central St Martins’ Platform Theatre.

It was an evening full of great quotes, good analysis, helpful ways of seeing some things around us in democratically challenging times, all lit at a cultural angle. “Yanis Varoufakis spoke of the importance of collective, creative intervention and highlighted @diem_25’s aim to create a collaborative agenda for cultural democratic policy” as St Martins tweeted, which he did and it was insightful. And at the end of the whole evening, I couldn’t help feeling the event still didn’t quite do what I think we are utterly compelled to do at the moment: Imagine actual ways to respond, creatively.

There were many wise take-homes – but no new story.

Which is a shame, because if there was one major take-home from the whole thing, it is the clarity that what we are living through right now is indeed a culture war. A war of ideas. Of outlooks. Of… go on: narratives.

 

MARK MAKING.

What marks do we make on the Now around us? The Now of fearsome realities Really? We can say that today we are, in our greatest numbers, much more used to being only consumers of culture than makers, shapers. But creativity has never been more democratic – outside the old “systems”. Technologically and socially, kind of anyone can Have A Go at creative production. Making content.

Thing is, those old systems of creative training had so much to help ordinary people find time to play – space to do thinking coupled crucially with bodily trying. But also doing it in a context of teaching and learning. One that could be a bear pit of petulant tutors and demon ruthless crits – but an essential kind of basic training, perhaps. Now we all play in the badlands. We play in the traffic. Formal art training is out of financial reach for most. Which seems depressing.

But does this mean culture is sold or just more widely diseminated? Waiting to be more deeply activated.

In political mark making, those on the “left” may be used to worthy causing and deploying rich language about social openness, justice. And amen – I love a salon. But it can all be shrouded in techno gabble of its own, I think. NGO and activist speak. Someone even quoted Oscar Wilde at the event – that socialism hasn’t taken over the world because the meetings are too long and too boring. No kidding.

So I want to ask, aside from the meetings, the salons, the ideas bashing about – which is all potentially inspiring and empowering – where are the tools to make marks on tomorrow, not just pieces of paper, or screens? Where are the tools to build the culture of a more sustainable future? What tools are we actually fashioning to do the job?

I think the mark being made on human history on our watch is that we are being carved apart with the blade of Victimhood. Phantoms, wraiths, ghosts – conjoured characters and stories – that somehow cut deep between the marrow of our social mix. Because of injustices unaddressed, chaoses unresovled, demons not exorcised. Truths we feel… inside.

What cultural tools do we even need to combat that?

If our two “sides” are fighting with different weapons, speaking different languages, then never mind how we even engage the “enemy” – how do we engage our friends? What are the tools and the building materials of the bridge to the more radically inclusive future? Because that’s the only sustainable one. The one to which we’re all invited. The one in which we all lose less.

 

DEMONSTRATING.

If we are to defeat a culture war that many believe is the assault of a small number of people trying to hold on to old power in the face of fundamental changes coming, I have been thinking for a while that it’s time we truly woke up to the culture we’re all caught in.

A culture of disconnection. Even our heads from our bodies. Our living from the living planet. Our ambitions from our wellness. Our fears from reality. Our current popular idea of what art is from what it really is: Everyone’s. It is the tool we need to reconnect ourselves with the truth inside us – the very job storytelling is supposed to do. Not simply distract us, but have us walk through scenarios. Demonstrate ideas to us. And emotional truth – the thing we’re all really working around.

I think any cultural strategy has to give us practices to encourage openness. In in all we do. Whomever we meet. To habitualise facing truths together – yours, mine, theirs, ours. And this is surely about encouraging an openness to play. To be curious. To make marks. To testify… and to so find the emotional self possession to listen.

To do this, we must put our very idea of “Art” back in the forge. Melt it down in our minds.

Because art isn’t just mine. The “creative’s”. It isn’t the professional or aspiring artist’s. It’s everyone’s – our tool for reconciling truths in us, for exploring who we are and how we express ourselves as social, empathic creatures – how we connect – to others.

Now, I love a good tee shirt print. Even though I dislike wearing tee shirts – shirt’s gotta have a collar for me. But what is a tee shirt print? It’s a bit of branded merch. Let’s not waste the culture war only selling tees at the concert, however fun and playful tees and concerts are. We’ve got to do way more than that as already practicing artists and creatives.

We need to lead the way in fashioning the tools – the projects, the practices, the inclusions, the hellos, the playings – to equip every human as fellow artist.

The first job might be to get over our twitch at how tossy this sounds. Because that’s where our culture of disconnection has gotten us – art sounds tossy. Getting over this bullshit as much as the bullshit jobs of global culture is how we might clear mental space to write genuinely new stories of us. It’s how we might turn the page.

We surely demonstrate by doing our own work. But art is really the truth of testimony – and testimony can be powerfully crucial inspiration. It’s only the beginning, I think. Inculcating the future means practicing it, habitualising it, not giving up through the pains and failures and disallusionments and criticisms of it. And what is this if not the whole life experience of the artist.

If the artist is a storyteller, she or he is surely more fully a teacher. Not meant to only work in isolation, but using their empathetic skills and their talents of articulation to help others make vital new connections. And learn how to keep doing so for themselves. Do more than just make more content to drown in, but make deeper, truer, more inspiring, more empowering human connections.

We live in a pandemic of mental unwellness. It is a symptom of what’s wrong in our culture, I firmly believe. A sign to us, if we can suddenly see it. A sign we must begin to reconnect our heads to our bodies and our living bodies to the living planet they’re made out of. Kit Hill’s striking circus movement piece at the top of the evening was surely symbolic even beyond it’s shapes and story. “All the language around circus is politically negative – the balancing acts, the clowns, the very theatre of the media – but it’s such a personally empowering art form” she said afterwards. Art that makes you practice connection to your body more than any, but typifying the very hand-eye, muscle and mind vitality of the practice of any art. Why should only St Martins students benefit from this?

I think we shouldn’t hope to be activists but encouragers – working to help activate the creativity in all of us. The connected flow we will need between everyone in our one big shared conflict of trying to properly sort through our shit.

This might be what love really is. A will to encourage truer human flows. Let’s be utterly compelled to express that. Inspire that. I feel like I’ve barely started such a new story or how to forge those practical tools to make it. But the future depends on us doing so.

Someone quoted what may have been Marx lastnight, which will surprise you not a bit. Most political moves draw their poetry from the past. The truly radical political interventions will have to draw its poetry from the future.

It’s time to pull art out of the fire and make it into a tool much better fit for our purpose. Because we’re all going to have to dig deep for victory.

 

 

How can art save the ruddy future? Read or listen to Momo’s Unsee The Future special: EP20: Art >

A Shape Odyssey – a guest blog by Andy Robinson

“Timo Peach’s idea nearly incinerated my Sunday roast.

 

As will later become apparent, this is in fact the highest compliment – and perhaps the benchmark by which I will judge all ideas presented to me in future: is it a roast-killer? The bar has been set very high by his latest project…

A Sunday afternoon Skype conversation on Feb 14th 2016, would mark the start of my official involvement on this mission. By this stage I had been blessed to collaborate with Timo on 2 short film projects. We’d been introduced 18 months earlier by Illustrator & mutual friend, Simon Brett, who was contributing to a charity anthology of stories called Seasons of War. It’s editor, Declan May, had come up with the idea of exploring the character of the War Doctor – the forgotten incarnation of Doctor Who, so brilliantly played by the late John Hurt in the BBC’s 50th Anniversary story. As we were only to see him the once, the War Doctor’s presence in the canon only created more questions than he answered – something that Declan wanted to explore. He assembled a brilliant selection of writers – some with close connections to the TV series – to contribute.

Simon contacted me as he had an idea to help promote the book by commissioning an online promo video. He’d seen one of my short films, which had a strong SF-vein, and I’d inflicted a rough cut of my Twilight Zone-inspired feature film on him, so Simon very kindly thought of me for the Seasons of War project.

He’d originally pitched it to me as something that would be 30 seconds long – perhaps a tracking shot past objects associated with the Doctor. I’m not sure how long I entertained that idea, but I was already carried away with something much more ambitious by the time I replied to his original message…

What Seasons of War the promo film became was effectively a 5-min Doctor Who episode, which the notoriously difficult-to-please fans of the show seemed to have really embraced. Made for around £350, and the incredible goodwill of the people involved in Declan’s project, one of its biggest strengths is Timo’s score: Bold, propulsive, with a fitting other-worldly quality to it. But most importantly, it nailed the sad emotional core at the heart of this mini-story – of connections made and broken. Of expectations met then dashed. It did all the things a film on its own can never quite do.

This was the start of what has become for me an incredibly fertile creative partnership. Sometimes you just click with someone – creatively, or socially – in this case, both – and it has been truly invigorating. When you ‘get’ what their work is about, and vice versa, that can be such a sustaining thing – because so many on this journey will not get what you’re doing. Cherish those relationships, and encourage all those you believe in.

Needless to say, I asked Timo if he would compose music for my next short film. Based on fellow filmmaker Wend Baker’s brilliant idea, Two Feet Tall, conveys in Groundhog Day-like structure the everyday trials and triumphs of an office worker – told entirely from the level of her feet. This was in effect pure cinema, where visuals drove the narrative, and harked back to the silent era in terms of performance. But silent films were never really silent – they had music – and Timo’s delightfully surprising, idiosyncratic score perfectly complemented this unusual tale, and again, gave it heart where it was needed. Part of the score is now the ringtone on my phone – guaranteed to make me smile when someone calls.

It was towards the end of the scoring process with Two Feet Tall that Timo let me in on his latest project – that fateful Sunday, while my roast was cooking. Something, it seemed, had been cooking in Timo’s head too. And over a Skype call he began to outline his basic thesis: Science Fiction – that wonderfully enjoyable genre that no one treated seriously, or thought particularly worthy – had in fact been quietly preparing us for the future challenges now on our doorstep. Timo wanted to explore this in his unique, playful musical way – not only as the basis for his third studio album under his music moniker, Momotempo – but as part of a live music event that was also part caberet, part art installation. He asked me to help create an on-stage short film that would be interspersed throughout the show.

The name of this album/event? – The Shape of Things to Hum. The wordplay on a classic SF title was pure Momo, and instantly put a big grin on my face. Of course, he had me at ‘Science Fiction’, as we and almost all our friends share an abiding love for the genre – but then Timo delivered the deal-closer. He outlined the subject matter for the on-stage film – pitched in the form of a simple question:

“Why would NASA send an artist on the first manned mission to Mars..?”

At this point, were I a fish, not only would I have been hooked, but reeled in, landed, and pan-fried with a little butter. A great idea comes with its own rocket fuel to propel it into the wider world – and enough in the reserve tanks to light a fire under your imagination. Mine was certainly ignited.

InstantIy, I thought of how artists were central to scientific explorations in centuries past: the voyages of Captain Cook and Charles Darwin (which then were the equivalent of a journey to Mars), needed illustrators to create an accurate record of their discoveries. The British Antarctic Survey has a rich archive from the artists who have accompanied them on their expeditions.

But in the age of the camera, the artist’s role shifted away from just recording what they saw. Early on in the space program, there was an acknowledgment that highly trained individuals such as Astronauts, could only give the world a fairly narrow viewpoint of their experiences. I came across a quote from Buzz Aldrin: “We need to have people up there who can communicate what it feels like – not just pilots and enginners”. What better reason to send an artist to Mars?

In Timo’s head his Astronaut/Artist was a woman – which just felt right for this particular story. In fact, by the end of our chat, I had the perfect surname for our main character: Bonnestell, after Chesley Bonestell – the US artist who helped popularise the concept of space travel in the 1950s with his beautiful illustrations of Rocketships and Space Stations, published in Colliers Magazine.

Only one thought, buried at the back of my mind, was nagging me – my roast dinner in the kitchen was probably burning. I could have asked for a pause in the conversation – hell, the Skype call was taking place on A MOBILE DEVICE – but I couldn’t bring myself to break the flow in any way. I was captivated.

And I have been ever since.

Thankfully the call soon came to a natural end, and dinner was saved, but my mind was blown – or perhaps more accurately, expanded. I could certainly feel it had been stretched – and, in a strange way, reawakened – because the strands of my life had been gently guiding me to this moment for decades: without my conscious knowledge, I’d been training for this mission to another world. Timo’s thesis was playing out in my own life. But it wasn’t only science fiction, but science and art that had been working its background magic.

I had forgotten just how much of a geek I was as a kid, and also how much science, but in particular Space Exploration, meant to me. My first memory along this path was collecting PG Tips picture cards buried in a box of tea bags. I’m not sure if the company still do these, but as a kid growing up in the 1970s, this was almost a second strand of education for me. The cards, once collected, could be glued into little albums that you could send off for. And eventually you would have your own illustrated book.

Over the years there were lots of albums they produced – titles like Transport through the Ages, and The Sea – Our other World. But the one that captured my imagination was The Race into Space – 50 moments that charted our progress into the high frontier. Collecting for this was a frustratingly slow process, because sometimes you would get duplicate cards, and things weren’t helped by the fact that I didn’t drink tea as a kid. But eventually I got my album completed. One of the final cards inside was a glimpse of a proposed Apollo-style Mars mission (for the early 1980’s!!!). Maybe a seed was planted back then…

I found my mind journeying back to other moments that now seem formative. Libraries and Television were my Internet, with information gleaned from TV science programmes – never to be seen again (as this was pre-video recorders). As well as the required viewing of Tomorrow’s World, and Horizon, there were more thought-provoking programmes from presenters like James Burke who gave us Connections and The Day the Universe Changed. I think I can honestly trace the development of my enquiring, analytical mind back to absorbing those series.

But my sense of wonder about the exploration of our universe came from another man: Carl Sagan, and his sublime Cosmos series. The poet laureate of science invited me to leave my living room, and climb onboard his dandelion-like spaceship of the imagination. He showed me around the inside of the long-destroyed Library of Alexandria, then demonstrated the ridiculous length of the googleplex number. And he gave me perspective on just how brief human civilisation has existed in the great scheme of things – the last 10 seconds of the last minute of the cosmic year. Perhaps most importantly – though I didn’t truly appreciate it then – Carl Sagan outlined the crossroads that we as a species found ourselves at:

“We are the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution. We have a choice – we can enhance life, and come to know the universe that made us, or we can squander our 15 billion year heritage in meaningless self-destruction. What happens in the first second of the next cosmic year depends on what we do.”

I was just 13 years old. I didn’t know it, but my die had been cast.

Time jump to the 49 year-old me (this essay is beginning to resemble a Christopher Nolan film). It was Saturday 8th July 2017, and I was camping in a field near Manchester, with Timo, his wife Caroline, and our good friend Lee Rawlings. The shadow of Carl Sagan still loomed large in my life because we were at a festival named in honour of one of his most influential pieces of writing: Blue Dot.

It was a double shadow really, but this second one was literal: we were camped within a stone’s throw of the Lovell radio telescope at Jodrell Bank – a huge 250-foot steerable dish designed to explore the universe in spectrums invisible to our eyes. Why have a festival here? Well, Blue Dot is no ordinary fest – it is the perfect fusion of art & science, and the Lovell Telescope is a beautiful constant reminder. For every packed out music act on the main stage or within one of the massive tents, there were equally well-attended science-based talks, discussions & demonstrations elsewhere. It seemed like someone had had a rummage around in my head, taken all my passions, and strung them together in the form of a 3-day celebration. The biggest surprise was that several thousand other people’s heads must have been filled with the same
things.

Timo and Caroline had made it possible for me to attend – an early 50th birthday present, and I will be forever grateful, because on this particular Saturday, the gears of my own personal universe meshed with the wider cosmos, and all the aforementioned strands of my life – and perhaps those of my friends with me – seemed to converge on a hot afternoon at Jodrell Bank across 2 seemingly disconnected talks.

The first talk, by Physicist and Blue Dot Curator Tim O’Brien, was called Hello Out There and was about the Voyager spacecraft – launched in 1977 to conduct a flyby exploration of the outer Solar System. Attached to each probe was a gold plated record, which contained a compilation of music, sounds and greetings from across the planet, as well as images that were encoded into the grooves of the disc. The idea was that as the 2 Voyager craft would have gained enough velocity to escape the solar system and head into interstellar space, they may eventually be encountered by other specefaring species. With instructions on how to play the record, and our location etched onto the aluminium ‘album cover’, the recipients would glean a small window
onto who we are. Think of it as the ultimate mixtape for aliens. The record was curated by a small team of artists & scientists, headed by – who else – Carl Sagan, and it was the record that was the subject of Tim’s talk.

Now the Voyager story holds a very special place in my heart, and its one that I am passionate about telling on film some day. I was a child of Apollo – born 18 months before Neil Armstrong’s small step took place – but was clearly too young to have any real appreciation of its magnitude. As I grew up, the talk was of one thing as far as manned spaceflight was concerned – the Shuttle, and I was genuinely excited to see this reusable spaceplane turn the greatest feat of exploration into a routine event like air travel (sadly, that never really happened).

We’d had Skylab, and the Viking landers had successfully touched down on the surface of Mars – all incredible feats – but in the end it was Voyager that made a shy 13 year-old from East London with few friends put pen to paper & write to NASA. Just as with Timo’s project, I was captivated.

I wish I had a copy of that letter – perhaps in a dusty filing cabinet of a NASA basement the original still exists. I don’t recal exactly its contents, but I think I imagined Voyager 2 hurtling towards its encounter with Saturn – next stop Uranus in around 5 years – and expressed my desire to know more about the mission. I’m not even sure how I found the address to write to, but clearly it was the right one, because a little later, I got a reply – and if it had been from aliens replying to the Golden Record, I doubt I could have been more excited.

A fat orange-brown envelope dropped through our postbox from what to me is still the coolest sounding address: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology – Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, California.

JPL was the division of NASA tasked with designing and delivering all of the agency’s deep space robotic missions. This group have explored every planet in the Solar System from Mercury to Pluto (yes, Pluto – I’ll be having words with you one day, International Astronomical Union…)

Inside the envelope, they had sent me glossy full colour photos of the Voyager encounters so far – Jupiter and the recent flyby of Saturn by Voyager 1. I saw the swirling clouds of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot up close, and fine detail in the structure of Saturn’s rings. Things that no one on Earth had seen – until we went there. Also enclosed were ‘Voyager Bulletins’ – mission status reports that gave a little more of the science gleaned. They even packed in some images taken by the Viking landers on Mars. This all came from their education and community relations division, and boy, was I being educated. NASA has a remit to share scientific discovery with the world – and they were living up to it. I wondered were there other kids around the world who were receiving the same gifts as me through their letterbox?

For the next decade – in the years before the internet, I would receive regular updates and photos from the mission. Like those directly involved with Voyager, my life was bounded by the moments & milestones in its Grand Tour. It mapped not only the Solar System – but my entire formative journey to becoming a filmmaker.

I started secondary school not long after Voyager’s Jupiter encounter. Already I had a love of drawing and making things. From constructing crude electric motors in primary school science club, to building balsa wood gliders at increasing levels of complexity (aircraft were a parallel obsession – but that’s a another story…).

By the time of the Saturn encounter, and when I wrote to NASA, Art and later CDT (Craft Design & Technology), became the school subjects I loved best – both fuelled by passionate, encouraging teachers. I also discovered a love of Photography, learned to process film & print in a darkroom – and went to my first photographic exhibitions, which really opened me up to the power of the medium.

A fork in the road occurred for me around 1986 – and Voyager’s Uranus flyby. My A-levels nearly took me down a more product design pathway, but my maths wasn’t up to the job of pursuing it further. So I ended up on a BTEC Art and Design course, and this is where I really connected with photography, and decided to study it at degree-level – in the city that has now become my home – Exeter. What I also got the chance to do was go to the cinema. A lot. A lifelong fan of Steven Spielberg’s work, I recall one occasion where I saw his then latest Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, 3 times in a week. I always loved films but this was where the notion of becoming a filmmaker was planted – in 1989 – when Voyager made its final planetary encounter with Neptune – before plunging into the perpetual darkness of interstellar space. It’s cameras, though, had one last task to perform.

Carl Sagan asked that they be turned back to take a ‘Family portrait’ of the Solar System. This had no real scientific value, and Sagan had a battle to persuade the project managers to do so, but the result of this was that the Earth was photographed at a resolution of less than a pixel. Barely discernible, this image became the iconic Pale Blue Dot, where Sagan poetically described the Earth’s fragile beauty in the cosmos, and how our petty selfish concerns threaten this oasis of life. The image that inspired the festival I found myself at that fateful Saturday.

During the talk Timo and I looked at each other like excited kids, because there was another layer of personal synchronicity with regards Voyager for both of us. Our birthdays are only a month apart, and unbeknownst to one another, our wives – Caroline & Lucy – had on order the same very special birthday present: a repressing of the Voyager Golden Record in vinyl: the result of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. In fact my previous birthday present had been a record player – in anticipation of this. The creation of the Voyager Golden Record is a story that cries out to be dramatised – the perfect fusion of Art & Science – and perhaps the most hopeful thing we have ever done as a species.

I then dashed off to catch the start of the second talk – entitled Stone Age Cinema, given by New Scientist Writer Catherine Brahic – which on the surface would seem far removed from the technical wonders of the Voyager mission, but again this was of deep significance to Timo & myself. Since our initial Shape of Things to Hum conversation, I had written 3 drafts of what became known as The Martian Artist, and a key theme was that our hero, Nina Bonnestell, as the first artist on Mars, felt a strong connection with the first artists on Earth: cave painters. So this was a must-see talk. Catherine began the talk with a piece string – spooled out and held by an audience member. She wanted to give a visual reference of how far back in time we were
journeying – a little like Sagan’s cosmic 12 month calendar. Recent human industrial activity would only occupy a tiny section of the string, but to go back to the time when the first artistic marks were made, Catherine played out the string until it stretched the entire width of the lecture room we were in: 40,000 years. Before recorded history – and yet these cave-dweller paintings found in Spain & France were just that – records of their world and what was important to them. But there was another dimension to them that we were only just discovering.

Brahic informed us that palaeontologists now believe that what looked like preparatory drawings of an animal like a horse in different positions layered on top of one another were in fact the attempts to record the animal’s movement in stages.

In other words, animation.

Photographed as separate images and played back in a loop, the cave drawing of a horse in different positions becomes a film of it nodding its head. A bison drawn with too many legs becomes a galloping bison. It also seems that cave artists would also make use of the flickering nature of a cave firelight (or stone lamp filled with animal fat), combined with the curvature of a cave wall, to create images that not only moved, but had a 3D appearance.

Here I was – a filmmaker realising that the medium I expressed myself in was not 125 years old, but 40 millienia. Cave artists wanted to represent their universe just as I did. Like our Martian Artist, Bonnestell, I too felt a kinship and a visceral connection with these fellow storytellers.

Epiphanies are things that happen to other people, not me. But as I emerged from that second talk with my friends I truly believe that’s what I experienced, and I think they could see it on my face.

In a field in Jodrell Bank, I found myself at the the exact mid point between the first artistic marks made 40,000 years ago, and a time when Voyager, with its precious cargo of art & science gets within appreciable distance of our nearest stars – 40,000 years hence. To be planning films about both of these things with my friends who were also present made me reel from the heady collision of ideas that intersected me. Yes, I was at a science & music festival, but also in a prehistoric cave, on a mid 21st century mission to Mars – and experiencing the cultural offerings from a long-dormant spacecraft. Somehow all my childhood passions for space exploration, science, and my artistic training had become the means to link these distant points of human experience. For me to tell this story. So forget London 2012 – THIS was my Super Saturday.

Or perhaps it was mild heat stroke.

Blue Dot was, I believe, a turning point for Timo as well – or at the very least it deepened interests that were already there. We both attended a sobering talk given by Erik van Sebille called: Our Plastic Oceans. By now, there can be few who are not aware of this problem, but to hear a first-hand account of someone who has tracked & mapped exactly where this material ends up, and how it gets into the oceans in the first place brought it home. And still (in response to Timo’s question), he felt that the greatest threat to all of us was human-induced climate change.

After Blue Dot, I could see just from Timo’s tweets, that this was a more galvanised person, who was drilling deeper into the issues that he wanted The Shape of Things to Hum to explore. He became an accidental futurist, as I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his aim when he started this project.

Timo had already put together in beautifully-presented book form, the working thesis that he had given to me over the phone so many months before – and this had been such a useful tool in many of his early discussions with people trying to convey the scope of the project. But now he embarked on something much more challenging – to actively start the conversation we all need to have about dealing with the here & now – so we and our children can have the future we aspire to. The medium he chose to deliver this in was the podcast – making the most of one of his greatest assets: his wonderfully expressive voice.

Titled Unsee the Future: How to Encourage the more Hopeful, Human Tomorrow – this is a 19-part odyssey that uses the United Nations Global Goals as a framework to explore a variety of subjects – such as Health, Energy, Education, Sexuality, Justice & Poverty.

Now you might be thinking that the above sounds dryer than a lawn that hasn’t seen rain in 2 months (which as I write this, perfectly describes mine), but Timo manages to bring his unique sense of irreverence and play to the proceedings. I like to think that had Douglas Adams tackled these same issues, he may have had an approach that would have shared the same DNA.

But the great thing about Unsee is that it also knows when it needs to be serious, or impassioned, as Timo increasingly is towards the end of the series. There are no simple solutions to the “Now of fearsome realities” as he puts it, and the podcast doesn’t try to tie everything up in a neat bow at the end of each episode, but it does attempt to furnish us with potential strategies – brilliantly referred to in the podcast as “Seeing the hopey-changey bit”.

Ultimately, Unsee the Future is one man trying to get their head around the issues affecting us now, but it’s intention is to make you think about your own life, and the incremental adjustments that on a global scale might make a huge difference. As a result of the podcast, I eat less meat, and I consciously look for the alternative to plastic packaging when shopping. We have also got an electric/gas smart meter installed. I’ve seen how the podcast has altered friends trajectories in positive ways.

So 2 years on from Timo’s phone call, where are we? What of the event that is The Shape of Things to Hum? Well, like any major project, it requires a large amount of the folding stuff which we don’t currently have. And the incredible enthusiasm of everyone who has been involved, will only take you so far. But only so far, was just far enough to create a pocket-sized version of the final product…

At the beginning of 2018, Timo conceived a scaled down test-bed production, that would give a taste of what we wanted to achieve – called Five Songs to help us Unsee the Future. He constructed a pure audio introduction of just the first few minutes of the show to share with collaborators. Listening to this on headphones with eyes closed, the combination of his spoken voice intro, sound effects and music – including the opening number (the theme tune to the Unsee podcast), gave an incredibly vivid sense of atmosphere, so it became a brilliant tool to set the tone of the event. We had a deadline: to present this during Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe at the end of April 2018 – and Timo still wanted some aspect of the Martian Artist film included.

Oh.

There is a unwritten rule in low-budget filmmaking that you should really only build a film around what resources you have or can get. Well, in depicting a mid-2030s’ International mission to Mars, I think it can be safely said we have trampled over that one. Budget-wise we were flying on fumes – but that’s where I’ve made all of my films to date. It’s almost a comfort zone.

So for this teaser film within a teaser show, I came up with a more oblique solution, that didn’t involve filming the story exactly, but instead expanded the backstory of our artist, Nina Bonnestell. We simply presented what her last day on Earth would be like, as she says goodbye to all the sensory experiences that would be denied her on a 3 year mission to another planet: the taste of fresh food, air that hasn’t been recycled a thousand times, the sensation of running water over your hands.

The actor bringing the character of Bonnestell to life is Veronica Jean Trickett – someone who I met several years earlier in a filmmaking context, because Vee is also an accomplished writer/director. And it was one of her short films that she also starred in, which made me think of her for the role. Right from the get-go, when she submitted a self-tape audition piece from a monologue that I’d written, both Timo & I felt she projected both the strength and vulnerability that our Artist Astronaut needed.

We spent a very packed, but enjoyable day filming with Vee in Brighton, and got inventive with our location – a house belonging to friends of Timo’s – that became not only Bonnestell’s home, but parts of a Martian habitat – aided by a little sprinkling of old-school camera trickery.

Together with some Mars surface shots created in my back garden of all places, a few weeks later, we had a film – not the whole thing, but enough to give a flavour. Meanwhile, Timo had the unenviable task of putting together an entire show which was to take place in Talbot Heath Girls School, that for one night only would play host to a neon caberet for the end of the world. He pulled in both regulars to the world of Momo live performance, and new collaborators to help fashion this event out of sticks & string, imagination and passion. Key onstage collaborator was Hazel Evans, an artist, performer and spiritual explorer, who has worked with Timo many times. She would be embodying the persona of ‘The Muse’ – playing opposite Timo’s ‘Ghost of Future Shock’. Together they would be our guides through the evening – narrating, performing, and facilitating the transition from live moment to my filmed content.

Post-production on the film literally took me up to the wire – only completing the day before the event. We didn’t have the luxury (actually necessity!) of a rehearsal the day before – having no access to the space until about 6 hours before the event – and everything we needed to do had to take place in that timespan. I saw the pulling together of a little creative community, literally conjuring a show from thin air inside a school hall.

And what we pulled off on the evening of 29th April 2018 was a little piece of magic. Words here won’t really do it justice – it has to be experienced – participated in. I was helping to film the event on the evening, but that will still be a poor substitute for being there. The combination of atmosphere, music, visuals, performance and message was mesmerising. Everyone on the stage was in the zone – particularly Timo & Hazel, and for me, it became greater than the sum of the parts that I had witnessed in the brief rehearsal just before the actual event. I don’t think anyone present will forget that evening in a hurry.

As I said to Timo, if The Shape of Things to Hum is Apollo 11 – full lunar landing, stepping on the Moon – then 5 Songs was Apollo 8 – leaving the safety of Earth for the first time to circle the Moon – a necessary trailblazer to learn from & prepare for what was to follow. In that respect, she was a good ship, and I was so proud to be part of the crew.

To be honest, it has been an odd feeling to find myself the other side of the event – albeit a prototype – after more than two years of thinking about not much else. Like Voyager, there was a long period of build up as the goal got imperceptibly closer each day – then the sudden mad flyby of activity for the event itself – followed by empty interplanetary space again until the next encounter.

Hopefully that next encounter will be The Shape of Things to Hum proper – with the full-blown version of The Martian Artist. And we head towards that armed with some pretty significant knowledge – the most important of which is that we’ve proved to ourselves that Art is indeed the delivery system by which change can be effected. At its essence, Art is communicating the story of what it is to be human. We (being human, of course) respond to that story, so the end result of that process is change – sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic.

We have been hard-wired for story from those first marks made on a cave wall. And ancient myth was storytelling that shaped society. It is a cornerstone belief that both Timo & I subscribe to – that ultimately everything boils down to “what is its story?” So if we want to change things, we need new myths. We need to tell different stories. And I include myself in this. When it comes to personal change, storytelling begins at home.

50 truly is the age of reassessment in one’s life, and this project has reaffirmed that visual storytelling is where my talents lie. As Spock said in The Wrath of Khan, my “first, best destiny”. To anyone who knows me, that might seem like an obvious observation, but family life & work (the kind that pays bills) created a frame that often made me perceive filmmaking as indulgent hobby, getting in the way of ‘proper’ life stuff. A frame that has most consistently been applied by myself, and compounded by my frankly lousy ability to juggle the demands of all these elements. The end result is guilt, and feeling conflicted about my aspirations – to the point where normally if I introduce myself in a social situation, and am asked about what I do, I would never volunteer ‘Filmmaker’, when that is clearly who I am at my core.

I feel there is almost a ‘coming out’ process that I need to undergo. My work screams who I am, and displays me at my most authentic, but the person I still have to come clean with and admit to being, is me.

So my challenge is to find a way to rewrite my own personal story and acknowledge & accomodate all the aspects that are truly important to me: Family and Filmmaking. And when I use the term family, I include not only my wife Lucy & and daughter India, but all the incredible friendships we have forged that have been energising and life-sustaining over the last few years of this journey through life. It is creativity and friendship, love & family that has given meaning and purpose to me – all need to be honoured and celebrated. And the linking thread that has bound us together has been art, or creativity of one form or another – whether that be films, local radio shows, writing, painting or music. We have used it to explore the story of ourselves – even if we didn’t realise it. To explore, learn, develop and grow. And it nourishes not only us but the wider community.

We are already changing the shape of things – and for the better.”

Andy Robinson
Exeter, July 2018

Fully Charged Live – EVs shift the power at Silverstone

If you haven’t heard of Fully Charged, then that’s because you’re not currently the right sort of geek. But dropping into the first ever event by the online TV show this weekend showed me just how un-geeky the world of electric vehicles and clean energy for the home is already becoming. Because wandering around its packed halls in the pavilion buildings surrounded by the famous British race track, I saw only open-minded enthusiasts everywhere, brought together by a middle aged mechanoid with a bit of vision.

 

Robert Llewelin’s regular interviews with car designers and clean energy developers, home charging champs and innovative future thinkers have inspired and informed me over much of the time I’ve been developing Unsee The Future – enough to convince me that EVs are already viable for most car journeys right now, but with a staggering revolution about to burst across our highways. And as I’ve said in a couple of the episodes, most notably EP9: Energy, the reason EVs should excite you if you’re concerned about the environment isn’t simply that they are helpfully emmission-free at point of use. It’s because the mindset they bend your brain into when you use them is the beginnings of the mindset it will take between us all to save the goddam planet.

Here, I give you a glimpse in a little vlog that was a typical one-take wander with no editorial planning, including inspiring punchline. But it was an inspiring day – one we found hugely encouraging to some hopes, I’d go so far as to say. See what you make of it.