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I’ve spent the last week in edit struggling to tell a complicated story in a simple way. I have a maxim that I try to apply to all my TV work, which is ‘simple stories well told’; it’s difficult to achieve sometimes.
I’d always thought this motto applies more to producing and directing films, because the process of making a coherent, entertaining story that works for a broadcaster’s audience is inherently complex.
But when I looked at the still photograph of Drew and Tiree, I see the maxim at work again. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures that are contre jour. When colour and texture are removed, the essential is isolated without the detail.
The Feis movement was founded in the early eighties in response to a resurgence of interest in traditional music. At that time I worked as a freelance photographer and film maker in the Highlands and Islands. Then it was impossible not to be drawn to what was happening at the various Feisean that were springing up all over Scotland.
The first Feis I went to was in Barra in the summer of 1988. As I wandered from class to class in Castlebay school, it was clear that there was something fundamental happening to traditional music. Fiddles screeched, drums beat, children danced – an energy I’d never witnessed before was being unleashed.
It wasn’t just at the children’s Feis, but all around, amongst the tutors and those attending adult Feisean and events: there was a real feeling of optimism.
Over the years since then, a hard core of dedicated enthusiasts from all walks of life around Scotland have ensured that many of the wee ones of the Feis movement have become the big names of the traditional music scene in Scotland and much further afield. The Feis movement is a shining example of people working togther in communities to produce something far larger than the sum of the parts.
I struggled through an hour of exercise early this morning. I’d been feeling rough before I started but normally I’d feel better after the endorphins kicked in. Not today. By the time I came to leave the house to slither through the cold grey London slush, I was sweating and apparently a strange colour. I’ve always been completely useless at listening to my body but in this case I couldn’t ignore it. My legs buckled, head swooned and I broke into a cold sweat. I got two steps out the house and turned back. The rest of the day was then spent slipping in and out of lemsip haze to fidget on my blackberry and attempt to deal with the seemingly office unavoidable. There was so much happening at work that needed an immediate answer that it was impossible to escape it, but I was reminded of the saying my Dad often uses, ‘The graveyard is full of people who were indispensible’. Anyway the calls have stopped and the fever has broken so to celebrate I thought I’d put up two pictures of my carefree grandkids I took this summer. They have yet to feel the guilt of a day off work.
I’m watching Boys and Girls Alone on Channel 4. It’s about a hand picked gangle of 8 -11 year old kids, forced to live on their own in a Sussex reversion of ‘Lord of the Flies’ – but with girls, for god’s sake.
It made me laugh and occasionally made good comment on our younger generation, and their very confused parents.
But it also made me think how lucky these kids are compared with some children of the same age I met in Afghanistan. The child above has polio, and those below have had their legs blown off by landmines.
I couldn’t resist a folksy blog on the snow in London. We went to bed last night and it was snowing. We woke to soft silence and a child’s distant laugh. London was transformed. Schools off. No buses. Tubes non-existent. ‘I’ll have to work from home’, said Jen with deep concern slash delight. Today the great advantage of being a twenty minute walk from work became a temporary disadvantage. There was no way I could call off work, but most of my staff had to. Still, on the way in I managed to snap some cliched snowy London pics. And after a surprisingly productive day, I headed home early to take my Ozzy Jen to Victoria Park to make her first ever snowman, actually a Snow-woman.
Chief Marcus is head of the Wisabel Clan. The Wisabels are a rich clan and the Pusobs are a poor clan. Together, these two clans make up the sixty or so residents of the village of Merengman. The hamlet lies deep in the mountains of West Papua. Markus and his tribe claimed never to have met a white man until we arrived to live with them for four months.
I was show runner for a production company called Cicada Films who make lots of great documentaries. This was one of my all time favourite gigs. It’s not often you get asked to go find and then live with a tribe of (reportedly) reformed cannibals. The result was a series of eight one hour documentaries called ‘Living with the Mek’ or ‘The World’s Lost Tribes’. It was an intimate portrait of life in the village seen through the eyes of explorers Mark Anstice and Olly Steeds.
The Mekmem people are masters of their environment who have lived the same way for eight thousand years. But things are changing fast for them. The advent of the bible, tee shirts and Chinese lighters are challenging their traditional way of life. But then again with a life expectancy of forty years and an infant mortality rate of up to fifty percent, who is to say change is a bad thing?
It’s been a bit like this today.