April 24th: The Cheshire Run 2016
Events started with the Cheshire Run, a road run event for classic commercialsthat follows a route from Lymm, through Knutsford, Congleton, Sandbach, Crewe and Nantwich to a stop at the Raven cafe near Whitchurch. The route continues up the A49 and back to North Cheshire but we turn off at Beeston and head back- still a trip of just over 100 miles in all.
This year the run went smoothly, unlike last year when the fan belt disintegrated on the return trip, although fortunately we were able to effect a temporary repair at the roadside. This time there were no problems, and we enjoyed the meet up at the Raven which becomes a mini truck show for a couple of hours, a lot of people coming to spectate.
April 30-May 2nd The Llandudno transport Festival
This is a popular show in a fantastic location next to the sea at the town of Llandudno. They do have road runs around the Great Orme and Conway but we don't take part as once set up it is not logistically viable once we are set up. This was an opportunity to test out the new generator, built by team member Eric, using a Ford Transit engine and mounted on a trailer. It performed faultlessly, giving a good stable output with no problems for both days of the show. The fuel economy (on red diesel) is better than the petrol generator despite giving double the output.
The weather was a bit iffy, but not too bad. It rained quite a lot on the Saturday so there were worries about vehicles geting off the site, but fortunately it dried up for the Sunday and we were very close to the exit so we had no problems.
By this time we were getting ready for the ADAPT project OB which was to happen is just a couple of weeks, so we were concerned that everything possible should be working, and some areas which we had not yet really tackled had to be got working- talkback and cues, for instance. We were able to use part of the time at the show to discuss plans.
The Royal Holloway University of London - The ADAPT Project
In 2015 I had been approached by the Royal Holloway University of London about a research project into the history of television, which was to recreate an outside broadcast as it was done in the 1970s using original equipment and the original staff who actually did it ‘for real’. I was not sure quite what they wanted to do, was it to be a documentary film, a student exercise, or an oral history project?
When they originally made contact, I had a lot of reservations about it. They wanted the original cameras, not the later ones we have been using for demonstrations, and they were keen to point out that they didn’t want to ‘cheat’ anything like you might do for a drama. They wanted to do an actual programme in the way it was done in the 70s, using a crew of people who were working at the time and basically letting them get on with it while they recorded what goes on with a ‘fly on the wall’ fixed camera rig and a couple of hand held cameras. The actual content of the ‘OB’ was not that important, but after various decisions it was decided to do a sports programme, and it had to be indoors so it ended up as a darts match. I had suggested the venue, a local hotel where we have car club meetings and I know the owner.
The university had agreed to take over the hotel for the week to accommodate their staff, some final year students who were assisting and the ‘veteran crew’ who were from both London and Manchester. They were mostly retired, varying in age from 60s to 80s, and comprised three cameramen, a sound supervisor and two assistants, two vision engineers and a vision supervisor, a VTR operator and an engineering manager. Director Geoff Wilson and PA Jane Whitmore, both very experienced in sports production, completed the ‘dream team’. I ended up as the lighting director, my old job, partly from logistic reasons as I could organise the hire of the lighting equipment beforehand.
The ‘veteran crew’ would only be arriving on the Monday (the day after the NVCF) when I would bring North 3 and two hire vans driven by University staff or students with the cables, cameras and a 1” C-Format videotape machine (which needed a tail-lift van, which became the mobile VTR). The producer for the ‘university crew’ and the first assistant had worked on ‘Big Brother’ and they employed a company who specialise in ‘fixed rig’ systems, using tiny HD cameras cabled back to a mobile control centre in several flightcases. Everyone would be radio-miked and all sound and vision feeds separately recorded on 8 channel solid state VTRs (not much bigger than a paperback book!)
The director could view the feeds from the fixed rig on quad-split high quality monitors. A more detailed description of the preparations and event are in a fuller article from Airwaves HERE, but although it was a lot of work to undertake, it has to be said that it was a fantastic experience and great fun for everyone. We said it was like if you owned a wartime aircraft which you kept in your garden and enjoyed tinkering with, but then if the RAF offered to bring an original crew and film them flying it on a training mission, would that not be the most exciting thing you could do with it?
The event has been featured in several publications: 'Broadcast', 'Prospero' (BBC retired staff newspaper) and in ZERB, the Guild Of Television Cameramen's magazine. It is now featured on the BBC website. For more information check out these links:
June 25th & 26th: The Kelsall Steam and Vintage Fair
This event, which is only a few miles away from us, is getting bigger every year with more lorries and other vehicles including one of the largest displays of ERF vehicles to be seen anywhere. Unfortunately LO23 was not yet roadworthy, but hopefully next year...
July 10th: The Wilmslow Show
We always enjoy this event, but unfortunately on the way there we got a call to say it had been cancelled due to the field being flooded, so turned back.
August 28th and 29th : Shrewsbury Steam and Vintage Vehicle Rally, Onslow Park.
This show is a chance for ex-Pebble Mill staff to come and see North 3, as it is the nearest we normally get to Birmingham. The organisers are extrememly helpful and let us have our own area where we can pitch up with campervans and caravans behind the scanner, and have plenty of room for the gazebo to house the cameras.
We had reasonable weather, although like every event this year there was a constant threat of rain. Despite not having a bad summer on the whole, every weekend the weather seemed to go cold and wet.
September 12th & 13th : Malpas Yesteryear Rally
Another good local event to finish off the year. I thought we would be short of crew but fortunately Roy Bradshaw and Sue and Robin Stonestreet came to the rescue so we had plenty of expertise on hand to show visitors round. We had probably the best weather of the year, bright and pleasant but not too hot.
2017 started with the Llandudno Transport Festival, a great 3-day event held right on the front at this pleasant seaside town. Weather was not great but it didn't rain, and gave us the first outing of the year, as the Cheshire Run clashed with this event so we could not do both.
The picture below shows the view from the roof on N3 over the bay, when rigging the radio check aerial.
June 24th & 25th: The Kelsall Steam and Vintage Fair
The Kelsall Steam and Vintage Rally, Kelsall, nr. Chester (A51 near Tarvin )24th & 25th June 2017. A great show with quite a lot of steamers, cars, bikes, tractors and many commercials. The ERF club have an especially large presence, and this year we wanted to have Lo23 and North 3 together.
This was to be the first appearanc e of Lo23 since we brought her soon after purchase in 2013, in a sorry semi-dismantled state. Work has been ongoing for the last 4 years to sort out the rotting rear bodywork and to refit a lot of the missing equipment. Unfortunately there has not been time to get the paintwork done, but with luck and a lot of hard work by our team she was ready for the road after all this time.
With the new marquee to display the cameras and both trucks in operation, powered by Eric's generator, we were able to put on a good display contrasting the 1969 technology with the 1989/2009! We had live pictures in Lo23 for the first time, using a Sony 950WSP on Triax. The weather fortunately did not get too warm as we definitely didn't have enough power for air-con, which does not work on Lo23 yet anyway.
July 9th: The Wilmslow Show
The show was on a new site this year, and we had a good area next to the arena. The weather was fine, but again fortiunately not too hot. We had both the PC80 and EMI cameras working and giving the best pictures yet, there was a good turnout of interested parties including a number of ex- BBC staff who had not seen us in operation, including director Mandy Winkworth who had directed the last North West Tonight from Oxford Road- in which we took part, back in 2011. Everyting performed well and we had a very enjoyable day, as did the hundreds of visitors who came to have a look round. www.wilmslowshow.co.uk
August 27th and 28th : Shrewsbury Steam and Vintage Vehicle Rally, Onslow Park.
Brilliant event with all kinds of displays on a huge site, steamers, cars, commercials, working field, craft- even a vintage pram concours!
There may be other events later on that are not yet confirmed- see updates.