The Terrestrial http://www.theterrestrial.com Unique voices from Planet Earth Sat, 02 Apr 2016 21:07:11 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.17 Always Patrolling: Andreas Hawk Schoyen, London Chapter UK Guardian Angels http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/andreas-hawk-schoyen-london-chapter-uk-guardian-angels-2/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/andreas-hawk-schoyen-london-chapter-uk-guardian-angels-2/#comments Sat, 02 Apr 2016 20:50:36 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2487 Continue Reading]]> What does it take for your average person on the street to step in when they whiteness a crime, or say a gang of youths intimidating people?

“I saw a young kid bullied and slapped across his face by a gang of about 10 teenagers on a platform in Clapham Junction. I wanted to intervene, but they were too many, so I went into a café on the platform to get security. By the time security came the gang had jumped on a train a disappeared.”

That may sound like the words of your average man on the street, overwhelmed and intimidated by what he was witnessing, seeking another to intervene. They’re actually the words of Andreas Schoyen, a former Corporal in the Royal Danish TA Ranger Corps and with the Royal Danish Navy Military Police. Even trained ex-Military personnel find it hard to step-in in those kinds of situations.

A short while later in Islington, Schoyen was handed a recruitment flyer by a guy wearing the famous red beret and jacket of The Guardian Angels, presenting him with the chance to ensure that the next time a member of the public needed his help on London’s streets, he’d have the numbers behind him to intervene.

The Guardian Angels were formed by a former McDonald’s night manager Curtis Sliwa in New York City, 1979. NYC was a seriously dangerous place back then, its murderous streets riddled with urban decay, before it was cleaned up and whipped in to the world’s most famous tourist spot in the 90s by a change in approach by the NYPD and former City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Sliwa was appalled by the levels of crime and violence he saw each day, particularly on the city’s subway system. He banded together a group of similarly concerned NYC residents and staged ‘Safety Patrols’ in trouble areas, christening his new organisation The Guardian Angels, kitting them out in high visibility red berets and jackets; a uniform that would make the Angels famous across the world. Chapters sprung up as far away as Japan, Indonesia, Israel and Europe.

It was in Denmark that Andreas Schoyen, born in Germany but raised on the Algarve, first came across the Angels. “I first heard about the Guardian Angels in 1995 in Copenhagen, when I was given a flyer. I trained with them for a few months, before immigrating back to Portugal.”

Having been handed another flyer in Islington, Andreas would reconnect with The Guardian Angels in his newest adopted city, completing the months of mandatory training required of a recruit before being allowed on foot patrol.

“We trained general self-defence techniques and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” explains Schoyen, who rose through the ranks to become UK National Director, as well as Assistant European Coordinator for the organisation under his Angels nickname Hawk.                                                                                                                                

“The training is now standardised throughout Guardian Angels Chapters around the world. We have an online training program which we all follow. It takes 6 month to become a Guardian Angel. The first month is probation as a Recruit. Then the individual goes onto become a Cadet, with Dojo (training facility) training, Patrol and oral training. The GA Cadet has a physical, verbal and written graduation test if the UKGA Training Coordinator feels the Cadet is ready.”

London Guardian Angel patch 2

As New York became safer during the 90’s, the Angels’ patrolling of the streets and transit systems became less frequent, and with it came a drop in profile that would see the number of new recruits dwindle year on year, both in the city ubiquitous to the organisation, and subsequently across its many national and international chapters. Funding, traditionally arriving in the form of corporate sponsorship and donations in the US, also became an issue as the group’s profile shrank.

“We in the UK are working on getting the same type of funding, as well as other methods” explains Schoyen, who along with his team shell out for their own bus and rail fares whilst on duty patrolling public transport in the capital; something the City of New York traditionally covered for the NYC chapter.

“Yes, that’s true. We are in negotiations with Transport for London (TFL) to see if they are willing to give us the same help,” says Schoyen, ever the diplomat. Ultimately The Angels are community spirited volunteers who pay their own way to help keep their community safe. Other cities around the world allow their Angels to ride for free in light of their selfless commitment to community wellbeing; not so London. I ask Andreas if this financial burden is a factor in the number of recruits signing up to the London Chapter dropping dramatically in recent years?

“I think it is a mixture of factors. It was a new and exciting thing when we first started a GA Chapter here in the UK. Hence the large numbers of volunteers. Society has become more egoistic, with young people’s mind set of ‘what can my community give me’, instead of ‘what can I give my community’.

And it’s the reaction from his community that keeps Andreas and his team on patrol.

“London was like it is now, always full of surprises. It’s the smiles, positive comments and encouragements we get from the general public, which makes it all worth the while.”

Interview by Marcus Lawry

 

Join thousands of ordinary people around the world in doing something beyond yourself, join a patrol: guardianangels.org/volunteer

 

Want more?

UK Guardian Angels on Facebook

Photographer Edward Thompson’s Photo Series on the London Chapter 

The Fight Against “Crack Crazed Cretins with Chromosome Damage”: A Video History of the Guardian Angels 

The New York Post: The Bad Old Days of NYC Are Back

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Covert Hooligan: Studying Football Violence from the Inside: Dr Geoff Pearson http://www.theterrestrial.com/sport/covert-hooligan-studying-football-violence-from-the-inside-dr-geoff-pearson/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/sport/covert-hooligan-studying-football-violence-from-the-inside-dr-geoff-pearson/#comments Sat, 09 Jan 2016 00:08:13 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2467 Continue Reading]]> Dr Geoff Pearson is a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law at the University of Manchester, a co-founder and committee member of the Annual Ethnography Symposium, a Manchester United season ticket holder and committee member of MUST, the Manchester United Supporters Trust.

Having attended football matches regularly with his father as a child, he became increasingly interested in terrace culture and the dynamics of football crowds. Whilst sitting a school exam in 1990, Geoff came across a question relating to football crowds, based upon a paper authored, coincidentally, by his namesake, the late Professor Geoffrey Pearson. With the realisation that football crowds was something he could actually study academically, he eventually enrolled in Lancaster University to study Law, completing a PhD on Legal Responses to Football Hooliganism.

It was during the writing of this thesis that Pearson decided to undertake covert research, when attempts at interviewing fans proved unreliable.

“Often non-violent fans would exaggerate their involvement in disorder whilst serious ‘hooligans’ tended to ‘play-down’ their involvement for fear of being reported.”

In order to gain suitable data for his PhD thesis, direct observations were required, with Pearson subsequently embedding himself amongst fans of Blackpool FC, as he sought to understand the impact law changes had upon violence amongst football crowds.

During this period of research, Pearson was put under pressure to commit criminal offences as part of the group, which would crucially gain him the acceptance required to continue his research. To his surprise, the committing of minor offences such as pitch invasions and confronting rival supporters seemed to do the trick.

“My justification for this action at the time was that it enhanced my position in the field and I was accepted for the remainder of the season as one of the ‘hardcore’ despite my continual ‘opting out’ of more serious offences.

In fact, towards the end of this research period, I was informed by one of the research subjects that I was considered to be ‘a bit of a nutter’ by some of the group. This was despite the fact that during my entire time in the field, I had not ‘connected’ with a single punch nor been arrested, in contrast to many of the research subjects”.

Dr Geoff Pearson would go on to become Director of Studies for the University of Liverpool’s MBA Football Industries programme from 2003 - 2014, during which time he authored a number of papers on football hooliganism, crowd disorder and the law.

The Terrestrial caught up with Geoff to discuss his time undertaking covert research with the Blackpool FC supporters during the 90’s, and what his research unveiled about the ever changing state of ‘the English Disease’.

Interviewed by Marcus Lawry.

 

TT: What were your first memories of hooliganism, and how did your interest develop from there to the point you wanted to study it up close?

GP: I attended football matches regularly with my father in the 1980s and really didn’t see much trouble, although I do remember listening as a child on the radio to the 1985 Heysel stadium tragedy. I became interested in football crowds through being a fan and the experience of standing on a terrace and I realised this was something I could study as long ago as 1990 when I came across a question about it in an exam paper at school.

 

TT: What was your motivation for embedding yourself amongst the fans, and what did you want to focus your research on?

GP: I was initially interested in seeing how successful the law had been at reducing football crowd violence. So I started conducting covert participant observation at a local club, Blackpool FC, standing on the terraces, travelling to away matches, and attending pubs near the stadiums. At the time however Blackpool didn’t have a regular “firm” so my attention switched to spontaneous violence and disorder in which fans I was observing occasionally became caught up.

 

TT: How did being part of that element differ from how you perceived it would be?

GP: Following Blackpool for three years and then travelling to the World Cup in France in 1998 it became clear to me that the vast majority of so-called “hooliganism” wasn’t the result of ‘hooligans’ travelling to matches with the intention of causing violence, but that it was unplanned and a result of a number of complex factors, not least how football crowds were managed by the authorities.

 

TT: How did you get them to accept you?

GP: The fans I was observing did not know I was a researcher so I was typically seen just as another fan. Later in my research when I stopped doing covert work, it was with a group of Manchester United fans who had already accepted me as one of their group. Generally if I outwardly supported the same team and engaged in the same drinking, singing and ‘piss-taking’ or ‘banter’, and if trouble took place I didn’t run away - unless they did - football fan groups were welcoming, friendly and also fun to be around.

 

TT: What were your findings?

GP: My findings were that in the UK the media – and the hooligans themselves - over-stated the impact and organisation of football hooligan firms and that most football riots were actually far more complex. I found that a number of factors could increase the risk of widespread football disorder, most importantly policing and crowd management strategies and tactics. Bad policing causes crowd disorder. Good policing can manage even large and intoxicated football crowds which include hooligans looking to engage in violent confrontation.

To understand football crowd behaviour we need to focus not just on the occasions that disorder takes place but also on the vast number of match events which pass off peacefully.

 

TT: How does organised football hooliganism in the UK differ to its darkest days in the 80’s, and what has been responsible for the changes?

GP: Well I didn’t carry out my research in the 1980s so cannot speak with complete authority. But previous research suggests, as I found later on, that the level of organisation was overstated. So-called ‘firms’ rarely arranged fights in the 1990s and 2000s even with the advent of the internet and the mobile phone. Football hooligan culture in the UK remained a bit of a game – it was something you did on a match-day close to the stadium or main railway station or coach park.

Visiting firms would know which pubs were considered by the home supporters to be home territory and could either arrive early to “take” the pub before the home fans arrived or could wait until it was full and walk provocatively past it. Both tactics had the potential for violence to occur but no organisation between the rival firms was required in advance.

The main difference was that policing got better and it became more difficult to play the game without getting caught. A number of researchers have also suggested that hooligans actually want the police present to play a role in ensuring violence is limited in duration and seriousness.

 

TT: Has the perceived social profile of the average football hooligan changed during this time?

GP: Research in this area is simply not robust. There is no definition of what is a “football hooligan” for a start. Do we mean someone who attends matches with the intention of fighting but may not actually fight? Do we include someone who attends just to watch the match but gets involved in a spontaneous fight? Do we include those who engage not in violence but in vandalism, other non-violent criminality, or anti-social behaviour?

Generally engagement in crime increases amongst those with reduced income and some early researchers into football hooliganism pointed to the link to lower working class social groups. But these findings were never properly tested and at the time most non-violent football fans also belonged to those groups so this explanation didn’t really tell us anything and certainly couldn’t account for why these individuals only became involved in violence occasionally.

 

TT: Will it ever die out?

GP: Football is a microcosm of society generally. So long as you have violence and disorder in society you will also see it in connection with football events. However in my view football stadiums in the UK are some of the most safe places in the country – personally I feel safer going to the match than going out to drink in a town or city centre on a Friday or Saturday night.

 

TT: The law changes and the preventative measures employed by stewards and the police often see ordinary fans persecuted by approaches developed for hooligans. How do you think these issues could be addressed?

GP: There are a number of laws in the UK that attack non-violent football fan culture and in doing so increase the risk of violence and disorder. UK restrictions on alcohol consumption at football for example tend not to reduce how much fans drink, but do increase the risk of disorder taking place and escalating.

Furthermore, the UK enables the police to apply for banning orders to prevent fans attending matches (or even towns where matches take place) where they believe the fan may contribute to violence or disorder. These orders are unnecessary at a time when recorded football-related crime in the UK has been declining steadily for 20 years and due to the fact they follow a civil rather than criminal justice procedure, they inevitably catch non-violent fans.

The concern is that the UK football banning order model will be seen as a panacea for football hooliganism elsewhere in the world, when in fact the real reason for the reduction in football hooliganism in the UK has been due to a combination of safer and better managed stadia (including extensive CCTV coverage), proportionate criminal punishments for those convicted of football violence offences, and policing strategies based on differentiating violent and non-violent fans and communicating and engaging in a positive manner with football fan groups.

 

Dr Geoff Pearson is author of “An Ethnography of Football Fans: Cans, Cops and Carnivals” (2012 Manchester University Press). His research can be followed Here and on Twitter @Geoff_Pearson

 

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Killer Robots are closer than you think! Thomas Nash: Campaign to Stop Killer Robots http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/campaign-to-stop-killer-robots/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/campaign-to-stop-killer-robots/#comments Wed, 30 Dec 2015 10:53:12 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2451 Continue Reading]]> As near as a decade ago, many would have considered the use of pilotless drones fighting wars controlled by military personnel on a separate continent, as within the realms of science fiction. Yet the deadly use of this technology has become so commonplace, reported hourly through many news channels, that the moral question of its use has slipped away as the word Drone becomes part of the everyday lexicon.

Sidestepping the overarching question of whether military intervention is justified in the first place, the moral question of using drones for remote killing is a battle that has already been lost as their use has become routine.

It is important to note that this is a political issue rather than a technological one; the same robot that drops bombs on a pre-defined target is also capable of dropping aid over disaster zones. It is the decision of our governments as to how this technology is applied; then it is down to the pilots, sitting in front of monitor screens, often thousands of miles away, to pull the trigger.

But how long will it be before the pilot, along with his or her human instinct to judge the appropriate use of deadly force, is removed from this sequence altogether? How far away are we from that responsibility being handed to an autonomous robot?

“Closer than people think” says Thomas Nash, Director of Article 36 (a UK-based organisation promoting public scrutiny over the development of weapons) and joint Coordinator of the International Network on Explosive Weapons.

As Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition from 2004 to 2011, Nash led the global campaign resulting in the Convention on Cluster Munitions, having previously worked for the New Zealand and Canadian Foreign Ministries in Geneva and Ottawa.

Through Article 36, Nash co-founded the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in April 2013. The Terrestrial caught up with Thomas to discuss autonomous weapon development, the role of the AI sector and how the fight against killer robots can be won.

Interviewed by Marcus Lawry

 

TT: What prompted the formation of this coalition?

TN: Scientists as well as human rights and humanitarian campaigners had begun to express concern about the potential development of autonomous weapons as early as the 00s.

The concern was and still is a fundamental moral objection to weapons systems that can fire missiles and drop bombs without a human being pressing the button. It wasn’t until 2012 that things really got going though. Article 36 called for a ban in March 2012 and Mary Wareham at Human Rights Watch led discussions throughout that year towards the establishment of an international coalition. After a key meeting in New York in October 2012 the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots was launched in London in April 2013.

 

TT: How close are we to seeing autonomous weapons introduced to the arms market?

TN: Closer than people might think. We already have automatic systems that can fire at incoming missiles or that can attack enemy radar, but they aren’t really selecting their own targets, they are more detecting a stimulus and automatically attacking it. That’s the same as a landmine really.

We also have systems like “automatic target recognition” – a sophisticated set of sensors and software on board drones. This system gathers data and can suggest targets to humans. So it’s not hard to see how we could move from this situation to one in which the weapons system doesn’t simply suggest the target, but actually selects the target and fires the weapon at it. That’s really more of a political decision rather than a technical one. That’s why we need a legally-binding treaty to make that political decision impossible.

 

TT: What sort of weapons are we talking about?

TN: Autonomous weapons could take a variety of forms – aerial drones, armed vehicles, boats, humanoid soldiers. We usually see articles on this topic illustrated with pictures of the Terminator or Robocop, but it’s more likely that aerial drones are going to be on the frontline of developments towards greater autonomy in weapons systems.

 

TT: Is it possible to keep tabs on what arms developers are producing? Do you rely on whistleblowers or have to wait for them to announce a new product?

TN: This is a good question and it’s a key concern really – there is just so little transparency in the way weapons are developed. It happens behind closed doors, with discussions between arms manufacturers, the military and other bits of government and there is no public scrutiny. The good news in relation to autonomous weapons is that there is an international level spotlight now, with the talks happening at the United Nations and the media watching. So I think already the terrain is a little less conducive to the development of autonomous weapons and that in itself is a good thing.

 

TT: What sort of response have you received from governments to your lobbying?

TN: The response from governments has varied quite a bit. Some have been very vocal against autonomous weapons, including Pakistan, which has obviously had a lot of experience with drones hovering over its territory and firing missiles at people. Others like Israel, UK and US that already use armed drones have been sceptical about the need for new international rules in this area. Then there are a bunch of states like Austria, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and lots of others actually that are talking about the importance of meaningful human control over attacks.

This concept of meaningful human control has become a bit a cornerstone for discussions at the UN. How can we ensure meaningful human control, when do we know that we have it and should we prohibit weapons systems that operate beyond it?

 

TT: What is the view on the development of autonomous weapons of the Artificial Intelligence industry?

TN: The AI community set out its views pretty comprehensively against autonomous weapons in an open letter in July 2015. Over 20,000 people have signed this, including over 3000 researchers in the fields of AI and robotics. The letter explicitly calls for “a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”

 

TT: Even if the AI industry is against the development of autonomous weapons, it will be on the back of their work that such weapons will be created. What can they do to, practically or politically, to stop this happening?

TN: I think the AI and robotics communities can do a lot to stop the development of autonomous weapons. Getting involved with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a first step and there is also the International Committee for Robot Arms Control that gathers academics and thinkers in this area and is also part of the wider Campaign. When you have a broad consensus within an industry that a certain direction is unacceptable this can have a major impact on what society as a whole believes is appropriate.

In the end autonomous weapons will be prevented because political leaders in different countries can see that their people don’t want them. Then it will be a question of showing there is a feasible way for them to work as a group of countries to ban them and develop a forum of meetings to ensure that technology is scrutinised and discussed and that killer robots are never developed.

 

TT: What’s the next move?

TN: The next move for the Campaign is to get countries to develop national policies that embrace and explore the concept of meaningful human control and reject the development of autonomous weapons. These national level discussions are extremely important now and the AI community can be a part of them in parliament, with the military, in whatever committees and scientific advisory bodies that various governments have and so on. Members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots will be increasingly active on this front.

At the international level, the next set of UN talks will take place from 11-15 April 2016 in Geneva and we want to see countries coming along and raising their flag to call for a ban on “lethal autonomous weapons systems,” which is the term used at the UN.

The crunch time for decisions will be in November 2016 when the UN body discussing autonomous weapons has a major five-year review meeting. States could decide then to start negotiations on a legal instrument to ban autonomous weapons and that’s what we will be pushing hard for them to do.

 

TT: Where will this battle be won or lost?

 I think really the battle against autonomous weapons will be won on moral grounds. It’s a question about humanity and what sort of world we want to live in. I think most people, including most political leaders, have a sense that the principle of humanity is the common thread amongst all people and that this principle means something.

Weapons systems that can select targets and fire missiles themselves, based on some pre-programmed algorithm are morally repugnant. They would be an affront to our very understanding of humanity and human dignity. People just don’t want killer robots and that’s what gives me confidence that political leaders will decide to ban them.

 

Want More?

Visit the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots website for updates on their battle. 

Read the history of the first armed Drone over at Wired.

 

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The Wall of Death: Dynomyte Dave Seymour, Demon Drome http://www.theterrestrial.com/sport/the-wall-of-death-dynomyte-dave-seymour-demon-drome/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/sport/the-wall-of-death-dynomyte-dave-seymour-demon-drome/#comments Sat, 26 Dec 2015 13:15:59 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2436 Continue Reading]]> Death. Destruction. Mayhem. Whether it’s the bedridden grandmother surrounded by her family, coughing tar black chunks into daintily embroidered handkerchiefs; the young graduate cut down in his prime by a drunk driver while braving the post-work commute; masked psychopaths massacring innocents in the names of equally false prophets; women and children blown to bloody fragments by the airborne firepower of the World's Police in revenge of crimes in which they played no part, the manifestation of these uncontrollable forces pervade every aspect of our modern lives.

So what drives a man to put himself in harm’s way by propelling himself around a vertical-walled drum at bonerattling speeds like a particularly narked wasp inside a washing machine, devoid of any discernible armour, all faith invested in the hope that the precarious equilibrium between the 1920s Indian motorcycle roaring beneath him and the laws of physics themselves will remain intact?

For Dave ‘Dynomyte Dave’ Seymour, seasoned Wall of Death rider, it’s the adrenaline that floods his veins, the roar of the crowd.

“It’s all about the buzz”, he says with a grin, “especially when you have an audience that’s going crazy!”

The Wall of Death has an unsurprisingly storied history. Billed “the Grandaddy of all extreme sports”, its roots lie Stateside in the fledgling ‘board track races’ of the 1900s, where the manic and the brave, hurtling through long straights and banked turns, risked life and limb, all for the supreme glory of the win.

While popular among misfits and thrill seekers, the races were eventually marred by a series of fatalities. As a result, in the heart of New York’s Coney Island, the modern Wall – within which riders do battle with centrifugal forces and a pull of up to 4G at a height of twenty feet, all the while performing tricks as elaborate as the side-saddle crucifix – was born.

The Wall subsequently became a mainstay of the various North American carnival circuits, its riders the subject of the adoration of baying crowds far and wide, and was eventually exported to territories as diverse as the UK and India.

While the number of touring Walls has diminished significantly, the reaction of audiences has not been dulled. Everyone loves a daredevil, and the sport continues to draw loyal crowds willing to part with their money and faculties in equal measure.

It’s not difficult to see why. There’s something raw, sexy even, about placing yourself in the presence of danger. The almost primal characteristics of hero worship and bloodlust will inevitably remain appealing, whatever year it may be.

There’s also something to be said for the grit of it all, the smell of the oil as the Indians barrel around, the B-Grade Americana, the distinct lack of polish. Indeed, it hasn’t been yet been co-opted, to the point of tedium, in the way that, say, surfing or snowboarding have, used as a device to advertise products as bland as cereal, soft drinks and mobile phone coverage while soundtracked by a heinous dilution of whatever used to pass for punk rock.

There’s also something so wonderfully fucking childish about it all. It’s to be stressed that there’s absolutely nothing pejorative meant in the use of those words. Rather, it harkens back to a time where concepts as mundane as bills, debt, a career you hate and the perversity of ambitions attendant to that career were wholly fucking alien to you. A time where all that mattered was what excited you, the character of the thrill itself and how undoubtedly cool you thought the outlaws that lived beyond the fringes were. In that respect, file alongside your Human Flys, swordswallowers, fire breathers and Evel Knievels of the world. Imagine an episode of the Simpsons in which Bart proposes to stake his future on becoming a Wall rider, much to the chagrin of Marge, and you’re somewhere within the ballpark of what I’m talking about.

For Dave, there was something altogether serendipitous about his introduction into this strange world. A Harley riding biker of many years, Dave was simply looking for a new bike.

“I fancied switching to an Indian Chief. By chance, my mate Dave saw a classified for two Indian motorcycles. However, they came with a Wall of Death!”

Dave acknowledges that this ‘added extra’ constituted more than most would have bargained for. But to fail to understand why anyone would take on such an additional burden, with no previous experience of riding one, is a failure to understand Dave.

“Many would have walked away, but I’m impulsive”, he says.

In a minor twist of fate, Dave had actually seen the Wall on a visit to London some twenty years earlier, and recalling the memory with glee (he even still has a worn photograph of his son and daughter sitting on one of the bikes used that day), he set about acquiring it (along with a partner no longer involved), subsequently christening it the ‘Demon Drome’.

The Demon Drome was originally built in the States in 1927 and then transported to England, before finding itself in Wales and Skegness in the sixties and eighties respectively. With an appreciation of this history of multiple ownership and continental transit, it soon becomes apparent that buying the Wall was the easy part.

In an article previously published in the Torygraph, Dave explained:

“Collection was another matter. Parts were scattered at storage yards around the country, at some of which rent was owing. So covert night-time raids took place in order to reunite all the elements. Once I had everything together, it was apparent the condition was bad but not incurable.”

If construction of an event-worthy Wall wasn’t enough of an issue, there also remained the minor outstanding issue of actually learning how to ride it. Simple as roadbike riding, ‘tis not. After all, when did you last see a roadbike riding at (almost) right angles to the ground below?

Yet after several months of perseverance, Dave’s confidence grew, and he was soon able to master a repertoire of basic tricks. Perhaps unfathomably to most, Dave had originally purchased the Wall for no purpose other than his own enjoyment in the seclusion of his own garden. However, he soon resolved that this was where his future lay, and an impromptu request from a friend to appear at an event saw him take the Demon Drome out on the road for the first time.

Now, over ten years later, Dave tours all over the UK and Europe, Demon Drome in tow. For Dave at least, the life of a Wall rider isn’t a solitary one. The 18 separate pieces which comprise the Demon Drome mean that a seven person team is required to facilitate its appearance at any given event, three of whom are his wife Julia and children Duke and Alabama. Duke also happens to be a rider, and is said to be one of the best in business, while Alabama takes part in stunts such handlebar riding, which she has been doing since the age of ten.

Amongst this description of convivial family life in the midst of exceptional circumstances, you could be forgiven for thinking that the danger associated with riding is remote, that the very label ‘Wall of Death’ is just that – a hokey name designed to conjure an image to draw gormless punters in. But make no mistake, the danger is real.

Each new year yields (thankfully) isolated instances of calamity and severe injury of those that have scaled those heady heights seeking the adulation of the fans. Dave himself is no stranger to this.

“I have broken various bones, collected scars and bumps and even developed arthritis, all from riding the Wall” he recounts, in a way that makes it almost sound normal – an inconvenient occupational hazard.

What does the future hold for the Demon Drome, Dave and Wall riding more generally? Dave is keen to emphasise that while Wall riding is unavoidably steeped in certain amount of nostalgia, he and his team never wish to remain stagnant.

“We want to keep the Demon Drome true to its roots but keep innovating and putting on the best shows we can. We are practicing some pretty mad tricks for next year’s shows.”

As I watch the bikes sputter and growl, their movements a strange contradiction of brutality and unbridled finesse; the clapping of hands; the wide eyed awe; the sense of an almost otherworldly experience shared between rider and audience, almost cult-like in its intensity, I’m prompted to return to my original question - what drives a man to put himself in harm’s way by propelling himself around a vertical-walled drum at bonerattling speeds like a particularly narked wasp inside a washing machine, devoid of any discernible armour, all faith invested in the hope that the precarious equilibrium between the 1920s Indian motorcycle roaring beneath him and the laws of physics themselves will remain intact?

In attempting at finding an answer, I’m reminded of the lyrics to Richard Thompson’s aptly named ‘Wall of Death”,

“Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall of Death”.

Article by Lee Cooper

Want More? Watch Dynomyte Dave Seymour drive a Mazda 2 around the Demon Drome.

 

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Behind The Black House: Irreverend Gavin Baddeley, Church of Satan http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/gavin-baddeley-church-of-satan/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/gavin-baddeley-church-of-satan/#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2015 08:11:24 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2421 Continue Reading]]> On the night of the 30th of April 1966, Anton Szandor LaVey, former carnie, burlesque show organist, police photographer and ‘psychic’ investigator, shaved his head in the tradition of executioners, black magicians and the Yezidi devil worshippers of Iraq, and initiated the ritual which would mark 1966 as the year One, Anno Satanas—the first year of the Age of Satan; The Church of Satan was open for business.

Within two years membership of the Church of Satan had topped 10,000 worldwide, and with it came a media storm which has never fully passed. For the newsmen living off sensationalism, in LaVey and his mysterious movement which revelled in the macabre iconography of the occult, they had the perfect bogeyman; one who was more than happy to court the attention of the local and international press corps, who descended on San Francisco to investigate the far reaching tales of sex rituals, black magic and sacrifice which had travelled the telegraph wires of the western world.

It was during the 90’s whilst researching a book on modern Satanist culture, that English author Gavin Baddeley found himself with the rare opportunity of interviewing ‘The Black Pope’ Anton LaVey, who had retreated from public life and was thought by many to have died. A connection was sparked between the two men, with LaVey making Baddeley an honorary member of the Church of Satan, and eventually ordaining him a Reverend.

Now the most senior member of the Church of Satan in Britain, we spoke to the Irreverend (as he prefers to be known) Gavin Baddeley about his role in the Church, the myth of Satanic devil worship and what it truly means to be a Satanist.

Interview by Marcus Lawry

 

TT: I understand your interest in the Gothic and the morbid began at an early age; how did your path develop from there to the point of your involvement with the Church of Satan?

GB: My earliest memories are of obsessing over monsters, so I guess you could say my affinity with all things dark and ghoulish is lifelong. My association with the Church of Satan began when I was writing my first book, a study of Satanism entitled Lucifer Rising, over twenty years back. While the prevalent gossip at the time was that the Church's founder Anton LaVey was dead, he was actually just sick of the limelight and people in general, and had retired into deliberate seclusion. But I pulled some favours and managed to get a contact for his secretary.

After some negotiation, he agreed to meet me, and I flew out to San Francisco where we went out to dinner several times and stayed up until the early hours at the Black House talking. He seemed to like me and I found him a very impressive individual. I've interviewed a lot of famous – and notorious – people in my career as a journalist. But nobody had the same impact on me that LaVey did somehow. The only way I can put it is he felt mythic.

Anyhow, we continued to correspond when I returned to England. Then he asked if I wanted to become an honorary member of the Church of Satan. I don't join anything as a rule, but I thought about this, concluded that the philosophy he'd defined closely mirrored my own, and accepted. Some months later, in recognition of services rendered to the Prince of Darkness, he offered me an honorary priesthood, so I'm now officially Reverend Baddeley – though I prefer Irreverend.

 

TT: Can you separate for us the myths and realities of the Church of Satan; what are its principles, and what does it stand against?

GB: Satanism isn't devil-worship. It's an anti-religion, and the opposite of believing in something is not believing in something else. It's doubt. So Satanism is a creed for sceptics. The Devil doesn't exist in a literal sense, but he has become a very potent symbol, and symbols have real power. We also recognise that knowledge and pleasure – suppressed and condemned by conventional religion – are admirable goals, perhaps even sacred. Certainly more important than any 'spiritual' ideals – whatever spiritual's supposed to mean.

The Church of Satan's doctrines aren't difficult to find. There are plenty of essays on the official site or pick up a copy of The Satanic Bible, which has most of what you need to know in one paperback volume. Perhaps the pithiest version is the Nine Satanic Statements:

1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!
2. Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!
3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!
4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!
5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!
6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!
7. Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!
8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
9. Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!

 

TT: An outsider’s perception is often that Satanism is based around macabre rituals, such as Black Mass. Although such elements are greatly blown out of proportion by the popular media and cinema, what space do rituals occupy within Satanism?

GB: You can fall into a trap of performing for people, and people do like sex and blasphemy extravaganzas like the Black Mass. At one point I was routinely fielding calls from oily tabloid journalists eager to go to a secret sexy ritual on the company credit card. As I tried to explain, if all they had to do was phone me, it wasn't very secret, and if they wanted to see naked ladies at the company's expense, they could do it on their own time.

In truth, what looks good in a high budget Hollywood horror film often doesn't work in the more intimate, still environment of the ritual chamber. Many Satanists don't conduct many formal rituals at all – I very seldom do – and when I do they're private affairs which most people might find a little disappointing. But it's not for them.

 

TT: The Church sees Satanists as sinners, as evil. As a Satanist, what do you consider evil, or sinful?

GB: I think religion has lost any authority to judge the behaviour of others centuries back. In fact, one of the implications of the term Satanist is adopting the mantle of whatever they oppose. Religion hasn't been twisted or abused by bad people. It was invented by bad people, and the sooner we, as a species, can get our heads round that, the likelier we are to avoid extinction. I think stupidity is sinful – though I believe intelligence comes in many flavours and forms. I believe blind conformity is an evil of sorts – though I'm sceptical of the notion of evil as some absolute, let alone an identifiable force. That seems a bit childish, a cop out.

 

TT: It’s been recorded that the likes of Jayne Mansfield, Sammy Davis Jr., even Liberace were members of the Church of Satan, whilst many contemporary musicians in the metal genres such as Marilyn Manson are (even expected to be) members. What type of people do you feel are attracted to Satanism? Do they share a common trait?

GB: I think the Liberace story is apocryphal, though with LaVey you never know! Obviously people in the rock business have little to lose – even something to gain – by being associated with something like Satanism, so you're more likely to hear about that. A lot of members are rather more low profile for career or family reasons. Lucifer's something of an icon of rebellion, and a lot of Satanists have that side to them. They also tend to be quite cultured – into the arts and books – and contrary.

Satanism values individualism highly, so there's a wide range of different personalities that make up the whole. It's a club for non-joiners, and that tension helps keep it fresh.

 

TT: Is it true that you are the head of the Church of Satan within Great Britain? What are your responsibilities in your role as a Reverend?

GB: There's no such post, though I suspect I am the highest ranking member in the UK. I'm also likely the highest profile – often first port of call when representatives of the media, such as yourself, want to talk to somebody. Part of my role is to act as an information source on such occasions, though I've also conducted Satanic weddings, and acted as a conduit for like-minded folk I feel would benefit by being introduced. But I'm reluctant to call any of these responsibilities, as being a Satanist is something that serves me, I don't serve it. So, if I don't want to do something for whatever reason, I don't do it. We're only here once, and sometimes not for very long, so you've got to have fun with it frankly.

 

TT: What does being a Satanist mean to you personally?

GB: The iconography – all of the devils and witches and such – I found enormously aesthetically appealing and inspiring. But beneath that... honesty, standing up to idiocy and injustice, and treating life as an adventure. Honesty, because this is what I am. It's not an act. It's not for anybody else's benefit. Standing up because I feel the cancer of conformity, which is faith in its most virulent form, has afflicted humanity long enough. Somebody needs to confront the carriers on their own turf. Life as an adventure because if nothing else, Satanism is a wonderful way of meeting fascinating people, of challenging the world, of reminding oneself that we are here to learn from and enjoy the world, not bow before some imaginary tyrant.

 

Want more?

Gavin Baddeley appears at Abertoir Horror Festival in Aberystwyth: 10th-15th Nov 2015

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Mountains of the Ocean: 5 Minutes with Big Wave Surfer Andrew Cotton http://www.theterrestrial.com/sport/big-wave-surfer-andrew-cotton/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/sport/big-wave-surfer-andrew-cotton/#comments Fri, 30 Oct 2015 07:26:00 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2393 When I first watched this film of Andrew Cotton’s journey to Nazaré, the level of danger involved in big wave surfing hit home when a surfer is pulled from the water and given CPR on the beach. As the lifeguards battle to save the man, the ocean’s apocalyptic roar booms admonition to those gathered on the shoreline. The sight alone of the mountainous swell unfolding at Nazaré should be warning enough to stay on steady ground, but to a rare spirit, the charging glacial walls and the explosions of the waves arrive not as a deadly warning, but as a furious challenge.

Andrew Cotton, born and raised on the Devon Coast, has been charging in to the seas since the age of seven. As his skills developed, so did his taste for the big rides. He’d go on to help pioneer big wave spots in Ireland, and cast a big reputation as his focus turned south to Europe and spots like the aforementioned Nazaré in Portugal. A wave is a hard thing to measure, and whilst there stands an official record, held by the American Garrett McNamara for the largest ever surfed, debate rages over whether this has been bettered. Cotton is one of those thrust forward by the media as having traversed the face of record challenging waves.

Whilst wave sizes are debateable, the size of Cotton’s character is not. The Terrestrial caught up with Andrew Cotton, big wave surfer, family man, sometimes plumber, full time legend.

Interview by Marcus Lawry

 

TT: Tell us about your background in surfing, and how you chose to focus on big waves?

AC: The big wave focus just kind of happened naturally. I've always surfed since I was young and as every grom does, dreamed of being pro! I worked in a surfboard factory for 10 years after leaving school at 16 and travelled for 3 months every winter, then repped for a wetsuit brand and also managed surf shops; anything to spend as much time in the sea as possible. I re-trained as a plumber after being fed up with being broke. I worked as a plumber full time for 8 months which was when I decided money wasn't that important and I'd rather surf more.

 

TT: What was your first big wave experience?

AC: My first real experience was probably Waimea Bay in Hawaii when I was about 19 or 20. I still remember the session vividly.

 

TT: What constitutes a big wave, is there height threshold?

AC: No idea! Everyone has a different threshold which is the cool thing about surfing. An 8-10ft wave is big and can definitely scare you but you probably wouldn't class that as a big wave!

 

TT. How do you identify when big swells are due?

AC: Every surfer is a bit of a weather geek and there are so many good surf forecast sites now. So I spend a lot of time looking at predicted data and weather patterns. It's just knowing where you want to surf that can be the problem; sometimes as you can't be everywhere!

 

TT: What's your process when you get to the location? Is it a case of just getting out there and waiting, or do you follow a system?

AC: Every location is different and has unique conditions which I'll be looking for. There's no set process as every swell is different but I do have different rituals at different spots. Like in Nazaré (Portugal) I like to watch the waves from the cliff as long as possible, whereas at Mullaghmore in Ireland I'd rather watch the waves from the channel before surfing. Watching the waves from the headland there really scares me.

Andrew Cotton 1

TT: How do compose yourself when you take a fall in rough conditions? What's it like to be trapped under the waves?

AC: I've got a lot of experience at falling off! The key is not to panic; I sort of go into a zone and relax into it. I have a breathing pattern which I do to prepare my body and help settle nerves, which is belly breathing, 3 seconds in and 10 seconds out. It helps a lot.

 

TT: What was your biggest wave?

AC: Not sure to be honest, although I'm pretty focused on riding the biggest waves I'm not 100% on how we actually measure them accurately. At the end of the day there’s big, some are very big and others massive!

 

TT: What drives you on?

AC: Loads of things inspire me to do well and achieve. I have goals every season which I write down; it helps me focus towards what I want and is important that year. Also doing video projects is a great help, I get to watch my surfing and see what I'm doing wrong and where I can improve. At the end of the day I'm constantly looking to improve my big wave surfing, whether it's my boards, safety equipment, fitness or mental state. Every little bit helps.

 

Want more? Check out Andrew Cotton’s new series Behind The Lines at Redbull.com and follow his exploits on Instagram and Twitter.

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Capturing Trance Rituals: Vincent Moon: Filmmaker / Explorer http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/vincent-moon/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/vincent-moon/#comments Tue, 27 Oct 2015 07:33:04 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2360 Continue Reading]]> Vincent Moon is an independent French filmmaker and sound explorer. After cutting his teeth shooting short films and music videos for the likes of The National, R.E.M, Arcade Fire and Sigur Rós, Vincent packed his camera in a rucksack and hit road in 2008, travelling across five continents in a quest for sounds from stadium rock to rare shamanic rituals, from experimenting in electronics to accapella village songs.

A modern day Alan Lomax, these experimental ethnography films are released for free through his nomadic label Petites Planètes, under a Creative Commons license. His latest project HÍBRIDOS, in partnership with photographer, writer and director Priscilla Telmon, is a transmedia ethnographic study of current day religious cults in Brazil, mixing tradition and modernity.

We spoke to Vincent about his experiences of capturing these remarkable trance rituals on film. Included are films that Vincent has produced featuring such rituals. To best experience their spine tingling intensity, we suggest using headphones when viewing.

Interviewed by Marcus Lawry.

 

TT: Tell us about your decision to pack your camera and hit the road. Initially, what did you set out to achieve?

VM: It was almost an over-night decision. Following an instinct, a need to break from the comfort of a life in-between Paris and New York, involved in music (rock, pop) that I was less and less attracted towards. All this mixed with the feeling that there was much, much more to explore on those two fronts that are sounds and images. That there was something deeper to encounter along those roads, less linked to a creative industry that I couldn't stand, more linked to something mysterious, away from marketing tools, away from a very narrow idea of music performance.

But all this I would encounter later on, by accident. That quest had also started ten years before in my mind, when the new technologies arriving were suddenly opening the door to a new type of nomadic adventure; very connected to the web and allowing cinema making in a very simple, extremely independent way.

 

TT: Has your vision changed?

VM: All of my visions have changed; the vision of the future of society, the vision of what's the limit to cinema, to music. And it keeps changing.

 

TT: Many won't be familiar with the occurrence of trances in religious ceremonies. Can you explain a little about how they occur, what they entail?

VM: Very difficult to describe this in a few words, and even thousands of pages would not do justice to something which 'escape' for the most. Trance is the new big topic for our society, especially the creative part of the society. We have been so much devoured by the age of information that anything linked to the 'invisible' fascinates, and it's only the beginning.

 

TT: Tell us about your first experience of observing a religious trance?

VM: It was a night in Cairo, a friend took me to a place where, he said, women were doing something forbidden by the society. It was a 'Zar', a trance healing ritual, where two women would put in trance another one and heal her, singing the name of Allah, drumming and chanting all night long. I was so moved by the experience (and by this simple factor that being a spectator there was not making sense) that I asked them to heal me the next week. I tried to make a film on this 'experimental ethnography' trance experience. 

 

TT: What is the most unique experience of this sort of ceremony you have encountered?

VM: I have been travelling with my wife for a year around Brazil in quest of such forms of rituals, of ceremonies linking to the invisible. Everywhere around the country we encountered very unique experiences, very new forms of rituals also. The last one I was involved in, 2 weeks ago, was a mix of Ayahuasca drinking with 150 people, Umbanda (an afro-Brazilian cult who keep evolving, based both on Candomblé and Kardecism) related entities that people incorporate, live music with a band playing a mix of Indian mantras, Shipibo healing songs, Maria Bethânia songs, all this occurring over 5 hours in a massive chaotic transcendental experience. This is the most 'avant-garde' rock concert I have ever been to.

 

TT: Have there been times that your presence filming at these ceremonies has caused any negative reactions or incidents?

VM: No, I don't recall anything like that. As I tend to also participate in all those rituals, as much as possible, if not with the knowledge of the culture, at least with my entire body. Usually entities (people incorporating spirits) have been extremely friendly to us; they don't seem to mind the camera at all. My work these past years has been researching on the integration of the camera into my own body as much as possible, linking to the new uses of technologies mixed with plants used for expansions of consciousness.

 

TT: Do you personally believe that people are interacting with spirits or their deities during trances, or are they overcome by the intensity of the atmosphere at the ceremonies?

VM: Of course I believe. To make such researches and bringing along the old anthropological point of view would not make sense. Those barriers are exploding nowadays and Brazil is definitely the land of the re-creation of new forms of identity - in between various levels of reality. As I have been working myself in such directions, I have started to incorporate spirits on a few occasions, but once more words can't explain it all, and actually, words should not try. A new language is needed, we are working towards it.

 

TT: Experiencing these incredible ceremonies has affected your outlook on religion, on spirituality?

VM: Absolutely. It makes my life richer, way richer and more complex, interacting with other levels of reality. This comeback of spirituality into our libertarian-material-globalized world is a very important thing. In the end it's a very humbling process; understanding the lack of humility and the super-ego society we live in as the worst dangers for our planet.

 

TT: Tell us about your current project Híbridos, os espíritos do Brasil.

VM: It's a documentary researching spirituality in Brazil. But we wanted to do it as an experience researching as well on the possibilities of cinema (what's an image nowadays? how do we relate to it, how do we 'incorporate' it in our understanding of the world?) by diving deep into the various cults around the country - we (Priscilla Telmon and myself) think Brazil as the land of experiences for new forms of humankind.

The final project should be released in a year or so, a collection of 60 short films on rituals, a 2 hours long documentary reconstructing the geographies of Brazil on some levels, an exhibition/installation project for museums and galleries, discs, photobooks and more... You can follow the project here and on Facebook

 

Below is a selection of Vincent’s films capturing trance rituals across the world. We suggest listening through headphones to truly experience the building intensity of each ritual.

Sufism in Chechnya

Len Dong ritual in Hanoi

Ayahuasca ritual in Peru

Umbanda ritual in Brazil

 

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Welcome to The Terrestrial http://www.theterrestrial.com/news/welcome-to-the-terrestrial/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/news/welcome-to-the-terrestrial/#comments Wed, 21 Oct 2015 22:50:07 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2328 Continue Reading]]> Welcome to The Terrestrial, a home to the unique voices, places and developments of planet Earth. It’s pretty bare around here at the moment, but stick with us, as we stock this vault full of great interviews with inspiring people, projects, groups and news, over the coming months. So far we’ve got an interview with Britain’s last Death Mask maker, a trip behind the scenes at a Crematorium and a chat with the guys who decide what makes an 18 certified movie.

I don’t know if you feel it too, but for such a vast network of endless possibilities, the internet sure does feel small these days. We found ourselves locked in to a routine of checking our social media profiles and two, maybe three other sites each day, not even realising that we were hearing the same old voices, same old stories over and over again. Then we snapped out of it and built The Terrestrial, for ourselves and the likeminded folks who want to break the shackles of small-web imprisonment! Ok, we’re getting a bit dramatic, but you get the idea. You still with us? Great!

It really does means a lot to us that you dropped by to check us out. Why not make it easier for yourself to stay in touch by following us on Facebook here, or on Twitter? Or if you want to pitch an idea, an interview, or even if you’d just like to say “Hi”, you can talk to us by heading Here.

Thanks again for dropping by.
Lee & Marcus: The Terrestrial

 

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That’s a cut! 5 Minutes with the British Board of Film Classification http://www.theterrestrial.com/uncategorised/bbfc-craig-lapper/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/uncategorised/bbfc-craig-lapper/#comments Wed, 21 Oct 2015 11:15:14 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2304 Continue Reading]]> The British Board of Film Censors was set up in 1912 by the film industry as an independent body to bring a degree of uniformity to the classification of film nationally. Since the introduction of the Video Recordings Act of 1984 due to the boom in home video, the BBFC has also taken responsibility for classifying videos (and later DVDs). It was at this point the body removed the word Censorship from its title, renaming itself The British Board of Film Classification. Although the BBFC may always be seen by many as censors, this is a somewhat simplistic view of their work, which has consistently evolved alongside the film industry itself over the 100+ years since its formation.

We caught up with Senior Examiner Craig Lapper for an overview of how the BBFC has developed over the past century.

Interviewed by Marcus Lawry.

 

TT: The Board was founded originally with two main edicts; namely there should be no nudity on screen and no materialisation of Christ. What are the modern equivalents of these foundation rules in the BBFC's policy today?

CL: The BBFC's guiding principles today are that adults should, where possible, be free to choose their own entertainment but that children and vulnerable adults should be protected from harmful content. Additionally, we seek to empower consumers, particularly those responsible for children, to make informed viewing choices by providing relevant and accurate content advice.

 

TT: Some may not realise that the BBFC doesn't make any cuts itself, but provides the filmmaker with a list of cuts which would need to be made, in order to obtain the desired rating. I imagine that this approach throws up the potential for heated dialogue between the two parties?

CL: The process has always been that the BBFC will indicate any difficulties to the company; we've never implemented cuts ourselves. Sometimes there might be more than one possible solution to a problem and we're always prepared to look at a range of alternative edits, depending on the technical difficulties of making changes to a particular scene. Of course, making changes has become far easier in the digital age than it was when dealing with physical film stock.

In general terms, the process is far less painful than you might imagine and the majority of film companies are eager to work with the BBFC to ensure their work gets to the audience for whom it is intended. The Board offers an advice service which allows films to be seen at any stage of post-production, so that any changes can be made before a finished version is assembled. This is because it's far easier and more cost-effective to make changes before all the visual effects and sound have been finalised. Nonetheless, if a company, or a director, is unhappy with a final classification decision, we also offer a formal reconsideration process, which allows them to ask us to take a further look at a work and listen to any arguments they wish to make.

In terms of directors resisting cuts, the BBFC necessarily has close and varied contacts with film-makers, but these have to be kept confidential so that there can be candour and trust on both sides. When a case is old enough, these issues lose their salience, and the BBFC is normally able to disclose its files once they are more than 20 years old.

 

TT: During your time at the BBFC, which titles have proved the most divisive to classify?

CL: The BBFC does of course have vigorous internal debates, which play a key part in reaching a final classification decision. However, those debates have to be kept confidential because ultimately there has to be a single decision from us. We normally disclose our files after 20 years and many historic cases of divisive classifications have been discussed at length in various books and articles - including the BBFC's centenary book, 'Behind the Scenes at the BBFC'. But I'm afraid I can't go into detail about any cases in which I've been involved. Of course, the BBFC can and does still give full reasons for its decisions in the form of the Insight we publish on our website. This attempts to cover all the salient classification issues with a particular title in which the public may be interested.

 

TT: As an examiner, you have to follow BBFC policy in enforcing the code, but as a Cinefile, you are in a rare position of seeing many films in their entirety, as the director wished them to be seen. How often do you feel the cuts that are made detract from the artistic merit of a film?

CL: The BBFC's role is to classify films based on public opinion, rather than to evaluate artistic merit, so it wouldn't be fair for us to comment on the artistic merit of a particular film, nor on what effect any changes might have on that aspect. Nonetheless, the BBFC does work hard to preserve the integrity and apparent meaning of key scenes, where possible, and we may decline to recommend cuts where we feel they would be unacceptably extensive or complex or where they would not be able to deal with a tonal or thematic issue. It's also worth bearing in mind that the Board sometimes sees films for advice in an unfinished form and the final version may look quite different when submitted for formal submission. This can be for a wide variety of reasons, many unrelated to the BBFC's recommendations, including the results of test screenings, the advice received from other international classification boards, and changes in direction taken by the production.

 

TT: You would have seen the horror genre change in its direction significantly during your time as an examiner, through slasher flicks, found footage, torture porn. It's a genre that relies on shocking and terrifying its audience as a measure of success. Where do you see the genre heading next? Is there anywhere to progress too, or do you see a regression back to old fashioned scares, maybe at lower certificate to grow audience reach?

CL: All genres develop and change with time and the horror genre is no exception. My experience has been that horror tends to go in cycles, with gory films waning in popularity for a time and being replaced by more atmospheric horrors, only for gore to have a resurgence at a later point - perhaps because of improvements in special effects.

 

TT: Which title for you personally, has been the hardest to watch?

CL: I wouldn't want to single out a particular title because I wouldn't wish to give it publicity. But in general terms the things I find most difficult to watch are recordings of real violence, pain and suffering, particularly when they're being presented ostensibly for entertainment. I'm thinking of so-called 'extreme reality' works rather than serious documentaries.

TT: And finally, what's your favourite film?

CL: It's impossible to narrow it down to a single film, but particular favourites would include Pasolini's 'Accatone', Herzog's 'Stroszek' and Kubrick's 'Paths of Glory'. Plus 'Jaws'.

 

Want more? Check out BBC Four’s amazing ‘Dear Censor’ documentary on the history of film censorship.

 

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Behind The Death Masks: Nick Reynolds: Artist / Sculptor http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/nick-reynolds/ http://www.theterrestrial.com/interview/nick-reynolds/#comments Sun, 11 Oct 2015 22:35:40 +0000 http://www.theterrestrial.com/?p=2279 “Then completely paranoid, I had to drive for two hours to another morgue with him on the back seat.”

casting ash cons_bruce reynolds

 

Above: Nick casting John Jo Amador & the cast of Nick's father Bruce Reynolds.

The son of the late Bruce Reynolds, mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery, Nick Reynolds spent his early childhood on the run with his Dad in Mexico. Sent to boarding school aged 7 when his father was eventually arrested, Reynolds would go on to join the Royal Navy as a diver and electronic weapons engineer, serving during the Falklands conflict, before working at Whitehall Naval Intelligence, diving with the Police Underwater Search Unit.

Alongside his work as a musician (Nick is the Harmonica player for Alabama 3, those of the Soprano’s theme fame), he became interested in sculpture in his 30’s, going on to create a name for himself as the UK’s foremost Death Mask artist. His familial link to the criminal underworld saw him produce a number of life and death masks of some of Britain’s most notorious criminals for his 1999 exhibition “Cons to Icons”.

Through his unique company Memorial Casts, he has created Death Masks for many public figures, including director Ken Russell, Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, actor Peter O'Toole and his father Bruce Reynolds, the man he credits with laying the foundations of his interest in the arts.

The Terrestrial spoke to Nick Reynolds about his unique life journey, his motivations, processes and experiences in his ongoing work in creating Death Masks.

Interviewed by Marcus Lawry.

 

TT: Tell us a little of your background in sculpture? I have read various things about your childhood, during which I understand you spent some time on the run with your father. How did you transition from this part of your life in to becoming a sculptor, or was it something you already had an interest in as a child?

NR: I never had any formal art training other than the usual school curriculum, but my father was interested in art and he took me to many Mayan and Aztec sites whilst we were living (on the run) in Mexico. I think the unique and incredibly complex stone carvings made an enormous impression on me, and being only 3-6 years old in the early sixties, I had seen nothing like it before. This fascination developed beyond strange stone figures as my father maintained his interest in art and mine by sending me “art” packs from prison. These would comprise of postcards from famous artists that interested him, from the renaissance, to impressionism to surrealism to pop art. He would explain the images on the cards and what it meant as well as personal details about the artist and what they were trying to say.

This became the foundation for what was originally just an art hobby and fun way of expressing myself, which then changed when I met the sculptor John Somerville in my 30’s. His work blew me away and I wanted to be able to do what he did. Some of his work resonated with death masks I had seen of Oliver Cromwell and Napoleon in my teens that had also left a profound and lasting impression (no pun intended!) So he took me under his wing - I guess it’s mainly his fault with a lot of foundation from my father.

 

TT: What was the first Death Mask that you created, and how did the opportunity arise?

NR: The first death mask I made was of a man named George “Taters” Chatham, dubbed the ‘thief of the century’ by the Guardian, who at one point had been my father’s criminal mentor. The opportunity came about as I was compiling a list of the UK’s most infamous living criminals (around 1994) that I wanted to take life masks from, for a show entitled “Cons to Icons.”

I thought this process as, analogous to fingerprinting, or rather whole facial ‘fingerprinting’, furthering on a tradition where criminals were once cast dead or alive, under the guise of the pseudo science, phrenology - which claimed criminal traits could be detected by the subjects skull, physiognomy and various bumps.

Basically I guess I was trying to produce a collection of masks, like Scotland Yard had in its infamous “Black Museum” but reproduced in a more iconic/artistic way. Chatham was top of my list but when I tracked him down he had just died; however I managed to persuade his sister to let me go ahead, as when she viewed the corpse she thought he was smiling, and saw this as a sign he made his peace with God and therefore was happy for me to do it. I didn't tell her actually it was gravity, the fact he was lying down and that his weighty jowls had provided the expression.

 

TT: How did you approach the task; did you have any experiences to draw on or was there any guidance available? Were you nervous?

NR: Although I had never cast a dead person before, I figured it had to be easier than a living subject; for starters you don’t have the worry of suffocating them, like I nearly did with ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser! Having been a diver in the Royal Navy during the Falklands and also having dived with the Police (when I worked for Naval Intelligence Whitehall) I was okay with corpses but I took my sculptor mentor John Somerville along just in case!

 

TT: How did your work creating Death Masks develop from there, to where you are now with Memorial Masks?

NR: After the ‘Cons to Icons’ show in 1999, I was co–running an arts club in Clerkenwell called the Tardis (quite notorious in its day!) and part living in Tobago, where I was trying to assemble a collection of the Island’s greatest heroes, from musicians to sportsmen.

At that point I was more interested in the living than the dead until I got a call from an undertaker explaining that a friend of mine, Lord Jago Eliot had died, and the family wanted a death mask. He explained he had scoured the internet for anyone able to do this, including Madame Tussauds without any joy. He then explained he had come across my name in relation to the death mask of George Chatham - the fact I knew Jago was a complete coincidence! So it was from then on, I became aware that death masks had become a lost art form with nobody doing them anymore….well they say nature abhors a vacuum, I just got sucked in!

Peter O Toole Bruce Reynolds-dreaming of eldorado

 

Above: Peter O'Toole & 'Bruce Reynolds: Dreaming of Eldorado'

TT: Tell us about your process, the intricacies of creating the mask, the ideal conditions.

NR: The process is reasonably straightforward if you know your materials and prepare the body properly. Initially the subject needs to have a release agent applied to the hair and skin so the moulding compound won’t stick or tear when removed. I use either alginate, a water based compound like the jelly that dentists use, or a silicon rubber. This is applied to the front portion of the face - I usually go just behind the ears and include the top of the head including neck to sternum, whereas traditionally it would be just the face- no ears, neck or head.

This however all depends on what the commissioner wants. Once the subject is covered with the moulding material, a hard casing needs to be applied to keep it in shape when it’s removed. This is usually done with plaster bandage. When both are cured the two are removed together providing a negative mould of the subject’s features. Later I fill this with a meltable wax, which when hardened can be reworked to sculpt hair or correct any imperfections in the casting, and any minor distortions or facial expressions, which need altering.

For example sometimes the weight of the cheeks can transfer down to the sideburn area, just as gravity subtlety changes your features when you lay down. This may look fine if the finished piece is to be displayed in this position, but should it be mounted upright, this needs to be corrected. Also sometimes the features might need a subtle tweak here and there, due to the dehydration effect embalming has; for example lips and eyeballs shrink considerably.

In Victorian times when Death Masks enjoyed a golden period of popularity, the cast would be taken almost immediately after death, before the face had time to change as muscles relax: nowadays they may have been deceased for up to a week before I get to them. In some cases it’s been 3 months - one in fact a whole year! So in extremes, there may be a need for a fair bit of restoration or it might be requested that the eyes are sculpted open, or that I take a few years off.

Once I am happy with the finished wax, sometimes this can take a day, (sometimes a few weeks) I make a silicon rubber mould and from this produce the finished article, be it in cold cast metals or hot cast foundry bronze.

 

TT: What's the most unusual place/location you've had to set a cast for a mask?

NR: There have been a few, but I guess the most memorable was that of John Joe Amador, an executed prisoner in Texas. After the state had killed him by lethal injection, (for a crime Amador didn’t commit) and refused to let me cast him, we took his body, put him in the back of the car and drove to a small shack in the woods and did it there. Then completely paranoid, I had to drive for two hours to another morgue with him on the back seat.

Incidentally his death mask became the centerpiece for an anti-death row art exhibition entitled '402' and ended up at the Victoria and Albert Museum last year for a show entitled ‘Disobedient Objects’.

 

TT: You've also created a number of Life Masks, many for people from the London underworld. What set this in motion? Does your family background play a part?

NR: Although I touched upon it, the ‘Cons to Icons’ show came about when I was rather taken aback by the media and public interest into Ronnie Kray’s death and funeral. He died at what became the beginning of a 60’s type gangster Chic revival in the 90’s. Films like ‘Lock, Stock (and Two Smoking Barrels)’ were coming out, fashion was following suit and old time villains now released from prison were writing best selling autobiography’s and on the telly.

I was fascinated how people vilified by the media one minute were then paradoxically feted on the celebrity circuit. As for myself growing up, society’s attitude was that having a father in prison was deemed a stigma - yet in the mid 90’s it was like having Michael Caine for a father! Funnily enough it’s been said that Caine based his look for Harry Palmer from my father (they knew each other), but that’s another story!

Anyway, around the time when Ronnie died I was making random abstract sculptures, which I wanted to mould in order to produce copies, so I bought a mouldmaking book, which interestingly had a chapter on face casting. I asked my father if I could try him as a guinea pig, but as there had been a lot of media regarding Ronnie’s death (who he had known since borstal) he asked why don’t I do Ronnie, so I made a few calls but the lid had just been screwed down and was about to leave the morgue and I missed the chance; but a seed was sown.

Anyway I cast my father (almost a disaster!) and then asked him to draw up a list of ten villains I should do next… 4 years later I’d completed my mission! Obviously, I don’t think those involved would have allowed me to cast them if they didn’t know my father.

 

TT: I imagine you've been asked to create masks for a number of yet-to-be-deceased people, come their time. How long is this list, and what motivates people to want to have masks made?

NR: Actually I haven’t… it’s seems to generally be a last minute, last chance saloon kind of thing. Let’s be honest, in today’s airbrushed world of plastic perfection, its unfashionable to think about death, and so generally the request comes rather late.

It’s rare for the commissioner to be the subject; it’s usually the closest relative who wants it for personal reasons, either comfort, to create a historical everlasting imprint for posterity or even to adorn their gravestone. Although death masks are not specific to the elite, they are more likely to commission one, as in Victorian times it was common to record the features of popular people from heads of state to leading militia, musicians, artists and poets.

Some people have them on plain sight at all times, some keep them stored away, to bring out on special occasions, some have them next to their bed. One thing most people are not aware of but death masks posses a very powerful cathartic effect, and can provide comfort for the bereaved. They are more tactile than a picture; they occupy a space, and like the Romans and Greeks who believed in animism (that a sculpture can be a repository for a spiritual being) it’s easy to believe that somehow a part of the deceased spirit might linger within the mask. After all there is something otherworldly about death masks, it’s as if their last breath has been transformed into 3 dimensional solid of themselves - almost as if the mystery of death is somehow transferred to the mask. It may sound strange but I talk to my Dad’s all the time!

 

TT: Will you be having one made when your time comes, and if so, who would you want to create it?

NR: I already have a life cast of myself, in fact it’s a whole body cast with me as Jesus, except Longinus’s spear wound is a vagina - I'm hoping I will be able to put it next to my father in Highgate (cemetery) when the time comes! Obviously I couldn't do the life-body cast myself, so I got the special effects people who did Harry Potter to cast me in plaster, which I then took away and worked on for some time.

amadorillo bobhead

 

Above: John Joe Amador's Death Mask & a life cast of the late RMT Union boss Bob Crow.

Apart from running Memorial Casts (the only company specializing in death masks) Nick Reynolds is currently preparing for Alabama 3’s ‘Lost and Found’ tour, who are also about to release a single of the same name (check alabama3.co.uk for dates, tickets and details), and is also co-writing and performing (with Edward Rose) the soundtrack for a Spaghetti Western ‘The Price of Life is Death.’

 

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