Back in the 1970’s when I was a youngster I remember rushing excitedly to the local corner sweetshop to spend my pocket money on Hammer Horror movie bubblegum cards which at the time was all the rage.(http://wp.me/p1ZPuc-2Jx)
It gave a glimpse of risque movies that we were far to young to view and before the days of video and DVD, were not able to see anyhow except on the occasional late night black and white TV showings like “Dracula” and “Curse of the Werewolf”and “Quatermass and the pit”,which sent us running to the bedroom terrified.
Later as we grew up I watched with fascination as a TV series from the same film makers produced called the Hammer House of Horrors (http://www.hammerhouseofhorrortvseries.co.uk/) and looked forward to such horror instalments as “The House That Bled to Death” and”Guardian From The Abyss”.
Later in life I was lucky to meet Christopher Lee in the course of my work in Los Angeles and listened with fascination as this giant in the acting profession recalled prose from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, prior to his role in the film, during an interview in a Los Angeles hotel.
As the years passed I moved to London and rekindled my interest in filming that had taken place over the years.I became aware that many of the film locations from the classic films I had been a fan of were filmed in locations in the areas of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and the High Wycombe area and I spent some time tracking down a few of these locations. The bulk of these films were made at Bray Studios in Bray,Berkshire, a giant in the film industry that diabolically has now fallen into decline despite the surge in British film making at nearby Shepperton and Pine Wood.Films Such as The Mummy(1959), Alien and The Rocky Horror Picture Show where also made here and it is facing its own horror story of being turned into a care home by developers.(https://www.facebook.com/savebraystudios) Incidentally the location of the Gothic Style hotel in the Rocky Horror Picture Show portrayed as Frankenfurters mansion was indeed the Oakley Court Hotel right across the road from the Bray Studios.(http://www.oakleycourtwindsor.com/) Indeed whole area around these studios supplied the film industry with hundreds of film locations for years and it is quite fascinating to find that a sleepy village where you are quietly munching your cream tea was indeed a film set for a Satanic horror movie chase or the stamping ground of one of the Mummy horrors that unwound on the silver screen. One such location was the Hellfire caverns in the village of West Wycombe,located just off the A40 road.As you approach the village you see a sinister looking Mausoleum perched on the hill overlooking the quaint English village below.The Mausoleum was in fact used as the setting for the 1976 Hammer film “To the Devil a Daughter” starring starring Christopher Lee, Nastaasja Kinski, and Richard Widmark.The nearby Hellfire cavern was probably the influence for the film”Taste the Blood Of Dracula”. West Wycombe and the Hellfire Caverns indeed are one of those places where reality indeed is stranger than fiction. West Wycombe Park, Caves,Mausoleum and St Lawrence’s Church with its mysterious golden globe on the spire were all constructed in the mid-18th century by Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Dilettanti Society and co-founder of the notorious Hellfire Club which met at the George and Vulture Inn in London. The Hellfire Club with its club motto, Fais ce que tu voudras ,(do what thou wilt), would certainly have raised eyebrows and the attention of the tabloids,had they existed at the time.It was a secret society in the 18th Century that allegedly included Benjamin Franklin among its many high profile visitors. Dashwood and other high-powered politicians and society members,originally formed a club then known as The Knights of St Francis of Wycombe. They first used Medmenham Abbey, eight miles away from West Wycombe. Later on,the rather more discrete caves were allegedly used for nefarious orgies and black magic that included the presence of female”guests”referred to as nuns. Entering the creepy church like entrance of the caves you wander into the darkness occasionally stumbling across strange carved rock skulls and phallic symbols ,the whole place has a creepy atmosphere that is enhanced by the knowledge that a lot of strange things are alleged to have happened here over the centuries.As you pass through the caverns you enter the Banqueting Hall,the Miner’s Cave and finally, across a subterranean river aptly named the Styx you enter the final cave, the Inner Temple, where the meetings of the Hellfire Club said to have been held.This final cave is said to lie 300 feet directly beneath the church on top of West Wycombe hill. According to Greek mythology, the River Styx separated the mortal world from Hades, and the Inner Temple directly beneath St Lawrence’s Church signifies Heaven and Hell.Indeed it seems that all the landmarks here are linked in a symbolic manner known only to the secret society and one cannot help but suspect that the caves open to the public are only the tip of the iceberg and that there are many more hidden away in this enormous hillside.There are even rumours that members would pass unscrutinised into the caves as the moon rose and night fell via connecting tunnels from the village inn the George and Dragon and that the caves and the Inn are haunted by a servant girl called Suki that walks the corridors and caverns. In all a truly spooky place and a great day out.
The May bank holiday on sunday 25th 2014 certainly went off with a bang as the Napoleonic Association of re-enactors http://www.napoleonicassociation.org blitzed the Painshill Park near Cobham in Surrey http://www.painshill.co.uk with the thunder of hooves and the crack of muskets and cannon fire. An incredibly authentic experience of the “age of elegance”,they delve deep into all aspects of the period delivering an enthralling battlefield skirmish and other camp and entertainment experiences along the way. You have to blink twice to remind yourself that we are in fact still in the 21st century and cannot help but feel that these were in fact more elegant times. This group clearly eat,sleep and live this colourful period in history and provide a great insight to onlookers who ever wondered what it would have been like to live in these times. I can still smell those camp fires! Now where did I put that musket!
A glorious Sunday afternoon day spent in the shadow of the spectacular Windsor Castle watching the Royal Windsor Horse show and photographing the finest of the worlds equine talent in action while munching on strawberries and cream and slapping on the factor 30 as the sun blazed down relentlessly!
More Images here:http://www.surreypix.co.uk/p374146395
Images shot on a Nikon D700 with a 300mm f2.8 afd
Images copyright Kerry Davies/all rights reserved Strictly no unauthorised use or reproduction.
“Your Punch And Judy Need You!” proclaimed the stick wielding angry looking Mr Punch illustration attached to the wall of the metal fence of the St Pauls Church in Covent Garden in Central London on May the 11th 2014.
Wandering into to the rear courtyard of the church otherwise known as “The actors church”, I was struck by wall to wall arrangements of multicoloured very striking lines of Punch and Judy tents that screamed of historic beach nostalgia from Britains glory days of old.
“Oh no it isn’t!!, Oh yes it is !!” Echoed around the courtyard and the distinct yell of “Sausages!”,and the clack of wood against wood as Mr Punch received another clobbering from his ever suffering wife and the screech of a Police whistle as Mr Punch was eternally pursued for batting his baby into the stratosphere in a most politically incorrect manner.
I even spotted a pearly King and Queen and of all things a psychedelic pink Policeman and a brass band thrown into the mix for good measure!
The annual Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival is an event that celebrates the red nosed stick wielding puppet and brings together dozens of puppeteers in a gathering of great entertainment value and nostalgia.
On the wall of the Church an engraving stands prominently in honour to Mr Punch.Covent Garden is in fact the birth place of the troublesome,anarchic chap who was first sighted by Samuel Pepys on May 9th 1662 near this site and the last sunday nearest this date has essentially become his birthday.
So enjoy your sausages Mr Punch but look out for the crocodile,happy birthday!
All images and video shot with a Lumix Lx7.Puppeteer Professor Clive Chandler
Images Copyright Kerry Davies/No unauthorised reproduction/All rights reserved.
The Mayday bank holiday 2014 rolls around and the famous English Carter steam fair rolls into town settling on the village green in leafy Hersham in Surrey.Very much a part of vintage Britain,It is quite a sight to see the superb antique steam fairground rides assembled and running with the nostalgic sounds of ride organs playing the melodic tunes of times past.It was formed in 1977 by John and Anne Carter,collectors of all things vintage and grew from strength to strength into its present form and is very much a part of treasured British heritage that is constantly being lovingly restored and cared for while delighting new generations of children and adults. images and video copyright Kerry Davies/No unauthorised use or reproduction.
A delightful place to spent a day during an easter break is the highly impressive Caerphilly Castle in South Wales.Famous most recently for its role in the popular BBC TV Series Merlin but with a long history that very much equals the drama of its fictional roles.It is an enormous stone beast surrounded by moats and drawbridges and on approach looks very much like it has just repelled a siege by a well equipped invading army.It was built by the Norman Gilbert de Clare who was an enemy of the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in the 13th Century and provide the influence for many of the concentric designs of Edward I castles in North Wales.As time moved on and regime change took place,the role of the castle changed and it found itself without a purpose.The castles condition declined until eventually in the late 19th century the third marquess of Bute began preservation work on this and other castles in the region.It is a great destination for tourism and provides a great Easter egg hunt for the kids,look out for the Dragons in the ancient hallways though!
Camera used was a Lumix LX7
Copyright Kerry Davies
No unauthorised reproduction.
I took the opportunity of shooting a few pictures with only a lumix LX7 camera the latest incarnation of the LX series of cameras which has proved very popular with professional photographers because of its high speed 24mm Leica Summilux f1.4 zoom lens. It is a great option for carrying just one small camera that has a quality that you can rely on even in the lowest of light conditions. I was particularly impressed by its great ability to shoot rapidly at 5 frames per second with full follow focus at f1.4 and also its wide range of special effects filters ranging from soft focus to HDR and the exposures always seemed to be spot on finding that sweet spot almost every time. It truly is a pocket Swiss Army Knife of a camera. The pictures shown are of the walled castle town Alcoy near Alicante in Spain.
Alcoy is famous for the yearly festival held in April every year celebrating the historical event in which St George and his Crusader knights who according to legend are said to have swept into the town through the cliff arches that form the center stage of the town and defeated the occupying Moors in april 1276.
Alcoy is also said to have been the home town of Federico Borrell García the falling soldier in the famous image of a “falling soldier” captured in his dying moments by Photojournalist Robert Capa during the Spanish Civil War. He is said to have worked in the Alcoy textile mills and was part of the Alcoy Militia
A view of Alcoy during sunset. A few examples of the LX7 built in HDR effect showing the arches where Saint George as legend says rescued the town from the Moors Two pictures one day apart showing the Saint Jordi Bridge during an unusual weather front in the region. A mural of Saint George a popular historical figure in the region. Doves flying in the Plaza De Dins. The Town hall in Alcoy. The Saragata Cafe ,great coffee, food and service located in the Plaza de Dins. Check out the Spanish omelette rolls for breakfast. The plaza De Dins San Mauro Watch Tower
For more on Federico Borrell García see this excellent and well illustrated article (in Spanish):
Colour photographs copyright:Kerry Davies.
A pint of the local cider please I asked the man with green face paint behind the bar, the drum beat upon the castle hill in Hastings increased steadily to an all encompassing crescendo,something rather sinister seemed imminent but clearly only the locals seemed to be in on the secret.My drink arrived,the third today of this local beverage and the man bearing a vague resemblance to a tomato plant and something from childhood memories involving the Dr Who tv series and a half plant cactus man, leaned forward with my change wishing me a “happy Jack in the green day!” Turning around and heading back into the crowd I was confronted by another man in bizarre plant like leafery with the words RADIATOR emblazoned across his chest who stepped forward brandishing a green dripping sponge,”are you with us?” “errrr yes of course!” I muttered smiling inanely,oh good he said splattering my nose with green dye,oh well at least I looked like every one else now. I was a stranger in a strange land and yet I lived here.Rumour spread quickly,the drum beat increased constantly and a kind of concentrated frenzy and sense of purpose started to overcome the crowds ,it was time to kill Jack soon and quite who this Jack was remained quite a mystery.I was starting to feel like Edward Woodward in The Wickerman and glanced around to see if there were any looming wooden effigy figures in the immediate proximity of a few cans of petrol !!!
Soon however all was revealed as a green effigy bearing a face of a plant like mans face was transported into the center of the crowd and ceremonially executed in a flurry of sticks and leaves to the roar and cheers of the crowd.The frenzy dissipated and was replaced by merriment and an air of happiness.Everybody was good natured and headed back to town to enjoy the rest of the day, green noses held prominent and shown off proudly ,that was it for another year ,the spring had been welcomed,the ritual complete,bring on the summer.
What we had just witnessed was the culmination of several days of merriment and celebration that has become a yearly event lasting from April 30th to the 3rd of May in Hastings on the southern coast of England ,a small fishing town most famous for its famous history changing battle in 1066.
It is a ritual with largely pagan roots that predate christianity and is centered around the nature spirits and the “old ways” of ancient Britain that still surge alive and well below the tapestry of everyday British life occasionally surfacing on days such as this and in the rituals and dances of the May Pole and Morris Dancing .A tradition frequently seen as the leafy face adorning sboards hanging over green man pubs it is an ancient way of welcoming the summer and spring time.Indeed the Green man legend has also been linked to other myths including the Arthurian tale of Gawain and the Green Knight and even Robin Hood.The Christian church despite trying to stamp out paganism eventually adopted the legend into its dogma and the green mans face is frequently seen adorning church buildings.The Arthurian writings in particular Gawain and the Green Knight appear full of symbolism and seem to portray a faith battle between Gawain (symbolic of Christian values) and the Green Knight(The old Pagan Ways).
The current manifestation of the jack-in-the-green festival in Hastings is largely based on a tradition from the 1830s which was snuffed out at the start of the 20th century and then revived again in 1979 by a Morris Dancers group.It is a very entertaining weekend of Morris Dancers and other performance groups from all over Europe and is very much a family event.
The Jack in the Green character,the manifestation of the spirits of the forest,leads a procession from the fishermans museum area of the old town and up to the castle perched overlooking the area.
Jack is accompanied by green clad locals known as Bogies that symbolise the incarnation of spirits along with a following of giants and appointed radiators who accompany the group splodging passers by on the nose with green dye to bring them into the fold.Its all very light humoured and a great day out.
At the culmination of the ceremony Jack is slain and the sticks that form the effigy are thrown into the crowds to be kept as a ward against spirits until the next winter solstice.
Pictures :Copyright Kerry Davies Strictly no Reproduction allowed.
Found myself in the Hague on a flying visit recently and during a spare moment took a stroll along the coast where the locals were preparing their businesses for the rapidly approaching days of summer.It was a cloudy windswept spring day with a foaming north sea swirl and I was struck by the bizarre way that shapes and colours particularly a red and brown hue seemed to form within the landscape,conscious or unconscious it was quite apparent.The area struck me as a perfect film set for an existential epic by the likes of Michelangelo Antonioni or Wim Wenders, quite peculiar.
The Hague was described to me as a kind of Amsterdam for diplomats and it is certainly the case as the city is the traditional home of many not to mention the international courts of Justice famous for its war trials.
I was very surprised however at its vast cultural side.There are no shortage of museums ,the Escher museum and the Mauritshuis with its Rembrants and Vermeer to name a few and the city has may sculptures at various park locations.
Pictures copyright: Kerry Davies no unauthorised reproduction allowed.