Monday 31 December 2018

Review of 2018

January was very quiet on the work front, and having taken an extended holiday in the early part of the month, it was actually February when my year really kicked off for 2018.
Where better to do this than at the Chinese New Year celebrations in London - the largest event outside Asia.

Beginning with the colourful parade, it kicked off in Trafalgar Square before making its way through the packed London streets. The photographer's hack was to catch the various groups in the procession at the start, taking note of those which would make interesting shots. Then, by cutting through the back streets, it was possible to catch up with the procession again along Shaftsbury Avenue. Being allowed by the marshalls to make the most of the middle of the road traffic islands, it was the perfect place to capture the noted performers in the winter sunshine.

The lion dance, Chinese New Year, Trafalgar Square, London.

By contrast just a little earlier in the month, I had followed a procession of colourfully lit up bicycles around the streets of Cambridge in the chill of the night for the eLuminate festival.

This was the fifth year for this cultural light festival in the city, with interactive light installations around the city, and buildings illuminated in colourful fashion.

The Senate House became a huge projection screen, with a light show that included making the building 'wobble'.

Sadly, this light spectacular has been cancelled for 2019.

An annual event in Cambridge which has a long history and is only cancelled in extreme circumstances, is the Lent Bumps.

Each college rowing team was given a starting position on the river a boat and a half length apart, and from there, battled it out on the River Cam, to row, catch and 'bump' the boat in front. Upon the bump, the team was awarded their greenery and they moved into the next race further up the start line.

After a week of heats, the final races for both men and women were held, with the Beast From the East doing its best to put a stop to the proceedings but the rowers won over, with Lady Margaret winning the Men's Head of the River, and Jesus, the Ladies Head of the River.

Lady Margaret win the men's Head of the River, Lent Bumps 2018

St Patrick's Day found me in Manchester for the Irish Festival, with the Beast from the East still very much in evidence.

The warmest place to be was the marquee on Albert Square, where rugby fans had gathered to watch the Six Nations final between England and Ireland on the big screen.
Needless to say, the Irish fans were delighted to be rewarded on their national day.

Travelling over to Ireland in March I covered an event which was the start of a story that would pop up for five months during 2018.

Anja Bakker, aka. The Flauting Harper held a Pilgrim's Goodbye Party before setting out on an epic 3,500km walk from Clonakilty in Ireland, to Rome. If that wasn't challenge enough, she was carrying her Dusty Springs harp named Sean all the way with her. It was her plan to play Sean every day during her journey.

I was back in a chilly Cambridge on the last day of March for an event which touched a nation and indeed, the world.

Kings Parade and the streets around Great St Mary's Church were packed with those wishing to pay their respects at the funeral of Professor Stephen Hawking. A spontaneous round of applause rippled through the crowds as the hearse passed by.

Amongst those attending the funeral were Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who played Professor Hawking and his wife, Jane in the film
The Theory of Everything.

In April I caught up with The Flauting haper who had walked for 21 days and reached Carleon in Wales. In those first days she had been interviewed by several radio stations, where she had told the tale of losing her trusty walking staff along the way. This staff had been her support during her previous long distance walk of 2,500km along the Camino, and had hoped it would be her support during this walk too.

After a bit of investigation, the staff was located in the Prince of Wales pub in Aberkenfig where she had played a few nights before. Some friends were kind enough to retrieve it, and return it to her.

April also threw up a couple of days for some stock images which subsequently have popped up in my Best Nine on Instagram at the end of this year and are worthy of note here.

A visit to Manchester, and a normally busy Lizard Street graced my lens by being devoid of parked cars.
This has ended up being the most liked shot in my 2018 Instagram feed.
A day in Cambridge on an unusually hot day for April, in search of some agency weather shots.

By the end of April, the Flauting Harper had walked for 32 days and had reached Salisbury, which is where I and a couple of photographers caught up with her.

The first of May came around and I took off very early to go to Padstow in Cornwall for perhaps one of the most famous May Day events - the Obby 'Oss Festival.

This Cornish fishing town was crowded with spectators, as the true Padstow residents took part in the traditional song, dance and procession around the streets, where they teased the 'oss, one of four that would circumnavigate the town during the day.

Just a few hours earlier, the streets had been empty and had begun to buzz with locals carrying branches of green sycamore, bunches of bluebells, cowslips and gorse flowers. The men tied the branches to buildings and lamp posts, whilst the ladies tied the bunches of spring flowers to the maypole, already resplendent in ribbons.

The first 'oss of the day is traditionally the children's oss, much smaller and more manageable than the adult oss, although the song, dance and teasing follows the same procedure, and procession around the streets.

It's a day I won't be forgetting in a hurry, for it was the place where I was trampled by an 'oss in the line of my duty - camera kit dragging along the floor, as I was pulled clear by a concerned marshall. All I could do was grit my teeth and hope I would leave the town with the same number of cameras working as when I arrived.

In the middle of May, it was time to catch up with the Flauting Harper again, this time in Canterbury on day 49 of her 'From Here to Rome' walk.

Having reached a spiritual home of pilgrims it signalled the beginning of the largest portion of Anja's walk, which would take her through France, Switzerland and over the snowy Alps into Italy, along the Via Francigena - all whilst carrying Sean the Harp.

This would be the last place I would catch up with her in person until August, although her daily Facebook live posts would keep her growing number of followers updated with her progress.

On this fine sunny afternoon in May, she took out Sean, then sat and played this harp. From there I bid her Slán go fóill, the sound of her harp fading behind me as I walked out of the cathedral gardens, whilst hoping I would see her safe and well again in Rome.

Then began the summer season of assignments, starting at a Royal wedding...

...with a tea party and big screen projection in the Town Hall in Saffron Walden, for those townsfolk who didn't or couldn't be part of the crowd in Windsor.

Bizarrely, it was still a must to capture 'The' kiss.

Next up, a Bank Holiday scooter ride-out...

...a soapbox race...

By this point, the long British summer was beginning.

July heralded the start of the Cambridge Open Studios - four weekends when artists in and around Cambridge opened up their studios to the public. I was delighted to be able to go to meet and photograph a ceramic artist, a botanical watercolour artist and a fused glass artist, which reminded me of the years when I took part too, and valued the interest and sales from the event. It can be hard being an artist but the Open Studios is a great support for everyone.

July was going to be a hot and busy month, with probably the most notable assignment of the year, although not necessarily the person we would have wanted it to be.

On the 12th July Donald Trump and the First Lady spent just four minutes on the tarmac at Stansted Airport at the beginning of their visit to the UK.

...and not one smile!

Thankfully my next assignment was going to be mostly pleasure for me - Four days at the internationally renowned, Cambridge Folk Festival...and pretty much the hottest assignment of the year too.

Kate Rusby

Patti Smith

Music photography is something I love doing (not least because I can get to enjoy the music too!)
As with most gigs it is a 'first three songs, no flash' rule (although one female performer stipulated first two songs and no central stage position) so with the Folk Festival being an outdoor venue, it is possible to listen and enjoy the rest of the set whilst wiring the images in the media compound.
It's a win-win.

...but boy it was hot down in the pit in those marquees!

Daoirí Farrell Trio
Gordie MacKeeman
Peatbog Faeries

It was speedway for August, well of a sort. As a swansong before its impending closure, the Arena Essex Raceway was hosting Dirt Quake, an 'anything goes' event on two wheels.

This included everything from step-through scooters to impossibly unreal chopper bikes, which gave even the experienced Guy Martin a tricky ride.

As the event was being filmed for broadcast later in the month it had brought a group of motorcycling presenters together. Even they weren't exempt from a couple of bursts around the track on over sized cruiser motorbikes.

From speed, to distance endurance, and a trip to Rome.
The Flauting Harper was into day 157 of her 'From Here to Rome' epic walk when I caught up with her again. I joined her for the final 20 km walk on her last day, starting very early in the morning to avoid the heat of the Italian summer, and with the intention to arrive in the Vatican City by 1pm.

A group of walkers from the Via Fancigena Association had also joined Anja for this last leg, keeping pace with her as she carried this 20kg pack. Only stopping once for coffee, it was this, along with cake and beer, which kept her going throughout most of the 3,500km she had walked.

It was entirely understandable that posing for record pictures was the last thing on her mind that day. She just needed to keep moving and I had about 30 seconds to grab the memorable shot below.

Just before 1 o'clock we approached St Peter's Square, where we agreed amongst the fellow walkers to allow a thoughtful Anja to walk ahead. This was her walk - her moment, and I was not prepared to grab the pap-shot by getting in front of her.

We all walked silently and with amazement into this famous square, both she and I for the first time ever. And what a story there was to this entrance, although the thousands of people there were unaware of the significance of this particular pilgrim arriving. After all, there had been many before and there would be many after.

I grabbed another record shot as best I could as she just wanted to keep moving. She had not finished until she had found the office where she could have her pilgrim passport stamped.

The face above is the face of joy - the emotion which showed having completed her goal. No tears, they were to come privately later. She had arrived and at the top of the hour, she had an appointment with Cork 103 Radio for a live interview. Scheduled for a few minutes, it stretched to many, and I watched as she shared her happiness with the listeners back home in Ireland.
This was the first female bardic harper in recorded history to walk from Ireland to Rome carrying a harp.

For now though, she wanted to lay down her pack, rest and take in the enormity of what she had achieved. The accommodation where she was staying had a roof terrace with the most wonderful view of St Peter's Basilica, and it was there,  the next evening, she gave her final recital to a small group of pilgrim friends she had met along the way. This would also be the moment for her to reveal to all that she had received special permission to sing inside the Cistine Chapel, sadly though, due to security issues, her pilgrim companion Sean the Harp wasn't allowed.

This story has to have been the highlight of the year for me, so much so I will be writing more fully about Anja's complete walk later.

The hot summer broke briefly for the Bank Holiday weekend (what's new there!) putting the dampers on an otherwise thriving country show.

Not too many sunbeams about on this day.

It was going to be a long day!

Each September and October, I work for a spell in Ireland, and so I returned full circle with Anja, seeing her return to her home after five months on the road.

Time in Ireland brought a guitar festival in Clonakilty...

...and a 2K swim from Sherkin Island to Baltimore.

November was busy with...

A fashion show for the Cambridge Breast Cancer Appeal, sponsored by Rigby and Peller.
All the brave ladies taking part were breast cancer patients but were mourning the sad loss of one of their number.

A music gig with Caro Emerald in Cambridge.

A bonfire and fireworks display in Saffron Walden.

With the centenary of the Armistice I was moved by the 'There But Not There' Tommys...

...and covered the annual Remembrance Sunday Parade in Saffron Walden.

The end of the year came up fast - just as these last images, and I came flying into the beginning of December on an incident filled day with the MAGPAS Air Ambulance.

This year I was disappointed not to be able to cover the annual Cambridge Bikers Toy Run to Addenbrookes Hospital - the biggest turn-out of Santa-clad bikers to date!

However, I still managed some traditional seasonal shots, with
some nativity angels...

...Christmas lights...

...and of course, the jolly man himself.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.
As you can see, it has been a busy 2018 for me, and who knows what 2019 will bring?

Now it just remains to to thank you all for your support and encouragement over the year and wish you all a
Very Happy New Year!