A Letter from Nantwich

April 2005 | Updated January 2015

A gem of a video - even if I say so myself

I MAKE no apology for the fact that this letter is going to be more than a little self-centred. I can be absolved in some way because it is not focused solely on me - but on a man with a dream.

  Harold Forster, MBE, was one of the team of tour guides at Nantwich Parish Church - the people who take visitors round the 14th century building in the centre of Nantwich, that is often called "The Cathedral of South Cheshire."

   A few years ago, Harold was involved in a video about the Flower Festival that was being held that year. (It is held every five years or so). That involvement led him to dream about a video which could include all the things that he, as a tour guide, told the hundreds of visitors to St Mary's. It could be a pleasant souvenir for anyone who had seen the church, and perhaps there could be a way for people who had not yet seen the church to obtain a copy.

   He made enquiries with a professional video production company and what he learned all but shattered his dream. The company was asking 2,500 to turn his dream into a reality. No doubt that is not an out-of-the-way price for what Harold wanted. But the Church Shop (in the south porch of St Mary's) could not afford to put up that sort of money. In Harold's plan, the Church Shop and Visitors' Centre would stock the video. But that sort of money would take a lot of getting back. Not that it was all about money. Something called "outreach" is also involved.   

   And that is where I came in. Newly retired (early retirement, I stress!), I was at a Boxing Day lunch with Harold at the home of mutual friends in 2002. The conversation turned to the video idea, and Harold related his disappointment.

   As someone who found themselves inundated with requests to help out (why do people think that retired people are bored and need something to keep them busy?!) I decided to keep quiet - much as I would have liked to help - to avoid taking on yet more work.

   Fast forward now to one year later. The subject seemed forgotten, but I asked Harold: "How did your video project go on?" He told me it hadn't. The video was still no more than a dream. I found myself saying: "Oh, go on, then. I'll do it for you."  And that is how, as the sun shone in a clear blue sky the following May, I shot the first scenes of what was to become "The Jewel in the Town" - the video.

   Harold had written the basic script, based on his extensive knowledge of St Mary's. Not a lot of research was needed; Harold already knew all he needed to know by heart. I used the script, which Harold had already called "The Jewel in the Town" (based on the TV programme "The Jewel in the Crown" - from the "Raj Quartet") and turned it into a shooting script. Well, that is a posh name for what was really a lot of notes about what sounds and pictures I needed to turn Harold's words into a finished video.

 

    Most of the sounds had already been recorded by the late Neil Murray, the man in charge of the church audio (he kept the microphones working and recorded services where required). He had recorded Harold speaking his commentary, although this was later re-recorded in church to give the words the "echo" that you might expect when listening to someone speaking in church. A second "retake" was needed to correct a few errors and to add new words to go with some extra scenes I had taken "off script".  

   I edited as I went along - that is, I shot some scenes and then edited them before I took some more. For the exterior scenes I had to be outside St Mary's at the same time each day - in the afternoon - so that the sun-lit scenes matched those shot earlier. Once I moved inside it was not as vital - although a sunny day gave a much better lighting level.

   Towards the end of the editing stage, the video editing software on the computer started playing up. This meant we missed our self-imposed deadline of having "Jewel" on sale in the Church Shop by Christmas. With the pressure off a little - as the shop closed from Christmas to Easter - I was able to complete the project after "sorting out" the software. With just a day to go, the first batch of videos (VHS tapes and DVDs) were ready to go into the shop when it re-opened.

   It is mainly about the church building, and because I was not able to get very much in the video of the choir singing, the 2004 flower festival, the Confirmation service and a christening, I still had some footage that I hadn't used. This was edited into a "companion video" which I called "Facets of a Jewel", a very apt title, I felt, about a video showing some of the other aspects of the "Jewel."

   This had been planned at the shooting stage, so I had shot much more footage that I would ever need. Also, that video could be edited more quickly and it went into the Church Shop in late autumn, as a teaser for the main video.

   Once the project was complete, I persuaded Harold and Neil that we should publicise the video by sending copies of the DVD and some covering notes to the local press, as well as the local radio and television 

 

stations. Harold and I had to be at Radio Stoke early on the first Sunday in April to be interviewed. Unfortunately, it was the day after Pope John Paul II died, and the whole of the programme we should have been on was devoted to national coverage about the Pontiff. The BBC had somehow failed to get hold of us to tell us not to go. So we suggested - and they agreed - that we should record the interview for future use. 

    The interview went out a week later - although a little earlier than it would have done if it had happened the previous week. But there was clearly a lot of people   listening judging by the numbers who telephoned or

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

e-mailed into the programme for a chance to win a copy of the DVD in a BBC Radio Stoke competition.

   The fact that St Mary's had made a video also got into the news bulletins at 9am, 10am and 11am with a clip from Harold's remarks in the first and last of those. By the time the 12 noon news went out, the item had been dropped.      

   Prior to the interview I had prepared a "crib sheet" so that I had at my fingertips the answer to any question that Glyn Johnson, the presenter of "Sunday Breakfast", might pose, but the interview went by so quickly that there were many facts that were left unused.

  People then asked me what my next video project would be, to which I normally replied "Well, nothing for the moment. Let me get over last year first!"    

   The glossy county magazine, "Cheshire Life", took up the story a year later with a nice article and picture.

 

l Neil Murray had already handed the church audio work to Chris Ward by the time he died in March 2008, aged 69. Harold died in September 2014 at the age of 92.

 

lClick here to see how to get a copy of the video

 

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