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