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Joint winner of the 'DOCUMENTARY Europe' class at the Swansea Bay Film Festival 2011

Premiered on Saturday May 14th 2011

"There was the local pleasure of seeing and hearing Mark read a poem that has meant much to me for nearly 20 years now, in location. But more generally the imagery, the editing, and above all, I think, your decision to let the valley speak and be (i.e. very few voice-overs), has resulted in a visual prose-poem, a really very beautiful film."
 
Robert Macfarlane (Author of "The Wild Places" and "Mountains of the Mind")
 

A very low budget film produced with a small AVCHD Camcorder, nevertheless beautifully capturing the images, sound-scape and sense of magic imbued in this, for now, unspoiled landscape.

 

Produced and Directed by Grumpy

Cinematography, Sound, Editing, Original Musical Composition & Performance, by Grumpy

Additional Original Artwork, Production and Printing by Fiona Wormald

 
 
      

For those who haven‘t read our home page, we live in rural Carmarthenshire, which with some justification currently promotes itself as the Garden of Wales, and which is also one of the areas of Wales where spoken Welsh is very much the most commonly used language. Indeed one of the 3 founder members of the political party Plaid Cymru (The Party Of Wales), D. J. Williams, used to live locally. Amongst other achievements he wrote, in 1953, a book of his recollections of life as a young child growing up in the 1890’s in this landscape. His book ‘Hen Dy Ffarm’ (The Old Farmhouse) was later chosen by Unesco as the single work of Welsh Literature to be translated into English as part of a project to raise awareness of the smaller nations of the world in the larger and more powerful ones. The actual building of the title which he wrote about (Penrhiw Fawr) is now just a pile of stones, but I mention it because it was located over the copse crowned hill which you can see in the title image above. And he died and is buried in the Rhydcymerau chapel graveyard, about a mile from our home. Even more eventfully, he died whilst speaking in the chapel on a return visit many years after leaving the area. So this landscape has an added historical interest to the aspect captured by me in 2010.

We knew little of this when we finally left Bristol in 2005. And way before I even thought about making the film, the East Bristol by pass was being built a short distance from our then home. It’s construction involved cutting through a mature garden, and rather than see several magnificent trees end their days in an industrial chipper, we rescued a few trunks - since in those days I did a bit of woodturning. A few years later having had some success establishing an apple orchard where we now live I decided to hold a wassail party. It was then that a friend suggested that I should read about the particular Welsh customs of wassailing, and recommended a book on Welsh folklore. In that I read not just about the distinctiveness of Carmarthenshire wassailing on Twelfth Night, but also the hunting and parading of caught wrens on the same date in January. I made a wassail cup from the Bristol tree, but in an appropriately multi-handled form. I mention all this by way of lead in to the opening scenes of the film, since these once common and historically significant events of wassailing and wren hunting are now long forgotten, driven out of memory during the Victorian religious revivals. And one of the main reasons for making the film was to record what living in upland Carmarthenshire was like in 2010 through sights and sounds for future historical reference. So that like D.J’s written record, a snapshot sound and image database of rural Carmarthenshire exists.

But what really prompted someone who hasn’t owned a TV for 25 years to suddenly decide to make a film. Well, there are now several plans for enormous wind turbines in the area, so I researched these things, and discovered that all over the world they’re being constructed mainly in rural communities, and many of these communities are having issues with them. Apart from their visual impact on landscapes otherwise largely devoid of man-made structures, there are frequent concerns about effects on wildlife and issues with noise, in particular poorly understood Amplitude Modulation sound and its effects on human health. Realising that I am not cut out for the political world of meetings and committees, right at the end of December 2009 I decided to buy a little AVCHD camcorder ( Panasonic HDC-TM 10) to try to capture what it was really like to live down here, in the year 2010, before these machines are built, if indeed they do get built. So I had to learn how to use the camera, work out its limitations, then how to edit, and even wrote some music for the end. I’d pretty much finished the film when I thought I’d better check with the BBC for permission to use about 3 minutes of background free broadcast Radio 4 clips which highlighted events through the year. Eventually after lots of emails with their legal department, I got confirmation that I could use a single clip of the radio broadcasting the minute’s silence on Armistice Day whilst the camera focused on our wood burning stove. But it would cost me £4,200 to incorporate it. Or £ 70 per second for background broadcast silence. So, I had to re-edit the film.... But how nice of the BBC to put a monetary value on actual silence .... since this is something which might be lost if these things do get built.

As I got to about April in the year of filming, I began to think about how I was actually going to put the whole film together. And it then struck me that what I was filming echoed the words of a poem which my brother had written 15 years earlier when he stayed in our house for a 10 day holiday with his dog and cat. Things had barely changed. At the end of his holiday he’d asked what he could give me for the use of the house, and I suggested he might like to write us a poem of his experiences there. A copy of the poem is included with the DVD. So I decided to make a visual poem with my film to hang around his spoken poem. And I only discovered this year that I think I got a very good deal, since as a past winner of Oxford University’s Newdigate poetry prize, he is in the company of such writers as John Ruskin, Oscar Wilde, John Buchan and Andrew Motion.

It’s a very personal film, in the sense that most of the footage is shot at our home. There were 2 conscious reasons for this. Most of the special photographic moments are fleeting, so being able to dash in for the camera was invaluable. Also since part of the reason for making the film was to get more folk to question whether 475 foot high wind turbines in this sort of rural environment are a rational response to either climate change, carbon emissions or securing our nation’s electricity supply, it seemed inappropriate to dash around the countryside chasing scenes, and burning money and carbon in the process. Also the film shows events as they happened and sounded, and scenes are arranged chronologically within their chapters. Nothing was made up. The volume setting stayed constant on the camera and sound couldn’t be altered or added afterwards, (unlike most films), with the simple editing software supplied with the camera. In spite of this personal slant it does accurately reflect the current acoustically pure environment of Rhydcymerau, which roughly translates as ‘ The Ford At The Confluence of the Valleys’.

There are very few credits at the end of the film, but if you want to know why I chose to be called Grumpy for the purposes of the film, there are 2 oblique links in what I’ve already said about our Bristol background, another from a strangely appropriate planting association made years before the film, and mainly because when out first grand child was due to arrive several years ago, I decided that Grumpy might be a suitable moniker for Dan to use, and that almost certainly as the years passed |would mature to suit the pseudonym. And so it is proving to be......... As a final dig at the high tech world we all inhabit I’m still amazed that all the hours of effort which have gone into it can be condensed onto a tiny SD Card which will play with HD quality in a cheap DVD machine, ..... but not before pausing to reflect that whereas most technologies seek to reduce in size, the grand engineers of commercial wind see bigger and ever taller structures as better.
 
I should perhaps finally mention that months after the film had been premiered and shown in a number of local venues, a friend drew to my attention the poem "Rhydcymerau" by David Gwenallt Jones. It is a moving evocation of the damage to families and landscape in the same immediate area (Rhydcymerau being our nearest village), by the compulsory purchase of upland land and planting of monoculture coniferous forestry, by the "English Minotaur", of the Forestry Commission. I feel a certain sense of irony that the current plans for industrial scale turbines on this very same land are being driven by the Welsh Assembly Government, who will reap a considerable financial reward from the turbines being located on forestry land, in association with a German owned utility company. Maybe the English Minotaur has been supplanted by the Welsh and German Dragons?

 

    

The film, which runs for 52 minutes, is available as a DVD for £8 (including UK P & P)

Please contact us regarding availability at thegardenimpressionists@gmail.com

Text updated by Grumpy 14/10/11