Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Best Extreme Caving Video Moments 2017 with Dudley Caving Club

I had uploaded 16 videos to YouTube this year, 17 if you include this one. Six of the videos uploaded this year were filmed in 2016 or earlier but only got edited this year. Another four of the videos are compilations of old clips combined with some new original footage recorded in 2017.
With a scarcity of new stuff it seemed that making the customary annual highlights video wasn't going to happen.

However it has been a very successful year for my YouTube channel, in fact the most successful year to date with caving video views exceeding 1.6 million, so it would have been a shame not to celebrate with a highlights video. Also this year I won the Hidden Earth Video Salon, got a plaque for the best art work produced digitally in the Hidden Earth Video Salon and got a commission to produce the opening video for A Golden Age of Cave Exploration and Science.

In the years 2012 to 2014 an American caver, or should I say Spelunker?, by the name of Rob Spangler uploaded videos entitled Best Extreme Caving Video Moments on YouTube 2012, 2013 and 2014. The videos featured short clips of dramatic caving scenes set to equally dramatic music. Now there's an idea. So here's this year's annual highlights video with apologies to Rob Spangler.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Story of The World of Caving

Hey Hey We're The Dudley
It seems that my opening video for Hidden Earth this year was quite well received as I was approached by Andy Eavis during the conference to make an opening video for A Golden Age of Cave Exploration, an event organised to celebrate 50 years of pioneering British cave exploration and scientific research which took place on 1st - 4th Dec 2017 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.
“Something similar to the first part of the video,” was the brief, “I like Hey Hey We’re The Dudley but I suspect that few people in London will know what The Dudley is.” I was flattered, obviously, but a little noncommittal as I’m in the middle having my house extensively renovated and extended, and didn’t know if I would be rendered homeless sometime during the two months I’d got to make the video, and two months to come up with a concept, storyboard it, film it and edit it seemed like a bit of a tall order anyway.

It seemed that another video based on a song was what was being asked for but I had no idea what song or who I might be able to get to sing it, not to mention getting it recorded. At Hidden Earth I had been introduced to Rostam Namaghi and his Anthology of Speleomusic. I fired off an email to him and he very kindly send me his songbook which contains a number of brilliant songs. They are all great but a couple of my personal favourites are ‘Doline’ a plagiarised version of the Dolly Parton classic ‘Jolene’ and Glen Campbell’s ‘Limestone Cowboy’. Unfortunately neither seemed to fit the bill of being an introduction to 50 years of British caving. One other song in the anthology that caught my eye was Paul Simon's ‘The Sound of Silence’ but Rostam had only written the first two lines, “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to crawl in you again.” A week had gone by since Hidden Earth and in spite of some serious head scratching I still had no real idea for the video.

Seven Weeks To Make A Video

It seemed that all of my head scratching might have been in vain as the days were flying past and Andy hadn’t contacted me, and I must admit to feeling a sense of relief. Then on 11th October with only 7 weeks to the event the email arrived. With luck on the previous day Jess had sent her re-write of the lyrics of ‘The Sound of Silence’ and they were very good and fitted the bill perfectly. However my problems were far from over as I now needed a suitable backing track,  a singer and a recording studio.

I couldn’t ask Nige Atkins again, could I? No. I asked Rostam if he would be the singer but trying to arrange a mutually convenient date proved to be too difficult, and also I’d no idea how I could get it recorded at a quality suitable for such a prestigious event. I phoned round friends, ex-colleagues and relations but drew a blank in either identifying a singer or a means of recording. Meanwhile I couldn’t help changing a couple of lines, including the chorus from The World of Silence to The World of Caving. I toyed with the idea of speaking the lyrics in the style of Peter Sellers when he did ‘A Hard Days Night’ as Richard III. I looked through iTunes for a backing track. Perhaps a string quartet? In my searches for suitable music I came across Disturbed's version of ‘Sound of Silence’ and when I imagined Jess’s lyrics sung in this style I thought we might be on to something, and I was able to download from iTunes 'The Sound of Silence (Originally performed by Disturbed) by Karaoke Pro.

Four Weeks To Make A Video

Eventually I had no alternative but to throw myself on the mercy of Nige, and to my complete amazement he said yes. However he couldn’t get into the studio he used for the Hidden Earth video, but he said that if I could find a studio he would be happy to travel. It was now 28th October - just over 4 weeks to the event and I needed to find a recording studio, book it on a date when Nige could get there, get the song recorded and make the video. I was getting quite desperate. Then lying in bed one night with so much going on in my mind I couldn’t sleep I remembered an ex-work colleague had posted a music video to Facebook which featured a member of her family. I sent a message asking her if she could help in any way and she replied that her brother-in-law owned a recording studio in Birmingham! You could have knocked me over with a feather!

Three Weeks To Make A Video

Nige Atkins at ARC Studio Birmingham
The song was recorded with Nige on vocals at ARC Studio in Edgbaston, Birmingham on 8th November - just 3 weeks before the event. In the days preceding the recording session I had started looking through old video clips to see how much new stuff I would need to record. I’d got enough archive footage to match to about half of the song, and Antonia and Andy Freem were kind enough to agree to me using 3 clips from their excellent Dan Yr Ogof video.

I badgered a few Dudley members and we set off for a trip into OFD on 12th November with a shot list and managed to film 9 clips at various locations around Top Entrance. Also on the previous day I had filmed the ‘bustling world above’ on Bromsgrove High Street. The video then came together quite quickly but I was missing clips to illustrate the lines, “And the caving world expands throughout many foreign lands. Exploration opens up our eyes.”

Caver Keith videoing in Cross Rift,
OFD. Photo by Mark Burkey.

Caver Keith And His Hero

When I started caving back in the late 80s the first club I joined was the West Midlands Cave Exploration Group (WMCEG). WMCEG insisted on everyone having a nickname and I was christened Sid after Sid Perou as even in those days I took a video camera on some of the trips.
So Sid was always a bit of a hero of mine. As both Sid and Gavin Newman (another hero of mine) were involved in the video aspect of the conference I was put in email contact with both of them. Can you imagine it, me, Caver Keith, the chap that makes those silly videos, Mr. nobody, a numpty - chatting by email with caving royalty? Wow!

Two Weeks To Complete A Video

Anyway Sid sent me the video he was preparing for the event and in it there was a 17 second Ghar Parau sequence that fitted perfectly with the lyrics. I asked if I could use it and he said, “Yes!” I added a long fade into and out of Sid’s stuff and the video was complete 2 weeks before the deadline. Then disaster struck, my computer decided to trash my complete video library and the backup failed to restore it. I had got a backup of the backup of 'The World of Caving' so all was not lost, but Andy wanted the credits slowing down. I re-imported the video, chopped off the credits and re-did them. The video was finally finished.

Caver Keith Meets His Hero

Sid and Caver Keith. Photo by Mark Burkey.
The video was played to open the conference on the Friday evening and again on the Sunday morning to introduce Sid's session. It did seem to go down quite well with the audience and I got some good feedback from the delegates as well as great comments on YouTube and UK Caving. However it has had one dislike too.

At the conference I was able to chat to Sid on several occasions. It's always difficult chatting to someone that one holds in such high esteem and I hope I didn't burble too much.

On the Sunday I was privileged to be part of a team that filmed an interview with Sid and he was kind enough to do a short piece to camera about my humble efforts, but that's another story for another day.

Sid's Golden Age of Cave Exploration & Science Video

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The World of Caving

Coming shortly to a computer/tablet/mobile phone screen near you a new film by Caver Keith - 'The World of Caving'. Release date Monday 4th December 2017 after its premiere at the Royal Geographical Society. Starring members of Dudley Caving Club with music by Nigel Atkins and contributions from Antonia and Andy Freem plus Sid Perou.

The World of Caving
Update: 4th December 2017

The video

Monday, 20 November 2017

Alum Pot - A Classic Yorkshire Pothole

Alum Pot is a pothole with a large open 100 metre deep shaft on the eastern flanks of Simon Fell, North Yorkshire.
The beck which cascades into it appears quite insignificant and the surface of the shaft is clothed with trees, yet it contains one of the best hidden sights in Yorkshire and probably one of the finest abseils in the country. It is a scene that can only be witnessed by cavers, and perhaps goes some way to answering the question, “Why do we do it?”
This video was filmed during the August Bank Holiday but has languished on my computer since then as I was busy with other video projects.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

2,000,000 Caving Video Views

A huge thank you to anyone that has ever watched a Caver Keith caving video.
It is with pride and amazement that I can announce that my YouTube channel now has more than 2 million caving video views.

Highlights from the Video Vault

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Chunky and Caver Keith Wow The Wessex

After dinner speakers R us

Only 9 days before the event Les Williams contacted Mark and asked if he was free on 21st October as he needed an after dinner speaker for the 83rd Wessex Cave Club Annual Dinner. Having not been able to find a suitable excuse Mark then contacted me and asked if I would be one half of a double act.

The slot was scheduled to last for 15 to 20 minutes. Mark's idea was basically for us to trade insults between short compilations of Caver Keith videos. It seemed a half decent idea so for the next 8 days we honed the script and assembled the videos. However neither of us were really confident that it would work with a large unfamiliar audience of about 90 people.

Les said that he could provide a large screen, projector, amplifier and speakers as the Hidden Earth equipment is held in the Wessex stores. All we had to provide was ourselves and a laptop loaded with the presentation and videos.

What could possibly go wrong?

Suitably suited and booted we arrived early at the venue but had to run across the carpark through a cloudburst courtesy of storm Brian. The equipment was already in place so we fired up the laptop, connected the video cable and plugged in the amplifier. The projector worked fine but the audio stubbornly refused to work. With the clock ticking relentlessly to the start of the meal it seemed that our 'well-rehearsed' presentation was doomed to failure. With only minutes to spare we diagnosed the problem. The 3.5mm jack plug was not going into the socket on the laptop far enough to make contact and there wasn't a spare lead! Fortunately I had bought a bluetooth speaker so we connected it up and placed a microphone in front of it. The sound wasn't perfect but it looked like the show was back on. Phew!

Pre-show Nerves

When I said 'well-rehearsed' presentation I may have been slightly embroidering the truth. Cobbled together might have been a more accurate description. During the meal we found out that over the years the great and the good of the caving world had addressed this long established club. The names that every ever knows - The Clive Westlakes, The Martin Farrs, The Sid Perous, The Gavin Newmans and alike, and who are we? Did anyone know us from Adam? To emphasise the point the person to Mark's right during the meal said, "Who is Caver Keith?" - enough said. So to say that we were a little nervous would be an understatement.

At the end of the meal were a number of toasts and then it was down to us.

The Presentation

Mark started with, "During the history of the Wessex Cave Club we understand that you have been addressed by all of the big names in caving."

I replied, "But unfortunately tonight we've got us." It got a small titter from a couple of the audience.

We then played the Potholer Sketch. It's one of my favourite videos and I know that Mark rates it highly too. The odd smile played on a few faces but there were no laughs. It wasn't going well!!!

I then said, "I was introduced to Mark about 8 years ago. I can remember the day vividly. He walked into the windmill like he owned the place and my first impressions were … ". I left a suitable pause and continued with, "What a fat bastard." The place erupted with laughter. Perhaps we were going to be able to pull it off after all.

The exchange of insults continued with Mark slagging off my videos and me slagging off his acting ability. We then played a compilation of video clips entitled "Nah ... He Can't Act" showcasing Mark's acting, starting with the famous Corset video and concluding with the title, A Star Is Born. Having broken the ice with my 'Fat Bastard' remark the bonhomie from the audience continued.

After another exchange of insults we played the third and final video clip compilation entitled "Highlights from the Video Vault" which featured humorous clips of both of us, including Brendan being blown up on the firing range, me stuck in the Lobster Pot, my return to caving following my accident and crashing my drone down Eldon Hole. This elicited laughs in all the right places.

The conclusion revolved around Mark suggesting that it was about time I gave up making videos and me storming off saying that if that was his attitude I was off to find my next 'big star' and shouting, "Les, Les come and be in my videos."

We did get applause, thanks and some very nice comments prompting Mark to post on Facebook, "After dinner presentation with Keith Edwards done and we didn't get lynched or nuffink!"

Would we do it again? Possibly if our egos were massaged enough.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Fairy Quarry Caves

We had arranged to meet at the priddy good cafe at 9:30am so of we went, there was myself Liz, Tony, and Dave, we were meeting Kermit for a nice big breakfast, after breakfast we all headed of to the Fairy Quarry for some underground fun.
We got changed and I led the way to Shatter, where I struggled for a few minutes to get the gate open, but after a few mins we were in, so in I go and sign the sign in book with our names and date and off we head further into the dark.
First we came to Canopy Chamber but I couldn’t remember that’s what it was called, next it was Diesel Chamber, with every new part of the cave we came to Kermit said   “where are we now Kay”   to which I replied I don’t know. So further into the cave we go past Erratic Rift and past the Tor Hall, through Pisa Chamber to where Kermit’s favourite part of the cave lies, the angel wing, after Liz had took a couple photos on her gopro we headed up into the Ring Road, which I went straight past the climb up so Kermit pointed it out and up we went.
We then went through to the Pillar Chamber which is absolutely stunning with the white floor and big pillars, we looked at the crawl to the end of the cave and decided not to head down there, instead we headed to the Z squeeze, I went through first so I could show the others how to get down, and off we headed towards the exit, back through all the chambers and passageways, all with Kermit asking   “And where are we now Kay”   I could remember some of them but not all I remembered Frozen Niagara Falls and Pisa Chamber but couldn’t remember the others but hey ho, we made it out and headed into W/L.
We headed into W/L to go and see the original Lilly Pads which we had seen the ones in Shatter so off we went into the deep again to see the wonders that lie beneath the ground, after we had been in and found them which I walked straight past them, ( I really need to open my eyes more ) we then headed out and over to Fernhill.
Fernhill is a circle man made shaft down to a ledge and you use a static ladder to get down to it and another one to reach the bottom of the shaft this is a very short cave but has some really spectacular curtains, which I think are really pretty because they have got loads of different colours in them, after we had spent a couple minutes we headed back out and on pulling up the ladder it got caught on the fixed ladder so down I went to get it untangled so we could pull it up.
After we had all got changed we stopped of at a pub for a quick drink as we were a little bit early for the pub meal we had booked in the Queen Victoria so Kermit headed of to the Wessex to give Mark and Keith a lift to there talk, and Liz, Tony, Dave and myself headed to the Queen Vic for our meal and Kermit meet us there at half 6, we had very nice meals and all headed home.
And Nobody Died Or Nothing.
Signing off