Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham’

Big guns of the horsey world

October 15, 2013

Horse of the year show

Horse of the year show

When Annie suggested I join her lot at the Horse of the Year Show I don’t think she ever thought I’d get accreditation as an official photographer at the LG Arena.  But here I was in Birmingham, official red armband at the ready and just feet away from the creme de la creme of glossy, groomed equine talent. On the way down with Annie’s friend Jackie, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but the scale of the show, and the atmosphere was really amazing.

We were chiefly there to watch Poppy, aged ten, riding Egypt in the coloured, ridden, non-native pony class (navigating all the categories is tricky) and she did brilliantly. Egypt didn’t put a hoof wrong and Poppy held her nerve through all the required manoeuvres. She didn’t ‘place’ but even being there puts Egypt in the UK top 20 and it was a brilliant experience.Martin clunes

It’s always good to celebrity-spot at these things and it was no surprise to see Martin Clunes enjoying the heavy horses. He famously sent his own Clydesdales, Ronnie and Bruce to hoof camp, describing them as “loveable but uncontrollable teenagers”. It was hugely entertaining watching these giant beasts of burden being paraded around the ring by chaps in bowler hats, with legs flying as they stretched to keep up. They looked almost like ants and one minder was so diminutive he swapped his bowler for a top hat to give him a couple of extra inches.

Horse of the year show

Luma the Lion caused some controversy. Luma was actually a Shetland pony dressed up like a lion, led by a girly gladiator and performing tricks involving a circus style podium, a jump cane and a ring of fake fire. I thought it was harmless fun but Jackie felt it was deeply demeaning for one of Britain’s noble, albeit miniature breeds and I’d say our divide of opinion was reflected across the audience.

Horse of the year show

The pony club team events were a frantic affair with riders flying here there and everywhere and their trusty steeds doing there best to help them mount, dismount and race around obstacles in a flurry of beanbags and other paraphernalia. Everyone was screaming at this bunch of kids, I guess about 10-12 years old as they hurtled round and there were floods of tears and squeals of delight in equal measure as the dust settled and the victors emerged.

Horse of the year show

My personal highlight was probably the Royal Horse Artillery – teams of six perfect horses each pulling a gun weighing several tons with speed and pinpoint accuracy as they delivered a choreographed display with skill, trust and huge commitment. The sheer power was incredible and you could imagine that in battle it would be hard to stand your ground in the face of such a charge. We covered our ears as the guns were fired…I’m guessing not with real canon balls…’elf and safety and all that.

Horse of the year show

So, have I any plans to pursue a new career at Horse and Hound? Well not quite yet but…equine photography does feature on my new website and I am looking forward to more close encounters with these amazing creatures. At this rate I might actually have to invest in some new wellies.


Day trippers

August 15, 2013

Annie farm

After all the excitement of Y Not? I was ready for a bit of down time. Amanda was staying up from London for the whole week, I’d just got a couple of jobs to sort out so we decided to go on a series of outings most of which involved shopping, drinking a lot of coffee, eating plenty of cake and walking around a fair bit….although probably not far enough, or fast enough, to compensate for the cake.

Hebden BridgeOn Monday and Tuesday we weren’t enormously adventurous – in fact Headingley was as far as we got.  On Wednesday though the weather was fine and I had a landscape architecture brief in Manchester so we hopped over there, did the job and then explored DoIt 2013 – an interactive  and ‘generative’ exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery.  Visitors are invited to play their part in building the exhibit.  Sadly no photography allowed so I can’t show you the extensive contribution Amanda and I made…

Clearly, as a photography blog this is not going well but never fear, come Thursday we made it to picturesque Hebden Bridge complete with marvellous canal, historic architecture and a very good veggie BLT in the park café.

Annie farm

Friday I needed to do some more horse images for my new website (coming soon) so it was off to Annie’s farm.  One of Annie’s ponies is through to a prestigious ‘best in class’ final (‘coloured ridden pony’ to be precise) at this year’s Horse of the Year Show. Not this one. This is Clown who was a wee bit camera shy but lovely nonetheless.

Annie farm

We also found time to catch up with the hand reared lambs who have really grown and are super friendly. I think they know I’m veggie.

Annie farm

And we had time to play with some double exposures – here’s one I made earlier.

Annie farm

And another looking through Amanda as she photographs some of the sheep.

The weekend rounded things off with a narrow boat trip from Leeds to Woodlesford – another cute village…cue blackberrying and more tea and cake.  It was brilliant to kick back for a week and I was sorry to see Amanda head off back to the big smoke…but realistically I probably need to lay off the carbs for a couple of weeks…

Hebden Bridge

Thinking Bigger at the Liverpool O2

November 8, 2012

Think Big (in case you weren’t paying attention last time I mentioned it) is an O2 initiative supporting all kinds of projects involving young people all over the UK – everything from Morris Dancing to Mascots to Supermums but all geared to “breaking down social barriers and creating positive change”.  I’ve been out and photographed some of the projects before and they’re chock full of inspiring individuals.

To celebrate and showcase some of the talent involved around the country O2 is running a concert tour at four venues – Glasgow. Liverpool, Birmingham and London.  The gigs are headlined by some of our brightest young bands with support from the O2 Think Big Band and some of the regional Think Big projects.

Last weekend I nipped over to be official photographer at the Liverpool leg of the tour with host Jay Hynd of Radio City and headliners Mystery Jets.  Like a lot of the audience I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but at just £5 a ticket the enthusiastic crowd more than got its money’s worth.

The Think Big Band is a kind of experiment to see what happens when you bring ten talented young musicians together and see how they work as a collective.

Mentored by radio 1’s Huw Stephens the band is clearly making the most of the opportunity and the sound they produce from one song, and one combination, to another really demonstrates the individual quality in there.

Completing the Liverpool line-up was a really diverse range of performers including Rebecca Angel…

The E-Laborators…

Vocal Chords…

and Be Cool Ca You Express Yourself…

But while the styles were vastly different the quality was consistently high and there was a genuine feelgood factor ready to welcome Mystery Jets when they finally arrived, kicking off their own tour of latest album Radlands.

I would have stayed over in lovely Liverpool but sadly for me it was a school night…almost literally.  I was photographing a graduation in London the following day.  So many bright young hopefuls in one weekend….if you’re waiting for me to be cynical, move on.  I’m still young enough and hopeful enough to remember what it was like.