Archive for the ‘barnardo’s’ Tag

Do they pay you properly? (a memory of Prince Philip)

1992: HRH The Duke of Edinburgh photographed in the Chinese room, Buckingham Palace

I crossed paths with Prince Philip only once. It was in the conference centre named after his wife (The Queen Elisabeth Centre) near Westminster Abbey, where they got married in November 1947. I was there with Barnardo’s for whom I was making films at the time. It was a huge room, conference centre scale. I was standing beside the CEO of the charity, Sir Roger Singleton. Philip entered right at the other corner of the room but I knew from the moment he entered he was going to come up to me. I’ve no idea why, I just knew it. 

And that’s what happened. He gradually made his way across the room and eventually reached us. 

” What are you doing here?”

“I make films for Barnardo’s.”

“Do they pay you properly?” (The CEO is beside me, two feet away.)

“They do indeed.”

The bluntness and inappropriateness is the kind of thing, of course, that people loved about him.

The Angel, Islington this afternoon

When I started my career in Marshall Street, Soho at Solus Enterprises with Jack Hazan, Roger Deakins, Dick Pope and David Mingay, Wheeler’s restaurant still existed in the Cambridge Circus corner of Soho, on Old Compton Street from memory. We went there for the company Christmas lunch one year at a time when Jack and David were looking at making a film about Rachman, the pantomime tabloid villain of the Profumo Affair. They told me that Philip had been a very naughty boy upstairs at Wheeler’s at that time (1963). I was surprised that Wheeler’s got a mention on the BBC TV news tonight, with photos of a couple of bottle blondes I didn’t recognise, starlet types. He was married to the Queen for 74 years so fair play to him, no mean achievement. That, the public service and charity work, his awards scheme for young people – plenty for one life, even a 99 year one.

Camden Passage, Islington this afternoon (solar-powered waving arm)

The boozy lunches upstairs at Wheeler’s were known as the Thursday Club – all lads, lots of drink, don’t think they were that interested in the fish. Members included David Niven and Peter Ustinov (film actors), Larry Adler (harmonica player), Kim Philby (undiscovered Russian spy) and Stephen Ward (osteopath and fall guy for the Profumo Affair). 

Private Eye – Dec 1963 (Christine Keeler in the dock)

Apparently there was a Private Eye cartoon cover showing Philip’s coronation robe cast off in the bedroom of Ward’s young protégée, Christine Keeler. It seems to have mysteriously vanished from the Web. Philip’s wing man at the time was his equerry Mike Parker. Parker’s wife claimed that Philip and Parker habitually tore up the town together using their party aliases Murgatroyd and Winterbotham. 

Wheeler’s was no stranger to alcohol-fuelled bacchanalia – the top-equal artist of the 20th century liquid lunched there (Francis Bacon). 

Wheeler’s the year before Profumo (1962) –
(L-R) Tim Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews
1973 – 19-21 Old Compton Street

Update 11/4/21

I found this among my grandparents’ stuff a few years ago when clearing the house. It is printed on tin – my grandfather was a scientist who specialised in print-on-metal technologies. I liked it for sentimental and ironic reasons but I’ve come to see it in a different light these last couple of days. 

Portland Ware manufactured by Metal Box

Adoption Experience

Britain's Forgotten Children

Britain's Forgotten Children

Yesterday afternoon saw the launch of my latest project – Adoption Experience www.channel4.com/adopt – this is the thinking behind it:

“Adoption is an area of childcare and family life shrouded in misconception, myth and confusion. The best way to untangle the realities from the rumours and hearsay is to focus on real people’s real experiences.

Adoption Experience shares valuable first-hand experience of Adoption from every perspective – people who have been adopted, adopters, social workers, siblings, people left in the system, potential adopters, every viewpoint that helps give insight into the realities of Adoption.”

Now those of you familiar with the peripatetic, seemingly random wanderings of my oeuvre will notice distinct similarities between Adoption Experience and Sexperience. Here was the thinking behind Sexperience:

Sexperience enables people to share their first-hand experiences (as opposed to opinion or theory) of a broad range of sexual issues, problems and solutions in video and text form, thereby recognising the complexity and individuality of the subject through multiple perspectives and transcending the easy, often over-simplified answers of self-help manuals.”

When it came to the subject of Adoption, it struck me that the same grounded insight brought by a focus on direct experience to the realm of sex and relationships might really help to shed light through the fog of preconceptions obscuring my understanding of this other subject. For me what first sprung to mind was a nightmarish, intrusive process; social workers telling you you have too many books in your house or are too pale for your own good; a recent tale of an adoption imploding and tearing apart the family and marriage of my friend’s sister; compelling tales of retracing birth families; happy sorties filming childcare projects with Emerald Productions and ArkAngel Productions for Barnardo’s; various celebrity stories headed up by Mia Farrow (recently on hunger strike over Dafur – good on her), Angelina Jolie and Madonna; and a few lovely, sometimes quiet kids at my sons’ schools. So what I decided to do was to lift the infrastructure of Sexperience wholesale and reapply it to the subject of Adoption.

The production company/digital indie, Mint Digital, said it would probably work but they’ll be a 5% difference in the structures. I stuck to my guns that it could work as a pretty much 1-to-1 match and that’s what we went with. So, in effect, it’s my first attempt at an online format. (Another class implementation by Mint in the wake of Sexperience and Osama Loves. Video content by Betty TV. Reminds me, Sexperience has just been nominated for a Broadcast Digital Award [Best use of Interactive] and the Osama Loves documentary, Osama Bin Everywhere, is up for a Rockie Award at the Banff TV Awards in Canada.)

Now Sex is of universal relevance whereas Adoption is something of a niche concern, so I wasn’t sure what kind of take-up to expect. The signs so far are good and I feel like we’ve found our clear blue water. There’s little out there on the Web which captures first-hand experience of Adoption issues in a non-textual, engaging form. The first two hours, from a standing start, saw:

  • 29,448 pageviews
  • 5,578 visits
  • 5.3 pageviews/visit (promising since the user-created content which drives the creative concept was very limited, starting empty that very afternoon)
  • 170 experiences and questions were posted by viewers, many very illuminating and detailed

This came in unsolicited from a recent adopter today: “I think the site’s great – fantastic that it’s open to the public to post questions and responses about their experiences. This is what the adoptive and adopted audiences really need I think!”

The site was created out of the Channel 4 Cross-platform dept. as part of the Channel’s Britain’s Forgotten Children season broadcasting all this week. It springs from the themes of the documentary series Find Me a Family, commissioned by my equally mad-haired colleague Dominique Walker. This is the striking trail created by Brett Foraker of 4Creative to communicate the thrust of the season.

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