2017 so far

This year has been a strange one so far. The first months of this year saw me suffering from chronic back pain, and finding the road towards being pain free. I’m on that road, but not at the end of it yet. So, a bit of a setback.

I’m typing this on my new sit/stand electrically adjustable desk perched on an ‘active’ stool, standing on a soft rug. Some will view this as laughably hipster, others with back pain will know that anything is worth a try. It’s definitely helping.

Now that I’m easing back into work, I’ve got a number of projects underway. I’m working on another shipwreck project on the Isles of Scilly to create accessible tours of a group of wrecks, and I have a number of 3D archaeological recording contracts booked in. It’s always nice to do some gentle fieldwork. It might be a while before I’ll be able to dig again!

Computer with microphone and headphones
Recording a voiceover using a large diaphragm condenser microphone and Focusrite audio interface using a split-screen layout for video and script.

Yesterday saw me recording a voiceover for a shipwreck dive video. It was nice to dust off some old skills and try out some new software. I think the result sounds good. I don’t particularly like the sound of my own voice, but I am used to it after years of recording podcasts.

Along with a nearby colleague, I have undertaken another survey of the medieval Market Cross here in Penzance, where we have combined photogrammetry, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), traditional measured survey, and photography. We hope to produce the clearest possible images of the inscriptions and decorations and work with a specialist in medieval writing to see if we can provide an updated view of this important monument.

I’m also planning some meetings with museums in Cornwall to introduce the idea of 3D recording and public dissemination of their collections via Sketchfab. There are so many wonderful objects in the stores of Cornish museums, rarely if ever being displayed. As 3D scanning becomes easier, and the benefits are realised, I’m sure that this will become a rapidly growing area. I have my first meeting on Monday at a small museum that punches well above its weight.

Tehmina and I are planning a month-long trip to New Zealand this July/August, which is part of her work as Cornwall’s ACE supported Changer Makers programme. We will visit many of New Zealand’s museums for Tehmina’s research, and I hope to investigate how technology is being used to record and interpret the shared pasts of the diverse groups of people who live there.

We have also joined the Folklore Society to access their journals and become more widely involved in the field of folklore research. As practitioners of some traditional Cornish customs (mainly “guise dancing” – a kind of mumming using disguises during the Christmas period) we have begun to thoroughly research it with the aim of producing academic and popular articles to draw attention to this wonderful tradition. We have discovered some wonderful things and even talked to some very elderly people who took part in guise dancing in the 1920s-40s. But that is another blog post all of its own…

So, now we’re nearly half way through 2017, here’s to a productive and enjoyable, and hopefully more spinally flexible rest of the year. With any luck, and I say this each year, I’ll write a little more.


Penzance’s Midwinter Customs – Montol 2014

Plans for the 2014 Montol celebrations here in Penzance are well underway. This year it is being run by the Cornish Culture Association who have organised a fantastic and packed programme of events on Sunday 21st December.

Dancing at the beacon, Montol 2012

The concept of an organised community celebration on one day called Montol is a modern one. However, many of the individual elements held on the day are much more ancient ones, practised in Penzance and across West Penwith during the height of winter. Guise Dancing, the Chalking of the Mock, fire and beacons, and the revels of the Corn-Market are all well documented midwinter traditions.

Today’s Montol has become a tradition in its own right – an event that many in Penzance look forward to and expect to happen. In the times when our part of the world is at its darkest comes a time when fire, costume, music, colour, dancing, stories, and a little revelry lift the dark blanket of winter a little.

Of course, traditions don’t always have to stand still. Last year’s experimental revival of the Corn-Market is a form of guise dancing formed as a series of games and parade between the town’s pubs recorded by William Sandys in the early 19th century. It is now known as the Corn Market Revels and has proven to be so successful that this year it has inspired a series of ‘guilds’ who are attaching themselves to other iconic buildings in Penzance. Look out for the Egyptians emerging from the Egyptian House on Chapel Street, and the Turks from the Turk’s Head pub (Penzance’s oldest pub) during the course of the evening.

Something that I have learned this past year is that guise dancing is a fascinating tradition. Archaically referred to as “goosey dancing”, it is not, in the strictest sense, necessarily always a dance, but a form of performance that can take many forms. Traditional costume can be rather sinister in its appearance. If you are interested, do have a look at Simon Reed’s Guise Guide to find out more.


London, life and Brompton folding bikes

I’ve realised that I never got around blogging about some changes in my life recently. First, I have moved to central London. I still work for Wessex, but now do so remotely, visiting the offices once a fortnight (or more often if needed for a meeting there or elsewhere). I am loving London so far – so much to see and do – all of the time.

Secondly, I have bought a Brompton folding bike to assist with said journeys to Salisbury, and for general travelling around in London, and I love it.

My Brompton

So, you can expect plenty of posts on Bromptons and London in the near future 🙂