Its funny you know, I grew up under the shadow of these mountains for so many years, but I never really noticed them. I had other things to do, trees to climb, dens to build and so much mischief to get into. I left school early and moved to the Alps with a group of solid mates, determined to ski and snowboard every day, and spend as much of ours lives as possible, travelling as fast as we could. I remember one day looking out of over a mind blowing alpine panorama and thinking, ‘wow this is truly stunning……but it doesn’t mean as much to me as the place I grew up’. It wasn’t long before I moved home.
‘Islands’ is a film about people and places, it has climbing in it, but it is not in my eyes, a climbing film. The project began when I happened to meet an intriguing guy at the bottom of Shepherd’s crag one day. He didn’t fail to make an impression as he spoke openly about his life, new lines and big challenges. The vision was his and his alone, not a quest for high grades or a pat on the back from the rest of the community; it was evident that climbing for him was a personal journey to find some peace, light and clarity. How strange to find safety in a place of such danger.
I knew after filming with Mike that I wanted to carry the project on and make something that I would be proud to show. A film can only be as good as the sum of its parts, so I chose my subjects carefully, and to an extent, followed my heart and my gut.
My hope was to explain, promote and maintain the heritage and tradition within the climbing community in the Lake District, of which I am now a part. To celebrate some of its modern pioneers and their very individual qualities, and to readdress the balance, by placing equal importance on the person, the landscape, and the activity. After all, they may be people doing extraordinary things and believe me, they are inspiring to watch, but they are only a dot on the landscape.
I want to thank my wing man Matt Pycroft and Mike, Stu, Caff and Adam for being involved in this project. They shaped it just as I did, and I’m very grateful for their contribution. Thanks to all the belayers and extra cameraman too, Harry McGie, Duncan Sperry, Mike Norbury, Ben Scraggs, Sophie, Ali Keech and Dan McCann . And thanks to my girlfriend Hel for putting up with my poverty-stricken lifestyle and resistance to getting ‘a proper job’. And last of all, the sponsors of this film, who have shown their support all the way through, as well as providing valuable bits of kit for this and future projects. Wild Country, Red Chilli, The Epicentre and Alpkit.
Photos Matt Pycroft and Dom Bush.
You can watch the individual parts of the film below, or the full thing on my Vimeo here – http://vimeo.com/33874208