Walking through History

17th Aug 2012

Occasionally we get asked to help with safety rigging for films and television. Dangling myself down Yellow Walls on Gogarth for the Sherlock Holmes movie was a highlight while belaying a petrified children’s TV presenter up Stanage was a different sort of challenge entirely. Last week we got asked to help with a new Channel 4 programme called Walking through History. The programme combines a walk in different parts of the country with a look at the influences the area has had on our history.

The team were using the Peak District to focus on the Industrial Revolution and part of the programme involved exploring the turbine room at Caudwell Mill in Rowlsley. I met with the programme producer to assess the site and see how we could safeguard the crew and the presenter Tony Robinson safely in and out of the room. Caudwell Mill is a fascinating place which I hadn’t visited before. The huge turbine is powered by 15 million gallons of water a day and it was certainly interesting to see how we could safely manage the safety of the director, film crew and presenter in such a confined space.

One of the challenges was to identify safe anchor points for ropes and in the end this involved removing floorboards to allow access to the floor above. The drop into the room was only about 3 metres but the steps were wire staples in the wall and the water made it very slippy. I had to ensure the system allowed the team to clip in quickly and in the end the best solution was a screwgate carabiner attachment with rope retainer to keep the correct orientation. There was also a chance that, had the sluice gate started to fail, I would have had to get everyone out very fast. I would always prefer to tie clients directly in with a rethreaded figure of 8 but, in this case, that just wouldn’t have been practical.

On the day everything went very smoothly. Tony is a great character who I have admired since seeing his classic portrayal of Baldrick in the Blackadder series. He is also clearly a superb presenter. I watched I awe as he faultlessly took on board the information he was given and then presented it in an interesting and enthusiastic way. The film crew were also typically efficient and professional and everyone worked together to get some great footage. The series will air in the Spring so please look out for it. Usually on these projects I’m stuck behind the scenes but on this one I’m seen tieing Tony in and explaining the safety procedures. I hope they got my best side!