Coulonges, France, December 2005
In 1963, Dr Richard Beeching finished his report, 'The Reshaping of British Railways'. It was the result of several years of government-funded research into finding out ways to make the rail system more profitable. A lot of people criticise Beeching and his report for closing down so many stations and making the country loose so many of it's picturesque branch lines. This is a valid point, but I feel that this emphasis on the plight of the disgruntled rail enthusiast seriously undermines the real tragedy of his reforms.
Beeching's report estimated that at least 40,600 people would loose their jobs as a direct result of his plans to downsize the railways. This turned out to be a conservative estimate, with figures ranging from around 70,000 to over 200,000 redundancies stemming from the reformation process. I was appalled when I discovered this and wanted illustrate what a staggeringly large number of people 40,600 is. I wrote a treatment for the song that symbolised the damage that Beeching had done, along with a fictional uprising of the redundant workers which ultimately fails because The Man is bigger than the People.
The People were represented by 40,600 balls of plasicine, all hand rolled by myself, Guy, Dave and my Mum and Dad. (A surplus contingent of them still resides in Birmingham, care of Lawrence and Jasmin of Shady Bard). The combined weight of these balls is more than 20kg and took over a month to roll them all (They can probably stretch from John OGroats to Lands End if placed end to end as well, I just havent done the maths). The life sized model of Dr Beeching was made from chicken wire and plasticine. His eyes are ping pong balls with irises made from shards of the Super8 film London to Brighton at 700mph. His costume is a modified GNER uniform, kindly donated by Alex of Shady Bard. His hair belongs to me. He freaked a lot of people out in our house over Christmas and seemed remind most people of a scary uncle they once had.
I went to France to shoot the animation because they have the best kind of floorboards. I hitched a ride with my parents who were going there anyway. We were a little concerned that transporting a 6 foot plasticine bureaucrat and 40,600 suspicious looking small black things might have caused a few problems at customs, but luckily we werent routinely searched. The room was ideal, small, barren, cold enough for the plasticine not to alter or for me to sleep; an ideal place to spend a Christmas holiday. It took 37 hours over 3 and a half days to animate the video, moving trains, blobs, hands and the camera in sub-millimeter increments. I had a break for an hour on the third day to see in the New Year with my Mum and Dad and our fascinated neighbors, then I worked until the first 9am of 2006 to get it finished.
I had the most satisfyingly lazy new years day of my life.
Broken Pixel, 2006.