Welsh Connections DVD from Bamboo Chicken Review

Pete Robins on his ascent of Liquid Ambar, F8c  © Adam Wainwright
Pete Robins on his ascent of Liquid Ambar, F8c
© Adam Wainwright
Bamboo Chicken, a new name, so who is it? Dave Brown, Lynwen Brown and John Whittle, so, familiar names (think E11, Committed One and Two). New company, new video, what's it like – one word, BRILLIANT.

What makes it so good? Well, not just the technique, though it is well-shot, beautifully and skilfully edited and with some really great music. Its quality lies in the fact that it has real soul and personality, in a quintessentially British way. It is, at times, quirky, odd, has some witty asides and some great self deprecation and gentle mockery. It also, crucially, hangs together, which given its mix of climbing styles (trad, sport, bouldering, DWS) and its spread of crags across Wales is a real achievement as it could have been, as some climbing videos are, a loose and episodic compendium of disconnected climbs. A crucial part of this feeling of completeness are the inter-climb links by Johnny Dawes, interviewed sitting in the slate quarries and lit by a soft and gentle light where Johnny creates mini word-portraits of the climbers and the routes which add an immense amount to the viewing process.

There is also a wide range of characters on show; from the gentle diffidence of Pete Robins on Liquid Ambar (LPT) to the ebullience of Tim Emmett in Pembroke, climbing Point Blank and trying a project, both in Stennis Ford. However, to this reviewer it's Nick Bullock who really shines, somehow his charisma bursts out of the screen, whether it's in a climbing sequence on-sighting Yellow Shark on Gogarth with James McHaffie which is, in turn, funny, gripping and in doubt right to the end, or being interviewed in what looks like someone's dining room, bottle of beer in hand. Watch also one of the 'Extras' which also features Nick and Caff on Rubble, also at Gogarth (watch out for their co-star, The Flange of Death). Nick's a TV natural and it would be great to see more of him, perhaps in some gnarly alpine setting.

Welsh Connections   © Bamboo Chicken Productions
Welsh Connections
© Bamboo Chicken Productions

[ photo(128618, "Click to find out more about Welsh Connections", 'right', 'http://www.bamboochicken.tv/Welsh_Connections.html') ]An interesting aspect of the video was that, personally, I don't usually enjoy watching bouldering on video. This one contains three sequences and one of them, Chris Doyle on Pill Box Wall, Upper Pen Trwyn on the Orme, had me completely enthralled as it has a lyrical and gentle quality I've not seen on a bouldering video before. Chris is clearly committed to this little piece of rock and his gentle but fervent passion is matched by a beautifully filmed sequence using a crane and occasional slo-mo.

Great though this video is, it is the other extra 'To The Rainbow', where an exceptional emotional power lies. In this, Johnny Dawes returns to the Rainbow Slab in the Llanberis slate quarries with Paul Pritchard. Paul famously had a serious accident on the Totem Pole in Tasmania resulting in a dreadful head injury (read Paul's brilliant book The Totem Pole if you want to know more). Paul has been left with limited use on his right side and has not only learned to walk again but even, remarkably, to climb again. Johnny and Paul were two of the most significant pioneers of hard, bold climbing on the slate back in the 80s and in this video they return to climb again on the stage of some of their greatest achievements. It's probably the most inspiring and moving piece of climbing filming I've ever watched, although not without moments of humour. Powerful and emotional and a fantastic portrait of friendship, it's a great big thank you to Bamboo Chicken for capturing it.

Ian Smith


VIDEO: Welsh Connections Out-take - Johnny Dawes E6 FA Onsight

6 Dec, 2009
A fantastic film, I loved it!
9 Dec, 2009
I've got to be honest, I disagree completely with most of this review. I really really wanted to like this film; I'm Welsh, have climbed a lot in Wales, and been lucky enough to briefly meet a few people who are in the DVD. Unfortunately I just didn't enjoy it. Other than a few excellent bits (Emmett in Pembroke, The Quarryman, and the last sequence at Gogarth), it just didn't inspire me. Worst of all I felt it didn't fully succeed in showing how brilliant the climbing Wales can be. Wales is reknown internationally for it's adventurous climbing on interesting rock - so why was the first "dose" showing limestone bolt-clipping? Why not make a bigger deal of the aspects of Wales that make Welsh climbing different, like the slate and the amazing sea cliff climbing? On the positive side it was good to see and hear Johnny Dawes (as always), and I agree that Nick Bullock is a natural on camera!
9 Dec, 2009
I really liked this film on the whole, the only thing I didn't like was the continuity of some shots (particularly on the quarryman, where different shots had pete w at different places at odd times). overall though, the camera work was excellent (i'm really liking the boom camera doo-dah shots, it gives a real dynamic sense of movement to a shot) and the film seemed to make sense as a whole (not just a series of moves and routes).