An update (at last!): I am on my way to Brussels to screen my little, rustic and very, very indie doco. It’s a seven hour bus ride so I decided that I am not allowed to read my book until I’ve written down something. While I can’t describe the documentary as “finished”, I got to the point where I could share my work with people and on the 20th of April I screened To Liberate a Blackfish for the first time. Fortunately the crowd was made up of mostly friends and family, bless them, literally the same people who have listened to me banging on about Morgan for the last 9 years, but it was lovely to have a room full of love and support. The Nottage in Wivenhoe is such a fantastic venue, full of nautical treasures, half models, historic pictures and shippy tomes galore (in short, it is a heavenly place). It also happens to be right next door to the The Rose and Crown which was extra grand 'cause the screening did not start on time as, of course, there was the classic "technical hitch". The hitch was my technical ineptitude and my unawareness really of what a HDMI cable is or does or wants in order that it talks to other electrical bits and pieces. Anyway Sarah Hollie Hoy and more specifically her lover, Phil Sadler, came to the rescue and after a quick dash home (luckily just down the river a skip) we were back on track. The showing itself highlighted some sound issues and the fact that I had been a littttttle heavy handed with the old "Ken Burns" effect. Everyone added their names to my Free Morgan banner and then we all piled over to The Station, a.k.a The Best Pub in the World. The next screening was at Leeds University, kindly organised by my friend Sian (Shaaaawwwwnn to the OL crew). It was a joint event between the Subaqua club and the Marine Conservation Soc so those in attendance were definitely fellow lovers of all things ocean. And being that the ocean is currently bereft of one particular non-human person who we know as Morgan it was great to have such an audience for the second screening. They asked some great questions and seemed keen to help the cause. Happily all signed the banner too. With a few of the many “kinks” ironed out I headed to Manchester recently to screen at Ice Shake, a vegan ice-cream parlour and basically a haven for people who care about the planet and the other animals who inhabit it with us. It was not a big crowd but the quality was superb (said in the voice of a 60’s Brooklyn Mobster,just fYI). Suzie Q from The Lab and one of the great bull-kelp musicians in the film was in attendance and Alex and Maria where there too. They are producing their first documentary which is trying to understand and help the declining and (if we don’t take serious action) soon extinct Southern Resident orca. It is always so restorative to be with the Searching for Chinook gals, they are so focused and determined. They help me see answers to problems that I have been struggling with. Sometimes when I am considering a problem I am almost blinkered into thinking "okay the answer must lay this way" and I blindly trudge on, but after talking to Maria she will say something and gently be like “have you considered this? or tried this way?, or emphasised that point?” and I feel a very literal “doh, of course!”. Anyways that is all to say I am suuuuuuper grateful to those two! On the way back from Manchester I edited together a little trailer thing which I will use to try and gather support and maybe further funding to continue the editing process. I will be sharing that soon. A concern that often arises if I get to talking to people about Morgan is the worry that she may die if we got her back to the ocean. This is an understandable worry and the logical answers that my brain gives to answer this concern is this: Once we get Loro Parque to agree that the ocean is the best place for Morgan it would still be a very timely and painstakingly slow process. We wouldn’t be just picking her up, plonking her back in the big blue and dusting our hands of her. Because she is now a mother it would be unethical to take her away from her calf. It would similarly be unethical to release that calf into the wild populations with its mish mash of confused DNA. So Morgan and her calf would live out there lives in a "Sea Sanctuary", a large expanse of water cordoned off and monitored. The Free Morgan foundation has potential sites, mainly fjords in Norway already investigated for their viability. Once in the Sanctuary the orca would be weaned off the anti-botics and anti-depressants, whilst their muscle mass was built up through exercise. In a Sanctuary it is very likely that they would remain reliant on humans for food and potentially dental care. However they would no longer be forced to preform and they could explore and investigate the complex and diverse underwater world. They would have the currents and tides, the changing sea states, the quiet stary nights overhead and be enveloped in the cool salty water. If Loro Parque sells Morgans baby, Ula, (as is often the case with entertainment parks) or if she dies (also a reality- given the life expectancy of a captive born orca is on average 6 years) then that opens up the possibility of reuniting Morgan with her family. The answer my heart wants to give to the concern Morgan may die if returned to the ocean is this: I can’t help but imagine it was myself in her situation. I place myself in an imaginary concrete box devoid of any of my normal natural sounds, with no fresh air or breeze. This concrete box is way from Tariq, my family and my friends. It contains not a single thing to distract me. To take this analogy further and to make it more accurate I have to imagine that occasionally others enter the box, but when they do I cannot understand them and they are incessantly aggressive and often violent towards me. On top of all that, I would have to somehow find the strength to preform a sadistic show three times a day, every. single. day. doing things I could and would never do out in the course of my normal life. To preform like this is the only way I can get food, and even that food is drugged with antibiotics and anti-depressents. This is the life that Morgan endures. However it is even worse than all of that because she was impregnated and became a mother at a very young age. This fact, the true horror of it, it is a violation that I can not even bring myself to deal with or imagine. Morgans pregnancy is a complete and absolute contravention of the CITES permit. Either deliberately or through incompetence and ignorance of what was going on with their Orca, the staff at Loro Parque allowed the once wild orca to become pregnant. So when people say she might die if taken back to the ocean, I can only imagine it would be sweet, blessed relief from the hell we have forced her to live for the last nine years. I know that I would choose death with the breeze on my face and soil between my toes over life in a stagnant, concrete, hell-of-a-box. Morgans DNA belongs to the ocean and every minute of every hour that we keep her we grow further in debt. The fact Morgan has survived so long is surely a testament to her mental strength and her will to survive. But I think if we achieve nothing else for her we should provide her the dignity of death in Neptune's realm. A couple of weeks ago I was chatting about this all, with a friend, Jasmine. I was lamenting about how slow and small scale the progress seems. In her wisdom she told me "a snail doesn't go backwards". This really, *really* resonated. It is a thought what keeps me trying, because ultimately it may all be too slow, my efforts may not be enough, I may fail and Morgan may breath her last breath in that terrible place, but, I know, sure as sure can be, the moment I do stop trying is the moment I have definitely failed her. So, my friends, onwards à la snail!
Right, so I'm pretty rubbish at this blog lark and especially now that I'm so close to finishing the edit. Every time I sit down to update the blog and tell my lovely backers how its going, I feel the press of guilt: “I should be spending this time on the actual work”. But, but, today I have a lovely 6 hour train journey back from Manchester after seeing the Searching for Chinook ladies and showing a fairly rough cut of The Edit. It's so strange having worked on it for months and getting so used to it and how incredibly different it is when you sit down to watch it with another human being. I immediately saw things to change and cut and move about. I'm also kinda quietly impressed that I have actually produced something, it's not beautiful or ground breaking and it is far from perfection and I could spend years tweaking with and polishing it but that would serve no purpose to Morgan so I must continually remind myself that I strive for progress not perfection. I set out to tell Morgans story as well as I can, I feel like what happened to her is so obviously wrong so if more people know about it it can only help the effort to get her and now her calf a more dignified future. Now that I am getting really close to the the finish I am so worried that Morgan will die and the documentary will achieved nothing. But I'm trying to remain focused and positive. If you can help or know of an independent cinema that may be okay with me screen ing it, or know of a community or save group I could come and show andtalk to please do let me know, email: firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks again for the support and help you've given me.
Well, halfway through the month and I officially hit my minimum Kickstarter goal so am officially Kickstarted. Yay! So that's been a really interesting learning curve. I'm not really to great at promoting and so to have my friends and family so readily support me has been so wondeful. I also got a message from a award winning composer offering her services to the cause. I tell you when I received the message I was sitting in Vancouver airport and I shocked people sitting around me with the gasp of excitement I made. Music is so important to a film I think and so this is a big and super awesome development. We have set up a meeting and I can not wait to get editing started. I have a few more elements I need to film and then I can hopefully be cracking on with the edit by end of November.
Here is a blog post about me from The Pioneer, just because this woman writes waaaayyyyy better and nicer about me than I could or would. So for a bit of a background on me, read on :) Scantlings from Harker's Yard Meeting Shari Shari, fresh from a week on Pioneer, breezes into the room. A huge beaming smile greets me, “I’m sorry, I must stink” she gasps. She doesn’t at all! She is radiant, windswept and utterly exhausted but has agreed to talk to me about her time spent working for The Pioneer Sailing Trust before she heads off on her next mission - to try and free Morgan, the orca whale, held in captivity in the Canary Islands. Born in the Seychelles on 2nd June 1986, Shari’s family moved to Cape Tribulation in the far north of Australia when she was 18 months old. Early days were spent being educated by ‘the School of Air’ where they were sent educational toys and puzzles in the post before going on to the High School in Cairns. Her passionate love of sailing began when, aged 16, she was sent on a sail training week aboard a large schooner and her love of the sea blossomed.
Later that year her mother brought her to England to live in Hereford, close to her grandparents. It was a huge move, starting afresh in a new school, new friends, all very daunting at that young age. However in true Aussie style she embraced it, studying ‘A’ levels in Modern History, Politics, Sociology and Archeology. She then accepted an unconditional offer from Essex University to read International Relations and Politics. Essex Uni was close to the sea, a major factor in her choice!
Following her gap year back in Australia, this energetic young girl started life at University, living in Wivenhoe and working at the Station Pub to earn some extra money. How incredible it would be to have a job working and sailing at the same time she thought. Some fruitful conversations led her to a few unpaid yacht deliveries and the next stage of her plan was to head down to the Mediterranean and find work on a super yacht. This required several courses on Health and Safety and various other skills which ate up her savings, leaving her unable to afford to travel out there. Frustrated, she continued working at the pub and by chance a great friend, Alex, who had previously worked on Pioneer, told her about the Bosun’s job available at Pioneer. Was this to be her opportunity? Sadly not at this time as Alex got the job!
However, she started to volunteer for the Trust as an extra pair of hands when needed and when Alex decided to move on she stepped comfortably into his spot as Bosun. Her role is hugely varied - in her words “I do as the mate tells me!” The mate is 22 year old Josh with whom she works closely as they are the 2 permanent members of staff on Pioneer with 4 skippers working in rotation. She is going to miss his banter and sense of humour! The sailing season runs between April and October with the winter months spent taking the boat apart for general maintenance. The worse bit about the job - cleaning the heads, but the best, well, where should she begin....? The biggest part of her role has been to make sure people feel comfortable and safe aboard. If they don’t, they won’t have fun and Shari wants to show them how exhilarating sailing can be.
She exudes such a love for life which must be extremely contagious. Her warm personality shines through and her eyes light up as she describes how rewarding the days on Pioneer are. She is a wonderful role model to young and old alike. Groups have included Emmaeus, the homeless charity, Young Carers, a charity supporting young people caring for an ill or disabled parent and many other special needs groups. Listening to her talk about people making new friendships, the shared experiences, the sense of family, team-work, the cancer sufferers, the opening up of emotions, the laughter, the tears, the talking, the heartbreaking stories, makes us both feel incredibly grateful for all that we have and just how rewarding her job has been. She is moved to tears by her passion for the role and by the realisation that she is moving on.
This extraordinary girl has many more strings to her bow. She has taken time off to work for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Japan, highlighting the tragic capturing and killing of dolphins. She has loved returning to Pioneer as she feels the boat is her ‘happy’ place even on a cold, miserable British day! The next stage of her life will take her to Tenerife to join the Free Morgan Foundation which is trying to free a female orca held at the Loro Parque in Tenerife. As she says “if I don’t at least try, I will fail, so I am going to keep trying” This bright and ebullient young woman has been a key part of The Pioneer Sailing Trust. I sensed by talking to other members of the team just how much she will be missed and I feel honoured to have met her. https://pioneerscantlings.blogspot.com/2018/09/meeting-shari.html?spref=fb << is the link to the original.
“While Morgan is still alive there is hope”
Superpod 6 begins and so too my first time to the magnificent San Juan islands. During the Superpod talks I learnt a lot about the issues facing these populations and the efforts being made to stop their demise. Unfortunately I also learnt about the lack of action and the inability politicians have at listening to scientists and the recommendations. Tres tres fustrating but that is the world we live in. I had a wonderful time with my inspirational friends and mentors Alex and Maria who are making a documentary about the Southern Residents a population who are literally are on the brink of extinction.
I also met an incredible young scientist called London and her family.
If you want to keep up to date with my friends documentary you can follow them on the ‘gram @searchingforchinook.
Oh well I meant to post this ages ago but just seen its been stuck in “drafts” for an age, oh boy, must get better on this blogging lark.
Anyway incredible things happened while I was on the islands. Thanks to my friend Alex I was able to meet and interview my hero Dr Ingrid Visser. Dr Visser is the woman spearheading the fight to free Morgan, I got the low down and she filled me with hope. “While Morgan is still alive there is hope” Dr Visser. Unfortunately the sound recording I have from the interview is proper shite, so that has set me back a bit and made me feel a bit rubbish but its not the end of the world so will keep plugging on.