Monday 18 October 2010

Amateur passion for nature fuels new wildlife film awards

Just over a month till the November 26 Early Bird deadline for submissions to our new competition for documentaries featuring Britain's natural world. There will be awards in both amateur and professional categories but the inspiration for Under Open Skies derives from one man's obsession with capturing and sharing the intricacies of the world around him.

With David Attenborough at Wyevale c1988*

Harry Williamson was founder of the Wyevale Garden Centre but he was also a prolific amateur wildlife film-maker. His daughter, Christine Evans, talks about a hobby which for Williamson became "a consuming passion... he looked forward to retiring so that he could devote himself to it full time."

Christine remembers her father's attention to detail, "He had a very long list of friends and contacts; many local farmers and people associated with the Herefordshire Nature Trust, who would ‘phone him to tell of wildlife about to be born or hatched or unusual wildlife ‘happenings'. He would sit patiently day after day at times, waiting for snakes to hatch or the robins who built a nest in a tractor, so the farm work was late that year! Nothing was too humble – every bee, beetle and butterfly was lovingly observed and recorded."

In the process of making The River Wye he thought nothing of risking life and limb, "tied into a helicopter doorway, legs dangling," in order to get an establishing shot of the course of the river from the air.

Post-production was important to Williamson too, getting it right. It took over his domestic life, "once home with the film footage, he disappeared into his study, only emerging at mealtimes until it had been edited to his satisfaction.  Then the commentary and music were added, often with the help of a daughter, a record player, two tape recorders and lots of nodding!"

In Christine's words, "He was a real pioneer of serious home movies with what would now be regarded as very old fashioned equipment but produced quality films that have given great pleasure to thousands of people over the years."
Thanks to the generosity of Wyevale Nurseries it's fitting that Williamson's legacy is a national film award that recognises outstanding work in the field of wildlife and nature filmmaking, for amateur enthusiasts as well as professional film-makers, and a film festival platform that makes the results of their dedication accessible to wider audiences.

Our intention is that The Harry Williamson Award will showcase films that draw attention to the current state of our landscape, flora and fauna as well as the efforts of organisations and dedicated individuals to conserve it.

Guidelines and entry forms

*Photograph ©Philip Price, Herefordshire Nature Trust