First Engagements …..

Charlie Martell
Charlie Martell

Now fully embedded in our hotel we could begin to get the show on the road.  After an initial mix up over conference facilities we were able to set up our studio and test fire.  Being relatively new to Studio lighting, the next few days were to be a crash course, but I was in safe hands.  Thankfully Elinchrom and Manfrotto UK had offered to extend their support to the UK project so my equipment mirrored that used by Stacy in the US.
A few weeks prior to arriving in London I had used the Sapper network and touched base with Charlie Martell.  Charlie is known as the ‘Charitable Adventurer’ due to his various challenges (and a few Guinness world records) including rowing the Atlantic, Pacific and skiing to the North Pole, all in the name of good causes.  Charlie had graciously agreed to take part in the Veterans Portrait Project and came down to London to see us.  Initially I watched as Stacy went about interacting and photographing him, the first of many masterclasses.  My turn, the nerves were now kicking in but I refused to let them show.   Why was I nervous? I knew what I was doing, didn’t I?
After a while I began to relax and even enjoy myself. It wasn’t until I looked at my watch I realised we had been there for 2 hours!   Thank you Charlie.  Thank you for seeing value in the Veterans Portrait Project UK and finding the time to take part, it was a pleasure.

First engagement over, equipment tested successfully.  So far so good.


Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstans) strive to make sure that no one who has served our country battles blindness alone.  Since 1915 they have been assisting and supporting veterans who have been blinded due to accident, service or illness.  Our first major engagement was to take place at the Brighton centre, an impressive building overlooking the English Channel.

The Trophy room made and ideal location to set up and it wasn’t long before the veterans began coming in.  WW2 veterans and National Servicemen and Woman alike.  One thing that struck me was the sense of humour that we all connected with immediately.  I was greeted by one individual like a long lost friend.  Steve, he said, How are you Steve?  Have we met before?  I asked.  No, everyone here is Steve, the guy in the gym is Steve, the guy in the canteen is Steve…………….

Every one of the veterans here made an impression on me.  I do consider myself a veteran, however, these guys and girls had been involved in more action in a few years than I had seen in almost a quarter of a century.  Inspiring, enthralling, funny and extremely welcoming.

We had a fantastic visit to Brighton and I can’t wait to go back.  My thanks to Mark Wheeler for making it possible and thank you to everyone who took part, including:

  • Clifford Gower who was blinded during a German Stuka attack during WW2 in North Africa.  You can read more about Clifford here
  • Elizabeth Nelson who was an Operations Officer at Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.
  • Robert Dunn who served as a Signaler during WW2 and made it through the North Africa Campaign.

We didn’t get lost today and I only drove past the Blind veterans centre once.  I did take a wrong turn leaving Brighton, but I knew where I was 🙂

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The VPPUK Team


First Engagements …..

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