Laurence Doherty is a TV and film background artist (what used to be called an extra) living in Northern Ireland, and he’s worked on many projects including Jon Wright’s previous film GRABBERS, and a little something called GAME OF THRONES (he was there at the Red Wedding!). Laurence has been a supporter of the Robot Overlords film from when it was first announced, so much so that Jon did that rare thing of giving Laurence a line in the movie. He’s the turncoat who cries ‘I know where he is!’ when Mr. Smythe demands that they hand over our hero Sean.
In a world where the likes of Donald Trump get all the headlines, Laurence is one of the great unsung good guys, and he’s become a friend of mine. So, when I heard that his wife Jill had been diagnosed with breast cancer I was saddened and shocked.
However, to say that Jill is an indomitable woman is something of an understatement. Having gone through her first chemo treatment, her hair began to fall out. Speaking as someone who’s considering putting a bag on my head at the first sign of a receding hairline, I can only begin to imagine how devastating that must be. But then last night Jill decided to LIVE STREAM HAVING HER HEAD SHAVED ON FACEBOOK…!
This was incredible! Myself, Claire and the kids stopped watching the Harry Potter movie that was on TV and gathered round my phone to cheer Jill on. At one point she had more viewers than most BBC3 shows, and she’s now the second most famous bald Irish person after Sinead O’Connor.
Well, I did it! Just got back and my legs have only now stopped wobbling.
Battersea Power Station seems to have always lurked in the background of my life. We used to drive past it constantly when visiting relatives when I was a kid, it’s appeared in many of my favourite films and TV shows, including Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (“A fish, a fish, afishafishafish”), The Dark Knight, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and a few episodes of Doctor Who.
But for me it will always be the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals that shows the building at its most iconic. As a teen I bought a wall-sized poster from Carnaby Street, plastered it on my wall and imagined that I lived in an apartment looking down on it (What? I didn’t have a girlfriend, so gimme a break!).
That album’s song Dogs opens with the words “You gotta be crazy” and I have to admit that this refrain was repeatedly whizzing through my head as a small group of us were led into the main shell of the building.
My one regret today is that we weren’t allowed to take cameras with us into the building. The inside is incredible and you can see why it attracts film makers looking for something big and apocalyptic. Shafts of light beam through broken windows, cracked wooden rafters and rusting zig-zag stairwells, illuminating the wreckage below. Decades of neglected debris. Twisted iron girders, resting on hunks on concrete. The perfect playground for an adventurous boy. It’s slightly ruined by a giant plastic gazebo in the middle of it all – a room for corporate events and such – but I did my best to ignore that.
We were led up seven flights of steps up onto the roof, a large flat area about two football pitches long, and all in the shadow of those giant chimneys. One of the organisers cheerily settled our nerves by telling that we weren’t really that high, just 140 feet or so. She took us to where three scaffolds perched over the edge of the wall.
They asked for a volunteer and, in a weird sort out of body experience, I heard myself saying “Yeah, I’ll go!” Oh well, best to get it over with I guess. I clambered up the middle scaffold where a very calm man explained that the green rope was my safety rope and would hold me just in case I decided to do anything stupid. Bit late for that, I thought as he asked me to step over a red rope and lean all my weight back. I looked down, found Claire, Em and George and gave them a wave…
Photos – click to embiggen and enjoy ironic captions…
“Kids, if I end up as a splat on the ground you can have the Games of Thrones Blu Rays, but no watching till you’re eighteen…”
I didn’t realise the dress code was shorts/hot pants.
No need to suck my guts in after she did this up nice and tight… oof!
This was the worst bit. Turning my back on a 140 foot drop…
Oh no, wait, THIS was the worst bit! Leaning back over a 140 foot drop.
This was a close second.
He asked me to smile. I could only grimace.
I ran out of wall here and started spinning…
I’m not dead yet!
Might need some new pants though.
I can afford to be cocky on the ground.
I’m pretty sure this is where they shot the artwork for The Who’s Quadrophenia.
It was all over far too quickly. Once you get over the initial primeval voices in your head screaming “What are you doing? Get back on the roof! Are you mad?!” it’s just you and your feet gently bouncing off the wall as you feed the red rope through the belay.
I might have developed a taste for this. The cheery lady had said that they used to do these off the top of Guy’s Hospital, which is four times higher… maybe. Dunno. Maybe.
It’s not too late to sponsor me! Today raised over a hundred grand for Cancer Research, which is amazing, but every little helps. Click here: http://t.co/DUFOktZCLu or text STAY73 £5 (or whatever amount) to 70070.
Thanks to everyone who sponsored me. I know everyone’s skint at the moment, so I was delighted to get at least £450! I promise not to make a habit of it.
Sorry the blog’s been quiet recently. OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS has been in production, and I’ve been very busy with something very cool that I hope to announce very soon.
In the meantime, my friend Jennie McCann causally suggested that I join her abseiling down the side of Battersea Power Station on 31st August, and like an idiot I hastily agreed.
I get vertigo*. Not the “Ooh, aren’t we high up?!” kind of vertigo, but the proper lizard-brain-telling-you-it’s-a-good-idea-to-jump kind of vertigo. I first discovered this on a trip to Paris in 1999 when I was wandering around Notre Dame and suddenly found myself high up in its ramparts. It occurred to me just how old and crumbly the building was, and how the whole thing could come tumbling down any second now, so why not save myself the aggravation and hurl myself off now. I shook this off as an abberation, but then later that day I found myself at the top of Eiffel Tower (which is full of holes and was only built to last a few years!) and – holy shit – that’s a tall frickin’ structure. I clung to the centre of it like a limpet, only occasionally shuffling to its edges.
Weirdly, I’m fine in planes. No problem at all hurtling through the air at thirty-thousand feet. Work that one out, if you can.
But Battersea Power Station is just too hard to resist. I’m a massive Pink Floyd fan and the station adorns the cover of their 1977 album Animals, and I had a huge poster of this on my wall as a teenager. Also, many of my favourite films have been made there and if flinging myself off the side of it means I get to explore this hallowed ground, then so be it.
I’ll be doing this for Cancer Research UK. Too many of my friends and family have suffered from cancer, and I’m very impressed with their work. So do please donate whatever spare shekels you have into the pot. It all makes a difference!