Find out what we’ve been up to, where we’ve been and what we’re thinking.

Reintroducing Proudfoot

Proudfoot, film, television, photo, video, shoot

Hello friends,

We hope everyone is doing well and is safe at home. Despite the need to stay physically distant from one another, the Proudfoot team is united in our efforts to continue to tell the world’s stories.

That being said, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on what makes us who we are, and why we do what we do.

Proudfoot was founded in 2004 by the late, great, Michael Proudfoot. We lost our dear friend at the start of this year, but his legacy continues to permeate the fabric of who we are as a company. Throughout his life, Michael set an example for us all by caring deeply about the stories he told through film. We choose to embody these values today, tomorrow and every day after.

So what does Proudfoot stand for? Please allow us to (re)introduce ourselves…

We are storytellers. We pride ourselves on documenting the compelling stories of exceptional people and organisations, both big and small. Film is our craft, and our technique is based on years of experience. From highlighting local artists to exploring the impact of climate change, we chase the stories that matter most.

We are activists. We strive to make films that call for positive change in our community and in our world, and we align ourselves with people and organisations that do just that.

We are optimistic. We are forward-thinkers and problem-solvers, finding new ways to bring stories to life. We’re open-minded and collaborative at all points of production, never pigeonholing our craft.

Proudfoot is passionate about championing the people we work with. From Culture Seeds, an art workshop promoting community involvement and self expression for isolated or elderly women, to Ice Alive, exploring our melting poles and the scientists striving to safeguard them, we make films about people we believe in.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be posting more #proudshoots and #proudfootage of all the clients, shoots and edits we’re proud to have been a part of recently. We’re still very much open for business, and we’ve been hard at work on some new exciting streaming options for our clients stuck at home. Watch this space…

It’s been a wild ride so far, but we wouldn’t hop off for anything.

Wishing everyone good health and happiness,

Team Proudfoot

Michael Proudfoot 1954-2020

Dear friends,
A few days ago we lost a wonderful person. Michael Proudfoot passed away peacefully at home. 
Michael was our friend, he gave us guidance, he made us laugh and gave us the confidence to do the things we love. We know there are countless people around the world who will mourn Michael’s passing and we send our heartfelt best wishes to all of you.
Throughout his life, Michael set an example for us all by caring deeply about everything that he did. Whether it was filmmaking, writing and performing his music, choosing which socks to wear, riding his beloved purple bike, painting, making a decent cup of tea or nurturing the talents of others, Michael did it with a seemingly effortless grace and happiness. 
We loved him – and that’s why the Proudfeet will continue to dance to the beat of Michael’s drum.
From everyone at Proudfoot x 🚜

Leadership and Consequences

Rick and I did a couple of shoots last week for entirely different clients, but both involved maritime tragedy brought about by the hubris and stupidity of those in command. Coming back from the second shoot on the train I started to reflect on the idea of “Leadership” and what it means. Perhaps a ship and its command are where we see the qualities of leadership most exposed, where the mistakes are immediately apparent. But both these stories are about decisions of leadership and their tragic consequences. Thinking further, it made me wonder about the reckless “leadership” I see going on all around me at the moment and the outcomes of poor decisions or sometimes lies.

The first shoot was with Michael Palin (he of Monty Python fame) who has written a book about a ship called HMS Erebus. We have come across the Erebus before. It was the ship at the heart of the National Maritime Museum’s Death In The Ice exhibition earlier this year, which we made some short films for. The exhibition was about Sir John Franklin’s tragic expedition to the Arctic. It was a scientific expedition, Franklin and his crew were searching for the Northwest Passage and making studies into Magnetic North. Cutting a long story short the Erebus and another ship, HMS Terror became trapped in the ice and the crews to both perished. But Palin’s book also deals with the previous history of the Erebus. Captained by James Clarke Fox, the Erebus had made successful voyages to the Antarctic, arguably more difficult missions. These expeditions were also scientific, studying magnetism, ornithology, oceanographic and botanical data. Fox returned his crew to Blighty virtually unscathed.

The second shoot was in Southampton for 14-18 NOW (an arts initiative, to commemorate the First World War). A South African theatre group, the Isango Ensemble, have devised a wonderful musical play about the sinking of the SS Mendi. The SS Mendi had been requisitioned by the British Army to bring men of the South African Native Labour Corps to help with the conflict in Europe. They were not allowed to be soldiers but were recruited to help with labouring tasks away from the front. The Mendi was a relatively small ship. There were 823 men on board with lifeboat provision for 289.

When the men of the South African Labour Corps arrived in France they were not allowed to fraternise with the white troops or the French people. They were encamped in separate quarters and forbidden to use the shops or streets of the country they were helping to liberate. Basically, it was Apartheid transported, organised racism.

In the early hours of the 21st of February 1917 the South Africans were nearing the end of their long journey in the English Channel when the SS Mendi was struck by a mail ship, the HMS Darro. The Darro was three times the size of the Mendi – the Mendi was effectively cut in half and quickly sank. The Captain of the Darro, Henry W. Stump, chose not to stay at the scene of the collision to assist with the rescue. 616 South Africans died, 607 were black troops. Captain Stump was suspended for a year, his reason for leaving the scene never really made clear but his responsibilities as a naval captain should have been to save as many from the stricken vessel as humanly possible. The Mendi tragedy, up until recently, has never really been given the prominence it deserves. A memorial we filmed in a Southampton cemetery is certainly a moving experience to see – the rows of the 607 Swazi, Pondo, Zulu and Mfengu names speak volumes.

Captain Stump’s decision to leave the scene is not fully explained but certainly an element of the stricken people being black and perhaps not “mattering” is suggested.

So there we have it, some “leadership” decisions from our past. Our democracy, our institutions, our military, regarded as the fairest in the world are sometimes headed by the unworthy, leaving the innocent to suffer the consequences. Maybe Sir John Franklin could have asked the Inuit people of the Arctic how to survive the winter they had endured for millennia. What stopped him? Pride? Arrogance? The English popular press of the time suggested that maybe the Inuit had eaten the crew of the Erebus. But why the Inuit would bother to do this when for centuries they had survived on fish, bear and seal escapes me. Maybe there was a moment that Franklin could have seen that the mission was doomed and headed his men home to safety. With the SS Mendi, someone made the decision to sail a voyage that would take over six weeks with inadequate lifeboat provision and a man, unsuitable to be a captain of HMS Darro, made a fatal decision and got away with it.

Moving swiftly forward to the present; recently, someone, a “leader”, made the decision to separate the children of asylum seekers from their parents at their border and keep the children in cages. Someone, a “leader”, lied to the British people about the amount of money our health service would receive after Brexit deliberately misleading the UK electorate. Someone, a “leader”, allowed the wrong kind of cladding to be used on a block of council flats in North Kensington, which burnt to the ground killing men, women and children. Less seriously, someone, a “leader”, at the BBC thought it was okay to pay women less than men.

In business, “leaders” at Carillion, BHS and RBS acted out of greed and not in the best interests of their companies, shareholders or employees.

Being a leader is quite difficult, but we should be aware, the average outnumbers the excellent by some margin. And, I suppose what I am saying is; as we are all “leaders” of ourselves we should question our institutions, elected or otherwise more often and call them out as and when. The truth is rarely commemorated by statues or honours but is often staring us in the face.

“WHICH WAY UP” Available now on Vimeo On Demand

There were a number of good reasons for Proudfoot Ltd to finance the making of “Which Way Up with John McLean” but one of them was the paucity of films available about artists and their process. Hardly surprising really that most painters wouldn’t really entertain the idea of a film crew cluttering up their workspace and asking them daft questions about why they are doing something, but McLean was different. He didn’t mind us being in his studio and happily answered questions on all manner of things from, “Why choose red?” to, “Are your paintings intrinsically Scottish”?


John McLean suffers from Parkinson’s disease and this has a part in the film, but John’s only stipulation when we started the venture was not to make a “sob story”. It would be quite difficult to make a maudlin film about John McLean because he’s a very funny guy. Even as the disease has got more disabling he retains a cheeky and mostly ribald sense of humour.


A test for me as to whether the film stands up is do I still enjoy watching it after many private shows in art colleges, galleries and institutions since the first showing in Soho almost a year ago? I surprise myself by saying, “Yes” – even though I was there all the time while we shot, with repeated viewings I keep finding little insights in the film about painting and about John McLean’s subconscious and intellectual thinking as he goes about making beautiful art works. The paintings are abstract, so you can’t say they represent a thing or a feeling, but looking at them provokes some other kind of inner emotion, a kind of kinship, an acknowledgment that the world is a complex but beautiful organism – and we are lucky enough to be in it. Basically, a John McLean painting can make you feel better about stuff.


It’s been great to sit with audiences and feel them being entertained and moved by it and many have written to us expressing their gratitude.


“Guess it’s all about feeling passionate about a subject – and that certainly comes across throughout the John film. The camerawork is superb – it’s all so jaunty and perky and so acutely and sometimes slyly observed”


“I congratulate you again so warmly on a brilliant film. Everyone there seemed to share this view.”


“Of course the film was especially moving for that particular roomful of people on Tuesday – I think it will be for wider audiences too – as well as tremendously informative and thought-provoking about the whole process of creating a painting”.


“More thanks for the special preview of your most excellent film. I had to keep laughing or I would have started crying.” 


“It is a really wonderful film – luckily we laughed and laughed at the great comic on the screen, and reveled in the life force and the wonder of the work. But the difference between the John even of less than a year ago and the man sitting beside me was pretty tragic. Great you got this in the nick of time to celebrate now and to add to his legacy.”


“….just wanted to say that was absolutely brilliant.

I have come away with such a better under standing of John Mclean and what makes him tick as an artist. Also I loved the sound of paint on canvas”.


“What an inspiring piece of work, a funny, gentle, affectionate, moving portrait of one of the great minds of art. I feel sure it’ll be shown in cinemas and on television for years to come”.


“Thank you so much for the fantastic film last night”.


“Which Way Up with John McLean” is available to download from Vimeo On Demand. If you want to feel better today it will only cost you $10.00

Decisions Decisions Decisions

In this office, we make many tiny decisions every time we set off to make a film. It is a necessary part of the process. As a filmmaker, you will be confronted with questions: Where shall we sit the interviewee? Are they relaxed? If not, why not? What is the weather doing? Should we change the schedule because it’s going to rain this afternoon? What order shall I ask the questions in? Is there one big question? Where in the interview shall I ask it? What is the beginning of the film going to be? What I thought was going to be an opening suddenly won’t work. Maybe the beginning is the end? Let’s get on with it and solve it later – better have options though.

This process of rapid-fire decision-making has been going on since the first meeting with the client. The process is the same for a low budget five-minute film, an Instagram clip or a ten-part feature documentary series. The process of interior suggestions (in our heads) and the self-rejection of those suggestions has been whirring away in all our waking moments, the ideas; altered, adjusted and sometimes shot down by the client or colleagues. By the time we get to the shoot we have a suite of options all standing politely in line in our subconscious, waiting to live or die as necessary, a bit like the sperms in that Woody Allen film. Some might say, “Why not write a script”? – get it approved by the client and proceed in an orderly manner, ticking off the shots and the points in the brief answered therein? The truth is most of documentary or factual work is totally unpredictable. The shoot day and the edit day stretch out before us, full of unknowns – a possible story of success and failure, of extreme highs and bowel-churning lows. Only our ability to make creative decisions can save us. We live and die by them. Okay, it’s not on the level of, “Shall we invade Iraq?” or “Let’s ask the country about leaving Europe?” but we are used to making decisions without committee. In the heat of the moment, there are no “stakeholders” – just a stark, flashing neon sign that says, STORY? What’s the STORY? How can I tell the story?


We have been making a feature length documentary about the abstract painter John McLean. The film is set mostly in his studio where we see him engaged in making decisions, tiny decisions to do with shape and distance and colour and size. There is constant success and failure in the story of him making a painting. Underneath the finished work are layers of decisions, corrected, obliterated, re-thought. In fact, living with a painting by John is to be aware of this journey he has taken. It should be said, McLean rarely agonises over these decisions. He delights in the cliff-hanger moment, the brush poised over the canvas, the moment of the mark… it might be exactly right and there again… absolutely wrong, or partly right and partly wrong and therefore in need of an adjustment solution, that in turn will bring forth more questions. Like all artists, John McLean knows that without risk there can be no art. The possibility of failure is ever present. Of course, if McLean knew it was going to “work” every time, there would be no point in doing it. His work is a continuous exploration; a research project with no solution or conclusion. The by-products of this happen to be… beautiful paintings.


In our processes we rarely court “failure”. We have become adept in having a store of material or strategies that give another spin or can provide another way of telling the story. Indeed sometimes the second or third version of a film is infinitely better than the first (sometime it is not). The process of re-exploring the material and thinking it through some more, even shooting additional scenes, finding new music, taking out the music and letting the sound effects come to the fore can change the experience for the viewer and help supply the messages the piece was designed for. There are no rules and there are no pat solutions.

With Instagram and Twitter and Facebook we are confronted with media “windows” for our work that didn’t exist a few years ago. This is actually quite exciting to people like us because the storytelling challenge, for all these new outlets, needs other kinds of solutions. We plan for these new windows and platforms and we believe that we are uniquely placed to advise. We are experts in the moving image and how pictures can tell a story, silent with captions or with sound.

Now, here is a challenge, and it is to do with trust. In the many films we have made since we started this venture in 2004, millions of little decisions have been made on the behalf of our clients. Honestly, only about 10% of those decisions are visible. It is in the apparently invisible that this company’s real skill lies. The challenge is… trust us and we can do something really great for you.


Michael Proudfoot




“Is ze Lens Happy?”

In my father’s workshop, on his farm in Lincolnshire, tools were hung on the wall. Around each spanner, wrench or hammer the outline of the tool was painted, a bit like the chalk outline drawn around dead bodies by forensic scientists at a murder scene. Each tool had a “home” and should be returned to its rightful place. If there was only an outline on a Friday afternoon, where was the tool? To say that my father was fastidious about his tools would be an understatement. His Deutz-Fahr combine harvester was showroom clean, even after five seasons. Combine harvesters are notoriously complicated machines. Veritable symphonies of moving parts that rattle loose become dust-clogged or simply wear out. The thing is, when the weather is good and you want to get your wheat and barley in, your combine harvester has to work. My father understood engineering and the inner workings of machines. He once said to me that cows were like human beings – they responded to kindness. I think he felt the same way about the farm machinery.


At the Royal College of Art film school in the late seventies, our equipment was looked after by a congenial German called Karl Mattika. Rumour had it that Karl once commanded a Panzer tank on the Russian front in World War Two, but this may have been a rumour propagated by himself.


Somehow Karl managed to instil into us airy-fairy art students, broad-left-thinkers and feminists how to enjoy the sound of an Angenieux lens clicking into the mount of an Éclair ACL sixteen-millimetre camera body, or the satisfying clonk of a film magazine cover of an Arriflex S. The Arri S, Karl told us, was ergonomically designed to allow Luftwaffe pilots, “flying over your beautiful home counties”, to operate the camera with one hand while keeping the other on the joystick. Karl would say after the satisfying click, “you can hear ze lens is happy in ze mount”. Occasionally one was witness to Karl’s withering look (never anger) as he heard tell of a Nagra tape recorder being thrown from the back of a van in the hope that some hapless film student might catch it. They hadn’t, or had dropped it, and the beautifully engineered Swiss machine shattered on the cobbles.


What Karl was trying to teach us was that respect for your tools and knowing how to use them would pay dividends. They would work when you wanted them to, they were as important as your script, the performers – they were your lifeline to a finished film. Without your tools working properly, it was all a non-starter.


I still can’t put a lens on a camera without thinking of Karl and his, “Is ze lens happy?” Or my father when attaching any kind of screw to a thread, “If it don’t fit, don’t force it”. In this new world of self-shooting and do-it-yourself production we, the filmmakers, are closer to the equipment, the means of production than ever before. We have to understand the engineering and respect the artistry and precision of its manufacture. Be careful with the gear, keep it “happy” and it won’t let you down.



Art and Myth: Damien Hirst and Pablo Picasso

Wendy and I had a trip to Venice recently as we were invited to a concert by some wonderful singers and pianists who were part of the Georg Solti Accademia.
We arrived a day early so that we could go and see Damien Hirst’s monumental exhibition, “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” at the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana. Wendy and I are both ex art students – of course you are never an “ex” art student – what’s happening in the visual world is a perennial obsession. And, even if you are not making “art” per se – the world of art is a continuing reference point or at the very least a curious place to revisit. So given the opportunity we go and see it (Art) whenever we can.

You can be unsure about the work of Damien – it would be foolish to be otherwise – because part of his shtick is to kid us, to dupe us, to lead us up his particular garden path into his own obsessions with death, life, his own myths. And so it is with, “The Wreck”. On a monumental and incredibly detailed scale he has created a mythical world which he describes here as a museum exhibit. The residue of an ancient society, its religions, coinage, weaponry and beliefs are painstakingly and, it has to be said, beautifully constructed. A narrative in video shows us the discovery of this hoard. Scuba divers uncovering barnacle-encased statues further enhance Hirst’s self-made “reality”. It’s all a lie, but one that sucks you into its universe like a Ray Harryhausen film.


Occasionally Damien’s guard drops deliberately, to let some twentieth century light in. Some of the mythological beings encased in barnacles look like Mickey Mouse or Goofy and one is Damien himself, half-covered in coral and described as “the collector”. Hirst has had lots of bad press but this show is truly impressive, partly because of the scale of intent but it also makes us think about our own society, our icons, our beliefs and for God’s sake… our politics… and how it might be viewed when we are discovered, encrusted in barnacles (or nuclear dust) after many millennia.

Back in London we go to see, “Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors” at Gagosian’s swish gallery in Mayfair. Here we rub shoulders with what appear to be the casually dressed minted. But in the dimly lit galleries are some extraordinary paintings, lithographs, etchings, ceramics and sculptures by the great man. I am always bowled over by Pablo’s ability to explore an idea into the ground and his sheer technical mastery, not just of the pencil and brush but how he can make his imagery connect with us. Like Damien’s, Picasso’s work also portrays his own mythical world, his relationships and the narratives within them. Others have talked about Picasso’s terrible behaviour towards women, but surely few artists have exposed themselves in such a raw and uncompromising way. In many of the works Picasso appears to be the bull or the minotaur engaged with women – the scenes are frightening, nightmare-like; the old boy doesn’t come out of it well, despite the beauty of the execution.

Again in the Gagosian show, we see that Picasso created ceramics and votive-like objects that supported his central myths. It was only while walking away to my bicycle in Berkeley Square that I thought of the Damien “Wreck” show and the similarities between the two artists and their intent.



Michael 9/5/17

Proudfoot’s First Feature Doc

We are close to releasing our very first feature length documentary about the brilliant painter John  McLean. Made by Chris Morphet and Michael Proudfoot, “Which Way Up” will be screened in Soho for an invited audience on 31st May.


Michael Proudfoot and I started making this film in December 2014. It was something we had talked about for many years. So on the spur of the moment, we just began filming John, as he lives in The Barbican near Proudfoot HQ. At one stage of the first day’s filming John said “My attitude to my work is more like that of a farmer, taking his tractor round and round the field, getting it all done and then hoping the crop comes out well”.

All our work on this film has been for free. Michael and I firmly believe in John, and his still on going talent. So we felt we really had to make this film. Every bit of filming that we have done has felt enjoyable and most importantly positive, from the paintings themselves, which continually delight and surprise, to John himself and his unshakeable belief in what he does.

When we started, John’s medical diagnosis was Parkinsons, but this was then updated to Multiple Systems Atrophy. This has not been fun for John and his wife Jan. Yet John’s determination to continue and create more paintings has shone through heroically. However, our film has not really been to exploit this angle by going for the struggling painter in the face of adversity. We are much keener to show our love for what John does, plus the appreciation of colour that his playful paintings give us.


There are many colours and a variety of rough geometric shapes: crowns, crescents, triangles, whorls, suns, moons, etc. John magically explores the tension and relationships between these elements through his uncanny choice of colour.

With John’s paintings there is a constant change and development taking place, they never feel static. Having a few of John’s canvases in my home, I can vouch for their life enhancing presence. Every home should have a McLean on the wall as they somehow give a great sense of well being. I sometimes have an afternoon nap and wake to the sight of “Séance”, appearing in my vision on the wall opposite. It’s a continual sense of wonderment and trying to work out just how the overall balance and juxtapositions make the painting a successful whole.



Chris Morphet and John Mclean next to “Séance” ©chrismorphet


We can never quite work out how something which starts as initially very un-promising ends up as such an unqualified success, through a process of John’s eye and a magical alchemy. We hope the film succeeds in shedding some light on this process. I have been particularly enthralled as a cameraman when seeing the paint and colours being applied to the canvas in close up, and observing how the paintings should be viewed and change when contemplated and observed at different distances.


Near the beginning John did say several times that only good could come out of us making the film. John and Jan have been gracious contributors and a joy to be around, even if Jan has tried to avoid being filmed where possible. She has been a fantastic support to John throughout and they are what can genuinely be called a lovely couple.

It’s all good.

©Chris Morphet


John and Jan ©chrismorphet






“Old Soho” and my barber


The 1950’s Gaggia coffee machine

When I first worked in Soho as an assistant film editor it was still possessor of its rakish charm. The cutting rooms that my editor, Keith Judge, had hired were in “Hammer House” – yes, that Hammer, famous old home of British horror classics. The editing room had a lot of old brown furniture; the equipment was rickety but functional in chipped Hammerite paint with Bakerlight knobs. Film editing was done standing up at a Picsync using a Movieola and a Steenbeck to view on. There was an old swivel chair like the ones newspapermen have in “B” movies; I fantasised that Hitchcock or Alexander Korda had sat on its worn, horsehair-sprouting leather upholstery. In the corridor, thirty-five millimetre film bins hung with the trims of soft core porn films and the whole place smelt of film, coffee, unswept carpets and long dispersed BO. The film we were working on was “Upgrading Fire Precautions” for the COI (Central Office of Information). One day Keith sent me off with some graphics to get rostrum camerawork done. He gave me an address in Meard St and with a wink, said, “Be careful”. It transpired that the rostrum camera studio was sandwiched between the upper and lower floors of a brothel; a rather nice looking West Indian girl asked me if I wanted any “business” as I rang the bell and a much older, peroxide blonde asked me the same as I left. In those days proper Italians ran the coffee bars, it was one of the few places you could get a decent coffee in London. Occasionally you would see people like Sir John Gielgud sashaying down Wardour St on his way to a voice over. It was summer and Keith and I used to go up onto the roof of Hammer House to eat our lunch, one day we saw three girls sunbathing topless on the roof below. In another cutting room (where Agent Provocateur is now) we were opposite a violin maker’s workshop and as I sunk up rushes I watched old chaps in white shirts and black waist-coats carving tops and gluing the instruments together. Any errand out on the street was to be amongst the bustle of the film industry – feature film editors rolled towers of film cans on hand carts to dubbing theatres, pasty-faced editors made their way to the Blue Posts or Sandwich Scene for lunch. Producers and directors trailed assistants who looked like supermodels.


I was put in mind of all this, as I always am, when I visit my barber in Soho. To protect the innocent I will refer to him as Carlo. Carlo is second generation Sicilian, he speaks with a London accent but when one of his countrymen comes into his shop, he reverts to rapid fire Italian. Whenever I am there, an ever-changing cast of characters pop in for a cut, a shave or just to say hello. There is an octogenarian chap who comes in to be ribbed about his much younger (50s) girlfriend and his discovery of Viagra. Another chap talks of his flat being raided by the police the previous night on a search for drugs and working girls, he is of course, innocent but has spent a night in the cells. Once Carlo was charged with looking after his teenage nephew but had allowed him to stray into the lap dancing bar up the road where he had been “lost” for some hours. I was in Carlo’s for a trim a couple of weeks ago just after Arsenal had been knocked out of the Champion’s League (Carlo is a huge Arsenal fan). A man in a dark overcoat slipped through the door and embarked on what can only be described as a Pinteresque monologue about the frailties of Wenger’s side, goading Carlo about his loyalty to such a flawed team, “How long do you think the Gooner Massif will put up with this existential management?” – his genius knows no bounds, keeping his best player on the bench like that?” All the time the man kept his eye on the street as if watching for a traffic warden. Eventually he left with a friendly sounding, “Anyway Carlo, I leave you to think on that”. As the man left another kind of customer arrived, a rather too smart man of about thirty wearing an expensive suit and tailored shirt, no tie. He didn’t look as if he needed a haircut. Rather than wait his turn like the rest of us in the guilty pleasure of reading the complimentary copies of The Sun, The Mirror and Corriere dello Sport (that Pink, Italian football paper) he strode up and down making calls on his mobile in three languages including Russian.


The barber’s shop is a family business originally started by Carlo’s uncles who were definitely part of the old Soho; they once held the contract to barber all the Savoy’s waiters. One imagines that they shaved and singed and trimmed all manner of jazz musicians, strip club low-lives and plain, old fashioned, London gangsters and maybe the local bobbies too. Only one of the original uncles remains, still giving great haircuts, an immaculately turned out silver fox of a man who must have had matinee idol looks in his youth.


Carlo is gregarious, he is a very good barber but part of the reason for going there is to hear his non-stop banter about wives, cars, football, sex, Soho, Sicily and porn (he once had a short fling with a porn star). His energy for chat, as good as any improvising stand-up comic, is extraordinary. I have never heard him repeat himself. Win or lose, his enthusiasm and cheerful acceptance of the ups and downs of Arsenal are a constant, which seems to have won him friends in high places. He occasionally talks of being invited to the director’s box at the Emirates. I don’t think he has Facebook page but if he did he would have a lot of friends.


In the back of the shop they have a 1958 Gaggia machine and if you are lucky you get offered a coffee. Carlo believes it makes the best tasting brew in London and is full of stories about the search for parts and finding engineers who can craft solutions to the machine’s survival.

Like the Espresso machine, Carlo’s barber shop is frozen in aspic. As Soho has been “cleaned up” and corporatized, the character of its streets changing from the nicely sleazy world of film and sex to the more serious and truly sleazy world of television and new media, Carlo’s has endured a sanctuary of old-style maleness – only the cost of a haircut has changed.


“Tonic, sir?” says Carlo.

“It doesn’t seem to be doing much good Carlo”, I reply.

“Yes, sir, but think how much less hair you would have without it”.


Rolex Arts Weekend 2015 – Body of Your Dreams


      It seems wrong to single out a highlight among so many in The Rolex Arts Weekend in Mexico City a couple of weeks ago, which included inspiring talks by Oscar winner, Alejandro G. Iñarritu and his protégé Tom Shoval and between visual artists, Olafur Eliasson and Sammy Baloji, extraordinary music by composers Kaija Saariaho and Vasco Mendonça, and lovely readings presented by the Literature pair Michael Ondaatje, Miroslav Penkov and the actress/ex mentor Kate Valk.

But one performance blew our collective Proudfoot minds. Interestingly it was a collaboration between the dancer / choreographer Myles Thatcher and his fellow Rolex Protégés; architect Gloria Cabral (Mentor was Peter Zumthor) and lighting designer, Sebastiàn Solorzano Rodriguez (Mentor was Jennifer Tipton). Myles actually presented five of his dance pieces – all of them were terrific. Anyone who thought they might not enjoy ballet would have been entertained and transported into their multi linear narratives by Myles’ wonderful choreography.

   The piece that really rocked was Thatcher’s latest, Body of Your Dreams, (more…)

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