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Boom time For The UK Film Industry

Off the radar, the production centre of the global film and TV industry has moved across the Atlantic to the UK.

Within two years, there will be more studio space and facilities than Los Angeles, attracting the biggest movies and TV shows. Wicked, Wonder Woman 3 and Amazon’s billion dollar Lord of the Rings series are already in production.

The industry has been pulled in by top level tax credits of 25%, world-beating visual effects houses, highly trained crews, state of the art studios and that there’s diverse environments for location shooting in a relatively small space – cities, mountains, seascapes, moors, rolling countryside.

The boom has been spread across most of the nation (Scotland hasn’t decided to join in for some reason) with new studios in Manchester, Belfast, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, Dagenham and Oxford and vastly expanded facilities at Elstree, Pinewood and Bray.

There’s now a massive demand for new people to train for the range of crew – from cameras and sound to make-up and set design.

The next step is to start boosting home-grown productions that offer opportunities for creatives.

America’s Lost Civilisation

Not many Americans realise their country has a vast prehistoric legacy that comes close to equalling that of the great monument builders of Stonehenge or the Great Pyramid. There’s a reason for that.

Take Monks Mound in Illinois, just one of several vast prehistoric ritual sites in the country. Aligned to true north, the earthworks and causeway is part of a huge ritual complex including more than a hundred other mounds and a woodhenge – a wooden circle like the one found near Stonehenge. Archaeologist William Romain says it’s designers conceived it as an Axis Mundi – a junction between heaven and earth to observe the stars.

Yet when archaeologist Dr A R Crook investigated it in 1914, he said it was a natural formation…because he couldn’t believe Native Americans could build something so complex. As developers prepared to demolish it, other archaeologists rushed in and discovered many levels of construction and buried artefacts. They attributed it to an unknown white race…because they couldn’t believe etc etc

We have a dewy-eyed view of the evidence-based scientific process, but it’s still rooted in the same human prejudices as everything else. Monks Mound is at least one thousand years old, but it’s been connected culturally to the Serpent Mound in Ohio which has now been dated to at least ten thousand years.

There are several other sites along the Mississippi River basin which have been systematically destroyed.

The remaining parts of one in Newark, Ohio, now lies within a private country club and golf course. The promotion material says, “it is designed around famous prehistoric Native American Earthworks that come into play on eleven of the holes.” Hard to imagine that happening in many other places.

The alignments, the henge-making and the geometry suggest a shared knowledge-base that reaches across America, across the Americas and perhaps (whisper it) even further afield.

Prejudice has denied generations of Americans the knowledge of a sophisticated, star-gazing prehistoric culture, a lost history that should reshape the way the world sees the Americas, and America sees itself.

You can find all the fully-referenced archaeological papers in America Before by Graham Hancock.

Feminine Power

Kali

Praise Kali, whose insatiable aggression destroys ignorance and leads her followers to enlightenment.

I took in the exhibition Feminine Power: From the Divine to the Demonic at the British Museum, an examination of female power in myth, religion and folklore with commentary by the likes of Mary Beard and Elizabeth Day. Excellent. Well worth a visit.

Here’s Hekate, who stands between life and death, here in her triple-faced form. Heralded by howling dogs.

Hekate

Or Ishtar, Queen of the Night and sexual power.

Ishtar

And Lilith, once decried for breaking the rules, now a symbol of women, who will not be chained.

Lilith

You’ll also find Medusa, Mary, Isis, others from African and Chinese belief systems…

The exhibition is on at the British Museum till September 26.

Where The Land Meets The Sea

In the old stories, magic happened on the edges of things. The liminal zones. Doorways to somewhere else.

Where the fields brushed up against the dark forests. On the top of hills where they touched the sky. Beside lakes, where Arthur gained his sword of power from the Otherworld of gods that existed through the surface.

And where the land meets the sea.

Research has shown that dreams are stronger there. The sound of the waves changes the brain’s rhythms, making it more receptive, meditative. Perhaps conjuring up the boom of the mother’s heart, through the amniotic fluid, perhaps not.

A 2015 study showed being beside the sea activated the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. It cuts stress, reducing the amount of the hormone cortisol in the blood stream, just by watching waves.

Sea swimming delays the onset of dementia, according to a recent study. And at the same time, it boosts the ‘happy hormone’ dopamine by a whopping 250%, reducing depression and anxiety.

Research by Dr Jo Garrett of Exeter University showed people who lived by the sea had much better mental health than those who lived inland, and it reduced the requirement for antidepressants and other medication.

Dreams. Sea. Stars. The moon. A place where you can connect with a different reality and conjure up a different way of being.

Mushrooms Can See The Stars

Mushrooms can see the stars. They might even be able to see you.

Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist Max Delbruck discovered fungi have a sensitivity to light equal to the human eye and adapt to changes in light as our eyes do. They can detect light levels as low as a single star.

They can also see colour across the spectrum using receptors sensitive to blue and red light. Fungi use opsins, the light-sensitive pigments present in the rods and cones of human eyes.

We base the concept of intelligence on the human experience, but fungi can solve problems, communicate, make decisions, learn and remember.

Intelligence in fungal networks is a rapidly growing area of discussion. They have constant electrical firing like a human brain. When a flame is brought near a mushroom, others in the cluster show an electrical spike, like fear.

And the fungi genome is closer to humans than it is to plants, with many shared elements.

There’s more, much more. Mind-blowing stuff that will change the way you see the world. If you want to investigate further, I highly recommend checking out Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. It’s a groundbreaking book.

We Can Solve Any Problem In The World

We have enough money to eradicate poverty, to feed the hungry, to elevate everyone to levels they never dreamed of.

We have the technology and the knowledge to halt climate change and the vast extinction of species.

We could find cures for the world’s illnesses.

The only thing that stands in the way is politics, or rather the politicians we elevate to run the world’s governments. This is why I focus so much on politics here. I‘m not interested in it in and of itself, I’m interested in what it can do.

Right now it’s a barrier – a massive wall – preventing us getting to a better world. Until we solve politics, we’re stuck where we are.

Tough questions need to be asked and action taken. Apathy will literally ruin your life.

New Book, Old Egypt

Out in September is my new collaboration with the best-selling adventure writer Wilbur Smith.

Titans of War is a return to the mystery, magic and intrigue of Ancient Egypt. Full details are available on Amazon.

I was honoured when Wilbur approached me and asked me to work with him on new stories set in the world that he created long ago with River God. He passed on late last year, but his blood-pumping, heart-rending approach to storytelling will live on.

It’s a joy to work on these novels while also having the space to tell my own stories. Announcements on new books, TV and film should be forthcoming.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

My favourite film of the year. My favourite film of many years.

Completely original, constantly surprising, endlessly inventive with a massive heart. It’s so rare these days to see a film that has no antecedents, but this one manages to be cut free from past film reality. The writer and director have produced an instant classic.

I’m not saying anything about the plot – the less you know, the better it is. But every time you think you’ve got a handle on it, you really haven’t.

Michelle Yeoh is fantastic, so is Stephanie Hsu.

A film that is embedded in culture yet is also universal.