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    Inside Out - West: Monday October 31, 2005

Meet the Fakers

Wallace and Gromit
Victims of counterfeiting - Aardman's Wallace and Gromit

Wallace and Gromit are facing a new challenge - the curse of the Fake DVDs.

Within weeks of their latest movie hitting our cinema screens, Inside Out West has discovered pirate DVDs are being sold in Bristol for as little as £5.

The DVDs are poor quality copies of the American version of the film.

Bristol based Aardman Animation know they've come from America because one word of the script was altered for the US market.

While viewers in the UK see Gromit nurturing a marrow for a giant vegetable contest, in America the marrow was substituted for a melon.

Reacting to the discovery of counterfeit DVDs, Sean Clarke from Aardman says, "They do not show the film in it’s full glory and that is a huge kick in the teeth for everybody at Aardman who put all their effort into making this film".

"We’re an independent company that has won three Oscars. We’ve won many awards around the world. If you want us to continue to do what we do very well we need to be able to raise the money to be able to make these productions.

"Every time you buy a pirate DVD it has an impact on what we can physically raise in terms of money."
Sean Clarke, Aardman.

The trade in dodgy DVDs is not a victimless crime.

Just ask June Vickery who ran the 'Hollywood Video Library' in Bath, selling and hiring legitimate DVDs.

Her business has just closed down - partly because of the easy availability of cheap pirated DVDs.

"I feel that that it greatly diminishes film as a source of entertainment and inspiration really."
June Vickery

She says, "We have been here 23 years now and we’ve enjoyed it. It’s not for not loving the business any more, but it’s getting harder. Piracy is a big part of that.

"I fear with piracy it takes away that diversity. It’ll give you whatever the latest blockbuster is at the cinema, but you can’t go to a pirate and get 'Hamlet', 'Great Expectations' or 'Gone with the Wind', or any of the classics.

"I feel that that it greatly diminishes film as a source of entertainment and inspiration really."

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Going downhill fast

What would it feel like to lie face down on a skateboard, whilst being towed along a motorway at 70mph?

Adam Pengilly, from Taunton in Somerset, says it might come close to the experience of racing on a skeleton bobsleigh. (Please don’t try and find out for yourself.)

Unlike 2-man or 4-man bobsleigh, the 'bob skeleton' is an individual winter sports event in which competitors slide head first down a mile of mountainside track.

They ride a tiny sled, their chins just inches above the ice.

Forget the motorway skateboard – an experienced competitor can reach speeds in excess of 80mph.

SKELETON BOBSLEIGH

Skeleton Bobsleigh developed from tobogganing and is similar to Cresta.

Skeleton is one of the four bob track events. It is the fastest growing of all the bob sports.

The sport was re-introduced at the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City after a 54 year absence. Previously it was last held on the Cresta Run in 1948.

Skeleton involves the athlete adopting a face down, head first, minimal drag riding position on board a sleek sled.

From a stand still at the track top, the athlete sprints over 20 to 30 metres, accelerating the sled before diving aboard. The goal is the fastest possible descent of the track.

Skeleton bob speeds approach 135 km/hr.

The sled has no brakes or mechanical steering. There is minimal protection. The athlete steers by shifting his/her body weight and aerodynamic profile in tandem with the track dynamics.

Every bobsleigh track has a different combination of bends.

As the athlete descends the track, `G forces' of plus 5 G's are experienced.

Bath University acts as British base camp for the national bob skeleton squad.

An artificial track allows the athletes to practise leaping onto a sled using a simple system of sloping rails.

It looks extremely difficult, and slightly comic as fit men and women sprint and then dive onto a device that looks like a tea-tray crossed with a rollercoaster.

The speed and the smoothness of 'the push' can earn vital hundredths of a second in the crucial selection races and world cup competitions upon which every bob skeleton athlete’s gaze is fixed.

Adam and his team mates travel to Lillehammer, in Norway, for their first ice-track races of the winter.

They’re using one of only 19 such slopes in the world, purpose-built for the 1994 winter Olympics.

Only the very fastest down the mountainside (they take less than a minute to cover more than a mile) will qualify for a place in the British World Cup squad.

If Adam rides the icy half-pipe’s twists and turns with smoothness and consistency over three days of selection racing he will be on his way to five international competitions around the world.

The adrenalin and the courage he’s depending upon are fuelled by the glimpse of an even greater goal.

If his world cup season continues to go well, he could be eligible to travel to Turin in February to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

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School in the woods

School yurt
Cool school - teaching in the great outdoors

Inside Out West visits a school which can probably lay claim to being the most unusual school in the whole country.

The school is hidden away in a secret location in woodland just south of Bath.

Instead of a stuffy old classroom, the pupils get to take their lessons in amongst the trees.

When the weather gets bad they retreat into a kind of tent, called a yurt.

Nine-year-old Annie Martin says, "In an ordinary school you feel fenced in, that's what I felt like - there's concrete everywhere. This is trees and grass instead. You feel much more comfortable."

Her mum Hilary Martin says, "I'd love to see a lot more options and variety of education to suit the needs of children.

"They talk about choice all the time but actually there's very little choice. It's either the state system or you pay."

Pupils in tree
Life lessons - the fantastic four learn to love their environment

The basics are the same as any normal school - reading, writing and arithmetic still come first.

But there is no national curriculum to follow and the agenda for lessons is set by the teacher, Faith Fewer.

At the moment there are just four pupils on the school's roll. The parents pay £240 a month to fund the teacher and to rent some land, in the grounds of a private house.

They're expected to muck in with school life and help out with their children's education.

Now the school wants to attract some extra pupils to give it a more secure future.

They may even run workshops in the woods for children who are educated at home.

They're asking interested parents to contact them on 01225 866499.

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