About this project
This Kickstarter campaign is now over! There will be a shop selling almost all of the items on the Seaside Donkey website very shortly! We'll now be very busy making the film and writing the book – come see us on Facebook or sign up to the newsletter to keep an eye on progress!
THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR AMAZING SUPPORT!
I just finished walking around the coast and border of Wales, with Chico the wonderdonkey. It was just over 1000 miles of dramatic cliffs and beaches, rugged wildness, industrial heartlands, fishing villages and Victorian holiday resorts. We met hundreds of kind people, lived outside, got dirty, and remembered the real, important things in life.
Now it's time to write the book and make the film, to the best quality that we can, and in the spirit of the adventure itself – by asking the people who have enjoyed the story so far!
“Every bookshelf needs to have a book about a woman who decides to walk around a country with a donkey and then does it!” Keith
“Reading your blogs through tears – will miss your wonderful photography, lyrical writing and reading about your and Chico’s journey.” Heather
“Unplugging from this crazy world is a hoped-for dream of my own. Keep on inspiring us dreamers!” Nancy
About the adventure
In May last year the Wales Coastal Path was opened, making Wales the first country with a footpath all the way around it. I wanted to celebrate this feat with a love song to a beautiful country. My beautiful country.
The donkey threw a spanner in the works. There are 410 stiles and 783 kissing gates on the path, all impassable to a donkey. But I got accomplished at reading my huge stack of OS maps, and we worked it out as we went along. Every story benefits from a spanner or two, and being forced to engage so totally with the landscape (and often its owners) became a precious part of the experience.
In a way this was the antithesis of all of the macho adventures that promise firsts, fastests, highests, etc – the helicopter in, the conquest, and the airlift out again.
It was made challenging by the distance, the length of time, the occasional loneliness, and the regular confounding acts of donkey, but essentially was still a very simple thing to do. The magic came from the details – the people we met, the changing relationship between the donkey and me, the engagement with the land, the sunrises, fish and chips on quaysides, camping wild under gorse bushes, breathtaking and humbling daily kindnesses – the very simplicity turned out to be its triumph.
We often found ourselves walking drove roads that would have seen 2000 years of hardworking donkey traffic, estuary villages where even people in their thirties remembered the women using donkeys to bring in the cockles, and faded seaside resorts where generations of children had their first taste of adventure on a 50p donkey ride.
It was a celebration of the small and the slow, of listening and looking, and of the wealth of interesting things, layers of history, human endeavour, and natural beauty, that’s all around, just outside, wherever you are.
It was also a tremendous experience using our muscles every day. 15 years in London have made me accustomed to noise and streetlights and suspicion of strangers, sitting at a desk and eating too many biscuits. This last six months put everything back in its right place as I got used to dark and quiet, solitude, food being proper fuel, and of course the blunt honesty of non-verbal communication with my complex companion. And for him – a sedentary field-dwelling donkey until the day we left – the journey made him fit, shiny, healthy and adventurous. He was happiest when the path was exciting, and carried on being keen to walk throughout.
If you want to read the blogs (which will give you a good idea of my writing) the website is here: www.seasidedonkey.co.uk
We also got lots of media attention, newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. Most are here: www.seasidedonkey.co.uk/press
A DIY adventure of faith and optimism just seems to suit a DIY funding method of the same sort. The daily hope and positivity – that the donkey would stay healthy and begin to like me, that we’d find somewhere to sleep before it got dark, that a long track wouldn’t end in a field of bullocks – seems similar to the daily hope over the next six weeks that this Kickstarter will strike a chord with you, and that we’ll make our ambitious target.
Somehow the adventure is so much about feeling the fear and doing it anyway that we have to try. It just doesn’t feel right to follow up such a feat by waiting six weeks to hear back from some agent in the city. How lucky I am that crowd funding exists – become my patron and we'll get this done in the spirit of the trip itself!
How Kickstarter works
The following is taken from Kickstarter's info page.
"Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Thousands of creative projects are funding on Kickstarter at any given moment. Each project is independently created and crafted by the person behind it. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control and responsibility over their projects. They spend weeks building their project pages, shooting their videos, and brainstorming what rewards to offer backers. When they're ready, creators launch their project and share it with their community.
Every project creator sets their project's funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers' credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.
Backing a project is more than just giving someone money, it's supporting their dream to create something that they want to see exist in the world."
About the book and the film
Now we’ve got this great cache of six notebooks, 3000 photos, over 200 hours of film, 29 badly refolded maps and thousands of superfresh memories. My dad has lent me his bedsit amongst the rooftops of Aberystwyth and the donkeys are in a field five minutes away. The kettle just boiled and the scene is set to start telling the story.
A local Aberystwyth printer is poised to print the book, film festivals are keen to take the film, we even have a song! Now we just need to put in the long months of writing and editing.
The money we’re looking for will enable us to do this properly. By making the film to broadcast quality we’ll stand a chance of getting it on TV one day, and I also intend to get the book published the traditional way – so both need to be as good as possible.
The film footage we’ve shot along the journey is of broadcast quality, but the lengthy editing process is where the magic really happens as the poor soul watches 200 hours of film and cuts it down to the most entertaining and poignant one hour! There’s also music to think of, sound design, graphics for maps, an intro sequence etc.
I am a writer but this is my first book, and it needs a proper literary editor to make sure that pace, tone, focus, narrative arc and other such things are all the best they can be. It must be more than a string of blogs or diary entries, and an accomplished and slightly scary editor will make this so. There’s also typesetting, copy editing, proofreading etc to do – the more professionals who see this book before you do, the better it will be.
And then there’s the actual creation of the physical objects – a book and a DVD. This includes paying an illustrator to make the covers, and then all of the printing and pressing and shipping and posting. At some point there will be a lot of boxes in this little bedsit, and – hopefully, faithfully, optimistically – many trips to Aberystwyth post office. Maybe Chico will help...
Chico is a five-year-old gelding with a big personality and a touch of diva. He was born in Rhyl on the north coast of Wales, son of the beach donkey man’s very favourite jack. He was trouble from the start, kicking his mother and chasing dogs. He wouldn’t put his little hooves on the sand, so he failed as a seaside donkey and was sold to an old man who was dismayed to discover he wouldn’t come up to receive Polos and affection. All of this should have been a warning to me, but I bought him based on the fact that every time I opened a gate, he hurried through it. I felt he was saying, “Come on, let’s go!” He turned out to be a bit eccentric, but utterly courageous and eager to overcome his own fears on a daily basis, and that’s something truly admirable in anyone.
I am a travel
writer and slow-travel aficionado. I launched and edited the Outdoor Adventure
Guide magazine, all about UK-based travel. I
also edited a ski magazine, Fall-Line Skiing. These days I’m a freelance and have written for the Guardian and the Times, and heaps
of magazines including Sport magazine, Landscape, and Sublime. My non-donkey website is here.
Before 2013 the sum total of animals I had owned were a stick insect, a fairground goldfish and (after a sustained campaign against my dad) a small brown rabbit. None of them prepared me in any way for this experience.
Rhys Thwaites-Jones has travelled the world shooting factual television, documentaries and extreme sports for the BBC, National Geographic, Five, SKY and Channel 4, from prime shows like Top Gear to independent adventure docs. Rhys has produced films about travelling to darkest, deepest Siberia; riding a Honda C90 14,500 miles; hitchhiking from the UK to Mongolia, and driving across India and Nepal in a rickshaw. His job often puts him and his presenters in unusual situations like dodging celebrities, bull riding, swimming with sharks, filming from a plane doing aerobatics, getting stuck in the desert and up a mountain, or lost in Kazakhstan. Most terrifyingly of all he just filmed a boy band and hundreds of screaming fans!
When Rhys was about five he used to do gymkhanas with a pony called Bobby Socks, making him far more adept than me at figuring Chico out. He walked with Chico and I for about half of the journey, and often restocked us with donkey food and diary cam tapes.
About the rewards: Donkey poo paper
The donkey poo paper comes from Royal Thai cavalry pack donkeys who patrol the mountainous border between Burma and Thailand looking for drug runners. I looked into making it with Chico's poo, and if we get enough uptake on these rewards I still can. But the paper people require me to supply them with 400kg of washed, boiled, fresh donkey poo, and I suspect my dad might think I'd pushed his generosity a step too far if he found me stirring pots on the stove...
The paper doesn't smell and is hygienic! I don't yet know whether it will be possible to print photos onto the paper – if not they will be mounted on poo paper instead.
About the rewards: The £80 photographic print
The print is a gorgeous quality A3 giclee print of twelve images from the walk. There are three versions, two of which you can see here; you'll be asked to choose after the Kickstarter ends. The print will be sent to you in a cardboard tube.
About the rewards: The £100 photographic print
The print is a gorgeous quality A2 giclee print of three images of your choice from an image menu that will be sent out after the Kickstarter ends. You can see one of these prints and the image menu here. The print will be sent to you in a cardboard tube.
About the rewards: The £160 cover artwork
This is REALLY special – I'm so excited that we got it together to offer this before the end of the Kickstarter! This is a bespoke commissioned artwork by the artist Lee Wright, which will be used for the cover of the book and DVD, and a will also be made into a limited edition, gorgeous quality A3 giclee print. Only 50 available, signed by Lee Wright and me, IT'S NOT EVEN FINISHED YET! See the work in progress and examples of Lee's work here.
It'll be delivered in a cardboard tube so you can frame as you like.
About the rewards: Speaking engagements
Have me come and SPEAK TO YOUR GROUP, club or society. A screening of the film, a 'motivational' talk, lots of lovely pictures and a Q&A, and your members or audience will know that they HELPED BRING THE BOOK & FILM TO LIFE!
- There will be travel expenses too, but we can sort that out at the time. I don't have first class tastes, in fact if you're nearby I'll walk!
- I'd like to do any talks in winter 2014 so that the film and book are finished, but if you'd like a talk sooner, that's possible too
About the rewards: Exec producer and patrons of the book
These big money rewards are for people who would like to really make a huge difference to the project by investing in it in a big way! If you are in a position to help us like this we would be knocked sideways and eternally grateful. If you are thinking about it, for yourself or on behalf of a company or group, please do get in touch.
You wouldn't have artistic control over the project, but if you wanted to you would be able to be involved, get personal updates, see drafts etc. You would also be invited to come and meet us and Chico and our rooftop HQ.
About the rewards: Chico walks
Come and experience the walk! There’s a one-day and an overnight option, both walking with Chico (and maybe Flo too) around the Aberystwyth area, via some gorgeous Ceredigion coastal and valley paths; a perfect wintery mixture of wholesomeness and mulled wine/juice opportunities. You’ll have to arrange your own transport – I recommend the train because the journey is so beautiful, but there is a car park too.
We'll meet mid morning and do a four-or-so hour walk, stopping for a picnic, and getting back to a sensibly timed early evening train. If you fancy staying over the night before or after we can all go to the pub in the evening too – you just need to book your own accommodation (I can help).
There will be picnics both days and we’ll stay together in dormitory accommodation with breakfast (probably here). We’ll meet everyone from the train, do a walk that leads us to the overnight stop, and then the following day do a different walk back to the train.
For those who don't like dorms there is the option of private rooms, and some with en suite – there's an added cost for these, send me a message for details.
If there is much uptake for these walks we’ll just do more of them so as to keep the groups small. That way we all get to meet each other and everyone can lead Chico. Once the Kickstarter is finished, and if it's successful, I will email everyone who has opted for this reward with a choice of dates in February, March and April 2014, and we'll sort out dietary requirements and the rest.
Come! Save me from my desk and Chico from his field!
Gift vouchers: If you want to give books, DVDs, prints, walks etc to your kith and kin then send me a message after you have pledged and I will email you a pretty little voucher that you can print out and give them. If, heaven forbid, this Kickstarter doesn't meet its target then you won't be charged anything and they won't get their gift, but I will email the voucher holders to tell you about the next attempt. This book and film WILL HAPPEN!
Risks and challenges
These are two pretty big projects! The budget includes a modest amount of money for living very cheaply in Aberystwyth, so that we can afford to not take on any other work, and dedicate ourselves entirely to getting this done, and quickly, while it's all fresh and before anyone else walks around Wales with a donkey. On the other hand, the people we'll be employing – the book editor, film editor, cover illustrator, etc – will be paid proper market rates, so they won't be trying to fit this work around other projects either.
Still, timescales going awry is the most likely risk. We have a timetable set out, and I will write regular updates. We freelancers are very deadline driven, and what better than being answerable to hundreds of backers? Feel free to email me any time and tell me to stop looking at Facebook.
Whilst writing I am also going to set in motion the slow process of trying to get published via the traditional route. If I am successful my delivery estimate might slip a bit as more people get involved. I will, of course, keep everyone informed and everyone will still get their books – either as a special pre-publication first edition, or the first ones off the publisher's presses.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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