Brooklands Volunteers

With more places opening up as a result of the easing of lockdown restrictions I thought I should write about Brooklands, a local museum that is on the site of the former Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit, which regular readers will know is a place where I have spent many an hour, usually late at night, and for those of you who don’t know you can check out the photos here or search using the Brooklands tag on the right.

If you’ve never been it is well worth a day out as it has displays about the history of the race track and lots of old racing cars to have a look at (Petrol heads will love the smell around them too!), as well as motor cycles (including some called Douglas), bicycles (yep there’s a Penny Farthing), buses and aeroplanes, including one of the original Concordes called G-BBDG or ‘Delta Golf’ which was the first Concorde to carry 100 passengers at Mach 2.

During World War II the site was used to build aircraft and there are various wartime aircraft including a Hawker Hurricane, a Vickers Wellington bomber and a Vickers Vimy, as well as weapons and missiles of various sorts and a history of the bouncing bomb which was designed by Sir Barnes Wallis

Brooklands is well worth more than one visit because of the incredible history that it holds and celebrates, but to me one of its most remarkable attributes is the army of volunteers that spend many of their free hours rebuilding and maintaining all of the museum’s assets. They also serve as stewards for the exhibits and have an absolute wealth of knowledge about the displays and the history behind Brooklands.

I was fortunate to be asked to photograph one such volunteer for Surrey Life magazine and I got to meet Ray who volunteers at Brooklands to work on rebuilding some of the aircraft that they have acquired over the years. This environmental portrait was taken inside the frame of the last remaining Brooklands built Wellington bomber and whilst it looks like just the chassis this is in fact how the aircraft flew but with the frame covered in fabric – so not much protection from bullets and shrapnel then!

It was quite a challenge lighting this shot as there really isn’t much room inside despite being designed for a crew of 8 so I had to put my lighting outside the aircraft and do a bit of lifting and shifting in post production, which was again a bit tricky as the floor on which my tripod was placed was very flexible and kept moving every time someone else did. I managed to restrict it to just me and Ray on the plane during the photoshoot which certainly minimised the movement.

Ray is a retired police officer who loves motorbikes and as well as volunteering at Brooklands he is also a volunteer blood biker for SERV (Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers) delivering emergency blood all over London and the South East. He has been signing on for SERV for around 6 nights every week and he has written about his experiences in this PDF about being a Blood biker – it’s well worth a read so please feel free to download it to find out what goes on at night to support the NHS and emergency services.

With all this volunteering it’s hard to call what Ray does retirement…