Sunday, 28 August 2011

Fool's Paradise: Les Oakes (1938 - 2000)

This is a little film I made in 2000 about Les Oakes' private museum at Hales View Farm just outside of Cheadle, Staffordshire:




It was the first film I shot on 16mm - the negative was telecined straight to DV and edited in Brighton by Andy Starke - one half of Mondo Macabro and now Kill List producer. 


I grew up only few miles from Hales View Farm. Both Les and his museum made quite an impression on me when I was growing up. He used to erect buildings from designs scrawled in crayon on cornflake packets:




In the pantheon of object fetishists, Russia had Eisenstein, the Caucasus had Paradjanov, Poland had Borowczyk and the Czech Republic has Svankmajer.


England had Les Oakes:




When I first got hold of a Bolex camera my plan was to make a short film about Les and his circle - tradesmen, farmers, gypsies and bare knuckle fighters. Les was good friends with Bartley Gorman - the 'King of the Gypsies' who Shane Meadows made a documentary about in 1995:




I spent a few days shooting in the museum and recorded interviews with some of Les' friends in and around the area. Then Les was killed in an accident. He was on his way back from an auction when he got hit by a car.


There are some shots from Bruno Schulz's 'Book of Idolatory' - I had a set of prints framed on my wall and I used to run off the reel ends filming details from them.


Mavis, Les' wife, died a few years ago and her sons auctioned off some of his collection. This biography is taked from the catalogue:




"Les Oakes was born on 21st March 1938 at Lower Grange Farm, Cheadle, Staffordshire. 


At the age of 7 he was attending auctions with his Grandfather buying and selling horse-drawn vehicles and memorabilia, he was also buying and selling pigeons and ferrets from his school locker. 


At the age of 11, whilst attending Cheadle Secondary Modern he had, unbeknown to his father, amassed over 70 horse-drawn vehicles and stored them at various local farms in and around Cheadle where he worked in the evenings and at weekends to pay for the storage costs.   


Upon leaving school at the age of 15 he carried on  farming with his father whilst attending more auctions to add to his growing collection. 


To make the money to enable him to buy his vehicles and memorabilia he built wooden sheds out of ammunition boxes and sold them to the people of Cheadle and the surrounding areas. 


In 1965 he married Mavis and moved to Hales View Farm, Cheadle, Staffordshire where he continued to farm cows and sheep.   


Whilst farming, he continued to attend auctions collecting more horse-drawn vehicles and other memorabilia to add to his collection. He also ran an Architectural Salvage business reclaiming various items from demolition sites which he sold and also  re-used in his buildings at Hales View Farm as and when further storage facilities where required for his ever growing collection. 


By 1970 he had started constructing the buildings at Hales View Farm to house his collection that was spread around local farms around Cheadle.  


Les also owned 3 Shire Horses all black with four white feathers with which he attended agricultural shows around the UK. 


He carried on attending auctions and increasing the size of his collection up until his tragic death in 6th September 2000 when returning from an auction.


By the time Les passed away his collection consisted of approximately 600 horse-drawn vehicles of various sizes and types including Gypsy Caravans, stationary engines and vintage vehicles and memorabilia from the past 100 years which is now held in a private museum at Hales View Farm."

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