Baden-Powell Women: The St Clair Legacy

The St Clair Legacy

Betty St Clair Clay takes a salute

In 1908 Boer War hero Robert Baden-Powell published the global best seller Scouting for Boys. It sparked the birth of a Movement that has spread all across the world and created a current membership of 50-million!


It followed the first experimental camp, at Brownsea Island on the Hampshire Coast, the year before – a camp for boys only, of differing social status.


The image of Baden-Powell is a familiar one. His story is known by most. But what is not so widely known is the story of the women and that girls were in the Baden-Powell plans from the start.

So in this project, Baden Powell Womenwe look to correct that!

We have exclusive access to the line of women who carry the middle name St Clair, inherited through five generations, from Robert Baden-Powell’s wife Olave.

So far we have followed Gill St Clair Clay on a pilgrimage to Gilwell Park and Brownsea. And we travelled with Daf St Clair George as she travelled to Kenya in search of connection to her great-grandparents, the Baden-Powells, whose remains lie there.

We tell their stories in Scouting and Guiding and outside the Movements and ask if they inherited more from Olave than just a name.

The rise of Scouting and Guiding runs parallel to the emancipation of women, and so, as we begin to see the emergence of a new kind of women leader across the world, we ask how that story is connected to Scouting and Guiding and The Legacy of St Clair.


My Step-Dad is a Spy!

Shooting people in Thailand

I lay awake, before day-break, listening to the early adopters of the dawn chorus that was coming. It was Good-Friday. A long weekend lay ahead.


I had been musing for an hour or so already. When my wife Daf finally woke, a couple of hours later, I greeted her with: “I’m going to write a book.”


I heard the eyeballs roll. The utterance that followed was: “Oh God!” – here we go again remained unsaid but was no less heart felt.


A few things had prompted the decision.


The first was an invitation to join the fellowship of the Royal Society of Art. This was flattering and confusing. I had spoken at a meeting of the body the weekend before but had not really considered myself worthy.


The second was a feedback meeting with the British Council, who had funded me on a recent trip to Kenya. In discussion there was a thrown-away comment. They had been considering whether my work was ‘art’ or not. This triggered much thought!


Then one of my companies, the participatory film laboratory Peoples Voice (largely dormant as a company over the years, but active as a motivation and working ethic in my other business) commemorated 10 years since it was launched.

Peoples Voice: Giving expression for over 10 years

The other was that Orla, my step-daughter, had asked Daf what it was that I actually did!!  She had said I was always in meetings, sometimes got dressed up, flew to random countries for inexplicably short periods of time and she’d heard me talking about shooting people!!


When the conversation was relayed to me, I told her “I’m a SPY!”


I had been re-evaluating anyway. I was cataloguing Vimeo and the hundreds of films I had made since leaving mainstream broadcasting in 2004. And I had begun the process of re-modelling PEOPLES VOICE too.


We had started to think that company deserved more prominence, as advocacy and empowerment have increasingly dominated my thinking as I have got more experienced as a communicator.


But for now, I had to press ‘pause’ on that and examine what it is that I do, have done and will be doing in the light of the challenging question: “Is it ART?”


Join me in the coming weeks as I consider this question!

















Orphelia Waits – love storm in the Triangle:

Nicotine yellow, brooding, fingers

Scar the sky –

Orphelia waits.


#Metoo, she wrote.

Claiming her spot

At the base

No disgrace


Moving round

Without a sound

She points one finger

Points the blame


Nails polished, bright,

Light blinding


Comfort giving

Rescue package to his pain

She shifts again.


So, It’s him that’s hurting now.

She’ll lift him,

kiss him,

make him better

‘til overwhelmed he rejects her

Its much too much for him to take.


The he becomes

the perpetrator

Finds some callous ways

to hurt her


Then when she is on her knees

He’s bows,

grand gestures,

Tries to please


And round and round and round they go

Sometimes quickly

Sometimes slow.


In love’s pursuit it seems

A geometric dance of three

Steps forward, three steps back

Until they find the knack to see,

their positions differently.


Then the threat of storm might be

Just that

A threat.


Will not be half has hard to see

When creator occupies the space once held

By victim


In Place of the tyrant perpetrator

One step round from creator

Sits the challenger to all they are

And once more round they’ll find a coach

To help them as they fast approach

The challenges they must face.


But from THIS place

They’ve freed the victim,

Snuffed the tyrant out

and best of all

They’ve let the rescuer rest.



Hywel 21/10/17

Reflections on Love

Between twin-calendar-pillars of love – Valentine’s day and Santes Dwynwen (the welsh patron saint of love) – I thought it timely to consider the four letter word that affects us all, no matter how we use it.

I’m no fan of current events in Washington DC. Lets make that plain from the start. In the appropriate frames I will offer what humble assistance I am able in encouraging more measured, rational and liberal management of the most powerful office in the western world. I feel the same about the Brexit ‘pup’ we have all been sold.

I am, however, reluctant to catastrophise and rant.

I have recently been considering the relationship I had with my father. There was no questioning the love he had for me. Often, his expression of it was, well, clumsy at best! His loyalty to his father meant he parented the way he was shown. In his mind he was doing his best to honour the unspoken pledge he made to me when I was born: to be the best Dad he could be.

He talked straight and strong. He was stubborn, dependable, awesome to a young boy. He marched purposefully around the house singing, smoking and fixing things – I was desperate to win his approval – and rarely seemed to manage it. At least I rarely got the vocal recognition of his approval.

It is easy from a distance, to judge how ‘unenlightened’ his methods were. There was certainly little that was ‘person-centred’ in his approach and, as I revisit the parallel pledge to my son, it’s tempting to promise to cherry-pick only the best of what he offered.

The problem is that loyalty runs deeper than rational thinking. As I begin to consider my judgements I can see his pain, carried loyally for his father, who in turn did the same for his! But I can also see the strength that came out of that pain.

My son is with his mother this weekend. He’s young, still little, just coming to the age where he begins to see the fallibility of those around him. He’s also facing challenges in an education system that doesn’t quite align to his needs. His loyalty is beginning to show too and some of his judgements. Some of his educational challenges mirror those that faced his parents – some he’s developed on his own! He emailed me early evening yesterday saying “why did England have to win” – loyal to his welsh father and his rugby passion too!!

One of the principals I have tried to live by as a journalist, filmmaker and communication consultant has been: “to see everything and judge nothing”. I have disciplined myself to look for meaning in events. I am learning that my judgement is a barrier to understanding. I am experiencing that if I continue to look, rather than judge and turn away, my understanding deepens and more often than not changes.

I have found that discipline easier in work than at home through the years. Its helped keep me safe when facing people who think differently to me or live in circumstances I would find abhorrent.

But my worlds are colliding. I am finding comfort in the knowledge that I am my father’s son and recognising the love behind his clumsy methods! And I am allowing my voice to editorialise over issues with which I disagree.

The most important challenge for me is not to put too much attention on the separation between us all.

I have been lucky enough to travel widely in my career and have met people from many walks of life, from many different backgrounds, belief systems and cultures. What I have found is that there is far more that unites us in our human experience than will ever divide us by class, religion or political persuasion.

So if you don’t find my opinions on Trump, Europe, Syria et al all over social media it is because I am putting my attention on the things I love in my life. Or I am maybe throwing a rugby ball round with my son.


Hywel 5/2/17





Ready to go back to Work

Ready to go back to work?

Well that’s been a great Christmas. For me, peaceful, nourishing, quiet – a most appropriate end to a tumultuous year. A year in which so many of my creative heroes have fallen and one in which voters in the UK and the States made choices I would not have made.

That said, what lies ahead excites me immensely.

In June 2016 communities near where I live voted overwhelmingly to leave the european union. Many of these communities are barely surviving and if they are it is largely a result of funds that have come from Europe. Yet disenfranchisement, disappointment, unfulfilled promises and short term policies have left them angry. They see pressure on services increasing as populations grow. They can see no viable future, for themselves or their young. There’s a kind of systemic depression, medicated by pharmaceuticals and state-aid.

So the anger has been expressed, for now, and the decision has been made. And communities will have to start finding their own way, unaided, or unhindered, by the hand of Europe.

But as is seen elsewhere in the development sector – it is time for a change of approach.

Communities that survive on hand-outs serve to fulfil one thing in the future – The continued out-stretch of the hand that receives.

The futures for communities currently dependent on European funding are now very unclear. But as the Chinese politician Li Keqiang put it: “Changes call for innovation, and innovation leads to progress.”

It is likely to be a challenging road that lies ahead for the former industrial valleys of South Wales. But in that challenge will come the need to innovate and to look beyond government for stability, hope and comfort.

What will come is a new story – a reworking of the influences of history that made these valley communities the engine house of the industrial revolution and allowed their peoples to stand strong and proud.

Among the many stories of development we will be telling at Griot Creative this year will be the one that sees radical thinking back at the top of the agenda. Thinking that has created so many ground-breaking, world-leading innovations and policies from Wales. We will see Welsh passion, Welsh creativity, Welsh work-ethic leading a new industrial revolution. A revolution that is resilient in its heart, sustainable in its mind.

A revolution that puts the people first.

At Griot Creative we believe we are the sum of the stories we tell about ourselves. From our new offices in Wales we hope to create a new narrative. A narrative our grandchildren can share, with their grandchildren, about how Wales rose to the combined challenges of economic uncertainty and global warming to once again become the engine room of an industrial revolution – this time built out of cooperation and community, for the good of the people who live here and those who come to join them.


Barefoot Beach Run Blog

Barefoot beach-run blog:


“What a lot of one-legged swimmers there must be in the sea” – the absurd thought, breaks from my subconscious, nearly making me stumble as it clatters against the wall of my conscious mind.


“How are YOOOOOOOU?” – filters through the flotsam that lines the shore as a pick my way through the soft sand and washed up trainers that ribbon the high-tide mark at sundown.


I’m the only Mazungu (white guy) mad enough to be out running in the late afternoon sun, along the beach North of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.


“How are YOOOOU?” –  the greeting comes again – I haven’t the breath to answer. (I’m running in nearly 30 degrees, when all said and done) but I manage a wave and broad, if slightly manic, grin!


I have started the year in somber mood… musing over  ‘lack’ – of time, clients, clients who pay (on time), parents, siblings (having lost them all in recent years).


Then I shoe-horn myself into running shorts and scamper along the sand, as the heat drops to 27 degrees and the sun burns golden across the Indian Ocean.


Along the beach, just above the crashing surf is “the Perfect Spot” café, where the fishermen gather to broaden their smiles over a beer, while the children tumble from shanty-shacks to play on the sand. Chinese sewn football strips declare allegiance to Manchester United, Arsenal and the Messi kit of Barcelona.


When they see me their looks, at first, are confused, defensive. But the smiles will not be held-back. I trust the laughter is of kinship, not directed at my knock-kneed stride, reddening face and aged shorts.


The golden hour is as wonderful here as I have seen it elsewhere on this ocean. The working day is done, the trials of hauling nets, taking in laundry, learning in school, forgotten. There is nothing to be done now (right now) but play.


As I pick my barefoot way through washed-up coconut fronds, between the fleet of beached, bleached dug-out dhows and the toe-nail borrowing ‘jiggers’ who live in the tide-line, my shoulders drop.


Once again I am shown the wisdom of Africa – all we have is golden time, all we have is now, all we have is all we have – why waste a moment in wishing it otherwise. Just Smile!

In her Arms

In her arms:


White moon bright, the gypsy girl,

beneath the bridge in Kyustendil,

smiles wide,

flashing teeth as bright

as the cyclist skin – there to make a deal.


She’s always there.

Tonight she’ll hold her novice

As he cries away a dream


With drawn lines as crisp as Osogovo

cut sharp

Against heart-break hues

Lilac, violet, blues


It lasted only weeks,

Bitter most of them

But acid cuts scar deep

When sugar is applied


And crystalised in compressed time

It burns and burns again


Road side comfort, cheep to find,

Will blind the eyes that weep

For now

By morning’s chill though

Deep regret will acidify the pill


Only time

And more of that

Will mend his life-long ill.