[Sick Britain] I'd like to thank Simon for the interview, his site urbex|uk
is one that inspired me to start taking photos of abandoned buildings. Please note that all links in the interview were added by us here at Sick Britain to help readers follow-up and were not supplied by Simon.
Q1: Who are you?
Simon Cornwell and I run the urbex|uk (www.simoncornwell.com/urbex) website. I’m also one of the moderators on Derelict Places (www.derelictplaces.co.uk). I’m also known in the community as “Simon Cornwell”. It was a conscious decision from the start that I would use my real name for all my urban exploration; I feel it adds integrity to my writings and explorations.
Q2: Why do you do Urban Exploration?
I was always in-and-out of derelict houses, old bomb shelters, river culverts and tunnels as a child and never really grew out of it. When I discovered various urban exploration sites on the Internet in the late 1990s, I realised it was something I missed and started sneaking in and out of derelict buildings again.
I’m driven by mainly by curiosity. What’s in that old building? What was it built for? Who worked there? Why was it designed in this form? Why did it close? I turn these transitional sites into temporary museums where the price of admission is guile, agility and courage. Therefore I’ve experienced being in various locations which I would never have been able to: anything from old lunatic asylums through to top-secret military installations.
Q3: What's the best explore you've been on?
Cane Hill, 13th July 2002. There had been various pictures of some of the interiors of the buildings (mainly the laundry, corridors and water tower) on Andrew Tierney’s “the_one” website but this was the first time I’d been deep in the bowels of Cane Hill itself. The main hall had been burnt down a month before, but the Chapel was still fully fitted with its pews, pulpit, organ and other furniture.
There’s always something special about going in a building and not knowing what to expect. But that day in Cane Hill was superb. (It was later written up as “Grand Tour” on my website). Cracking the water tower six years later was also memorable and it felt like finally finishing the site off.
Q4: What's worst explore you've been on?
St Lawrence’s, Bodmin in January 2007. We drove all the way to Cornwall (from Royston) only to get busted within five minutes of reaching the Fosters building. We were really unlucky: the alarm system was malfunctioning, the security guard was therefore on the prowl looking for people, and we turned up at the same time.
Another memorable experience (for all the wrong reasons) took place at an asylum with a film crew. It was decided that we wouldn’t go up the water tower, but everyone was so fired up by the day’s filming that they all shot up the water tower stairs like rats up a pipe. The director pointed out a missing slat on the way up but forgot about it whilst climbing down. He fell the last step, scraping his shin on the jagged edge of the rusted metal slat, before slamming down on the concrete floor. We thought he’d bust his leg, but he managed to hobble out with help.
Q5: If you could explore any site/facility in the world, what would it be?
Area 51 is top of the fantasy list followed by the wreck of the Titanic.
Q6: Are there any pieces of kit that you'd recommend to others?
Heavy boots, multiple torches, mobile phone, water and food.
Also get the best camera you can afford. I wish I had a better camera for my first forays into Cane Hill. I was halfway through formatting the “Grand Tour” when I realised that the quality of the photographs I’d taken were crap. It was the early days of digital photography, and the early tours on urbex|uk reflect that, but I wish I’d got a conventional camera or a digital camera with better resolution.
Q7: If you could give any tips to newbies or experienced explorers, what would they be?
Remember the motto: “Take only photographs, leave only footprints.” Keep to that rule and you’ll stay on the right side of the law. And that’s for newbies and experienced explorers.
Never delay exploring a site. Always seize the day and get out there. These places are in transition and they won’t stay derelict for ever; they could be demolished tomorrow.
Q8: What would win in a fight: 1,000 chickens or 1 giant chicken the size of a thousand chickens?
The 1,000 chickens would swarm all over the 1 giant one and gradually destroy it.