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The History Man – Ken Brooks

Local author Ken Brooks.

Local author Ken Brooks.

3 of 4

Ex-St Paul’s teacher and passionate local historian Ken Brooks is interviewed for ‘Bohemia Village Voice’. Part 3 of Ken’s story – his love of geology, his hatred of Big Brother  and his anger at ‘flashy’ films:

How did Ken get into geology? “When I was teaching at St Paul’s school, a child would occasionally bring a rock or a fossil to school and ask ‘Mr Brooks, what’s this?’ and I realised I’d have to do a bit of studying to answer their questions. So I enrolled on a three year science degree course at the Open University.”
  That led to his being asked by the University of Sussex if he would tutor geology courses for adults, one evening a week. “So, I was teaching full time at St Paul’s and teaching geology one evening a week.   This continued until about 1992, when at the end of one course, we all went to a pub and the students said ‘we’ve all really enjoyed this course, is there a geology society we can join?’ I said, ‘I’m afraid there isn’t, the nearest one is in West Sussex’. And they said ‘Well, why don’t you start one?’ And that’s how it came about. We formed a committee, and that was the foundation of the Hastings & District Geological Society, of which I’m chairman. It’s still running, and we’ve got about 60 members, and we meet once a month at the Ore Community Centre. I arrange field trips, in fact, there was a trip to Folkestone in September this year..”
Has Ken written any geology books? “Yes, one, and it arose from my interest in the subject. It’s called Geology and Fossils of the Hastings area. It was printed in 2001 and was my first book and it really came about from a request from the Hastings Country Park. By this time, I’d been leading fossil hunting walks in the summer, which I still do now, for the public. I do one in June, one in July and one in August. And there’s no book on geology for the public. There are rather academic publications on geology and fossils, but there’s nothing at all on this area. So, the Hastings Country Park ranger asked me if there was any chance that I could produce a little booklet. And that ‘little book’ gave me the confidence to start on the Hastings Then & Now books.” 
  You might think all this activity would keep him pretty busy, but Ken has plans … “I’ve got a course, which I’m hoping will be starting this autumn at the Ore Community Centre, called From Ancient Egyptians to Aztecs.”
Does Ken have time for music, reading, television, hobbies? “Music is very important to me; whenever I’m working, I always have the radio or CD player on. I love the classics; my taste is pretty wide, anything from Beethoven, who’s top of the list, to Tchaikovsky. Practically all of the recorded music I have is taken from live concerts on the radio; I much prefer live music.”
  Ken gets a number of specialist publications on subjects such as geology, local history or even ancient history sent to him, which he reads. “But I just don’t get the time to read ‘ordinary’ books. The only time for television is when I’m too tired for anything else. I’m usually pretty whacked out by tea time, about 6pm. I’m very selective with the programmes I watch: mainly documentaries.” Is Ken an avid Big Brother fan? “I’m afraid Big Brother is a ‘BTS’ programme.” BTS? “Brick Through Set – if that dares to come on while I’m watching, you never see me move so fast – for the ‘off’ switch.” It’s hard to imagine Ken has any time for hobbies, but he does admit to collecting fossils. “My main sports interest is in judo. I’ve only just given up as an instructor at the Battle Judo Club, which I started and ran up to a couple of years ago."
Does Ken have any  time for films? “I don’t go to the cinema now, mainly because so many of the films made today are very noisy and they’re also ‘flashy’- instead of letting the camera run and letting the action go on. Within about ten seconds, you might get a dozen or more different shots. I get very uptight about this, as I also make films (!). I got my first cine camera in the ‘60s, and over the years I’ve made quite a number of films, everything from documentaries to comedy films. I belong to the old school where you don’t wave the camera around. You hold the camera still, and you don’t zoom in and out, you change your position. I get angry with these modern films where it’s all flash, flash, flash, flash. I once asked a film director why this was done and he told me it’s to keep young people’s attention.” 
Next (final) part: Ken’s battle with osteomyelitis, bullying at work and his struggle to get ‘O’ levels and to get qualified to teach.

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