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Urban Exploration And The Media: Why? - Continued

I suspect the media have approached every urban explorer with a popular website. From the local hack at the "Freebie Weekly" to the enchanting researcher from a TV magazine show, they all want a slice of the new craze. After all, these Ninja urban warrior explorers are players in a new extreme sport, breaking and entering for derelict kicks and baiting security with death defying chases across rotten rooftops. That must be worth some column inches!

This is my primary reason for agreeing to some interviews. Such odd and inaccurate views (such as the breaking and entering, or the silly extreme sport viewpoint) will only be resolved if you put them right. But the current "wisdom" (a la 28dayslater) is to simply to decline all interviews extremely aggressively. The more insults the better, and repeating the hackneyed phase that all journalists are lazy idiots will earn more brownie points. The result will be a negative, inaccurate piece, detailing how urban explorers are irresponsible, rude, arrogant little idiots endangering themselves and all those who have to deal with them.

There are several questions that journalists and interviewers will hit you with, but two stand out: “What is urban exploration” and “Why do you do it?” Be absolutely sure you can talk coherently and knowledgably about this ill-defined term, and be absolutely sure your own justifications and reasons for participating are equally clear.

The most recent Inside Out (broadcast in the northwest region) featured two guys who explained that their motivation for urban exploration was to document and record buildings because they “liked architecture.” Fair enough, if somewhat brief. However, when offered the opportunity to explore and take photographs of a Victorian building being restored, they found it “boring.” Even the presenter couldn’t understand the contradiction.

It’s a dichotomy which exists within most urban explorers. The subject has been debated several times on various forums, and reveals a strange schizoid attitude towards the activity. The roots of the problem lie in the justification of urban exploration in the vague phrase of “documenting buildings”; most explorers do nothing of the sort, being merely addicted to the buzz of being somewhere they shouldn’t. If I was offered access to a site, I’d jump at the chance, because the buildings are my primary target, and I use urban exploration as a tool to enable me to do this. Others relish the illicit thrill of trespass, and are far purer urban explorers than me. But don’t confuse the two: otherwise you end up looking daft.

In my case, I use urban exploration to gain access to places that interest me, and I document them. And I can solidly back that up with my website; write-ups, historical backgrounds, research, maps, plans, accounts from third parties. My work on Rauceby and Pyestock shows a strong historical, methodical and measured approach to buildings, and so I can solidly justify my actions. I have no problems explaining this to journalists.

However, if I was a purer urban explorer, out for kicks and the thrill, then I’d shun the press. For example, how could you really justify crane climbing? You’ll get some great nighttime panorama city shots, and the thrill and personal achievement must be huge. But apart from your own personal thrills, there’s nothing solid to stand on, and the justification (for the historical record) isn’t available to fall back on. Unless you’re really charismatic, fluent and articulate then you’ll just been painted as reckless and somewhat odd.

So, if you feel able to explain urban exploration, justify your actions, and back it up then go for it. But be utterly convinced and sure of your own motivations.

The ward where we stopped for a Q&A session..