Time for Change

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by Mark Estdale

Anyone who has visited the studios at OMUK will have encountered the armoury of swords and guns. A collection built up over 30 years for actor training, props and sound design.  In developing the collection, I took time to study their evolution and learned to be proficient in their designed use. As a member of the Society for the Study of Swordsmanship I ended up duelling and speaking at the Royal Armouries on the sound and use of swords as portrayed on screen and on their use/misuse on stage.

Do I love weapons?  Anyone who has taken time to talk to me about them will know my answer is unequivocally no. I consider all weapons testament to human failure.  My father was a shell of a human being, broken by war. He served as a Royal Marine from 1936 through to 1947. He served in many theatres of WWII, wounded twice, and quit, disgusted after Palestine. He was locked in, bitter and died carrying his demons with him. My uncle suffered two years in a Japanese PoW camp. Both systemically dehumanised by their training and their experience.

My own experience with weapons and with spending time with ex-servicemen has lead me on a journey to explore the reasons behind both their creation and their use in causing harm. Specifically, looking at what is done psychologically in training to condition someone to become able use a weapon to intentionally wound or kill and to distance themselves from the harm they cause.

I am deeply grateful to the work of four writers that have helped me unpick this. Rutger Bregman and his seminal: “Humankind”, Gabor Maté: “The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture”, Lisa Feldman Barrett: “Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain” and Cognitive Linguist George Lakoff: co-author of “Metaphors We Live By” and his work on framing detailed in “Don’t Think of an Elephant”.   Every one of them dig into how we think and act and offer us skills for change.

Over the last 18 months whilst watching the world unravel, I chose to avoid the lunacy of bias press reporting, the ranting drivel of integrity void politicians, and the extremist agony on social media. I also chose to not engage with the pain caused by corporations raping the wealth and wellbeing of people and planet. I chose instead, to look for kindness.

My Ukrainian friends aren’t fascists, my Russian, Jewish and Israeli friends aren’t warmongers. My Palestinian ones are not murderous. All of them are human-kind, saddened, hurting, bewildered and grieving the madness of events. They are alike, irrespective of skin colour, race, or language. They are loving, caring, collaborative and supportive. What gets in the way of seeing and knowing this is our conditioning that is shaped by the narratives of education, the metaphors and frames that mould how we think and act.

Either choosing to hate and harm, or getting someone else to harm another is a matter of education that dehumanises. Natural curiosity and kindness is morphed into fear and ‘righteous’ action. Heart, happiness and humanity are anaesthetised and sacrificed for a ‘greater good’. The psychological injury is immense. We need healing, not hatred. Love needs to be central.

In my looking for kindness I decided to watch out for it in crowded places, the prime being my walk to work in London. As soon as I started, I immediately experienced how darn lovely people are. Simple things like giving up a seat on public transport, helping someone crossing the road, giving food or cash to a homeless person or taking time to chat with them, waving thanks to a motorist who stops for another road user, helping someone who stumbles or drops something. Kindness is everywhere, it actually far outweighed the opposite.

The big factor of being kind was that the kind are aware and sensitive to others. As a result I’ve evolved into being an optimist for humanity. I believe, in the long run, love will win. All forms of action that harm, whatever their justification are unacceptable. I think when we stop, we all know this. Moving towards making things better is a path I’m choosing.

The armoury will be a symbolic first step, a statement of that change.

This is an open invitation to anyone reading this to participate with me. I’m offering every weapon to be converted into either a creative tool or art for peace.  This process is about standing for humanity. I intend to document and record each weapon’s evolution to create an exhibition where we open up discussions about hope. Please come forward if you would like to support this.

Furthermore, the new performance capture building at OMUK is going to be opened up to the public as a theatre space, workshop, healing and meeting space that is dedicated to the work of healing wounds, compassion and dissolving divisions. I’m looking for volunteers, ideas and support.

My own work in this space will be around frame changing and healing. I believe compassion is the key to change. It was the compassion and generosity of others that helped me. My journey to safely release and be free of pain to become both self-compassionate and compassionate, as opposed to bitter and closed has been supported by a range of connecting and healing practises. Initially I’ll be focussing on supportive emotional release work that uses dance, voice and drumming.  This is experimental work so the sessions will be for small groups and free.

In addition, the mural outside the OMUK studios that was painted in celebration of Free Radical Design’s 2005 game Timesplitters: Future Perfect, honouring our journey that developed out of working with the team on the game will either be modified or changed.

Timesplitters: Future Perfect, Street Art by AbrahamO

The image is incongruent with the stance I’m taking. It doesn’t match with any vision for the world that I would want to build or live in. So, this wall and the walls of the whole yard will be opened up for a Street Art Jam with the theme of celebrating compassion.

Also the windmill in Portugal will be opened up as a retreat centre and escape for individuals, families and small groups either exploring healing work or in need of sanctuary.

Mill on the Hill – Portugal

Nudge me if you want to be involved or to find out more about any of this.

Towards a better world, with love,


The sword collection comprises practical replicas, stage weapons and historical weapons, some valuable, some not and some with dark histories. Each weapon is to be numbered and if someone wants to participate with the weapons project, if they get selected, the weapon(s) they get will be via a lottery by taking a number from a virtual hat.

Please share this. And if you want to comment on this article can you do it on LinkedIn as it is posted there too. I want to get as much exposure and support for this work as I can.

To clients and creatives who are making violent games, films and stories please be aware this is my personal commitment. It is outside of core OMUK business, I’m just using OMUK facilities outside of business hours to develop the work. In your support of OMUK you have simply helped facilitate this important work. There will of course be debate on the impact of violence in entertainment which I hope you join in with, with gusto. =M=