Helen goes from a virtual novice to a high wire performer who can complete an 80-metre walk on a high wire in her training camp, where she conquers her fear of being on the wire.
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Battersea Power Station - vast, exposed
and officially, on the dangerous buildings list.
Now the location for an extraordinary Red Nose Day challenge.
I'm going to walk from that chimney to this one.
It's going to be 150 metres long.
I'll be walking on a wire suspended 66 metres in the air.
It is, without doubt, going to be the scariest walk of my life.
On today's Blue Peter special, how I learnt to high wire walk.
An act attempted by only a few highly trained performers.
I'm doing it for Comic Relief, to help change the lives
of people in Africa and in the UK.
'In my way - fear.'
Not enjoying this. I really want to get off.
I just feel like I have to shut up and deal with it.
I'm in so much pain, you've got no idea!
I'm not going to lie to you, it really, really is painful.
I started training last November on a low tight wire.
There was more falling than walking.
This is so annoying.
With practise, I finally found my feet
and took on my first live performance.
I lost my concentration not once...
It was terrifying but I did it.
Now, to the next stage. I'm off to France to my high wire bootcamp
run by Jade Kindar-Martin.
Jade is one of the world's top high wire artists.
He's trained for years to perform at this level.
He even broken a world record, crossing the River Thames.
Jade's training wire is 80 metres long and 20 metres high.
10 times the height and length I'm used to
and less than the width of a ten pence piece.
I feel like I should be scared and intimidated
but my first impressions are I want to get on with it.
I've got a big challenge at the end of this
and the sooner I get stuck into learning how to do it,
the sooner I can put that challenge to bed.
I just don't think there's any point putting it off.
It's long, isn't it? It's a bit longer than I expected.
I've only got four weeks to learn this, so there's no time to waste.
We're trying to prepare her to do something that's taken me
20 years of my life to prepare for.
Let me see how you balance.
Let me see what you learned these past couple of weeks.
Now, look out in front of you.
-I'm harnessed to a safety rope running above the wire
and I can't seem to let go of it.
-I underestimated this.
Each foot you take, feel yourself on the wire.
-Shall I let go of the wire?
I was a bit disappointed in her level of...
I thought she had been practising a little bit more
and was more capable of keeping her balance.
We've got more work than I expected.
-That's what happens when you fall.
I feel like I've just had a wet fish of realisation slap me in the face.
This is hard.
So far, I've used my arms to balance.
To be a high-wire walker,
I'll need to use a balance pole like the experts.
This is your only balance now.
Hold that further. Good. Pull it in.
Feel that sense of weight in your hands.
The pole moves, you don't move.
To understand why I need a balance pole,
I've got to get my head around some simple science.
To stay balanced on the wire, I'll need to keep
the middle of my body, or centre of gravity, above the wire at all times.
I can't lean very far to one side before I fall off.
Holding a heavy balance pole lowers my centre of gravity,
making me more stable on the wire.
If I start to fall to one side, by gently tipping the pole
in the opposite direction, I should be able to regain my balance.
It will help me but it's pretty heavy.
My balance pole is six metres long and weighs eight kilograms.
It's a bit like carrying two big shopping bags.
Fight for the balance. Don't just let it be there
and if it's not there, it's not there. Really go after it.
I have to learn to control the pole before I'm allowed to walk with it.
This is the most annoying thing in the world. Oh, Skelton!
Fight, fight, fight.
-Shall I have a go?
-A go with this?
No, you can't even walk one step with that.
I stand there, try and do it and fall off.
I stand there, try and do it and fall off, for hours.
And it's really frustrating because you don't move on.
Until she can hold the pole and stay in place and do everything
I need her to do, I'm not going to let her walk on the wire.
It's not safe for her. It's not safe for me.
It's not fun for anybody. It's going to put us two steps back.
I haven't done anything yet. I want to get on the wire.
I want to start to walk across it
because only then I will feel like I can do this.
Wire walkers have to be super-fit,
so the next day I start a new exercise regime
with Jade's wife, Carine, a stuntwoman and gymnast.
We ran, we walked, we skipped, we've hopped, we've carried rocks
and that's just the warm-up.
Jade won't let me walk on the wire until I can use the pole safely.
So all I can do is practise for hours...
..and hours and hours.
Instead of using your top body to move the pole, use just your arms.
That's it. You need to start fighting for your balance.
Finally, it all starts to click into place.
Yesterday, I couldn't stay here for more than a few seconds
I didn't understand what I was doing with this thing.
Now I get it. It's kind of resistance.
It's so heavy.
My Red Nose Day high wire walk over Battersea Power Station
will be 150 metres.
That's a long way to carry that balance pole.
I'm getting off. One, two, three.
Finally, I prove I can handle the pole,
so Jade lets me try a few steps along the wire.
Just stay there for a second. Get your bearings.
Relax. Breathe, remember, breathe.
Keep your body straight.
I get just over a metre.
It might not look far
but it's a good way to end my first stint at Jade's bootcamp.
Oh, my word. I cannot tell you how good this feels.
You did it.
She's into it. She's ready to work
and getting her strength up in her arms will be really important.
Over the times she's not here,
she needs to do a lot of working out and bicep training.
Time to leave France and head back to the UK.
Despite my busy schedule, I have to make time for extra training.
You look at the weights and think it's easy, but going for that long...
The publicity for this year's Red Nose Day campaign is kicking off.
Comic Relief, the charity behind Red Nose Day,
changes millions of lives by funding projects in Africa and the UK.
I hope you'll be inspired to do something funny for money.
But the pressure of my challenge is getting to me.
My brain feels scrambled.
This is something I've never had to deal with.
If I don't get halfway, even ten or 12 paces, it won't be funny.
It will be embarrassing.
I didn't think about this, really, did I?
When I return to France, it doesn't look like there'll be much training.
It's freezing. Look at the snow.
I mean, this is just a total winter wonderland, isn't it?
There's so much snow that I can't go on the wire.
All I can do is stand here and do some work with this pole,
which I need to do, because it's heavy.
I know the snow's so pretty, but it's a hindrance.
Who says it has to be all work?
Oh, that was a good one!
I did not do that to my teacher! That was him.
One man down!
I've got to wait for things to improve.
I just have to remind myself why I'm here.
Do I want to be running in the snow, doing push-ups on the ground? No!
But I feel it's a means to an end and I feel it will be worth it.
I'm doing this because I believe in the projects that Comic Relief funds
and I've seen what a difference it makes.
After the snow, there's even more bad weather keeping me off the wire.
SCREAMS IN FRUSTRATION
It is frustrating because I just want to get on with it.
But when it rains, it's too dangerous for me to go out there.
If I do myself an injury then I won't be able to do the challenge.
All I can do is exercise and get on the wire whenever I can.
So, come on, rain. Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.
Finally, the rain eases and Jade decides to let me on the wire.
-Ready to go out there?
Just remember that you want to be really strong on your ankle.
-If you feel your ankle's sagging, you may slip.
I'm definitely optimistic
and confident that she's going to do what she needs to do.
The wetter that your shoes are going to become,
the more slippery they are.
The rain sets in again, but at least I got halfway across.
We've danced with danger enough for today.
I'm not going to get carried away.
I'm just going to deal with it every day
and take each little milestone as it comes.
When I get to the end, then I will go nuts.
Until then, this is just the stepping stones to getting there.
I'm definitely improving, but it's a slow process.
Jade gets me to watch myself so I can see where I'm going wrong.
That's not too bad, is it? I'm upright.
See how you move right there?
See what I'm always talking about, dropping that shoulder.
Keep your shoulders square. Move your pole wherever you want to.
I need to know how to move more gracefully.
So for the answer, I'm turning to the world of ballet.
Ballet dancers use deep stomach muscles to help them balance.
Their core strength. Jade thinks the same technique might help me.
Loretta Summerscales is in Swan Lake with English National Ballet.
She's taken time out to meet me, along with teacher, Louise Halliday.
Even standing, you look elegant. I just feel like I'm like this.
It doesn't take much. It's about thinking about it
and someone said to me, the best way to develop core strength
is to think about it all the time.
Not to come in and do exercises, not to do sit-ups.
But when you're standing still, or sitting down,
or brushing your teeth.
Exactly what Loretta is saying here. It's engaging these muscles.
First, up to fifth.
The deepest core muscle is the transversus abdominis.
It stabilises the middle of the body and most use it without thinking.
How would you walk normally? Just without thinking about anything.
Yeah, your hips are definitely... yeah. Try now walking.
Don't think about anything else. Try walking just holding your core.
There - the hips have stopped already.
Is that better? We really are taking it back to basics.
If you're walking like that, then when you're on the wire
you're not using your hips to compensate.
Helen, show us the pole.
The whole idea is to keep as much of your feet on the wire as possible.
The longer I'm on the wire, the more I hunch because it's heavy.
If this is heavy, you hold it.
If that's heavy and you let your shoulders go down,
how much heavier is it?
If that's heavy and you've got your shoulders...
..back, you have more control.
I'm going to be going everywhere like this from now on.
-You have your handbags and your keys.
-And a biscuit.
If it becomes my default position, that's good.
I need to incorporate that into every minute of my days.
-Thank you, ladies.
I'll be honest. There was a bit of me that was thinking this morning,
how much can I really learn in one hour?
In truth, that has made me feel really good and really confident,
because the things I worry about are the things that ballet dancers
deal with every time they step out on stage - the posture,
the performance, the balance. And those mind tricks will help me.
I feel like I have tools now to deal with everything a bit better,
so massive confidence boost.
And right now, that's what I need. I need to think high wire and smile.
This is the first time I've smiled for a long time.
Back at bootcamp,
I use what I have learned to improve my performance on the wire.
I'm now walking much further and really starting to look the part.
Helen's concentration has improved.
You can see it when she gets out there.
Overall, she's doing really well physically.
Lock your knees together. There you go. Lock your knees together.
-Much better. You see that all of a sudden? Did you feel that?
The true test of a professional high wire walker is knowing
what to do when things go wrong.
-Oh, no. Come on now.
'I lost my concentration and slipped off.'
Imagine you didn't have that rope. Would you have let yourself fall?
-What concerns me is you just jumped. You didn't go for the wire.
That's what a high wire walker does.
He takes control of the situation, of the wire.
You don't just let yourself fall to the side.
Ohh, it's hurting.
-Now pick your head up. More. There you go.
-I got up.
Better? Is it not?
-Don't look... It's not so bad!
-No, it's not what I'm saying at all.
When it goes wrong... Everythign's going great,
then all of a sudden... And that's what we're training for,
so you don't feel yourself swinging back and forth.
I have to listen to my own lessons. It is hard, cold, uncomfortable.
I don't know if I can do it. I have to listen to myself
and I must believe what I'm saying,
which is - impossible and difficult are two different things.
Rather than rely on the harness,
Jade thinks it's important that I learn to grab the wire if I fall.
Oh, dear. This is going to hurt. This is going to hurt.
-I need to go from there.
-Now, put the balance pole on the wire.
No, no, no, don't do this.
There you go. Not the other one.
I'm not letting go, though.
There's no getting away from it.
Slamming my body on to a thin piece of steel over and over again hurts.
Don't take your hands off. Keep your knee on.
Look right at me. Look right at me.
I don't need to talk you through it.
Ow! Ow! Ow!
But after a bit of determination
and a lot of pain, I'm finally cracking the technique.
I haven't walked from one end to the other, but Jade thinks I'm ready.
She's gotten to the point where I'm feeling better about her strength.
You know, now she just really needs to be able to focus.
But just when I think it's going well,
something happens that disrupts my training.
Last night, I just started throwing up.
Apparently there's a sickness and diarrhoea bug going around France
and now is sure not the time.
It's bad enough that every time I move, I feel ill,
but I can't even sit on the toilet because my bottom's so bruised.
I want my mum.
Even with delays,
I've had nearly a month of training on the wire.
Now, for the first time, I'm going to attempt to walk the whole thing.
-You look more scared than me, Jade.
-I think you can do it.
You need to be not afraid of the wire.
If you get into a situation, crouch down.
-Keep one foot in front of the other. Keep walking.
I'm balancing 20 metres above the ground.
-Keep your knee bent.
-The further I go, the slacker the wire feels.
It just feels more wobbly.
I can hear the river beneath me and I can see the rocks.
Don't get over-eager. Now's the hard part.
Pole goes one side, pole goes the other side.
The last part is uphill, but I'm almost there.
End of the wire. Keep going.
Look to your right. Put it in the little... Right there.
It's such a relief to do that.
-Pretty good. Pretty good.
-I'll take that smile.
Tomorrow, my high wire journey reaches its climax.
Battersea is three times the height of my practise walk
and also twice the length.
So Helen will be challenged.
Can I control my fear, or will Battersea overpower me?
This is just taking away every bit of confidence I have. Literally.
Look at me! I'm hunching my shoulders and I want to hide.
One of the major things that Helen's going to have to overcome
is the first step.
Come on, Helen!
The wire is waiting.
Come with me on the scariest walk of my life.
Helen goes from a virtual novice to a high wire performer who can complete an 80-metre walk on a high wire in her training camp in France. She does everything from learning how to hold the heavy 8kg balance pole to conquering her fear of being on the wire.