top of page
  • Writer's pictureGerry

Drones & Chalk

At the last club meeting on February 3rd - another Zoom affair, we were pleased to welcome a Nuneaton resident, John Longcroft Neal, to join us.

One of his online films (Atherstone Old Factories and Canal Locks) had been spotted on YouTube, and he was invited to join us to be present when we all watched it. John agreed afterwards to write about his films. He replied thus...

“My interest in photography started 60 years ago in 1961 my pre teenage years when I took my family Brownie 125 camera into Coventry to take some pictures of the city centre. I bought my first single lens reflex camera, a Zenith E, when I was 24. I carefully referenced the 36 frames that I took on the black-and-white film, making notes of all the settings so I could learn from the experience. Unfortunately when I got the film back from the chemist - the experience was I had not wound the film correctly and it was completely blank!

Undaunted, my interest in still photography went on right through my teaching career as a deputy head, middle and primary school teacher until I was 49 in the year 2000. At this point I took early retirement and eventually started a new career as a chalkboard artist and signwriter. I took on various commissions and worked with the Brewers Marstons from Burton on Trent. One of the projects we did was training publicans, and that involved the chefs producing a video demonstrating cooking skills in the pub kitchen. The digital age had arrived and this made working with video far easier and more affordable. It so happens I did have an uncle who was 18 cinematographer, and we still have a copy of a film he made of my mother’s, that is, his sister’s wedding, in 1937. I decided to produce a demonstration video of my own on the subject of signwriting. I asked a neighbour who lives opposite, Paul Lancaster, to film me and edit the 35 minute project. I thought that having been a teacher I could talk to the camera with some confidence, but of course it takes a bit more skill and aptitude to do it well. Paul also filmed my second sign writing video and then I did two more videos filming myself on the subject of Handwriting for Adults.

I currently sell all four videos in association with a digital market, Fastspring in the USA, and so far have sold a number of copies of these videos in 35 different countries. This initiative then kicked off my YouTube channels, the first one dedicated mostly to sign writing and handwriting. Simply called ‘John Neal’ it can be found by searching ‘John Neal Chalkboard Artist’. By some quirk of fate one of the videos entitled ‘Handwriting for Adults’ topped my viewing figures with currently 1.4 million views. This led to the attention of an American publishing company who asked me in 2019 to write a book on handwriting ‘Cursive Handwriting for Adults’ by Ulysses Press which is still available on Amazon. Since this first YouTube channel had gained some success with 16,000+ followers I decided to ‘monetise’, (sorry an Americanism) the videos and now get a fairly regular modest payment from Google for the advertising that takes place on the videos. I retired from signwriting five years ago and the YouTube channel with all the signwriting really had no more input.

Nevertheless it still has many visitors on a fairly regular basis. For various reasons I changed my email address and my Google account and so started a new YouTube channel. Search my full name ‘John Longcroft-Neal’.

I began to realise that I just really enjoyed making videos and editing them. The subject matter got more diverse since I had retired, I was indulging myself in various hobbies and activities including music, watercolour painting, woodwork, gardening and cycling. This is the death knell of a YouTube channel. Viewers were drawn to my other channel because of the particular interest in signwriting and handwriting. I often give an example that if I wanted to watch a video with Gary Lineker it would be on the subject of football, not any other interest he may have such as gardening, his music, or his collection of antique waistcoat buttons. Nevertheless that is where I am at....I have a number of hobbies and one of them happens to be making videos, so I end up making videos of my other hobbies, which is all rather circular really, because I've got time on my hands and I enjoy what I do. In recent years I have had three art exhibitions in the Riversley Park Museum and Art Gallery, two on photography, and last year, an exhibition of 70 of my watercolour paintings. On my YouTube channel now I refer to my limited viewers as a gang. In many ways it is quite good to have a limited number of people who collect with my videos - it means I have more of a personal relationship with them. One of them is an ex pat from Coventry who is always interested in local places. In fact I did one video in particular about Allesley Park just because he happened to live there decades ago when he first got married in the 1970s. Two other gentlemen who live in the USA are interested in the rich history that is witnessed in the Midlands here. So I have made videos, not in any great depth, about the Battle of Bosworth, Boudicca, and George Elliot. Jim, one of the Americans who lives in North Carolina and I, video chat every fortnight. And then came the drones...


11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page