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Cult TV Festival 2000

The 7th Annual Cult TV festival took place in Torquay between 27th - 30th October. I had hoped to see Ian Richardson and Patrick McGoohan, but both were working at the time of the con. We were able to see examples of Richardson's TV work, including the whole of The Magician's House, episodes of Highlander and Gormanghast, and of the rarely-seen Private Schultz.

Guests who worked with McGoohan (Alexis Kanner, Frank Maher and Mark Eden) had interesting reminiscences. Kanner will be remembered by fans of The Prisoner as the Young Man in the Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones sequence. He mostly works abroad these days, but has a new play that should reach London's West End shortly. Ex-stuntman Maher is a delightful guest and raconteur. He worked on both Danger Man and The Prisoner, as well as many other cult shows including The Avengers, The Saint, and Blake's 7, and films such as The Italian Job.

Blake's 7 fans were treated to appearances by actors Gareth Thomas, Jacqueline Pearce, and Stephen Greif, as well as Maher. (Production Designer Roger Murray-Leach, designer of The Liberator, is in the list of guests, but I did not see him - it is just about impossible to see everyone you want to.)

It was very good to hear Jackie talking about Deceptions, the play in which she recently appeared in Brighton. She evidently found it very exciting. The play may yet reach the West End: the cast are currently reading for various people. We must hope for an angel - it would be very disappointing indeed if we are not given the opportunity to see her performance in the play that has revitalized her interest in working on stage. Jackie is even more beautiful and charismatic off-screen. There were showings of Blake's 7 episodes, as well as related programmes, including the Casualty episode with Gareth Thomas and Michael Keating. There were also two screenings of Rough Magik, the pilot for a proposed new series starring Paul Darrow. Unfortunately writer Stephen W Parsons, who might have thrown some light on the rather confusing production, was ill and unable to attend the workshop that had been arranged.

All the Blake's 7 guests agreed that the series had been great fun to work on. This is seen in the priceless Blake's Bloopers tape compiled by Tomlinson and Randall. (I think it would be worth going to any con just to see this tape - preferably on a loop so you can watch it as many times as you like!)

Gareth, Jackie and Stephen took part in a marathon signing session on Sunday. In the case of Greif, who had two performances on Saturday and another on Monday, and was suffering from a heavy cold, I call this heroic in the Blake mould! Actually, his character, Travis, had been voted into the Cult TV Halls of Fame as villain (of course!) for 1999/2000; he was presented with the award by Gareth. Stephen had rescued a number of Dr Who scripts a while ago, and donated the last of these to be auctioned, and this helped towards the 4700 raised this year for UNICEF by CultTV. They were all excellent speakers. Gareth Thomas especially was very generous in giving time outside the allocated discussion slot to chat with fans. I can see why he is such a popular guest. Blake's 7 won the award for best repeat series. Full details on their site.

CultTV have a very large guest list. With so much happening, I did not manage to hear all the guest speakers. All those I caught were interesting, entertaining, and very good fun; as well as those already mentioned, I especially liked Alexandra Bastedo and Bill Oddie (the latter also gave us a lot of fun at the Awards ceremony with Sooty! I hope to catch up with people I missed this time at future cons. I particularly appreciate the very wide range of guests, including writers, special effects artists, and model makers. A coup this year was the presence of David Croft, writer of many cult shows, including Dad's Army and Last of the Summer Wine. Jaz Wiseman, ITC Product Manager at Carlton Video, enviably indulges in "cult archaeology"; he showed some clips he has unearthed to date, and I think it likely he will be invited back.

The organizers emphasize that this is a festival, not a convention: it is to be enjoyed. Well, certainly everyone I spoke with did enjoy it! Guests' expenses are paid, but no fee, so the guest list alters along the way when people have work that clashes with the festival dates. It also means that more people are added to the list up to the very last moment, as the money comes in. Cult TV do try to respond to demand. Attendees are asked to give information about favourite shows on booking. I noticed that after the results of the "The Top 100 Cult TV Shows" among this year's attendees put Blake's 7 in third place (behind Dr Who and Star Trek) extra guests from the show were recruited.

The festival was scheduled to finish at midday on Monday, and at that point the organizers must have been looking forward to collapsing for a few weeks before starting work on next year's. Instead, they had to deal with the emergency created by the tornado that hit the south coast. Roofs were lifted off, and there were no trains at all in the country. To their very great credit, we did not panic! (in joke for Brits). Most of us arrived home a day late, but it could have been much worse. The only sour point in the weekend was the hotel management, who definitely do not appear to want repeat bookings, if their attitude is anything to go by! Hopefully, Barton Hall will not be used as a future venue, I am not the only person who would not go back there. Booking is already open for the 8th Annual Cult TV festival, which will be held at The Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool, 26th - 29th October. 140 people booked during the weekend, before any guests were announced. 350 bookings are needed by May to ensure sole use of the hotel by Cult TV fans. Having a dedicated venue does make a big difference to the atmosphere, so if you are going, do try to book before the end of April.

Many thanks to Michael O'Connor for the photographs.