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Cult TV Festival 2001

The 8th Cult TV festival has come and gone, and kaleidoscopic impressions make difficult any attempt to pick out highlights. My feeling after the last festival (the first I attempted) was that "you have to be there to understand". Whatever mood you arrive in, by the time you leave you are likely to be glowing with happiness.

So what is different about a Cult TV festival? The organizers are enthusiasts, with a breadth of interests that enables them to respond to the requests from fans of many different shows, rather than weighting the programme towards one or two areas. In part it is what Alex Geairns calls the range and variety of guests. Cult TV encompasses the huge range of fan interest from Dad's Army to Buffy. They know that a show does not depend on stars only, but on the combined talents of actors, writers, directors, producers, and technicians of all kinds. Most important of all, they recognize that we know it, too. You can go to a Cult TV Festival to stargaze. But while you are there, you are likely to find a writer or director or stuntman associated with one of your favourite shows, to give you new insight, and with a fund of anecdotes to entertain you afresh.

This year, science fiction fans were well represented, with Sally Knyvette and Jan Chappell (Jenna and Cally from Blake's 7), and Sylvia Anderson, who was voted Hall of Fame 2001 Producer. In a magical evening, the Thunderbirds' producer also received a 'Lifetime Achievement' award in recognition of her work over 30 years. A moment to treasure was the "thank you" speech from her famous creation, Lady Penelope, and Parker (yes, Sylvia has a good Parker voice as well!).

All of which would be reason enough to attend any festival. But the next day's goodies included an interview with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the legendary scriptwriters for many of our greatest comics including Tony Hancock, and creators of Steptoe and Son. The interviewer was Robert Ross, who had earlier that day given a Workshop on the late Sid James. On the basis of Ross's recently published book on Sid, will someone please commission him to write the definitive book on Galton and Simpson? The complete Sid James is beautifully illustrated. Ross has an editor's eye for the right "still", and the book includes many rare photographs. He has a deep interest and knowledge of his subject. He can also write.

The very fine actor Nickolas Grace is currently appearing at The Aldwych Theatre in Mahler's Conversion, but after two performances in London on Saturday, he arrived in Liverpool on Sunday to a very warm reception. He regaled us with reminiscences of filming with Madonna and working with Ian Richardson at the RSC. Fans of his wicked Sherrif of Nottingham in Robin of Sherwood exchanged memories with those of us who saw his Dromio and his appearance with Patricia Routledge in Candide on stage.

I am not going to write a list of guests, although I could go on at length about all of them (and where else might you see both Shaw Taylor and Tom (Last of the Summer Wine) Owen?) Oh, yes, one important point - the Festival is run for charity - no paid staff, and guests receive expenses but no fee, so your money really does go to a good cause. This year it is UNICEF. You can see more about what you missed at the Cult TV website. The earlier you book the more chance you have to let them know who you want to see there in 2002. Well over 100 people (including me) booked for the 9th Cult TV festival during the weekend.

Note: Pictures to follow shortly.

Sally is working as Assistant Director on a production of Twelve Angry Men. This will be a benefit show for the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, London. She is delighted to be working with Jack Gold on this, and says she is learning a lot from him. The cast consists of real life lawyers.

The complete Sid James, by Robert Ross,
published by Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. London, at £17.95.

Nickolas Grace is in Mahler's Conversion at The Aldwych Theatre until 3rd November. 0870-400 0805.
Mon-Sat. 7.30 p.m. mats. Thurs & Sat. 3 p.m.