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Cult TV Festival 2004

The 11th Cult TV Festival took place at Weston-super-Mare, England, from 8th-11th October.

Each year, there is an awards ceremony. Voting is by those who attend the Festival. Registrants nominate their choices and the top five in each category are then listed, and a further vote taken. In all cases, once a person or show has won an award, they cannot be entered for the same award in future years. Highlight of the ceremony for me were the Hall of Fame awards - Emma Peel is finally in the Heros section! and there were awards to David McCallum, and two for Shaun O'Riordan and P J HammondSapphire and Steel - including a special Landmark award to acknowledge the show's importance over the past 25 years. We were fortunate in having both creator/writer P J Hammond and director/producer Shaun O'Riordan on hand during the weekend. Both gentlemen were generous of their time, and gave a very informative and interesting workshop as well as an interview the following day.

Other highlights of the weekend were interviews with ex-Time Lord Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford, Sally Geeson, Peter Tuddenham (Orac, Zen and Slave in Blake's 7), Vaughn Armstrong, Jenny Hanley, Nicholas Young (The Tomorrow People), John Levene (Dr Who's Sgt. Benton), and June Hudson (last year's winner of the Best Costume Design award). Scheduled guest Chris Barrie was unable to attend at the last moment because of work commitments, but happily Red Dwarf's Danny John-Jules was able to join us at very short notice. Mr & Mrs Joe McGrathAlso joining us was legendary writer, director and producer Joe McGrath, who worked with both the Goons and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. McGrath is seen here with his wife at the Awards ceremony. Shaun O'Riordan is in the background.

A very special moment was provided by writer and ex-stuntman Frank Maher. Maher was a guest at Cult TV in 2003, but suffered a massive heart attack on the Friday night. Last year's attendees remember the moving occasion on the Monday, when Colin Jones, our magnificent St. John's Ambulance man, received a standing ovation for his efforts. Frank Maher, the man whose life he saved just one year ago, presented Colin with a photograph with a dedication thanking him for looking after Frank, and signed by Sir Roger Moore.

The one problem we always have at Cult TV is trying to get to all the events in which we are particularly interested. There was a full programme in each of four venues at the same time, as well as autograph sessions. Once again Eclectric 21 presented an alternative option programme including writing workshops, discussions, bloopers, and a Murder Mystery Party. If you are wondering how we found time for all that, I must tell you that some of the most interesting sessions of the weekend were given by the Cult TV Consultants, Tony Currie, Dick Fiddy, Thomasina Gibson, Robert Ross and Mark Spencer. Attendees in recent years recognise the contribution made by the consultants - knowledge, expertise and professionalism, enthusiasm for cult TV, and the ability to share all this with warmth and humour. There was a stunned silence, therefore, when we were told they will not be back next year. This will leave a serious hole in the festivities, and we can only hope that the situation will be resoved, and we will be able to welcome them back for 2006. In my case, the reason I registered without waiting to hear which guests were coming was because I knew that with these people on hand the party was bound to be a success. Cult TV's own description (from last year's brochure) is that their consultants "give us the reputation of being like a live version of DVD extras!"

I will wait and see whether I want to go to the Cult TV Festival in 2005. As well as the mass exodus mentioned above, the venue will be a Solihull hotel and the rates are high. We are told this is because we want the best accommodation and food possible. I am usually rushing the food to get to see the next guest, and am so tired at the end of the day I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Although I am not one for holiday camps as such, I have found Sand Bay the best venue since I started going to Cult TV in 2000. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the heating works and the water is hot; and it really does make a difference to hold the festival in a dedicated space, not just a hotel where non-festival people come and go (even when we were assured they would not).

(Since writing the above, we have discovered that the Cult TV policy of paying expenses only to their guests has changed. The intention now is to pay fees as well as expenses to some guests but not others. It remains to be seen how this will work. Whether either other guests, or any consultants, will continue to give their services free when other participants are being paid, seems unlikely. Those of us who enjoyed the 2004 festival - which many have declared to be the best ever - may have seen the last of the Cult TV Festival in its present form. If the leading charity convention strikes its colours and joins the ranks of the commercial operations, it could find itself in difficulties against this stiff competition.)

Our grateful thanks to organizers Paul, Dave, and Idris, and to Henry and Justin and everyone who worked so hard to make the weekend memorable for us, as well as providing desperately needed funds for UNICEF. www.cult.tv