❉ Making big things happen in small spaces!
“For a small convention, the quality of guests was stellar, and the talks varied and never less than compulsively interesting”, writes Nick Walters.
What to do on the hottest day of the year so far? I know, let’s sit in a small room shoulder-to- shoulder with fifty other geeks for eight hours, listening to tales of television, comedy, horror and life from an eclectic selection of TV writers and producers. This was the first convention organised by We Are Cult, at the instigation of James Gent. A celebration of cult and classic TV. And nobody missed a single beam of the sunshine.
I attended as a representative of Candy Jar Books, having written three (soon to be four!) novels in their Lethbridge-Stewart series. Due to unforeseen circumstances there were no books for me to sign, but I was on hand to meet fans and answer questions about the range.
The venue was To The Moon in the Old Market area of Bristol, a small bar serving local beers and cocktails, and Italian food from their Grano Kitchen. Intimate, cosy, with an interestingly varied collection of chairs – and, thankfully, wonderfully efficient air con!
For a small convention, the quality of guests, myself excluded, was stellar, and the talks varied and never less than compulsively interesting. First up, Billy Garrett-John and Matthew Toffolo, popular vloggers The Review Of Death, took a largely affectionate look at Season 26 of the original series of Doctor Who, culminating in a stirring rendition of the Doctor’s final speech from Survival (you know the one, ‘Come on Ace, we’ve got worrrk to do.’)
The very personable Chris Chapman, TV producer, director and writer, showed us some highlights from the forthcoming Doctor Who Series 10 Blu-Ray and provided entertaining insight into the vagaries of filming Bessie in operation (this was a replica Bessie, for the original – hankies out – now lives in a museum and is too far gone to be driven again. Sob!).
Television writers Andrew Marshall (2point4 children, Strange, End of Part One) and Rob Grant (Red Dwarf, Spitting Image) talked about Lowestoft, Douglas Adams, Marvin the Paranoid Android and the possible inspiration for the name Holly – which turned out to be disappointingly prosaic (derived from ‘hologram’).
Master of horror Stephen Volk then took the stage, and told us about working with Ken Russell on the notorious (and actually really good) 1986 Frankenstein origin film Gothic, and of course the even more notorious and way ahead of its time 1992 TV drama Ghostwatch, giving insight into its origins as a six-episode series and the disturbing genesis of the sinister Pipes.
From Ken Russell to Gary Russell. Very well known for his Doctor Who work, Gary was not here to talk about that but about his early years as a child actor in The Phoenix and the Carpet, Dark Towers and, of course, as Dick in The Famous Five. This was a real highlight as Gary spoke candidly and hilariously about this time of his life, and how it affected him later on.
The real coup of this convention was to invite local legend Chris Serle to talk about his television career, from BBC archive show Windmill to That’s Life, In At The Deep End and Points of View. Also discussed was the distasteful subject of Jimmy Savile, and how Roger Ordish, the producer of Jim’ll Fix It has unfairly come in for criticism, as he was unaware of Savile’s crimes at the time. A chapter of television history we hope will never be repeated.
Finally, Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, former Viz writers, authors of The Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups and writers for Philomena Cunk, gave an informative, hilarious presentation on short-form comedy, let down only by the IT which failed them towards the end of their talk [Mea culpa – Ed.], but did not daunt them.
I laughed a lot, learned a lot, and even though I signed no books, I’m darn glad I went! James and the We Are Cult team can be peacock proud of their achievement that day and I look forward to attending next year’s!
❉ WE ARE CULT: BRISTOL MEET took place at To The Moon, Old Market, Bristol on Saturday 22 June, 2019. Sponsored by PS Publishing/Electric Dreamhouse, Fabulous Films, Paper Dragon Publications and Art & Hue.
❉ Join us for our second one-day event, WE ARE CULT: MANCHESTER MEET, to be held at Gullivers in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on Saturday 5 October 2019, and stay tuned for more announcements!
❉ Photo credits: Steve Alexander, Simon Hart, Anthony Motto (header image), James Gent.