‘We Are Cult: Behind The Sofa’ – A Review

❉ Writer Simon Forward reports back on last month’s We Are Cult’s event.

As parents of a young Doctor Who fan, my Mum and Dad often told me ‘You should get out more’. Wind the clock on an uncertain number of years and my enthusiasm for the show may have waned, but their advice is still pertinent.

We Are Cult’s Behind The Sofa event, a mini-convention focusing on aspects of Who outside the attentions of mainstream media, offered a promising opportunity for a spot of socialising and that life-long telly interest, jaded or otherwise. And I must say, biases aside (Full disclosure, I’ve known James Gent, founder and orchestrator of We Are Cult, for some years via the magic of social media – and had the pleasure of writing the occasional contribution for the site), the opportunity was not wasted.

The event was staged in the Tiny Rebel pub, which – even though I didn’t drink until the evening (honest, guvnor) – fuelled the sense of a convivial social occasion and the fact that we all shared an interest in the same TV show seemed almost coincidental.

The formal convention framework was presented in a lively and relaxed manner by comedian, Sam Michael, keeping things ticking along without making us feel like we were on a clock and each of the slots had a surprise or two to offer. Which, if you’ve read/heard as much Doctor Who discussion as I have, is surprising in itself.

First up were two lads (and I use that word pejoratively because they made me feel so damned old) – vloggers Matthew Toffolo and Billy Garratt-John, aka Review Of Death – who waxed nostalgic about the RTD years, from the show’s 2005 revival with Eccleston through to Tennant’s tenure. And it was a welcome eye-opener to hear their fresh, energetic perspective – even if part of me wished they’d disagreed more. But what can I say, I spend far too much time on Facebook and expect all Doctor Who discussions to involve heated debate.

Billy Garratt-John and Matthew Toffolo (aka Review Of Death)

From this casual armchair avid-fandom discussion, we were led into two talks by professionals working on separate aspects of disc releases for the series: Ed Stradling and Chris Chapman, who put a lot of dedication and hard graft into the documentaries that accompany the classic series DVD and Blu-Ray releases respectively, and they peppered their behind the scenes tales with a nice selection of tasters for treats we’ll get to see on forthcoming Bonus Content menus; followed closely by the legendary Gary Russell (full disclosure, I worked for him a few times so I have to say that) and Rob Ritchie, who talked us through their incredible work on the animated reconstructions of much-missed but treasured stories such as Fury From The Deep and The Faceless Ones (due out soon, folks). They offered some fascinating insights and, again, a number of tasters – concept artwork and characters, for example – that, okay, I admit, even got me excited – in particular for the Fury release.

Sam Michael introduces Rob Ritchie, Gary Russell & Billy Garratt-John.

Everything was then rounded off with a turn from We Sound Familiar, a troupe of Dead Ringers style impressionists who know their Doctor Who. Their initial sketch material was amusing but the delivery felt a shade stilted as they read from their scripts, but they really came alive when in more freewheeling mode, finishing up their act – and the event as a whole – on a highly entertaining high.

I was surprised by the engaging mix presented and I have to award huge points to James for putting together an afternoon that proved well worth a trip to Cardiff. And being a resident of one of the more remote parts of Cornwall I don’t say that lightly.

Hats off to all involved and I, for one, look forward to We Are Cult getting out more.

❉ WE ARE CULT: BEHIND THE SOFA took place at Tiny Rebel Cardiff, Westgate St, Cardiff on Saturday 25 January 2020. Supported by Bafflegab Productions. We Are Cult is currently planning more one-day events for 2020 and beyond… Keep up with We Are Cult on Facebook and Twitter, and the We Are Cult Events Facebook page. Stay tuned for more announcements!

❉ Simon A. Forward is a writer and lives in Penzance.

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