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CultTV

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Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:56

1994

The first Cult TV event took place at Pontin’s Seacroft, Hemsby, on the Norfolk coast, a couple of miles north of Great Yarmouth over the weekend of 11-14 November 1994...

 

Special Guest of Honour was celebrated writer Harlan Ellison, whose numerous television credits included two award-winning scripts for The Outer Limits as well as the iconic Star Trek episode, "City on the Edge of Forever". Regrettably, Sylvia Anderson had to cancel, but it wouldn't be long before she would be a guest of Cult TV's.

Joining Harlan on the guest roster was Jon Pertwee, Doctor Who companions Sophie Aldred and Anneke Wills, writers Victor Pemberton, Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts, along with Carolyn Seymour from Survivors, Annette Andre (Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)) and her husband, the writer Arthur Weingarten, BBC effects expert Mat Irvine, Dave Rogers, Kevin Davies and Star Trek consultant Richard Arnold.

Many Ellison fans, believing he would never come to a television-oriented event, stayed away and the ambitious attendance target was never reached. While the charities got their money and the guests received their expenses, a hefty personal loan paid for the shortfall on the event; for a while it seemed that this would be the only Cult TV Weekend.

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:55

1995

A second year of Cult TV saw us stay in Norfolk, but move down the coast to Caister ...

 

The phrase "because you demanded it" can wear a bit thin, especially considering more recent events, but in the case of the second Cult TV Weekender it was precisely the case.

A larger production crew assisted with the organisation of the event, and a new location was selected - the Haven Holiday Centre at Caister, five miles down the road from the original venue.

The first UK convention appearances of both Mitch Pileggi and Nicholas Lea - Assistant Director Walter Skinner and Alex Krycek in The X-Files - and Linda Thorson who played Tara King in The Avengers - boosted attendance figures.

Joining them were Sylvester McCoy, Ed Bishop and Jane Merrow from UFO, Carol Cleveland, Ingrid Pitt, director John Hough, stuntman Terry Walsh, Bill Baggs and special effects technician Ian Scoones.

While the weekend itself ran smoothly, it started to become apparent that personnel within the crew were working against the good of the event, in a manner that may have spelled the beginning of the end for the Weekender.

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:53

1996

A return to Haven at Caister for a second year, but trouble is brewing ...

 

The success of the previous year meant a return to Haven at Caister. However in the lead-up to the event a hate campaign organised by a group believed to include former members of the Cult TV production crew meant that the Weekender almost didn't take place.

Proposed guests were sent abusive letters by persons unknown, and rumours of cancellation were rife at rival conventions and in announcements in fanzines. However, the production crew banded together to ensure that the show would go on.

Guests included Gerry Anderson, Barry Morse from The Fugitive and Space:1999, Colin Baker and Elisabeth Sladen from Doctor Who, Kathryn Leigh Scott, ITC producer Johnny Goodman, Sue Lloyd, Valerie Leon, John Carrigan, Red Dwarf actor and comedian Norman Lovett, author Steve Gillis, and composer Mark Ayres.

After an entertaining weekend the event ends on a melancholy note as it was decided that this was going to be the last Cult TV Weekender...

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:51

1997

A reversal of the cancellation decision saw Cult TV: Action 97 staged at Haven in Caister ...

 

A flood of well-wishers and pleas for another Weekender meant that the decision was made in late January to stage another event.

A change of management at Rank's head office (Haven's then-owners) calling for higher attendance figures than could be guaranteed, meant this was the last time Caister was used as the venue.

Special guests included Tom Baker, who took part in his first multi-guest panel in ten years, reunited with his former Doctor Who companion Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney, along with Deborah Watling, Jacqueline Pearce from Blake's 7, Robin of Sherwood's Phil Rose, Caroline Munro, comedian Paul Vallis, and surprise guest Paul Trussell.

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:50

1998

After a plethora of requests to stage the event at a more central location, the Moat House Hotel in Telford, Shropshire, was chosen as the next venue ...

 

Moved forward to September, the event marked the first UK appearances of Robert Trebor who played Salmoneus in Hercules - The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, and Eric Pierpoint - the star of Alien Nation.

Weekender attendees were also treated to a rare and unannounced visit from Sylvia Anderson who joined an impressive line-up that included Mary Tamm, Terrence Hardiman, Ziena Merton, Catweazle's Geoffrey Bayldon, Robert Hoffman, Cheryl Burfield and Spencer Banks from Timeslip, Steve Nallon, Michael Sheard, Nicholas Briggs, Dick Vosburgh, special effects director Graham Brown, and stuntman Frank Maher.

Courtesy of Network Video the screening programme ran the first ever screenings of Paul Starr and The Solarnauts. Both made in 1964 as pilots by Arthur Provis and Roberta Leigh and subsequently unbroadcast, the puppet adventure Paul Starr featured the voice of Ed Bishop, while the live-action SF drama The Solarnauts starred former newsreader Jan Leeming, Alex Scott, plus friend of Basil Brush, Derek Fowlds.

Though a critical success, the event was the worst-attended Cult TV Weekender up until that point, and a live appearance on BBC Midlands Today meant that the crew had more than their fair share of problems with gatecrashers.

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:48

1999

While the previous event had been logistically sound, it was decided to go back to the original style of venue. Relocating to Pontin's Sand Bay Holiday Village near Weston-Super-Mare...

 

"Cult TV: Telly Breakaway" saw a big turnout of guests from both sides of the Atlantic. 

Along with Wendy Padbury and writer Troy Kennedy Martin who arrived unannounced, attendees were entertained by the likes of Kristen Cloke from Space: Above and Beyond, Paul Darrow from Blake's 7, Carrie Dobro and Marjean Holden from the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade, the first UK convention appearance of the late Michael Billington (UFO, The Onedin Line), Doctor Who assistants Frazer Hines, Louise Jameson and Nicola Bryant, plus William Gaunt, Bill Pertwee, Michael Sheard, mastermind of the latest Blake’s 7 revival Andrew Sewell, Nigel Plaskitt and Hartley Hare, and make-up artist Sue Kneebone.

The cabaret was provided by comedian Mitch Benn, as well as a certain "Nigel Charles", a Sinatra impersonator also known as Stephen Triffitt, who would go on to take the runner-up honour in the televised ITV final of the following year's Stars In Their Eyes.

Sky One Television took the opportunity to launch their new Autumn schedule at the Weekender. Aiding the production team, which had already grown in terms of size and expertise, the new technical crew - BK Sound and Vision of Telford - laid on an audio-visual display that allowed attendees to keep in touch with what was going on no matter which one of the venues they were in.

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:47

2000

Short-listed as the venue for 1999, Barton Hall in Torquay was the location for the Cult TV millennium extravaganza.

 

The guest list was as large as ever and served up another UK convention first in the shape of Xenia Seeberg from Lexx.

Joining her were Gareth Thomas, Stephen Greif and Jacqueline Pearce from Blake's 7, Sarah Douglas, Alexandra Bastedo, Alexis Kanner from The Prisoner, Peter Purves, Bill Oddie, Hattie Hayridge, Caroline John, Graydon Gould - the voice of Mike Mercury in Supercar, Ralph Brown, Chris Adamson, Mark Eden, Sir David Croft, writer Paul Cornell and make-up designer Simon Tytherleigh.

The Cult TV Awards ceremony included a special appearance by Sooty, and more Sooty secrets were revealed by puppeteer and 3D animator Jeff Smart. Jaz Wiseman, at the time ITC Product Manager at Carlton Video, was also on hand to introduce fascinating finds from the ITC vaults that had never been screened to the public.

As the Weekender drew to a close one of the worst storms in a decade lashed the South coast of England. Soggy, sodden or downright sozzled, neither the crew nor attendees were going to let the rain dampen an otherwise successful event.

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:45

2002

Looking to find a venue that could cater to everyone's taste, the newly redeveloped Southport Theatre and Floral Hall Complex was suggested for Cult TV 2002...

 

One fly in the ointment was that the venue could not stay open for 24 hours, running a continuous programme. However Southport Tourism and Sefton Council, who put their support behind the event, suggested using The Royal Clifton Hotel just along the seafront as a base of operations for the after-hours events.

For the production crew, this seemed like the ultimate solution. Feedback from previous events suggested attendees were split between those who liked hotel-based events and those who valued a more cheap and cheerful approach. Ranging from three-star hotels to simple bed and breakfasts, attendees could stay in accommodation according to their needs. With Southport Tourism dealing with all accommodation issues it left the crew time to concentrate on the programme.

The line up for the event included Dirk Benedict and Herb Jefferson Jr from Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1's Teryl Rothery, Virginia Hey from Farscape, Claudia Christian, David Jackson, Francis Matthews, Angus Lennie, along with special surprise appearances from Kenneth Cope and Doctor Who's Katy Manning, plus writers Philip Martin, Stephen Gallagher, Steven Paul Davies, Roger Goodman, Gareth Owen and John Freeman, director John Glen, and BBC Radio's Tony Currie. The late Don Estelle performed the Sunday night cabaret, and Rob Fairclough and Mike Kenwood launched their new book "Sweeney! The Official Companion" at the event.

Media coverage of the Weekender was intense, with local papers and radio stations covering the event, along with crews from BBC North West, Granada, and the Channel 4 morning show RI:SE. As the weekend progressed the weather worsened, but the upside was that we had arranged shuttle buses to ferry the attendees between locations during the late-night changeovers.

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:44

2003

For the 10th Anniversary, the Cult TV Weekender returned to the Sand Bay Holiday Village, just north of Weston Super Mare.

 

The location for 1999's "Telly Breakaway" event, in the intervening years the site had come under new management and had been the subject of a huge investment programme that had upgraded facilities.

On-hand to help celebrate the tenth year were returning guests Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow from Blake's 7, the multi-talented Michael Hurst who got a chance to screen his hilarious mockumentary "Love Mussel" (starring the late Kevin Smith), the always entertaining Julie Stephens, Nicholas Courtney, writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and Michael Sheard. New guests included actors Richard Hatch, Bernard Horsfall, Shane Rimmer, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson from The League of Gentlemen,, writer Keith Lindsay, and comedians Jack Douglas and Don Maclean.

Surprise guests Maurice Gran and Nicholas Parsons, who had planned to join the Weekender in 2002 but had been forced back by the weather, finally got to take to the stage. In the workshops, Mark Spencer from Dysfunction Group gave a demonstration on DVD authoring and gave the audience an insight into how he designed the Blake's 7 DVDs. This second talk was complemented by director Kevin Davies discussing the extras he had produced specially for the box sets. Tony Currie demonstrated the art of radio and television continuity announcing. Keith R Lindsay from the British Society of Comedy Writers gave a workshop on comedy writing, while Alan Gilbey and Dave Freedman from Peafur Productions provided a screenwriting workout before demonstrating how an animated series goes from the first drawings to final product.

The Sunday night cabaret was provided by Michael Hurst who began his act with a ‘haka’, stripped to the waist, and the equally welcome return of Mitch Benn. With glorious sunny weather throughout, the weekend proved to be such a success that a record number of people signed up for the following year before heading home.

Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:42

2004

Back to Sand Bay for a third year, meaning it now tied as being one of the venues most used by Cult TV ...

 

The guest list was as diverse as ever, including Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford, John Levene, Roy Skelton and Jennie Linden from Doctor Who, Vaughn Armstrong from Star Trek: Enterprise, Danny John-Jules from Red Dwarf, Nicholas Young from The Tomorrow People, Jenny Hanley from Magpie, Sally Geeson from Bless This House, Peter Tuddenham from Blake's 7, producer and director Joe McGrath, stuntman Frank Maher, costume designer June Hudson, and P J Hammond and Shaun O'Riordan - the creative forces behind Sapphire and Steel.

Mark Spencer provided some excellent visuals in terms of making the Cult TV magazine and schedules booklet really fizz, as well as graphics and specially produced video material for the Opening Ceremony and the Awards night. Tony Currie, Robert Ross, Dick Fiddy and Thomasina Gibson, amongst others, ensured that the celebrity guest talks were conducted in an upbeat and informative manner.

This was very much the end of an era. Regrettably, in the run up to the Weekender, Sand Bay had works carried out on many of its smaller venues, meaning that it was not as suitable as in previous years for the requirements of Cult TV. In fact, it was now the case that there had to be less screening rooms, as well as no-one being able to get to the Workshop area without passing through and interrupting what was happening in the Fanstrand location.

Added to this, a move to gain sponsorship of the order of £150,000 from a partnership deal (with a major UK holiday organisation) was frowned upon by several of the Production Crew of the time. Needless to say, as an entirely voluntary activity, these people exercised their right to not return for future Cult TV Weekenders. It is a shame that they did not recognise the considerable opportunity this would have offered the Weekender if the deal had gone through, but the show must go on, and the following year things were not only "business as usual", but to most observers better organised than they had ever been before.

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