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Join us for the latest on the best in extraordinary fictional television and film from the past, present and future, and analysis on its cultural impacts.

Find out about the amazing facts in fiction, and discover the truth about what's really going on in the World around us...

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Creator and Writer of On The Buses, The Rag Trade and much more ...

 

Ronnie’s professional career began in BBC radio, with him eventually becoming Head Writer of the hit series "Educating Archie" (created by Eric Sykes). The cast at various times included such well-loved and remembered names as Julie Andrews, Tony Hancock, Max Bygraves, Beryl Reid, Harry Secombe, Benny Hill, Bruce Forsyth and Warren Mitchell.

Other writing projects around that time included intimate revue, summer shows and pantomimes, some of which starred Ken Dodd, Kenneth Williams, Beryl Reid and Tommy Steele.

In the 1960s Ronnie decided to concentrate on television, and with his writing partner Ronald Chesney, devised and created many TV sit-coms. These included The Rag Trade (with Peter Jones, Miriam Karlin, Sheila Hancock, Barbara Windsor and Reg Varney), Meet the Wife (with Thora Hird and Freddie Frinton), The Bedsit Girl (with Sheila Hancock), Take a Letter Mr Jones (with John Inman, Rula Lenska and Miriam Margolyes), Romany Jones, Don’t Drink The Water and, most famously, On The Buses (with Reg Varney, Doris Hare, Stephen Lewis, Anna Karen, Michael Robbins and Bob Grant).

The television series of On The Buses led to three cinema spin-offs, "On The Buses", "Mutiny On The Buses" and "Holiday on the Buses". The format has spawned a large and active fan club which continues to send out loads of literature, news and features to its devoted fans.

The Rag Trade is now a worldwide success, as in the last few years it has been successfully re-made in other countries. Each country has used their own actors and has been translated into their own language. And in each of these countries it has continually been top of the ratings, and is constantly repeated. So successful was the TV show in Scandinavia, that a full-length feature film, “Fredrikssons Fabriks - The Movie” was made. This show is still running in South Africa, with 26 further episodes recently made in 2003.

Ronnie’s work as a deviser, creator and writer of sitcoms has taken him across the world, and he has worked for all the major networks in the United States (ABC, NBC and CBS), Australia, Scandinavia, Germany, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, Canada and South Africa.

He is a script consultant for Alomo Productions, and in his work as Visiting Lecturer, Ronnie has been invited to speak and take Seminars and Workshops at the British National Film and Television School, The City University - London, the London Department of the New York University, the University of Barcelona, as well as at many other leading universities at home and abroad, plus various institutes of learning which have departments of Drama, Film, TV, Radio and Media Studies.

Ronnie’s definitive book, "Writing Comedy", has recently been published in a new and updated third edition by Robert Hale Ltd.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

What any Festival celebrating extraordinary fictional television needs is a cabaret act that has material specially angled to its theme. As attendees at the Cult TV Festival in 1999, 2003 and 2005 will tell you, Mitch Benn does this better than anyone else.

Mitch is not only one of the most sought-after acts on the comedy circuit but is widely acknowledged as one of the best writer/performers of comic songs in the country. Mitch began his comedy career in Edinburgh in 1994. He moved to London in 1996 and quickly established himself as a comedy club "headliner" as well as a favourite on the university circuit.

Mitch is a regular writer and performer on “The Now Show” for BBC Radio 4 on many a Friday night at 6.30pm, and “It's Been a Bad Week” for BBC Radio 2. Three series of his successful Radio 4 show, "Mitch Benn's Crimes Against Music" were also broadcast. He also presented "The Mitch Benn Music Show" on BBC Radio 7.

On TV, Mitch appears regularly on BBC1's The One Show as the writer and arranger of “The Complaints Choir”. Mitch contributes occasional songs to Channel 4's Bremner, Bird And Fortune. He has also appeared on The Last Word for More4, Gas for Channel 4, Live at Jongleurs, The Warehouse and Today With Des & Mel for ITV, The Comedy Store for Channel 5, The World Stands Up for Paramount Comedy and Raymaan Is Laat for Dutch TV. He was the presenter of the paranormal discussion show Out There for Carlton World, and in 2009 made semi-regular appearances on BBC1's Watchdog performing songs highlighting consumer grievances.

Mitch's second album “Radio Face” was released through Laughing Stock records in 2002. His earlier live album, “The Unnecessary Mitch Benn” is still available.

Mitch has toured extensively abroad, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, France, Montreal, Holland, India and South Africa (including a two-week run at the Grahamstown Theatre Festival in 1998). In 1995 Mitch won the Best New Comic award at the Glastonbury Festival and has played there every year since, including an hour-long extended set in 1999 which drew a standing ovation from an audience of 1,500.

In 1998 he won the “Mercury Comedian of the Year” prize at the Leicester Comedy Festival. Mitch has performed many times at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, including hour-long solo shows in 1997, 1998 and 1999. He also appeared in the successful revue show “The Bootleg Bootleg Beatles” in 1998 and the showcase Carlton Comedy Warehouse in 1999, the subject of a documentary series for Carlton TV.

In 2003 Mitch formed the band Mitch Benn & The Distractions with Kirsty Newton and Tash Baylis; after a successful run at the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe they took up a residency at The Bedford in Balham in October 2003. Mitch Benn & The Distractions completed a successful national UK tour in autumn 2004, to coincide with the release of their album “Too Late To Cancel”.

Mitch Benn & The Distractions' debut single, Everything Sounds Like Coldplay Now, was released on September 5th 2005, ahead of the release of the album “Crimes Against Music”. The video for the single www.everythingsoundslikecoldplaynow.com/ attracted 8,000 hits in one hour when first posted online. The band completed their second UK tour in December 2005.

Mitch brought a reconvened Mitch Benn and the Distractions back to the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2007, performing a nightly two-hour show – “The Mitch Benn Music Club” - at the prestigious Reid Hall concert venue (the “Cow Barn”). A live album, recorded on the last night of the festival, entitled “Official Bootleg Edinburgh 2007” (or “The Brown Album”) was released in October 2007 to coincide with the start of another national tour, which concluded in December 2007.

In spring 2008, Mitch released the controversial single “Happy Birthday War” (with accompanying video) and later on that same year, the album “Sing Like An Angel, from which the title track (featuring Rick Wakeman on piano) was released as a single.

In 2009 Mitch Benn & The Distractions (with Ivan Sheppard now permanently installed as drummer) completed the “Where Next?” tour, in support of the album of the same name.

In 2010, Mitch and the band completed the “Rhyme Lord” tour and also released the single "I'm Proud of the BBC", for which Mitch received the Media Blog Media Hero Of The Year Award.

Mitch has recently released an EP of Doctor Who-related songs (including one brand new never-heard-before track), which is available exclusively from the Mitch Benn download store.

To find out more visit Mitch’s website, www.mitchbenn.com

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Script writer and story editor on productions as diverse as Birds of a Feather and Crossroads ...

 

A member of the British Society of Comedy Writers, whose aim is to provide highly trained writers to the highest the comedy light entertainment, Keith Lindsay has written for television, the stage, and film both in the UK and abroad.

After writing stand-up material for the likes of Frankie Howerd and Rik Mayall in the early stages of his career, from 1988 until 1991 he was put under contract to Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran's Alomo Productions and involved in the American-style, team-writing on the award-winning sitcoms Love Hurts and Birds of a Feather to which he contributed story-lines during its second and third series.

While providing material for Hale and Pace and The Freddie Starr Show during the early 1990s, he developed sitcoms for Spanish and Dutch television channels, then spent the remainder of the decade contributing to The Jacques Vermiere Show in Belgium and a comedy drama for Germany.

From July 2001 to January 2002 he was a story-liner on the re-launched Crossroads, featuring what is believed to be the first ever soap story-line involving a crypt.

For further details on the British Society of Comedy Writers visit their website at http://www.bscw.co.uk

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The costume designer for Quantum Leap, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the original Battlestar Galactica, and many others, made his UK convention debut at Cult TV 2005 ...

 

Jean–Pierre Dorléac's prolific career in costume design has encompassed feature films, television, theatre, music videos and private couture. An American, born in Toulon, France, many of his relatives worked in the theatre, both in front of and behind the footlights. His schooling took in many European countries, even England for a time when he resided in both Ipswich and Oxford.

For fans of Cult TV, his contributions to fantasy and science-fiction have been very memorable, and across a range of styles. These are represented through the punk, sociopathic madness of Max Headroom, the vampy, cartoonish camp of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and the Emmy Award winning simplicity of the retro, alternative future of Battlestar Galactica (Outstanding Costume Design for a Series for the episode "The Man With Nine Lives", aka "Furlon", which guest-starred Fred Astaire).

His depiction of the South Pacific in the 1930s was nominated for an Emmy with Tales of the Gold Monkey. The 1940s were explored in "Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story". The 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s costumes for Quantum Leap were Emmy nominated for four consecutive years, for their factual depiction of the eras that Sam Beckett visited in his weekly trips through time. Jean-Pierre also worked for producer Donald Bellisario on other projects such as Airwolf and Magnum PI, as well as further work for Glen A Larson on Knight Rider, Rooster and Sword of Justice.

Jean-Pierre also became a trendsetter in the classic American mini series. The gallantry and pageantry of the American Revolutionary War was seen in the television movie, 1978's The Bastard, earning him his first Emmy nomination, followed by its sequel, 1979's The Rebels.

His provocative and challenging creations range from the exotic rags and tatters assembled for the 1980 version of "The Blue Lagoon", to the mad, institutional designs for the West Coast stage production of Peter Weiss' "Marat/Sade".

The beauty and romanticism of turn-of-the-century America was captured in a quartet of memorable films. These were Horton Foote's "Lily Dale" (1996), the biopics "Mae West" (1982) and "A Burning Passion: The Margaret Mitchell Story" (1994), and the cult hit "Somewhere in Time" (1980), the film that garnered him an Academy Award nomination.

The enduring "Heart and Souls" showed us San Francisco in the late 1950s and present day, while Universal's feature, "Leave It to Beaver" gave us a 'today', reminiscent of the late 1950s. His striking creations for the cover of New York magazine caused a fashion media frenzy and the beguilingly-styled, high-tech glamour Elizabeth Hurley wore in the television special "The World of James Bond" was 'simply drop-dead', according to television’s Extra.

Dorléac's collection of work has been exhibited worldwide. Benefit events for AIDS Project Los Angeles have celebrated his designs, as well as fashion shows seen at Mannequins Auxiliary of the Assistance League of Southern California. The Los Angeles County Museum of Arts showcased his costumes in their exhibition and book, "Hollywood and History: Costume Design In Film", and there have been other celebrations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City), La Palais de la Civilization (Montreal, Canada), and La Place Vendôme, (Paris, France).

His most recent TV series, The Lot, was set in a 1938 movie studio back lot, and was a half-hour comedy that featured Jonathan Frakes. Dorléac's attention to detail earned him another Emmy in 2001 (in conjunction with Costume Supervisor Gilberto Mello) and recognition from the Costume Designers Guild in 2002, for Excellence in Period Television Design.

Jean-Pierre had an uncredited role as a mental patient in the Quantum Leap episode "Shock Theater", and played himself in an episode of the short-lived police series Tequila and Bonetti, as well as the mini series of Jacqueline Susann's "Valley of the Dolls".

He has recently completed the costumes for George F Kaufman and Moss Hart's American comedy classic, "You Can’t Take It With You" for the Geffen Playhouse, directed by Moss Hart's son, Christopher Hart.

His first novel, "Abracadabra Alakazam" was released by the renowned publishers, Monad Books. It has been described as a "deliciously decadent two-part caper revolving around an alluring but unpredictable heroine named Glenna Flanning, and two young men who enter her life, twenty-one years apart".

 

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Green Cross Code Man and the body behind Darth Vader ...

 

Dave was most famously the road safety Green Cross Code Man for 14 years - what he describes as the best job he's ever had, that started in 1976.

His gargantuan set of TV credits also include Doctor Who ("The Time Monster"), The Saint ("The Portrait of Brenda"), Department S ("Treasure of the Costa del Sol"), Space: 1999 ("The Beta Cloud"), Arthur of the Britons ("The Slave" and "Go Warily"), The Champions, The Avengers, Ace of Wands, Callan, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Tomorrow People, The Rose Medallion, A Horseman Riding By, the 1978 BBC As You Like It, The Balcony - Jean Genett (for the BBC Open University), The Benny Hill Show, The Stanley Baxter Show, The Kenneth Williams Show, The Two Ronnies, The Dick Emery Show, Beyond The Fringe, The Morecambe and Wise Show and The Beverly Hillbillies.

In 1975, he was cast as the number one villain in SF cinema - Darth Vader in Star Wars (Director George Lucas had given him the choice of playing the evil nemesis, or Chewbacca!).

Other big screen credits include "Casino Royale", "Hammerhead", "Crossplot", "The Horror of Frankenstein", "A Clockwork Orange", "Up The Chastity Belt", "Up Pompeii", "Carry on Henry", "Vampire Circus", "White Cargo", "Blacksnake!", "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell", "Confessions of a Pop Performer", "The People That Time Forgot" and "Jabberwocky".

The owner of three gymnasiums, The Sunday Times described Dave as "The World's Number 1 Personal Trainer" - celebrities under his tuition have included Christopher Reeve for the role of "Superman", Daniel Day Lewis for the "Last of the Mohicans", Vanessa Redgrave, Edward Heath MP, Robert Powell, Peter Davison, Sandra Dickinson, Jason Donovan, Shane Richie, Gary Wilmott, John Barrowman and Stefanie Powers.

Dave was a guest at Cult TV 2006. Find out more about the man himself at the DAVE PROWSE website, www.daveprowse.com

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Herr Flick from 'Allo 'Allo! ...

 

Richard Gibson played Gestapo Officer Herr Otto Flick in the BBC series, 'Allo 'Allo!. The show ran from 1982 with an initial pilot and then from 1984 to 1992. Dressed in an ankle-length leather coat and with the obligatory stiff-legged limp and walking stick, Herr Flick spent his life suppressing peasants, seducing Helga, the German town Commandant's assistant, and vainly trying to get his hands on the original of the painting “The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies” by Van Klomp.

Richard Gibson toured with 'Allo 'Allo! when it transferred to the stage, having successful tours both in the United Kingdom and abroad. The stage version of the show gave rein to his other skills and he was able to demonstrate his mastery of the violin.

Richard even released a single with his 'Allo 'Allo! colleague Helga called 'Rock Around Ze Clock'. He was born in Kampala, Uganda, on 1 January, 1954.

He has also featured in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Hadleigh, and The Upper Hand, as well as Poldark, Penmarric, The Children of the New Forest, Park Ranger, Prospects, The Upper Hand, and Coral Island.

TV movie appearances include "The Key to Rebecca" and "Omagh". Film appearances include Joseph Losey’s "The Go-Between", "England Made Me", and "The Young Girl and the Monsoon".

Richard was a guest star in the Big Finish audio production "Flip-Flop", a Doctor Who story featuring Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford. He is a regular contributor of features and short stories to newspapers and magazines in both the UK and Ireland.

Richard joined us for the Cult TV Festival in 2006.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Alan Gilbey and David Freedman are writers and cartoonists, with shows like Aaagh! It's The Mr Hell Show! and Bounty Hamster amongst their credits ...

 

Formed in 1995 from the partnership of Alan Gilbey and David Freedman, Peafur Productions have co-created, produced and supervised a number of animated series of their own as well as developing shows in conjunction with other companies.

Writers as well as cartoonists, they have developed and written series for The Disney Channel, Jim Henson Productions, Nelvana, Universal Pictures and Fox Television.

Successfully steering shows from bible, through sample scripts, to full series commission, projects they have scripted have won BAFTAs, Royal Television Society awards and a British Animation Award.

After acting as script consultants on the first series of Bob and Margaret, based on the 1994 Oscar-winning short, Bob and Margaret, made by Alison Snowden and David Fine, they wrote the screenplay for Hibbert Ralph Entertainment’s The First Snow of Winter, collaborated on the 13-episode Rex the Runt with the show’s creator for Bristol’s Aardman Animation, and Cosgrove Hall Film’s Foxbusters for Cosgrove Hall Films. Their recent projects include BBC2's Aaagh! It's The Mr Hell Show! which won Canada’s Leo Award for Best Animated Series and was was nominated for Best Direction at the International Animated Film Society’s Annie Awards, and CITV’s Bounty Hamster, produced in collaboration with Silver Fox Films.

To find out more about Alan Gilbey and David Freedman, visit their website www.Peafur.com and the Bounty Hamster fansite at www.geocities.com/ bountyhamster1

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

From Upstairs, Downstairs to Doctor Who, The House of Elliot to The Saint ...

 

Jean Marsh is an actress best known for creating the television series Upstairs, Downstairs (with Dame Eileen Atkins) and for portraying housemaid Rose Buck in the same series, a role that brought her an Emmy Award. Jean and Eileen also co-created The House of Eliott for the BBC.

Jean became interested in the acting world while taking dancing and mime classes. A spell in charm school and some work as a model led to employment in repertory theatre. Her first film was "Tales of Hoffman" when she was just 17. Jean then spent three years in America, appearing in Sir John Geilgud's Broadway production of "Much Ado About Nothing" and taking numerous guest slots in TV series, including an episode of the original Twilight Zone.

Returning to London, she was soon to appear in Doctor Who alongside William Hartnell. Her first role in the series was as Princess Joanna in "The Crusade", which was followed by the iconic character of Sara Kingdom in "The Daleks' Master Plan". She returned to the series in the Sylvester McCoy era, as Morgaine in "Battlefield".

Uncredited for her appearance as Marc Antony's wife Octavia in 1963's "Cleopatra", she then attracted much attention for roles such as Mrs Rochester in the 1971 TV movie version "Jane Eyre", and Monica Barling in Hitchcock's "Frenzy" (1972). After nearly 20 years in the business, Jean received the award of "Most Outstanding New Actress” in 1972.

Seen as a guest star in many a Cult TV series, she has appeared in episodes of The Saint (four stories – "The Scales of Justice", "Escape Route", "The Imprudent Politician" and "The Good Medicine"), Department S ("The Perfect Operation"), UFO ("Exposed"), The Persuaders! ("Five Miles To Midnight"), Danger Man ("Name, Date and Place"), Gideon’s Way ("A Perfect Crime" and "The Night Lifers"), Adam Adamant Lives! ("Face In A Mirror"), The Third Man, I Spy, The Wonderful World of Disney, The Befrienders, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, The Waltons, Trapper John MD, Tales from the Darkside, Murder, She Wrote, The All New Alexei Sayle Show, Dangerfield, Kavanagh QC, Ghosthunter, Holby City, Doctors, the 1990s revival of The Tomorrow People, the TV series version of 9 to 5, and the TV movie "Goliath Awaits".

Other roles on the big screen include the likes of "The Eagle Has Landed" (1976), "The Changeling" (1980), "Return to Oz” (1985) and "Willow" (1988).

Jean nominated Medecins Sans Frontieres as the chosen charity for the 2006 Cult TV Festival.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Actor, Stunt Co-ordinator and double for Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner ...

 

After serving in the Parachute Regiment during the war, Frank Maher worked as a stuntman and actor on many of the ITC action adventure shows. An expert in all forms of fighting, he became a master at crashing cars, falling from great heights and leaping through windows.

A stunt man on The Avengers, he played roles in three episodes opposite Honor Blackman. When Diana Rigg took over as Steed's assistant he appeared as Nicholls in You Have Just Been Murdered, ultimately impaled on a scythe by Emma Peel.

After working on Man in a Suitcase he acted as the stunt co-ordinator for both Department S and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

As well as Roger Moore’s stunt double in The Saint, he played Kraft in The Paper Chase and Rip Savage in the two-part story The Fiction Makers. Two years later he doubled for Moore a second time in The Persuaders!, and appeared in the episode The Man in the Middle.

Forging a long association with Patrick McGoohan after being his stunt double in Danger Man, Frank teamed up with the actor for The Prisoner.

As stunt director on the series, responsible for the action sequences and choreographed fight scenes, he played Number Six in the episode The Schizoid Man and appeared as a Gunman in Living in Harmony.

When he retired from stunt work, after working on Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, Frank spent his time writing adventure novels.

Frank died peacefully in July 2007.

 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Frankie Abbott from Please, Sir! and The Fenn Street Gang ...

 

David Barry came to televisual fame in the 1970s, when he starred as Frankie Abbott, the mummy's boy who thinks he's a hardcase, in the sitcoms Please, Sir! (a US version was known as Welcome Back Kotter) and The Fenn Street Gang. At this time he wrote his first broadcast TV script, and in the 1980s wrote regularly for the sitcom Keep It in the Family (US version: Too Close for Comfort), and also played a leading role in the feature film of "George and Mildred".

David was born and brought up in north Wales. At the age of 12 he worked as an actor, and his first stage appearance was at Theatre Royal, Windsor in "Life With Father", the longest running Broadway play. In the late 1950s he made a film with Tyrone Power, "Abandon Ship", then toured Europe with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in Peter Brook’s production of "Titus Andronicus", the most prestigious post-war tour, and one of the first to visit the Iron Curtain countries. As a teenager, he appeared in countless TV productions, including playing the part of Ginger in the first commercial television series of Just William.

He has enjoyed working in the theatre, in plays such as "Under Milk Wood", "Forget-Me-Not Lane", "Funny Money", and more recently in David Mamet's "Duck Variations". He has also played in 25 Christmas pantomimes, and these days usually plays the Dame.!

During the 1990s, he was very involved both as an actor and writer in producing diversity training workshops in public sector organisations, and wrote a full-length play "What Goes Around", which ran for a limited season in London theatres.

More recently he has turned to book writing, and his first novel, "Each Man Kills", was published in November 2002. It is located in Wales, and reached Number 8 in the Welsh bestseller list. He has also created and is writing an internet soap, "Careless Talk", located in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the town in which he now lives. Visit www.carelesstalksoap.btinternet.co.uk to access the stories, and there are links on his website to his book at the publisher and at Amazon.

David has recently published his autobiography, "Flashback", which is also available at Amazon and most booksellers. We were delighted that David joined us for the Cult TV Festival in 2006.

 

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