Enid Blyton Day: 13th May, 2006
This year's Day was held at Loddon Hall in Twyford, Berkshire. 136 tickets were sold, and 160 people were expected—but there were 26 no-shows, which is always to be expected. Still, a very good turn out indeed.
David Cook set up the hall and looked after the door, and he was assisted here by Bob Stoney (who also drew the map for the programme). Norman Wright did the introductions on stage and Sophie Smallwood looked after the Society stall. And although Tony Summerfield is too modest to mention himself in the list of organizers, we all know he worked his socks off to make this special Day work as well as it did.
Present at the Day this year were Robert Tyndall, one of the main Noddy artists, and Marcus Harris, the actor who played Julian in the 1978 TV series. Gillian Baverstock was also present, and she came all the way from Yorkshire especially to attend. Thank you, Gillian! Barbara Stoney, Enid Blyton's official biographer, was also a great help as usual. She lives just down the road in Twyford.
Visitors came from all over the UK as well as two from the Orkneys, two from New Zealand, two from Austria, one from India, and two and a half from America!
There is quite a bit of discussion about the Day on the forums, mostly here, but a few quotes sum up the event quite nicely:
Tony Summerfield, the 365-days-a-year Society organizer, says he is delighted that the 13th Day on May 13th didn't turn out to be bad luck. Quite the opposite, as the Day was a huge success.
View photos from the Day, or read on for info and comments.
Robert Tyndall's illustrated history of Noddy
For those that don't know him, when Harmsen van der Beek died in 1953, Robert was one of the main Noddy illustrators that took over from him and he is responsible for illustrating much of the merchandise as well as a number of the Noddy books. Robert kindly travelled all the way from Hove (on the south coast) to talk us through his days as a Noddy artist.
Sitting on stage at his easel, with a microphone and camera suspended nearby, he told a rapt audience how he took over from the previous artist and made Noddy his own. The visual changes to the character are subtle but noticeable when you compare the older versions with Tyndall's own, as some of his sketches showed. In any case it was a real treat to watch the characters from Noddy books come to life on the page...
"Incredible to see Robert Tyndall sketching Noddy, Big Ears and PC Plod," says Nigel Rowe, a regular voice on the forums. But even more impressed with the artist was Prabhu Viswanathan, visiting all the way from India. He couldn't resist buying some of Robert's work. "I managed to come away with the Tyndall illustrations," he says, "so if ever any of you want a glimpse, feel free to come to sunny India." Hope the gigantic sheets of paper made it home okay, Prabhu!
Tony Summerfield says, "I had a long phone conversation with Robert Tyndall yesterday and he was thrilled that you bought all his work (other than the one piece that Marcus Harris went away with)."
Robert Houghton also enjoyed watching Robert Tyndall doing his sketching. But he adds, "It was a pity he wasn't throat-miked though, as it would have been nice to have heard his comments more clearly." A sentiment shared by all. It must be extremely difficult for an artist to draw and speak to an audience at the same time, so it's not surprising Robert's voice kept trailing off as he worked on his sketches; in hindsight a better-placed microphone, such as one clipped to his tie, would have got around this problem.
On stage afterwards, Robert seemed only too happy to sign postcards and books for Noddy fans. And Keith Robinson used his well-worn excuse as webmaster for the Society to jump the queue and get a signature for Heather's Blyton Pages, since poor Heather was unable to make it all the way from Australia. For more information about Robert's work, and all the other Blyton artists, see Heather's Illustrator Pages.
Marcus Harris talks about The Famous Five
Marcus Harris, who played Julian in the 1970s Famous Five TV Series (far right), attended as speaker. "Wasn't he a star," says Tony Summerfield. "Nothing was too much trouble for him."
Now all grown-up, Marcus is still "tall and good-looking" as described in the books, and "responsible" too, since he's now the deputy mayor of his home town! Marcus proved very popular, being accosted by fans even before he made it to the stage!
"Really great to listen to Marcus telling anecdotes of the Southern Television FF series of the 70s," says Nigel Rowe. "I still laugh when I see the Hants & Dorset bus pull up in Five Go Off in a Caravan—right where the two vans are parked (not modern streamlined vans, but gypsy ones) opposite a bus stop!"
Anita Bensoussane agrees. "It was fascinating to see Julian (Marcus Harris) looking "all grown up"! We got to see a clip of the 1970s Five Go Off in a Caravan on the big screen (there were sighs and groans of disappointment when it was turned off!) and, like Viv, I rather liked the ambience of the Danish Famous Five clip we were shown. It was Five Go Adventuring Again, but set in the height of summer, and the filming was quite artistic, with plenty of shots of the children in the long grass. Anne was pretty and dainty and I also liked the boyish-looking George. I was a bit puzzled, however, as to why some of the soundtrack was in English and some in Danish!"
Most attendees have in fact mentioned that the sound quality throughout the film clips was rather poor. Still, this didn't seem to detract from the enjoyment of watching Julian strut his stuff on the screen, and have Marcus Harris speak of his two years "on set" filming the series. Certain members of the audience, however, had other things to listen to. "I hope I did not spoil anyone's enjoyment when I was listening to the radio during Marcus' speech," says Steve Alpe. "I did hear some of it. How I managed to keep quiet when the Hammers went one nil up let alone two I will never know."
Many fans unable to attend have asked what Marcus talked about. Anita Bensoussane says, "Marcus gave a very entertaining speech about his time as Julian. He told us how he and the others giggled over a line about a 'big screw' in Five Go To Smuggler's Top, and how he enjoyed having the opportunity to hold a monkey and stroke an elephant's trunk in some of the stories.
For some reason, he also found it thrilling to reverse in a bus in Five Go Off in a Caravan, because that's not something one normally does. The children weren't permitted to do their own stunts. In Five Go To Smuggler's Top, Michele Gallagher (George) was looking forward to throwing herself down a deep hole beneath a window-seat, but she wasn't allowed. Instead it was done by a man of about her height and build. Apparently, Michele sulked over that (just as George herself would no doubt have done!)"
Anita continues, "In another episode, Marcus got sunburnt halfway through filming, much to the annoyance of the film crew, especially the lady responsible for continuity. To pay him back, the crew gave him an extra heavy rucksack to carry on his painfully sunburnt shoulders in one of the scenes!"
But despite getting into trouble over that particular incident, Marcus and his co-stars led the life of Riley throughout the filming. Marcus is convinced that the reason his brother is much smaller than him today is because the cast of the Famous Five dined on the best steak and fresh fish at the hotel where they stayed during the first year of filming, while his brother was at home eating fish fingers!
Still faithfully paraphrasing Marcus' stories from the stage, Anita continues, "Following his audition for the part of Julian, Marcus had a dream that he'd got the part. In his dream, he saw desks set out in rows and a clock on the wall. The next day, he was in the school hall where the desks were set out in rows for exams, and there was a clock on the wall just like in his dream. He rushed home excitedly after school to meet his agent in the drive, who told him that he was to be Julian!"
Our moderator for the forums, Zoe Billings (aka George@Kirrin), was over-awed at the presence of Julian from the Famous Five. She wore a Famous Five T-shirt, and had Marcus sign it for her! "Little surprise to you all that I loved the '78 input from Marcus, and my thanks once again to Tony Summerfield for whisking me off to meet him too (time will tell what he made of the mad woman in '78 T-shirt...)"
"On a sad note," says Anita, "Marcus told us that Michele Gallagher has not been in touch with any of the others for more than ten years now, and that there are rumours that she has passed away. On the other hand, he has also heard that she may be living in Germany where she has relatives. Let's hope that she is all right and that she will eventually get back in touch with her old friends.
Nigel Rowe continues, "I really found it fascinating to hear of the other three actors' whereabouts... really sad to hear that 'George', Michele Gallagher, may not still be with us—can we find out more? Really surreal to see that the actors have turned out just as Ju, Dick and Anne probably would have! Julian a deputy mayor, Anne an RE teacher... can't remember what Dick does!"
"Dick (Gary Russell) couldn't be there," Tony Summerfield says, "as he had taken on a job in Los Angeles. As you might expect of Dick, he's very much in 'show business' still and has just spent a year or so in New Zealand, writing the official background book for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has also been very much into Doctor Who and I believe he has written several Doctor Who books—though not the current series. I am sure this all fits the Dick profile nicely."
Enid Blyton Merchandise
It wouldn't be a true Enid Blyton event if we didn't have a superb collection of rare books and collectible items adorning the walls!
As usual some of the leading children's book dealers in the UK attended the Day with a dazzling array of goodies—not just first editions and rare prints, but framed artwork by various artists and original manuscripts of some of the books.
What a treat for fans!
Thanks to those who took a camera, we have an array of photos available in our new Enid Blyton Day gallery, kindly supplied by:
- Keith Robinson from America
- Nigel Rowe from the UK
- Karl Kolar from Austria
- Prabhu Viswanathan from India