Monday, 11 December 2017

A feature article in Living magazine

Sophie Neville was invited to write an article for the December issue of Living magazine about the locations featured in Arthur Ransome's series of Swallows and Amazons books. As the British Author died fifty years ago, it seemed a fitting way to remember the places he loved and wrote about, inspiring generation after generation to get out on the water and experience life in the great outdoors.

The idea was to encourage readers to spend time searching for literary locations in the English Lake District. It's a great theme for a holiday if you are travelling alone or with your family, as featured in the pages of Sophie's memoir, 'Funnily Enough' when she went boating on Windermere and Coniston with her father.

The Arthur Ransome Society is now the second biggest literary society in the UK, perhaps partly because it attracts families who like to take part in activities such as camping, sailing, swimming, birdwatching, photography, archery, skating and tobogganing. They offer grants for young members in search of adventure or taking up interests advocated by the author such playing chess or tying fishing flies. There is also a research grant and any number of interesting opportunities for adult members.

You can read the article on-line here

Monday, 6 November 2017

A signed copy of 'The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974)'

The Nancy Blackettt Trust launched a competition to win a signed copy of Sophie Neville's often hilarious account of making the movie 'Swallows and Amazons' on location in the Lake District in 1974. 

It was won by a lady working as a librarian who happened to be visiting some of the film locations featured in the book the very next week. 

Please visit the Nancy Blackett website for other book offers.  

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Further adventures of the Donny Osmond Hat

It is still shiny. The purple velvet cap, bought in Carnaby Street in the late sixties, had a little outing recently, making an appearance on the local 6 O'clock News.

'Where did you get that hat?' I was asked.

'It's my mother's!'

I had to plough through our family snaps in an effort to date it. Here it is on a car-ferry with us in tow. Note Mum's brown suede coat with large rounded collars. She always worried about it getting spoilt in the rain. As children, we wore more resiliant anoraks or duffel coats with mittens attached to the sleeves. Turn your head and all you saw with the inside of the duffel's hood

We must have been off to the Channel Islands. What date? 1969? 1970? I would have been nine years old, wearing what we called a 'parker' - a prototype hoody made of pale grey cotton with someone's logo printed to the front.

Mum was working for HTV as a television presenter, making a special programme on Jersey when hired a sports car and zoomed around the harbour.

We visited Gerald Durrell's zoo.

My mother bought the hat in an effort to look glamourous when there was no hairdresser at hand. She said it was very expensive but acquired at a good price because there was a slight flaw in the velvet. Here we are at a wedding, Mum in white tights and the three of us in itchy crimplene dresses and straw bonnets.

It can be seen here matched with frothier dress, what must have been a fore-runner to Laura Ashley's designs with lacy bits, frilly cuffs and a pie-crust collar.

Was this the same hat, far right, on the set of the HTV drama series 'Arthur of the Britons'? I wore brown cordory and Mum her safari jacket. My sister was in Saxon costume, standing by to appear in the arms of Oliver Tobias who was playing King Arthur.

I wear the cap now when skies are grey or when I'm sailing. It is comfortable and remarkably good in all weathers. It never complains. How old it is now? 47 years? 48? The label says, 'MALYARD HATS LONDON W1. Chris Holmes has written in to say it was probably designed by the leading London hatter and milliner George Malyard whose work is listed in the Archive of Art and Design at the V&A Museum. You can see photographs of other hats made in 1969 here and here

I hope it's not too precious to wear sailing.

~Author Sophie Neville on the Solway~

Monday, 11 September 2017

Rudi the Otter at the Royal County of Berkshire Show near Newbury

Funnily Enough life with the tame otters is more exciting than ever.

Rudi the Otter appeared at The Royal County of Berkshire Show near Newbury this September and will be at
Countryside Learning 2018 (formally known as Countryside Live) by the River Lee on Hackney Marshes in North London from Wedenesday 27th September until Sunday 1st October

You can see more photos and read more about Rudi and his campaign to reduce road casualties in this months issue of Out & About magazine here

To read more about our tame otter appearing in the drama serial 'The Durrells' on ITV please click here

photo (c) Out & About magazine 2017

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Diary of a Tame Otter

Daphne Neville, who is protrayed in 'Funnily Enough', is still working as a conservationist. You can hear her speak about otters and meet her hand-reared Asian short-clawed otter Rudi this summer. They will be appearing at various country shows, talking to farmers and land owners about how it is possible to encourage otters to return to rural watercourses and chatting to families about the thirteen different species of otters to be found worldwide.

Come to meet Rudi-the-Otter at:

Thursday 3rd August at the Honiton Agricultural Show in East Devon

Thursday 24th August at the Melplash Show near Bridport in South Devon

Saturday 26th-28th August at the Aylsham Show in Norfolk

Sunday 10th September at Frampton Country Fair in south Gloucestershire

Sat 16th and Sun 17th September at the Royal County of Berkshire Show near Newbury

26th Spetember to 1st October at Countryside Learning at Lee Valley in north London.

You can read about the adventures of Daphne's tame otters in her memoir 'Bee a particular Otter' available on Amazon

Friday, 21 July 2017

Taking friends to the Curious Arts Festival

~Author Sophie Neville with her curious creature~

I am excited about taking a gang of friends to the Curious Arts Festival in the New Forest on the south coast of England - a fabulous event for anyone who loves books, music and the great outdoors, along with a few exotic cocktails and eccentricities thrown in. 

We are hoping to be able to listen to authors Joanna Trollope and Rick Stroud talk about their new books before spending the afternoon foraging in the grounds of Pylwell Park where the event is taking place. I'm please so say I can take the dog.

They also have the playwright Christopher Hampson, Historian Peter Frankopan who has bought out an aclaimed book on 'The Silk Roads', Dave Eggars from San Francisco, bestselling author Matt Haig, Murray Lachlan Young, journalist Lynn Barber, Vendala Vida, Eimear McBride, andrew O'Hagan, poet Max Wallis, Daniel Cole, Richard Beard, Jess Kidd, Hari Kunzru, Bella Pollen, Robert McCrum, Tom Hocknell, the Emergency Poet and many others will be speaking about their books. 

Some people make a long weekend and camp for two nights. We are taking gumboots and a selection of hats so that we can enjoy a day that promises to end with comic entertainment and the legendary John Illsley of Dire Straits fame playing in a circus tent.  

You can find more information on the Curious Arts Festival's website here

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Author Sophie Neville profiled in Country Life magazine

Country Life has become one of the icons of the United Kingdom. A weekly magazine and showcase for the most sort after houses in the realm, it takes pride in our rich literary heritage. This year, VisitEngland are celebrating the life of Arthur Ransome who died 50 years ago, leaving us a legacy of inspirational books about fishing, sailing and exploring the great outdoors.

Feature writer Octavia Pollock returned from San Francisco longing to sail in British waters. She was intrigued to hear that I was a member of the Nancy Blackett Trust and that it was possible to grab a chance to enjoy a weekend aboard Arthur Ransome's favourite little yacht, a 28 foot cutter that he bought with 'Spainish gold' - which is what he called publisher's royalties from his Swallows and Amazons series of books.  

'Funnily Enough' chronicles the time that I spent making the classic movie of 'Swallows and Amazons' back in 1973. Octavia enjoyed the book on 'The Making of Swallows and Amazons' and relished the fact that you can sail Swallow, the dinghy that starred in the film.

Although first released in cinemas in 1974, the British movie was broadcast in Australia on 9th July this year and can be purchased on DVD or Blu-ray to take you sailing back into memories of you youth.


Monday, 3 July 2017

Announcing the publication of the second edition of 'The Making of Swallows and Amazons'

~ Author Sophie Neville: photo Westmorland Gazette ~

The paperback of 'The Making of Swallows and Amazons' sold so well that The Lutterworth Press have recently published a second edition in paperback. This beautifully designed and much improved version includes a few more stories that floated to the surface. It also has a new cover evocative of the 1974 film of  'Swallows and Amazons' that is still broadcast on television today.

This second edition of the book, available on Amazon, at Waterstones and other bookshops, can be ordered for libraries worldwide. Although amusing holiday reading it makes a good introduction to Media Studies, Drama or acting courses as it is based on the diary of a little girl who suddenly find herself starring in a major British movie.

~ Sophie Neville as Titty Walker in 1974 ~ 

This edition of the filmography includes a few photographs that have not been seen before including a portrait of Virginia McKenna, the star of the film, taken by Philip Hatfield when she was at the unit hotel in the Lake District where the movie was made in the summer of 1973. She can be seen here in a still taken from a review of the film on Blu-ray.

~ Virginia McKenna as Mrs Walker in Swallows & Amazons (1974) ~

~ Suzanna Hamilton and Sophie Neville in Swallows & Amazons (1974) ~

~ The Swallows in their tent ~

The second edition of the illustrated ebook is also out - under the title 'The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons' by Sophie Neville, available on Amazon, Smashwords, itunes, Kobo and other providers. This ebook has links to unique behind-the-scenes cine footage taken on location and retails at only £2.99

The 40th anniversary DVD and Bluray of this Vintage Classic, distributed by StudioCanal, can be purchased online or ordered with the paperback from your local library. Virginia McKenna, Suzanna Hamilton and Sophie Neville apear in the DVD Extras package, recollecting how the film was made and what it was like to work with the director, Claude Whatham.

To read more about 'Swallows & Amazons' news, events and activities, please see Sophie Neville's website here

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Rudi the Otter appearing on BBC TV Natural World

Our hand-reared otter Rudi appeared on the BBC TV series 'Natural World' this week, in an episode entitled 'Supercharged Otters' presented by Charlie Hamilton James, pictured above.

The footage was recorded in a studio where they had constructed a tank with glass sides. They filmed Rudi underwater so they could observe exactly how otters swim by slowing down the film. The accedemically ground-breaking sequence towards the end of the documentary showed how otters smell underwater by making an air-bubble and then re-imbibing it. Fascinating.

The first time Charlie Hamilton-James saw an otter was when we took our very tame Asian short-clawed otter Bee to his primary school about 33 years ago. He said he has been 'an otter fanatic' ever since.

Rudi appears swimming underwater in the opening sequence and with Charlie in later scenes that can be watched in the UK on BBC iplayer by clicking here

or on Youtube here:

Line drawings of the otters are by Sophie Neville and feature in 'Ride the Wings of Morning'
They are sold in aid of The Waterberg Trust as limited edition prints. Please click here for contact details.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Our tame otter, Rudi, appearing in 'The Durrells' on ITV

Blink and you will miss him on this trailer, but Rudi-the-Otter has been appearing in the new ITV series 'The Durrells' starring Keeley Hawes, Josh O'Connor, Callum Hughes and Daisy Waterstone with Milo Parker as Gerald Durrell. He appeared in quite a few sequences in the first episode and was seen playing both himself and his mate in the second episode and finally produced two babies in the last episode.

Milo Parker behind-the-scenes with Rudi-the-Otter and Daphne Neville

 Author Sophie Neville, who is a Patron of the UK Wild Otter Trust, gave a talk about her book ‘Funnily Enough’ at the Tavistock Festival, which made it to the front page of the Tavistock newspaper:

Her talk included a little about living with otters. Rudi came along to meet the press who joined festival goers at the glorious Bedford Hotel.

Those living in the UK can watch series two of 'The Durrells' on ITV  hub
It is available in the USA on MASTERPIECE on PBS (Season Two)

You can watch a short taster scene here:

Keeley Hawes, as Louisa Durell with Callum Hughes as Leslie

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Lt Col Percy Fawcett, our long lost uncle

StudioCanal has been asking the question: Who was Lt Col Percy Fawcett?

He is actually a long lost relation of ours. I knew Agnes Fawcett married Charles Neville because they built Sheepscombe Church together. She was born in Bombay and had twelve children.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Photographs taken Behind-the-Scenes on the BBC TV drama serial 'Tenko'

Before the advent of digital technology, Polaroid cameras were used extensively on television drama productions. They were the best way of keeping records for continuity. I found these shots taken on the set of the BAFTA nominated BBC TV drama serial, 'Tenko' in about 1981:

As children apearing in costume, we wouold ask for any surplus or reject photos. Somehow a few of these have survived as a record of life behind the scenes. Stephanie Beaucham, who played Rose Millar, can be seen chatting to other members of the cast behind my sister in this continuity photograph.

Now and again, a few shots would be grabbed for fun. This captured a real birthday on location celebrated with Kerry Tovey who played Suzy in nine episodes. She now runs a casting agency.

In 1981 there were no restrictions on taking personal photographs on set. Pennant Roberts, the producer, can be seen here, standing behind the wire on the day the internment camp caught fire. 

We got to know the three Ping brothers, who all played Japanese guards. Their family had a Chinese Resturant in Bournemouth not that far from the location used for the internment camp. Although not members of Equity, the British actor's union, they had crucial roles in the story.

Thirty four years later, I came across George Ping at the Curious Arts Festival in the New Forest holding a camera with a very long lens. He was the offical photographer. 

Andy Priestner has collected fascinating reminisences of working on this exceptionally popular classic BBC Drama in his book 'Remembering Tenko'. Copies, signed by the author, are available from Classic TV Press

The photographs featured here can be found in the ebook version of 'Rembering Tenko', available on Amazon Kindle

A cast list and infomation about awards won by the serial 'Tenko' can be found on the Imdb page

The series can still be watched online today.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Behind the scenes on the classic BBC TV drama series 'Tenko'

'Tenko', the BBC drama series is currently being shown on television in the UK. It was so popular that Andy Priestner of Classic TV Press published a book containing stories from behind-the-scenes. I provided him with photographs taken on location near Bournmouth in the early 1980's. He had already typeset the paperback, but these shots are included in the Kindle edition, which is available worldwide.

 We were there when the set was literally blown up. The re-creation of a real fire that had taken place in a WWII internement camp demanded a huge amount from costume and make-up departments.

Women emerged from the make-up rooms covered in wounds.

Preparation took some time but the effect was pitifully realistic.

It was a horrible event to reproduce.

The visual effects designer was also busy that day.

The results looked devestating, with both internees and the guards injured by the blast.

But morale on the day was high and everyone kept their spirits up.

 It was hot on set and dirty with the smell of smoke

but everyone on the crew pulled together.

The cast was of some size with notable actors taking part in the long-running series. This shot shows the wonderful actress Jean Anderson, who has sadly since passed away, with Daphne Neville and writer, Anne Varley.

My sister stopped at a fuel station as she was driving home. The attendant was terrified by her appearance. Although she seemed to be well and behaving normally, her face was covered in burns. She was still in full make-up, waiting to take it off in a proper bathroom.

You can find Andy Priestner's book 'Remembering Tenko' from Classic TV Press at online stores and to order from all good bookshops. These photographs are included in the Kindle edition, available in the USA here.

Further stories of our adventures appearing in film and television can be read in Funnily Enough