YEARS OF THE PRISONER
A special celebration at Elstree Studios, Sunday january 21st 2018, In aid of Ty Gobaith Children's Hospice.
Organised by The Unmutual Website and Quoit Media Limited.
Report by Rick Davy.
Photographs by Rick Davy, Nick Joy, Keith Rodgerson, Alys Hayes.
On Sunday 21st January 2018, Elstree Studios, home to Star Wars, The Dam Busters, Strictly Come Dancing, and Big Brother, and former home to The Avengers, Department S, Randall and Hopkirk, and but a stone's throw from the former site of MGM Studios where The Prisoner was filmed, played host to a very special celebration of The Prisoner's 50th anniversary - special guests, screenings, book signings, prop and costume displays, and much more would greet ticket holders.
Myself and Dave Jones played host to the proceedings, Dave always being the perfect man for the job of interviewing cast and crew from the series. As a professional entertainer, he's also as entertaining as the guests themselves and his TV and film knowledge is unrivalled. The event actually began at lunchtime that day with a tour of film and TV locations in the area, conducted by (who else?) Dave Lally, despite the very inclement weather. Around two-dozen fans went along, braving the sleet-ridden downpour, several hours before the evening's studio-based events were due to start.
With the venue not available to set up until 5.00pm, and the doors opening at 6.15pm, time was tight to get everything organised, so massive thanks must go to those helpers who helped out! Each attendee was presented with a 20-page colour programme, featuring articles, guest profiles, and previously unpublished photos (excess copies are for sale HERE).
The first thing to greet people as they arrived was a beautiful limited edition Prisoner Caterham 7 (plus very notable genuine numberplate), thanks to Neil Jones.
Once inside, the visual attractions did not stop there. Thanks mainly to Steve Ricks (with additional thanks to Dave Jones, Matt Courtman, Glenies Siefers, Dave Lally, Alan Hayes, and myself), a fantastic and truly one-off display of original costumes, props, production materials, and memorabilia from the series was displayed exclusively for attendees, which also included several of Jack Shampan's original set-design paintings for the series' sets.
This was one of the highlights of the occasion for me, the first time many of these items had ever been displayed, and those that had previously been seen had not been shown for 25 years.
Also on hand were several merchandise stalls, including a book stall from Quoit Media Limited (expertly run by Alan and Alys Hayes), CDs from Big Finish, books from Kamera Books, and merchandise from Elstree Studios.
A familiar thunderclap filled the hall (made me and others jump, I must say) and David Mackenzie's wonderful and bespoke and exclusive musical montage of memorable moments from The Prisoner kicked things off in style.
Morris Bright MBE, chairman of Elstree Studios, then introduced the evening and the studios with a very amusing introduction, and welcomed myself and Dave Jones to the stage.
After introducing the guests present, to much applause each time, including the on-stage 'celebrities' but also authors, family members of sadly departed crew, and apologising for those that sadly could not attend (including the Shillingford brothers who sadly had to drop out at the last minute due to ill health, but with the last minute bonus addition of Terry Ackland-Snow, Jack Shampan's assistant on Danger Man) a familiar voice echoed round the room...
"Good evening, good evening, good evening... and welcome to Fifty Years of The Prisoner, a special celebration here at Elstree Studios. Come one, come all, enjoy yourselves! Be Seeing You!"
Massive thanks to Fenella Fielding, who sadly due to health reasons could not be there on the night, and Simon Mckay, for providing that very special introduction. As Dave Jones rightly said, her voice is unmistakable!
First up in terms of guest panels were Ian L Rakoff and John S Smith, who worked together in the cutting rooms at MGM on several episodes of The Prisoner as assistant and editor respectively. It was a great chat, with John describing how he 'saved' Dance of the Dead and how he contructed It's Your Funeral from all manner of library shots. Ian spoke of his work with McGoohan preparing the episode Living in Harmony as well as his thoughts on the atmosphere on the series, and also on working with other greats such as Lindsay Anderson. Dave Jones as always had a great rapport with both guests.
With so many confirmed guests, it was a shame that longer could not be given for each to speak, but of course it was better to include all than tell some not to contribute at all, so sadly it was already time to draw the fascinating discussion to a close. As with all the guests, both John and Ian could have talked for a lot longer.
Next up was award winning director Chris Rodley, who was on hand to discuss with me his 2017 documentary In my Mind (review HERE). Clips were shown (thanks to Network Distributing), and Chris talked candidly about meeting and interviewing McGoohan back in 1983, as well as shooting the new film, the inclusion of contributions from Patrick's daughter Catherine, and shooting in Portmeirion.
Chris was joined on stage by Keith Rodgerson, who back in 1966 had filmed Arrival being shot at Portmeirion, footage which Chris utilised so perfectly in his documentary. Keith even had with him the very 8mm camera, still in full working order, and demonstrated to the audience the off-putting noise it must have made at the time.
Brian Gorman then took to the stage to perform a brief segment from his Everyman play / audio drama (details HERE) before answering a few questions about his play, graphic novels, and current tour of One Man Bond. Brian is always great value and tonight was no exception.
Next up was film director Alex Cox, who again expertly interviewed by Dave chatted about his movies, his time presenting the highly enjoyable and influential series Moviedrome, and his new book I am Not a Number. Again, another guest who could have talked for hours without anyone even remotely starting to drift off, his thoughts on The Prisoner, whilst not gaining agreement in all quarters, were fascinating, and Alex proved to be an invaluable, not to mention lovely, guest.
It was then time for all the invited guests to take to the stage for a photo opportunity.
It was then interval time, and another chance for people to marvel at the memorabilia display, and have a quick meet and greet with Alex Cox who kindly spent the entire interval period signing books. Whilst there was a green room area available for guests, it was great to see them mingling and chatting with attendees, as well as all the invited authors attending such as Robert Fairclough, Rupert Booth, Mike Kenwood, Fiona Moore, Paul Gosling, Leslie Glen, and others.
First up for the second half was a pre-recorded feature on The Prisoner audio series (details HERE), prepared by Nick Briggs, which included contributions from Mark Elstob, Helen Goldwyn, and Michael Cochrane, before Nick himself joined me on the stage for a chat about his love of the series, his excellent audio dramas, including the two series of The Prisoner, and his time on BBC1's Doctor Who. As with all the evening's interviews, it was all too brief, but there was time for Nick to confirm the exclusive and very exciting news that Series Three of The Prisoner audio drama WOULD be happening in the next 12 months. There was also time for a highly amusing McGoohan-impersonation-segment from Paul Gosling, creator of Magic Number Six and Mr No Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Next up was Paul "Saviour of Elstree Studios" Welsh MBE, to huge cheers. Footage was shown of a dilapidated MGM Studios in the early 1970s, both heartbreaking and fascinating in equal measure, the footage drew gasps from the audience, as Paul described the history of MGM's closure and the saving and sale of Elstree Studios some years later.
The finale of the evening saw Dave Jones resume the compering role, and he was joined for the final panel of the evening by Tony Sloman, film librarian on The Prisoner, and John Hough, legendary movie director who had directed McGoohan on the film Brass Target. The 40 minutes they were on stage whizzed by as Tony regaled us all with tales of life on The Prisoner, showing the audience a fine array of original production items, and John gave anecdote after anecdote about his time in the movie industry, from early days at Elstree on ITC productions, to working with McGoohan, to working with legends such as Bette Davis. Terry Ackland-Snow also chipped in from the audience with his memories of working with Jack Shampan! So enthralling was the discussion, that Elstree staff gave their nod to allow the event to over-run by approximately 20-minutes.
And so the evening drew to a close. It was the largest event dedicated to The Prisoner in terms of attendance since 1998, organised in just six weeks, and we hope everyone had a great time (some attendee feedback is below). Thanks to everyone who attended and supported the event.
A professional three-HD-camera-strong film crew were commissioned to film the event, so a DVD will be available for purchase later in the year. With the money from sales of the DVD, of course, still to come in, the total for the charity is yet to be fully realised, but I am proud to say that a cheque for £410 has already been dispatched to Ty Gobaith Hospice.
If you would like to tell TUW what you thought of the event, please email TUW and have your comments included here!
a note to say how proud you and The Unmutual must be today, after last evening's
superb event organised at Elstree. For myself, I was very pleased to be allowed
to be your closing act (with Johnny Hough in tandem), following an absolutely
marvellous line-up: you couldn't have asked for better. Both you and Dave
were terrific compères and interviewers, and the audience questions
were great, as well as was the overall atmosphere: Patrick McG. must've been
there in spirit -- he certainly would have approved....
Well done. Thank you so much for inviting me. Next???"
and Dave did brilliantly. ... They [the guests] were all brilliant."
all had a great time at the event and it was great meeting you. We would love
to come to more events and of course we look forward to the DVD... we did
feel looked after, it was all lovely, you did a fab job."
The Hough Family
was a fantastic evening. I had a really great time and met lots of really
nice people. I think you did a truly fantastic job pulling so many elements
and contributors together."
back from Elstree Studios. Wow! A great event celebrating 50 years of The
"We all had a great time, thanks!"
done to you and Dave, you well and truly smashed
"Well done to Rick and all for a fantastic event. More power to you."
"Thanks for putting on such a great event on Sunday.... I could listen to all those guys for hours. You should definitely organise some more events!"
"Congratulations on a fantastic, well organised and presented evening!"
"It was brilliant!"
"What a fantastic evening yesterday at Elstree studios celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner. The opening montage of clips from the series accompanied by the opening soundtrack brilliantly put together and very moving especially with the recent passing of Mr Peter Wyngarde. The guests were intriguing along with some lovely props and memorabilia from the show. A big thank you to Rick and the team for such a warm welcome and memorable night."
"Very enjoyable evening - you and Dave (Jones) did a good job interviewing the great guests."
"Just like to say thank you for last night's presentation. It was a very enjoyable evening."
"Just wanted to convey my congratulations in respect to Sunday's event at Elstree Studios. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much packed into so few hours. I heard nothing but praise. I certainly hope there'll be another event later this year."
"Many congratulations on a wonderful 50th anniversary event celebrating The Prisoner. This was indeed a memorable evening with many excellent guests and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Those who did not attend missed an absolute treat of an evening reminiscing on our favourite TV show."
"Great work yesterday. Top event. You and Jonesey have officially not lost the magic. Thanks so much. Still buzzing. :)"
"Just wanted to congratulate you on a fab day yesterday... it was really good to listen to the stories and catch up with some old friends."
"Wonderful event, great guests and a few surprises. A splendid way to celebrate 50 years of a groundbreaking series. Well done to all involved."
"An excellent evening - nice to see everyone."
"A really good evening, very professionally run with good guest interviews. Only sorry that with a 2 hour train journey to get home I could not stay later. Thanks to all concerned for a very enjoyable event."
"Thank you so much. Great event."
"I have to congratulate you on putting together a splendid and memorable evening.... I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was well worth the journey."
"Had a lovely time at The Prisoner 50th event at Elstree Studios. Thanks to Quoit Media and The Unmutual Website for organising, and all the guests for sharing their anecdotes and insights."
Event organised by The Unmutual Website and Quoit Media Limited. Hosts: Rick Davy, Dave Jones. Sound and Lighting: P-F Productions. With thanks to Morris Bright MBE and Joely Hertz of Elstree Studios, Paul Welsh MBE, Nick Varley of Park Circus, Tim Beddows of Network Distributing, and Lee Keston of Ampersand (Elstree Events Management). Additional thanks: Steven Paul Davies, Sam Denham, Alex Fitch, Howard Foy, Leslie Glen, Cliff Harris, Alan Hayes, Alys Hayes, Crispin Hodges, Neil Jones, Dan Kreeger, David Lally, David Mackenzie, Glenies McCairns, Ion Mills, Steven Ricks, Keith Rodgerson, Frances Teehan. And last but not least, our wonderful special guests and their families; John Hough, Tony Sloman, John S Smith, Ian L Rakoff, Nick Briggs, Chris Rodley, Brian Gorman, Alex Cox, Terry Ackland-Snow. All video, audio, and imagery was shown with the full cooperation and clearance of the relevant copyright holders. The Prisoner is © ITV Global Entertainment Limited. In My Mind is © Network Distributing. 8mm filming of Arrival is © Rick Davy. Everyman is © Quoit Media Limited and Invisible Six. The Prisoner audio drama is © Big Finish Productions.