The Unmutual Reviews: Prisoner Day 2003

Date: Saturday July 19th 2003. 2.00pm to 11.00pm.
Venue: The Old Contemptibles public house, central Birmingham.
Guests: Robert Fairclough, Jaz Wiseman, and Tony Sloman.
Host: Dave Jones
Report by: Lew Stringer
Photographs by: Ronnie Soo and Lew Stringer

Robert Fairclough, Jaz Wiseman, and Tony Sloman at Prisoner Day 2003

Considering the event was organized at the last minute, Prisoner Day 2003 went without a hitch. For several months, Dave Jones had been talking about the possibility of holding a one day "mini-convention" in Birmingham to prove that a Prisoner event could happen independently of the disgraced Six of One society. It would also act as a social gathering for fans, since Six of One had cancelled most of their events which used to fulfill that purpose, and many people had left the society. Old friends, scattered about the country, were losing touch with each other and so something was needed to bring back that spirit of comradeship. "The Unmutual" had grown from an in-joke newsletter for friends into a news-based website, we'd held a successful "Unmutual Party" in January 2003, and so a proper event with guests seemed like a natural progression.

An impressive start to Prisoner Day saw many people arrive from all over the UK for the opening of the event. Miraculously, the trains even ran on time, delivering the guests to Birmingham New Street Station on schedule.

Hired specially for the day, doors opened at The Old Contemptibles public house at 2.00pm. Giving everyone time to gather and chat amongst old friends, the events kicked off around 3.00pm with the first of the four irreverent caption contents. These involved candid photographs of various people known to us all, and the attendees were invited to dream up an appropriate caption. "Extra points will be awarded for cruelty" announced Dave Jones lightheartedly, and amusingly the Six of One members present were the ones with the sharpest barbs, all hilarious, but some too shocking even to be read out in a public bar, and certainly too rude for this web site!

The first guest to be interviewed was Rob Fairclough, author of "The Prisoner: The Official Companion to the Classic TV series" which was published by Carlton in 2002. Rob told of the origins of the book project, and how he presented it to Carlton. He advised any would-be writers to always present a near-finished product to publishers, because they give authors little time to complete a book once it gets the green light.

Rob then spoke of his career as a graphic designer, specifically his work on the Slow Dazzle calendars (The Saint, Dalekmania, and of course, The Prisoner, being just three of these highly regarded items). Fortunate timing meant that Rob was able to exclusively reveal news of two new projects at the event. For several months, Rob has been working on a book on the forerunner to The Prisoner, Danger Man, and the book has now been approved by Carlton and will be published in 2004 by Popco, the company set up by Rob Fairclough and Jaz Wiseman.

News of particular interest to Prisoner fans was that Rob has also been working on "The Prisoner: The Original Scripts", which collects all the scripts from the series (plus the unused ones!) into two mammoth books. Published by Reynolds and Hearn, Volume One will be launched in Spring 2004, with Volume Two planned for Autumn 2004.

After interviewing Rob Fairclough, Dave Jones set the second Caption Contest, which had the building shaking with laughter and netted the lucky winner a prize of a copy of Jaz Wiseman's excellent ITC/Persuaders magazine, The Morning After.

Jaz himself was the next guest to be interviewed by Dave Jones. Jaz had worked for Carlton as a director of their range of ITC adventure DVDs and was able to give us some fascinating insights into working in the business. He expressed disappointment that many of the discs had been cancelled before concluding all the series, and suggested that the DVDs of The Saint, The Champions, etc, may have fared better if released as boxed sets, rather than one disc every several weeks.

The conversation soon moved on to Jaz's self-published ITC fan magazines. Like Rob, Jaz is a professional graphic designer and his two magazines, The Morning After and Nuisance Value have the benefit of his expert design sense. Packed with information on The Persuaders and other ITC shows, the magazines put most high street cult tv mags to shame.

After Jaz's interview came the third in the day's four Caption Contests, again with hilarious results. Around this time Danger Chick Jane Rowe was busy selling raffle tickets, with the prizes being several Prisoner/ITC related items (and a bottle of wine!) generously donated by various attendees and guests. Jaz and Rob had set up a "stall" to display their various books and magazines and were happy to sign items and chat with everyone.

As the afternoon moved into evening it was time for the buffet prepared by Beverly the manager and a short break for people to mingle and chat. Carlton International had given us permission to screen Prisoner episodes all day, and they had been on screen as background items, but now it was time for a special screening. "The Chimes of Big Ben" was shown and Tony Sloman did a live exclusive commentary throughout the episode regarding his time as film librarian on the series. One interesting item that Tony recalled was that McGoohan's co-star in "Chimes...", Nadia Gray, was deliberately dressed quite dowdy for the episode to downplay her sex appeal. (Possibly at the suggestion of the moralistic McGoohan). Quite a contrast to her steamy role in La Dolce Vita, and apparently not what the usually glamourous Ms.Gray expected when she turned up at the studio wearing a mink coat.

Tony's live commentary had the audience fascinated, and was a simple yet groundbreaking "first" for a Prisoner event. Yet Tony's stint wasn't over yet. He had brought with him two sealed cans of film - unopened since The Prisoner was filmed! The contents of the cans were unknown; long forgotten in the mists of time. Would they contain a surprising gem of alternate footage? Or a less exciting clip? The atmosphere was electric as Tony carefully unwrapped the masking tape and (still intact) elastic bands from around the cans. There was great anticipation as he cracked open the can of film for the first time to reveal its contents. I suppose to the Prisoner fan it was the equivalent of opening the tomb of a pharoah after thousands of years. And what did it contain? Well, it was the film shot of the lorry (which was specially filmed) and the tree felling from "The Chimes of Big Ben". It also had all of the original documentation inside stating who processed it and when. Tony set the scene by preparing us for the possibility of the film stock spontaneously combusting. Although this didn't happen, thankfully, there was a little drama as Tony managed to cut his hand on the edge of the negative. He survived the ordeal however and took questions from the audience to conclude his performance.

At 11.00pm it was time for events to draw to a close. Beverly and the barmaids were presented with a box of chocolates for their marathon stint in quenching the thirst of the people present, and Dave Jones thanked everyone for attending. Prisoner Day 2003 had been a small event (as expected, hence the pub venue) but busy, worthwhile and rewarding for all. Moreover, it proved without a doubt that it was possible for independent Prisoner conventions to occur. The guests gave their warm endorsement and encouragement for things to progress further which was praise indeed. From little acorns do mighty oaks grow.

The organizers of Prisoner Day 2003 gratefully aknowledge the help of the copyright holders Carlton International Media Ltd for giving their permission to screen episodes of The Prisoner at the event.

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