A big thank you!

Just a little note to say a big “thank you” to everyone who’s taken part in, and visited, this blog over the past 20 months (well, almost 20 months… will be on the 1st December (seeing as we don’t have a 31st November)) because one of you was my 100,000th visitor last night. 🙂

A lot has happened…

So plenty to read, and you do, so thank you again for your support and here’s to another 100,000 of you finding me! 🙂

Transcription of Oundle Lit Fest (March 2011) – Day 5 of 5

The twenty-seventh special episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 13th June 2011 and featured the fifth day of five as a volunteer at Oundle Literature Festival here in Northamptonshire, England. The content has never been released other than links on my website.

Sunday 20TH March @ 2.30pm: Katherine Jakeways

Despite having not arrived at the Queen Victoria Hall (my first visit) until 2pm, I was one of the first people to arrive (although the last volunteer), and could hear the rehearsing for that night’s Murder Mystery taking place in the main hall. As I was a member of the public for that event, I was forbidden from entering. So as members of the public started arriving, they joined me in the foyer.

I remained there until just before the event started at 2.30 so I could sneak in the back, armed with my laptop so I could take notes. The hall itself seated approximately 100 people and was pretty much full, with some having bought tickets on the day.

The event was introduced by writer Nick Perry, who explained that he’d met Katherine as a barmaid over 20 years previous and listed some of the other things she’d been in. Katherine introduced Nick Dunhalf (her husband and BBC Radio 2 Arts & Entertainment Correspondent), Paul Foster (director and actor and involved in S1 of North by Northamptonshire and actress Felicity Montagu who I’d recognised immediately and who Katherine said was a hero of hers and mentioned that she’d been in Alan Partridge and Doctor Martin amongst many other things. Katherine then introduced a short audio clip of the beginning of the first episode of ‘North by Northamptonshire’; predominantly a monologue, female narrated (by the great Sheila Hancock) with occasional intersperses from other villagers (played by McKenzie Crook and Felicity). Nick then started interviewing her:

Q: How did ‘North by Northamptonshire’ come about?

A: She went to drama school, started doing comic characters on the comedy circuit in London then did two solo Edinburgh shows and it spawned from there.

Q: Did you come up with the characters or location here?

A: Katherine thought of the hall as being Wadenhoe village hall (a nearby village) and characters who were isolated from each other (played only by Katherine; mostly women and a young boy) and she finds a link between the characters. She said she creates them then finds a reason for them to be together (hotel, family etc) so her idea was they’d met in the village hall (in classes, groups, performances etc). As a result she was asked to put a proposal together from an executive of BBC Radio 4 who’d been in the audience. She’d had dealings with the BBC before (previously submitted once). It was then a joint effort for them, coming up with something that would work in the radio. It was commissioned 2008 then it took two years to write it, being performed in 2010 (draft 15 – first drafts were for stage sketch show and were completely different). She’d originally written it for late night comedy clubs and was told early on that it was going to be aired at 11.30am which restricted the material she could use and she’d planned for her to play all the parts but Radio 4 staff suggested using famous actors which she was more than happy to go along with.

Q: Was it a difficult process changing it all?

A: Yes, she said, but added she’d see what she could get away with in the early drafts but it had been heavily edited to form the final version.

Q: Nick said that her work had always had dark elements but warmth to it and perhaps middle class.

A: Katherine explained that at the beginning, she was finding her feet and had found Edinburgh quite challenging as really she’s more of a warm writer. Wanted ‘North by Northamptonshire’ to be warm.

Q: How did Wadenbrook become a town rather than village?

A: She said that a village was too restrictive and as the town grew it allowed for different ages, backgrounds etc. Having one location, e.g. a hall, would be incredibly boring. She picked Oundle to ultimately base it on as she knew it so well. She didn’t want to call it Oundle as that would be too weird, she said so picked the name Wadenbrook from a mixture of local villages Wadenhoe & Polebrook). Felicity asked her whether the Co-op is now Tesco (to which Katherine explained that the Co-op still existed and said that Tesco would always be ‘Amps’ (obviously a previous name) to her to which the audience agreed). Katherine said that she’d tried to ‘homogenise’ Oundle as she felt that Northamptonshire (Northants) doesn’t have a stereotypical image whereas Yorkshire, Essex or Cornwall do have stronger identities. She went on to say that Northants is the 24th biggest of 48 counties so definitely average.

Q: Nick said they were about to play a clip with a narrator and said there hadn’t originally been one.

A: Katherine explained that as sketches became scenes a Radio 4 employee suggested it should be narrated like Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, which Katherine found extremely useful as she loves Under Milk Wood and the narrator is the audience’s way into the programme.

Felicity, Paul and Katherine then performed a scene from episode 2 which was hilarious; starting with Mary (played by Katherine) calling in on Jan (Felicity) narrated by Paul. The humour was hilarious with so many play on words (inc Jan asking Mary what her husband Graham did before his heart attack, meaning for living, but Mary replied “well he clutched his chest…”) and that the town was not missed by anyone other than the A1(M) (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sp454 lists episode / characters). Knowing that there had been 15 drafts did make me feel better but it was so clever that I could imagine the first draft being very skilled.

Nick then resumed the question and answer session by saying that there is a great variety of character ages, although predominantly more mature.

A: Katherine said that she was very fond of the characters she’d made, which I’m sure we can relate to.

Q: Nick then asked her that, once a narrator was decided upon, whether she’d always planned having a woman?

A: Katherine said that as she started writing, she had, mainly because the main characters are women; Jan and Mary.

Q: She was then whether it would have been odd for a man to talk about their relationship?

A: Again she agreed saying that a woman makes it more realistic, and that a man may have seemed sarcastic.

Q: Nick then asked her how Sheila and the other actors became involved?

A: Sheila was perfect, Katherine said, as her background is very working class, although she has a middle-class accent; she’s an ‘every woman’, and she’d had Sheila’s voice in her head when she was writing her, before she was even approached. While they were recording Sheila was doing Sister Act in the West End and a TV programme so they were very lucky she said “yes”. Felicity added it that it was so surreal that she was there during recording which made me laugh that a famous actress (by sight anyway) could still be in awe of the other (I’m sure it would be reciprocated as Felicity is a great actress).

The conversation then turned to the opportunities available and how difficult was it letting go of characters that you’d played – Felicity said she’d really hoped that question was going to be asked.

A: Having brilliant people to play it, Katherine said she could see their interpretation. She was heavily involved in the notes process which a writer normally isn’t and Felicity said that it had really been useful as Katherine knew the characters so well. The conversation went to how the recording was done; an episode a day so there was no time to make mistakes (and no rehearsals or director!). Katherine’s also been involved in Armstrong & Miller on TV where they have a week per episode and because the timescale was so tight with ‘North by Northamptonshire’ she’d requested that everyone meet beforehand. Mackenzie and Sheila recorded their parts separately and apparently Sheila didn’t like it and wants to be there for the whole recording next time, which is great.

Felicity, Paul, Katherine performed another scene from episode 2, which was hilarious; set in the village hall at a karate lesson lead by Esther (Katherine) calling in on Jan (Felicity) narrated by Nick. Esther’s husband Jonathan was played by Paul.

Q: Afterwards, Nick said that she’s working on series 2 now and asked whether she finds the writing process easier now?

A: She said she found it easier starting from scratch, except now knows the characters well so she knows what they’d do. They have a 2-year-old daughter so it’s difficult finding time but can be productive when she can get chunks of time.

Q: So as a writer you need no distractions, Nick added.

A: She said that it’s great working from home but there are too many distractions. So she went to the library for a week (9-5) and did really well.

Q: Nick then said that Series 1 was recorded with no audience; would she do the same for Series 2?

A: She said there were discussions but it was really useful hearing the feedback today with an audience as we laughed at different places to those she’d expected. Felicity said she prefers to work without an audience (for which she apologised) as there’s less pressure. Paul said that they had talked through the script in a meeting with about 12 people with some feedback. Katherine added that radio is guesswork, quite often without an audience.

Q: Nick then asked that having done other work did she glean advice or experience from colleagues?

A: Katherine said one of the most useful experiences was on Extras with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant; they work really quickly and only weekday daytimes. They were excellent at direction, knowing exactly what was required, and gave the advice that if you’re having trouble, go back to original thought of the character and BIN it! So perhaps the character isn’t how it was originally expected. Paul quoted that the 1970s / 80s (1978–83) TV series ‘Butterflies’ (which I watched and loved) had 24M viewers but Wendy Craig spent most of the time in her kitchen, although apparently the scenes people most remember were the trysts with Leonard.

Felicity and Paul performed a further scene, again from episode 2, where Jan and Jonathan meet in a coffee shop. Katherine played the narrator this time and one of the highlights for me was the rather wimpish Jonathan being a volunteer for the Leicestershire Infertile Male Project (LIMP) and wearing a top with the acronym on it.

As we had heard the beginning and saw three scenes from Series 1, a clip of the end of the final episode was then played, ending with Jan coming home from a holiday (which she’d hoped Jonathan would join her on but he’d chickened out) and saw that life was pretty much the same, she just had photographs from the trip to remind her of it. The narrator, Sheila Hancock, then said that everyone has a dream and compared it with real life which was nice note to end on. There were then questions from the audience:

Q: To what extent did you base your characters on real life?

A: They’re inspired by but not based on. Names are similar to or sections of (Jan Baynard’s name was based on a school friend Emily Baynard).

Q: I asked: You clearly enjoy writing scripts, have you ever been tempted to write prose. I’m more of a prose writer but have dabbled in scripts and found them really hard.

A: Katherine explained that she had an acting background and found dialogue and characters easy rather than description and plot then went on to talk, in quite a lot of detail about script layout etc.

Q: Another member of the audience then asked how much editing is done, and whether there a stereotype for Radio 4?

A: Don’t go for anything wildly different. TV is a minefield; too many people doing it. Felicity thinks that Radio 4 has a strong reputation. Katherine doesn’t listen to much Radio 4 but her experience was that she was being pushed to middle class / middle of the road; Felicity agreed that it did tend to be like that but added that she feels that it’s a terrific channel with a wider demographic. Katherine said that she felt that the show was still hers and wanted it to stick to her idea.

Q: Committee member Paula Prince then requested that the Literature Festival featured in it and then asked when Series 2 was going to be released?

A: Katherine said she’s writing it now and said that whilst Series 1 was just four episodes, Series 2 was likely to be six). Felicity championed her writing and said she would have a long career. Paul joked that the extra two episodes would be dedicated to the lit fest, which raised a laugh.

Katherine then said that if anyone in the audience had ideas for Series 2 to let her know, so me being me, waited in the (rather long) queue to speak to her (most of the others having known her when she was growing up in the village) and I asked if she was serious, which she was, so gave her my card.

On cloud 9, I then headed to the remaining coffee shop (of four in the town) that I’d not frequented during my 5 days but found it didn’t open on a Sunday so headed back to ‘Beans’, where Denny later joined me until it was time to go to the evening event; the ‘Rhymer’s Revenge’ murder mystery evening.

Sunday 20TH March @ 7.30pm: Rhymer’s Revenge

One of my Monday nighters, Denny and I were one of the first to arrive and armed with a picnic (the food mostly thanks to Denny) we had a choice of tables. Like the literature quiz the previous Thursday evening, I was attending as a member of the public so didn’t have a clue what was to be expected. Denny, however, had been the previous year so filled me in on everything other that the plot of the story, which differs each time. This one featured a small group of actors in a village including a Lord and Lady of the manor, unscrupulous vicar, a conservationist, a not-so-rich playboy, a tart with a heart and rivalling sisters. As you would expect, there were several threads going through the short play (written by local author Nick Perry) with the aforementioned sibling rivalry (both dating the vicar), a large disputed building project which had the conservationist and Lord of the manor at loggerheads as well as threatening to disrupt the stability of the village. The evening was split into two, in between which we could ask the actors questions to which they could only answer “yes” or “no” – harder than you might think). It turned out that they didn’t know who had done it until they lined up on stage at the end and opened envelopes and read out from cards.

One team guessed the murderer and motive, although it had been suggested during our discussions (by me and another member of our team) but it wasn’t the winning (although it would have been nice) but the whole atmosphere that made for a very enjoyable evening.

Conclusion of volunteering at the Oundle Literature Festival

As you can probably tell by listening to any of these five episodes, I had a wonderful time and despite being the ‘new girl’, I felt very welcomed and would have no reservations assisting again in whatever capacity they would like and that time affords me.

According to the 2001 census (thank you Google) Oundle had 5,345 residents to Northampton’s 194,458 and despite both being towns, it’s hard to imagine Oundle as anything but a village. As Paula said in our interview (special episode 12 – listed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/bwt-podcast) its residents are incredibly friendly and I can imagine that if I lived there I’d see someone I knew every time I went out, something which Northampton couldn’t possibly guarantee. Whilst I live in one of the older and greener parts of my town, I did feel like I’d stepped back in time when visiting Oundle and am already looking forward to next year’s Festival, in whatever capacity that might be.

So, that’s what happened on day 5 out of 5 – links to the transcriptions of the other days are here.

Transcription of BWT podcast: Oundle Lit Fest (March 2011) – Day 4 of 5

The twenty-third special episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 6th June 2011 and featured the fourth day of five as a volunteer at Oundle Literature Festival here in Northamptonshire, England. The content has never been released other than website links (on my website).

Saturday 19TH March @ 1pm: Nick Sharratt

The author and illustrator of his and other children’s books, Nick started talking (alongside a slide show) about his book ‘Shark in the Park’. Before we started, Nick had asked me to assist with a couple of his talks, the first being to throw a blow-up shark in time with the final line of the book (which I won’t give away).

Nick showed a picture of him as a child (c. 6) drawing a picture of a house followed by a picture of a street scene he drew at 9 and the teacher thought it good enough to put in the school hall (for quite a few weeks) – Nick was so inspired that he spent all his spare time drawing, then went to art school and since then has been drawing for a living.

Nick then talked about his book ‘The Big Book of Crazy Mix-Ups’ where he asked for ten children to join him on the stage for ‘Nick Sharratt’s Snap. Eight of the children held up coloured pictures (each showing the bottom of a pair). One of the remaining children held a noise box (for when there was a match) and the tenth chose other cards to match the children’s cards and every time two matched the audience said snap and the child pressed a random button on the noise box and the child then holding both cards returned to his/her seat. The child who remained (called Oliver) then picked some items from Nick’s book ‘You Choose’ starting with a Star Trek outfit, some lace-up boots, a backwards baseball cap, some popcorn and accompanied by a zebra. As these were announced Nick drew Oliver wearing or holding them all. Oliver returned to his seat. The next slide was of the covers of Jacqueline Wilson and Nick invited the audience to guess which book cover/character was his favourite. He took four suggestions which didn’t match the answer: Tracey Beaker which Nick then drew on the flip chart and talked through the next few slides of animations from the Tracy Beaker TV series. The next slide featured the front cover of ‘Octopus Socktopus’ and Nick asked a child from the audience (a young lady called Georgina) who drew a magnificent Octopus… suggestions from the audience then inspired Nick to draw a sea horse, a (strawberry) jellyfish, some seaweed, a clownfish (complete with large red nose. Nick (as Leigh moved the slides on) then read through the ‘Octopus Socktopus’ with the audience guessing what the Octopi would be called. The next book was ‘More Pants’ a rhyming book co-written with Giles Andreae.

Nick then taped a red fish to the flipchart alongside which he wrote ‘Really Rosy Red Fish’ before asking the audience for three words rhyming with red (bread, bed and said were provided) for which the audience had to vote one (bread) which lead to Really Rosy Red Fish Tasty Wholemeal Bread Fish, then a Gratuitously Green Fish (with provided words of scene/seen/runner bean) became a Gratuitously Green Fish Giant Runner Bean Fish, followed by a Super Sunshine Yellow Fish (with a word choice of mellow, marshmallow, bellow) became a  Super Sunshine Yellow Fish Fancy Marshmellow Fish. The audience then chose a pink fish (from the choice of pink, brown and mauve) which became Pretty Pastel Pink Fish Low Cal Fizzy Drink Fish.

Nick then introduced his new book ‘What’s in the witch’s kitchen?’ which had options on each page to turn flaps left or right, up or down and started with a fridge with cheese (left) or a bowl: with toffee popcorn (left) or slimy frogspaw (right) then a cooker which revealed a cherry tart  (up flap) or lizard’s fart (down) and other delightful options before finally having a door open with a witch saying “boo” to which Nick played a black noise box with a witch’s cackle.

He then moved on to his book ‘Pants’ which he read again alongside the slides, occasionally playing a variety of coloured noise boxes ending with ten fathers invited from the audience to play blow-up guitars to an Elvis sounding recording singing the words from the story.

The event then ended with Nick handing out the prize-winners of the children’s writing and poetry competitions. Leigh then summarised Nick’s work, thanked him for his attendance and invited the audience to have his books signed. The talk lasted about an hour but with a large proportion of it being interactive with the audience it flew by, and being his second appearance at the festival is bound not to be his last.

Saturday 19TH March @ 3pm: Simon Scarrow

Simon set the informal scene by saying that he would round up in plenty of time for the 5pm kick-off of the Wales vs Scotland rugby match. He said there are half a dozen other authors’ Roman series available, one on the Roman navy which he’s pleased about – he explained that when he was writing the sixth book in the legionary series, Eagle’s Prophecy, it horrified him how little information there was available on the Roman navy. He said that there was the image that everything was monochromic depiction but it was actually colour-laden and the TV series ‘Rome’ was very accurate. He introduced the book Gladiator; the first of his books for young adults. He told the audience of his restrictions (no sex, no violence and especially difficult, no killing) by his Puffin editor proved a challenge. He’d tell stories to his sons as he walked them to school so he wrote in a similar vein which he found helped greatly. His young adult books have been sold in the US to Disney – handy as they produce films; even just apparently saying “boy gladiator” had them hooked. He writes 4 books a year, and developing a film with his brother Alex and a former student.

Simon explained that his main interest in school was history as it’s where all the best stories are and he had good History and Latin teachers at school – the history teacher being ‘old school’ who loved telling history as stories with passion.

He then quoted a saying: he who controls the past controls the present, he who takes control of the present, controls the future. And he totally agrees saying he loves Wikipedia and he went on Google Earth and looked at Jordanian desert; saw almost intact Roman fort (some damaged due to earthquake); nearest settlement is Bedouin camp 5-6 miles away. Nothing to see for miles around so he wondered why it was built? He thinks it was either to guard camel trails or as a meeting point but pointed out inaccuracies can exist with Wikipedia etc so has to be careful but still invaluable.

Simon was then asked how far in advance he works? He said that as he researches he gets other ideas. He doesn’t plan each novel but writes a one- or two-page synopsis as the characters tell the story and he writes it down; it’s always lovely to find out what’s going to happening. He said he doesn’t enjoy beach holidays as he’d much rather explore and gets ideas. I can relate to that.

He was then asked whether he’d write a book about Pompeii? He said it had already been done by Robert Harris and (better he thinks) by Caroline Lawrence for young adults. He had thought of ending his legion series with the two main characters retiring in a lovely sunny resort… Pompeii (to which the room laughed).

The next question was about whether history was too big and is getting even bigger and that history pervades every other subject, to which Simon replied “absolutely” and recommended Ken Robinson’s Ted lecture on YouTube. Simon added that there has to be a need to generate creative literate people, that we don’t know what Britain will be like in 10 years time as technology is so quick.

Simon was then asked when he creates his characters; how does he get into the mindset of a Roman? He replied saying that it’s a real myth that you can get into the mind of anyone who lived 200 years plus; and even find it difficult to get into the mind of his 14 year old son. Having said that the Roman army is not totally dissimilar from more recent armies.

The next question related to what percentage of time Simon spent doing research? He said you should go to the location of each book to check the authenticity and do lots of reading of the era, with more research required on well-known figures such as Wellington and Napoleon; half writing, half research.

I then asked out of him or his brother Alex, who started writing first, who was published first and is there any sibling rivalry?

Simon told me that he loves Alex’s books. As children they’d sat over dinner talking about stories; ghost stories, sci fi etc with their older brother (who has no interest in writing).  However, Simon’s sons are writing, as are Alex’s sons and Simon and Alex’s father is.  He added that writers make the mistake of writing for yourself and not for what other people want to read.  He reads and recommends Lindsay Davis. CS Forester’s Hornblower and wants to read books about similar characters like Hornblower but set in Rome – never planned to sell but thought he would when he’d finished them and the rest is… history!

Finally Simon was asked what he was writing next and he explained that his latest is set in Rome and has eight more planned then will go on holiday for more inspiration.

Once Simon’s event had finished, he announced the winners of the short story competition and I’m very proud to say that the first prize went to one of my writers; Denise (better known to us as Denny). She had been invited to the event, which I knew and we’d surmised that she would have therefore been in the top three, but didn’t know until the event that there was only a top prize and that she had won which was a lovely surprise.

Simon then gave his feedback on Denny’s story; loving the sparseness and beautifully convincing – compared her story to Rosemary Sutcliff’s writing!

Saturday 19TH March @ 5pm: Warwick Davis

Warwick started off with an introduction video to the films he’d been in. He said he came to Oundle Lit Fest a few years ago to watch Michael Morpurgo not realising that he’d be an author. Actor for 30 years. Wrote because someone said he should. Living life at 100 miles an hour and doesn’t really take note. Sat down to write down what he’d done; highlights – Harry Potter, Willow, Star Wars. Made him appreciate what he’d done. Now he takes note of what he does and life around him. Started at the beginning; growing up, school days, acting career (main feature), ‘short’ film making, Willow Personal Management (which he runs with his father in law) and his personal life.

Born in Epsom, 3rd Feb 1970 he showed a picture of him on the phone – he said to Stephen Spielberg (to which we all laughed). Then he showed a photo of mum, sister and him saying his parents had encouraged him to get on with things rather than help him too much. The next photo of him in school uniform created an ahhh, and he joked about not getting into the sandpit at long jump, and ducking under the hurdles. He loved woodwork every Sat morning where the teacher asked students to decide what they wanted to make. Most of the tools were too big for him so he decided to make a pair of stilts and spent a whole term making two lengths of wood. It was clear that he has fond memories of school.

Acting career: started in Return of the Jedi aged 11. How did he get into acting? Showed an excerpt of 23 minute show called Return of the Ewok which had never; Roy Kinnear – played Wicket the Ewok. Hilarious short movie including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamil, Carrie Fisher, Darth Vader etc. His nan heard an advert from Lucas on the radio but didn’t want to say something initially so as not to offend his parents. Left it a few days then finally said something then they phone the studios who’d said they’d had enough people but his nan persuaded them and three weeks later he was on the set with his screen heroes.

Willow (when he was 17) was the first film where he’d appeared without a mask and he talked about filming it with Val Kilmer, saying that Val likes to make jokes and he recalled taking a first class plane trip to New Zealand; wearing fake Ray Bans which Val had snapped them in half before giving him a real pair saying “these are much cooler”. Warwick then showed us a picture of him in a boat in Pinewood’s filming tank (one of the largest filming tanks in the world) where he’d spent two weeks in the tank in incredibly stormy conditions and the clip apparently had never made the final film, but hopefully the DVD extras.

Leprechaun – first movie where he’d worn prosthetics. Some of the audience had seen it and Warwick said that to celebrate St Patrick’s Day this year there’d been viewings of all six leprechaun films.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: played Marvin the android in the 2005 film. His suit had been filled with a camera, a fan (as it had been ridiculously hot) and it weighted 56 pounds (whereas he only weighs 80 pounds). As imaginable, it was very difficult to walk and act at the same time.

In Harry Potter he’d played Professor Flitwick in the first two movies and returns in the latest. He also did the voice to Griphook in the first movie and plays him in the flesh for Deathly Hallows. He compared Oundle School’s Great Hall to Harry Potter’s hall. For Prof Flitwick, he explained, there was very little description about him in the book, so he had added his interpretation; he’d a teacher so would impart knowledge in a very quick fashion, he’s over 100 so his knees would hurt. Then Warwick encouraged some audience participation with us pretending we had a wand (for which we pretended to swish & flick) and a feather (when we quoted “wingardem leviosa”).

He explained that he’d started making short film aged 12 with him and his sister –

pic 1: all because the lady hated Milk Tray (he gets bumped off)

pic 2: war movie

pic 3: nightmare (and it was – he said)

pic 4: outing using pictures

then played 2m movie from 1980s called video nasty (really clever idea). Recommended making movies from a phone or video camera with a computer. He then showed an animated video that his children had made (featuring Professor Flitwick).

Willow Personal Management is the world’s biggest agency for ‘short actors’. Represents over 120 actors under 5ft tall and a dozen or so actors over 7ft. Working on a project called ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ (remaking of Jack the Beanstalk).

Then talked through the process of prosthetic make-up; the gl (some made of foam, latex, silicone, gelatine (Haribo: peel it off and eat it!). then showed a short video of how this is done. Life Cast: making of a death mask. Mix it up with ice cold water otherwise it sets within 30 seconds; when it’s on you can’t hear, can’t see, can’t smell.

When chemical reactions take place it becomes warm and soothing. Then put some cotton wool before bandages when it gets very hot. Very used to it; once or twice a year. Whole process takes about 30 minutes. Showed photos of the makeup added to the masks. Attributed the ability to play the parts to the make-up artists.

The question and answer session then followed and he was first asked how many films he has been in? He said he wasn’t sure but probably about 40. He said he’d have to check on IMdb. I have since done so and it lists 55 attributions but that does include TV, video games and some duplications.

He was then asked what character he was in Labrynth, to which he said he’s been a goblin called WW2 (gas mask) and But Pot (bird like Goblin). When asked he said he’d not done a voice over for any animated films but would like to. He said he’s dropping hints and has an idea for Doctor Who; he thinks that when the Dr regenerates that something goes wrong and The Doctor regenerates into Warwick! Then when he goes into the tardis it’s actually smaller than it appears on the outside. He was than asked to pick his favourite role? He replied saying Wicket the Ewok held with special fondness as first character but he couldn’t choose one.

Q: Do your children want to act?

A: If they wish to yes. We are working on ‘Jack the Giant Killer’, I know how difficult it is so wouldn’t push them. They are both very good (but also very good at school). They are (and his wife) are in the Deathly Hallows.

Q: What was your favourite short movie that you’ve made?

A: The outing – it was fun because it was the first one and won some awards.

Q: Were you ever bullied at school?

A: great question; had names (lanky – audience laughed) but it didn’t bother him. Had a larger than life character so it didn’t bother him; needs to believe in yourself. He took part in Celebrity Scissorhands; school careers adviser would have said he wouldn’t have been able to do it (“short back and sides”).

Q: Which director or actor would you like to have worked with?

A: Stephen Spielberg, John Hughes, John Candy, Chevy Chase. Loved Steve Googhan and got to work with him, ditto Ricky Gervais etc. (he’s starred in Extras)

Q: Did you get lost again as the Ewok video?

A: Buy the book it’s in there… oh what happened next as I walked off? Parents put their Sunday best on… and would have appeared to fetch him; walked up forest hill.

Q: Have you ever been interested in theatre?

A: Yes. Never done any Shakespeare. Did panto with Kate O’Mara and has but behind the scenes. Has done some radio plays. It’s a really good discipline; it makes you realise how easy film is (several takes).

BBC2 ‘Life’s too short’ later. Plays a different version of himself; Warwick Davis with a bigger ego (Johnny Depp said yes!). Starts shooting in June.

Warwick ended his talk by his alter ego reading an excerpt from his autobiography ‘Size matters not’. His website includes links to his Facebook and Twitter pages.

The event culminated with the older children’s writing competition prize giving.

Saturday 19th March @ 7.30pm: Michael Wood

With few available seats available downstairs, Denny and I sat in the balcony area of the Great Hall and had a spectacular view of the stage. Michael was introduced by Ian Browne. Michael said he’d filmed the first ‘In the search of the dark ages’ (to which the audience laughed) – Oundle made the book but not the film with it’s connection with Eric Bloodaxe. He’s made more than 100 films and his academic background is on British history. He first talked about his association and focus on Kibworth (in Leicestershire; about 40 miles from Oundle) and the history of the town including its medieval documents. Every place has its story, every place has its drama, its clues. Said that as Kibworth grew it became two parishes then went on to explain the differences between Kibworth Harcourt (posh) and Kibworth Beauchamp (working men); interviewed a lady who knew the history and said that KB folk weren’t allowed to go through the KH church doors (not even for a wedding or funeral) and even that they should have separate sewerage systems. He talked about the council estate in KB being created in the 1940s/1950s and with the lack of central heating had icicles on the windows (to which many of the audience, it was clear, could relate). The next slide featured a historical hand-written document, an extract of the Doomsday Book, showing that Kibworth was formerly known as ‘Cliborne’.

The next slide showed what initially looked like a picnic but it actually showed six adults (mostly women) and one child at an archaeological event where back gardens and fields around the village of Kibworth were dug up to see if they could find anything. This resulted in a mound of broken pottery (household; plates, chamber pots etc.) and produced such enthusiasm (not least by Northamptonshire pottery expert onsite) that some wanted to dig entire gardens to see what else could be unearthed. Michael then continued to talk about previous digs that had taken place and other items (including coins, brooches and pottery, including complete Roman vases) found before moving on to how the village developed in more detail, with stills of other historical documents and farming sections on simple aerial plans. One family he’d researched were the Browns which lead him from Kibworth to Coventry and one particularly picturesque photograph showed lovely old buildings which were then lost since 1945. Nick then went on to explain that literacy was very important in medieval times with uncatalogued local records found going back to the 1400s. The final slide was of the villagers having gathered round outside their local pub with a board saying “Join the Kibworth dig 25/26 July”. A question and answer session followed:

Q: You said you were particularly interested in medieval

A: I like all eras of history but there’s something about the dark ages where people have to go back to basics, law etc. He explained how cruel a time it was e.g. death sentences against children etc. Another favourite era was the 1590s with Shakespeare etc.

Q: One member of the audience made reference to Michael’s CV and said he wanted to add an item to it, having played some of his videos when he’d taught archaeology at school. He then mentioned that he’d met a former student and said he was going to Michael’s presentation and did the student remember him and flared trousers he wore were remembered fondly.

A: He said his flared trousers had become a Trivial Pursuit question so that’s when he knew he’d really made it. 🙂

Q: Made reference to bailiff – farm bailiff and where the phrase came from.

A: Not a bailiff expert but said the word came from French but used in Anglo Saxon times and were farming terms – an agent of the Lord of the Manor.

Q: When you started doing the series on Kibworth was there anything surprising that you hadn’t expected to find.

A: Michael talked about how much work was put in – one colleague asked him whether they would find anything but he said that at every point there were incredible things and quoted the butcher’s letter from 1440 and military papers.

Q: Did you or would you do a follow-up to the Kibworth series?

A: Michael spoke fondly of his time there and they went to a party at the cricket club. He said a child had said to him that he has to come back. When Michael asked why the boy said “because you’ll want to know what happens to us in the future”. He then talked about doing a programme about the nation and said that he would (love to) have to include and return to Kibworth because they’d only scratched the surface and there was so likely to be much resource to be found there.

Ian then rounded off the evening with a short speech thanking Michael calling him the ‘Heineken’ of historians (which raised a laugh from the audience).

So, that’s what happened on day 4 out of 5 – links to the transcriptions of the days 1-3 are listed here and day 5 will put listed when it’s posted.