Reviews: FALL IN - THE PRISONER 50TH ANNIVERSARY EVENT
Hosted by NETWORK at Portmeirion, September 29th 2017.
September 29th 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the first UK screening of 'Arrival' (at 7.30pm on ATV Midlands on 29/9/1967).
NETWORK were the hosts and organisers of the official 50th anniversary event at Portmeirion, fifty years on, on 29th September 2017.
With The Unmutual Website advertising the event well in advance, most of the invited guests had been well publicised, as had the various screenings, so nothing less than a feast was promised. What was to follow exceeded even that, and proved to be an unforgettable smorgasbord of Prisoner delicacies!
The promised wind and rain thankfully did not make a special guest appearance, so the day started in nice warm sunshine. The event it must be said actually began for many the previous day, with attendees and guests alike mingling in the autumn sunshine, and drinking and chatting the evening away in the bar.
Portmeirion. Photo (c) Rick Davy.
A walk onto Portmeiron's piazza would find the first two of the days' attractions. A 'Prisoner' limited edition 7 (one of only 50 to be produced, in the early 90s, by Caterham Cars), provided to the event by Rennie Chivers, complete with Prisoneresque numberplate.
7. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
Caterham. Photo (c) Rick Davy.
Then what else should we see, but an ORIGINAL Moke from the series. Ever wondered what happened to the Moke which was found in a barn in Holland a few years back and auctioned off for over £13,000 in 2015? Well here she was, in all her glory, lovingly restored by Phil Caunt in time for the event.
The Moke looked stunning, and had kept many of its original features (so definitely not a case of 'Trigger's Broom').
Moke. Photo (c) Rick Davy.
These were great little touches, and really added to the ambience of the event.
Next it was off to the hall, where Network staff were on hand to register attendees and present them with their badges, and goodie bags, which contained the new limited special edition bluray sets, complete with soundtrack CDs, book, and the chance to buy a great brochure for only a fiver, and more!
Also in the entrance/bar of the hall was this magnificent beast, a portable (would you believe) projector which would be used to screen the day's entertainment onto the giant, almost cinema-sized, screen which awaited in the hall.
Projector. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
The holding image on the screen in the hall was that of the artwork designed for Network's 50th Anniversary set and event.
Screen. Photo (c) P-F Productions.
Back outside, as the attendees arrived in the village, it was time for the first special guest. Fenella Fielding provided the Village Voice in the original series, so who better to announce each of the days events over a PA/speaker system which covered the whole of Portmeirion.
Fenella. Photo (c) Tori Davy.
As you can see from the following video of her first announcement, her voice sounded as alluring and velvety as it did back in 1966/67.
The first screening was 'Dance of the Dead'. To see episodes such as these on 35mm on a massive screen was a rare treat. To watch the Belvedere Outlook scene ('you're not thinking of jumping?') and the beach scene whilst sat with our good friend Norma West was an experience which will live long in the memory.
After the screening, Norma was joined on stage by Seamus Byrne, for a fascinating (if a little short due to the event over-running) Q&A chaired by the BFI's Dick Fiddy.
Norma. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
Norma is always an enthralling and enthusiastic guest, who loves nothing more than to meet with fans of 'The Prisoner' and share her very personal experiences of the series, revealing that she was holding her original numbered badge during the screening but after 50 years the sellotape holding on the original pin fell off!
It was also a very special moment to see Seamus recall his grapples with Rover and time on the series as third assistant director, who was attending his first ever event.
Seamus. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
It was then back outside for another heart-warming address from Fenella, before the second main event of the day - a special one-off live performance of a newly written mini-episode of 'The Prisoner' audio re-imagining from the guys at Big Finish.
Mark Elstob. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
To my knowledge, this was the first time the Dome interior had been used for a 'Prisoner' event in Portmeirion and it made for yet another unique experience.
Time is Free. Photo (c) Rick Davy.
Nicholas Briggs (writer, producer, director, and all round good guy) introduced the performance, casting three of the audience members in non-speaking roles as he did so (on his birthday no less), with Mark Elstob reprising his Number Six role, and Nickolas Grace (he of 'Robin of Sherwood' fame) as Number Two.
Nick Briggs. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
Mark. Photo (c) Nadine Coffey.
Mr Grace. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
'Time is Free' was a clever, and amusing, take on the series 50th anniversary, up there with the best of what Nick has written for his re-imagining, here's hoping for a DVD or audio release of this mini-sode in the future. Here's a peek:
The Dome was filled to its capacity of 60, and all there thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
Nick addresses the crowd. Photo (c) Rick Davy.
Next up, following another installment from Fenella (who all day was assisted with great care and kindness by her friend Simon Mckay), it was time for another Q&A, this time with three special guests.
Q&A 2. Photo (c) Nadine Coffey.
First up was star of 'It's Your Funeral', Annette Andre, who spoke of this being her first visit to Portmeirion yet it all felt so familiar and she felt that Pat [McGoohan] would be popping out at any moment. Annette is on record as not having a happy time on the series but as always she was engaging, friendly, and a wonderful guest.
Annette. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
Joining her on stage next was her episode co-star Derren Nesbitt, who had the audience in stitches with his recollections of not knowing what the series was about and getting no help at all from his director or anyone else.
Derren. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
He was then joined by the delightful Jane Merrow, who recalled the enjoyment she had from performing with McGoohan, both in 'The Prisoner', and 'Danger Man'.
Jane. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
It was a great thirty minutes of chat, with Annette, Derren, and Jane disagreeing about various things (all good natured, of course), but having many laughs along the way. A little light on chat specifically related to their episodes, however, which were two of the most eventful in terms of what occurred behind the scenes, but this didn't matter as it was a thoroughly entertaining Q&A.
Laughs. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
It was then back outside for something of an emotional event. Robin Llywelyn, managing director of Portmeirion, in three languages no less (French, Welsh, and English) introduced sculptor Tiziano, and event surprise special guest Catherine McGoohan, to unveil the new bust (see news item HERE) of her father.
Unveiling. Photo (c) Rick Davy.
As you can see from this video, it was an emotional experience for Catherine.
It has to be said Catherine was the most wonderful guest, and company. Hugely respectful and grateful to everyone for the support they have given over the years to 'The Prisoner' and her father, Ms McGoohan always had time for people coming to speak to her (like all the guests, she must have finished the day utterly exhausted).
Back in the hall again, and next up on stage was Dave Barrie, who in 1976 contacted ATV Midlands and asked for his home Cheltenham address to be aired at the end of 'Fall Out'. It duly was, by announcer Peter Tomlinson (more of him later), and 'Prisoner fandom' was born. Dave recounted tales of this, and of people turning up in the middle of the night from Sutton Coldfield! Dave also spoke of the changing nature of 'Prisoner' fandom and gave a nice plug for The Unmutual Website. He was then joined on stage by Roger Goodman of PrizBiz, who gave a lovely recount of the influence of Judie Adamson on the birth of organised fandom, and it was announced that, following the next scheduled item, there would be a gathering at Judie's plaque to remember her.
But before that was the second of the day's episodic screenings, 'Checkmate'. Again, it was amazing to see this on the big screen in 35mm. Although it must have been tempting to screen other episodes, which featured a larger number of guests present, it was definitely the right decision to screen Portmeirion heavy episodes. They looked stunning on the big screen!
Massive thanks must go to Network for arranging the prints, which I believe were struck from the original negatives, for the event. This, I am sure, will be the last time the series will be shown in the Hercules Hall on 35mm, so it was a privilage to be there for them.
Following the screening, Peter Wyngarde was called on stage. There was a huge cheer, but then a second of reflection, as a clearly unwell Wyngarde was pushed on stage in a wheelchair, wrapped in a Portmeirion bathrobe.
Peter. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
Thankfully, like a true professional, he announced 'we have to carry on' and, expertly managed by Dick Fiddy, was able to answer a few questions for five minutes before departing the stage to huge cheers.
Peter. Photo (c) Nadine Coffey.
It was then time for a break and a visit to the memorial plaque for Judie Adamson (as mentioned above).
Goodman and Barrie remember Judie. Photo (c) Rick Davy
Upon Network MD Tim Beddows' arrival at the plaque, chat turned to an iconic fandom image from 1977, which featured Dave Barrie, Judie Adamson, Ray Binns, and Roger Goodman. With myself and Tim Beddows present (and Adamson and Binns absent), an impromptu recreation of the 1977 image took place.
Recreating 1977. Images (c) Dave Barrie and Tori Davy
L-R Dave Barrie (Six of One), Tim Beddows (Network), Rick Davy (The Unmutual), Roger Goodman (PrizBiz). Photo (c) Tori Davy.
Fenella (what a trooper at nearly 90 years old, never once complaining she was up and down various steps and buildings for her announcements) was then on hand again to announce the next item, the premiere of Chris Rodley's new documentary 'In My Mind'.
Fenella. Photo (c) Tori Davy.
Rodley's film, a look at 'The Prisoner' not only from Patrick McGoohan's perspective, but also through his own eyes in retrospect of him interviewing McGoohan for 'Six Into One' in 1983, was utterly enthralling, and a full review of the film can be read HERE.
Chris Rodley. Photo (c) Al Samujh.
Chris then joined Dick Fiddy on stage for a Q&A, and again this was most interesting. I felt Chris's story was so unique and fresh, and previously untold, that I found this Q&A as interesting as anyone else's that day (although, at 35 minutes, a little long). Chris is a very pleasant, and modest man, and deserves every plaudit he and his new film receives.
Dick and Chris . Photo (c) Rick Davy.
After a break for a little walk around the Village, and another catch-up with friends old and new, it was time to return to the hall for the climax of the event - a screening of 'Arrival', again on beautiful 35mm film, 50 years to the minute after its original UK debut.
First, there were some other surprises. First up was 'Many Happy Returns', a new featurette from Network - a 'then and now' comparison of some of the series' locations. Starting with the opening sequence, then through all the Portmeirion locations, and finishing with 'Many Happy Returns' and 'Fall Out', the film was a real treat, with the transition at Santa Pod (the 'Prisoner' runway) the most eye-catching. Well done to all involved!
Next up was special guest Catherine McGooohan, who gave a heartwarming introduction to 'Arrival', which had the added bonus of being preceded by an introduction by the original announcer at ATV, Peter Tomlinson (well done again to Network for tracking him down and getting him involved). Well done also to for providing a true 1967 experience, with ad bumpers inserted into the exact positions they were for the original broadcast, and period advertisements filling the spaces, so that the episode was exactly timed to match that of 50 years before. Again, I've used this word so many times in this review, a unique experience.
Catherine then took to the stage again for an utterly fascinating Q&A. Catherine exudes such a warmth and generosity when she speaks that she becomes a mesmerising interviewee, and she very kindly answered many questions and gave a fascinating insight not only into 'The Prisoner', but life with her father. On behalf of everyone present, thank you to Catherine, here husband Cleve, and Network for making this happen.
Catherine. Photos (c) Al Samujh.
There then followed a list of thank yous from Network MD Tim Beddows, including for yours truly (thanks Tim!), and I'd like to echo these: including Tim and his staff at Network, Crispin and Kellyanne from P-F Productions for their superb handling of sound for the event, both indoor and outdoor, Robin, Meurig, and Glyn at Portmeirion, , the projections crew, Chris Rodley, Joe and gang at Blue Dolphin, and of course each of the guests.
This re-visiting of the stage for each guest for an encore was perhaps my highlight of the day. What normally would be a standard roll call of comments and applause, because almost a 'closure'. Norma West spoke of her desire to come back again, 'with zimmer frame', for the 60th, Jane Merrow shed a tear and, via Catherine, seemed to be saying farewell to Patrick McGoohan, who of course had left us 8 years previously. There were goodbyes and thanks from other guests too (Seamus, Derren, Annette, Nick, Mark), and it was like everyone was saying a '50 year thankyou' to Patrick, whilst at the same time saying goodbye to him.
Patrick will live on, always, through 'The Prisoner', and this fact was exuded through Catherine and the other guests. I think it would be fair to say that any future events, even those with which I will be involved, will pale into insignificance compared to this. It wasn't just a 50th anniversary celebration, it was a celebration of everything encompassed by Patrick and his work, and the finale would have touched even the most hard-hearted of 'Prisoner' fans.
So then it was time for attendees to disappear into the night (or into the dining hall or bar). Once outside, a special treat awaited - Mermaid cottage had become a cinema screen, as a live projection of scenes from 'Arrival' hit its walls. Unique. Again.
There was some talk previous to the event regarding the price. With a £70 bluray set included with the ticket, £135 was a bargain. For the same £65 price as a ticket to a 2-hour concert, or a 90-minute football match, we got 12 hours of entertainment, an unrivalled celebration, unique experiences, the chance to mingle with guests (there was no charging for autographs or photo opportunities here, so refreshing in this day and age), and memories to treasure.
A massive thankyou to everyone at Network for making this happen, and to all of the guests for being part of a very special (ah, I'll say it once more, unique) day. It was an honour for myself and The Unmutual Website to have been involved and present. Perhaps the most telling thing, is that my wife (who isn't a big 'Prisoner' fan, although loves Portmeirion, and has never attended any sort of event or convention before), had a great time! It was truly an event which transcended all. Thanks everyone who played their part in it.
Rick Davy, October 2nd 2017.
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