Magazine articles written about ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in 1974

Kit Seymour, Stephen Grendon, Sophie Neville, Lesley Bennett, Virginia McKenna, Simon West Suzanna Hamilton and the station master of the Haverthwaite Steam Railway in Westmorland, appearing in the April edition of Homes and Garden 1974

Newspapers are read one day and on the kitchen floor the next. Back in 1974 they might have been used to wrap up fish and chips. Either way, an article in the ‘paper is soon forgotten. Not so a feature in a magazine. They tend to hang around in hotel foyers and doctor’s surgeries for waiting to have their pages turned for months, if not years.  The judgement they cast on our movie was important.

Director Claude Whatham and Producer Richard Pilbrow on location in the summer of 1973 in the Lake District

To my surprise I found an article about how we spent the summer of 1973 in ‘Homes and Garden’ magazine.

Photographs featuring Simon West, Suzanna Hamilton, Sophie Neville, Stephen Grendon, Lesley Bennett and Kit Seymour in the EMI film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’.

What amazed me was that the black and white photographs taken on the film set had been colour tinted. Please forgive my scanning – the pages were stuck in albums long ago and the  images blur at the edge.

Stephen Grendon, Simon West, Virginia McKenna, Suzanna Hamilton and Sophie Neville on location at Bank Ground Farm in Cumbria

Surely she was the journalist also known by her married name of Elspeth Huxley, the author who had written The Flame Trees of Thika and so many other books?  She wasn’t quite right in saying the film was shot entirely on location in the Lake District, but still. She was not to know about our day at Runnymede.

Simon West, Sophie Neville and Suzanna Hamilton appearing in The Tatler
Virginia McKenna in an article in Films Illustrated, April 1974

We were in both Punch and The Sunday People. My mother saved them all, scratching lines alongside the paragraphs in which I was mentioned.

and The Tablet.

What’s On and the News of the World:

Kit Seymour and Lesley Bennett sailing Amazon on Derwentwater

The April addition of the film fan magazine Photoplay, which featured Steve McQueen on the cover. It cost 20p in those days.

and a publishing magazine I hadn’t heard of called Smith’s Trade News ~

Virginia McKenna eating a banana with Claude Whatham outside the catering bus with quite a good photo of Swallow wired to the camera pontoon

The true story is told in ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ available online in different formats including an audiobook.

'The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) by Sophie Neville'
Different editions of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) by Sophie Neville’

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

22 thoughts on “Magazine articles written about ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in 1974”

  1. Yippee! More lovely stuff. By the way, I bet I’m not the only one curious about the rest of the 24 – the ones who didn’t get cast. Do you recall anything about them, e.g. what ‘type’ was being sought for each character, how some of them couldn’t act and some could, etc?

    1. I’ve just remembered that I’m seeing a friend tonight who also auditioned for ‘Swallows and Amazons’ I’ll ask her about it. I’m hoping to see Suzanna for tea, so I’ll ask her too.

  2. In the end Claude needed to put a cast together. The final 24 we auditioned must all been strong contenders. Abigail Pilbrow, Richard’s daughter, auditioned. She seemed perfect for one of the parts. Kit Seymour’s twin sister was also with us. It must have been very difficult chosing between them. I thought another girl, who was shorter than me and very out-going, was bound to get the part of Titty. She really shone. I was amazed that Claude ended up with me.

  3. Sophie – great stuff! Thank you!

    The trouble with many of the critics is they think they know the book when they have never read it (the same as when Peter Jackson filmed The Lord of the Rings) so their reviews are based on second or third hand impressions or prejudices of the book.

    I can’t actually remember if I saw it at the cinema (I would have been 21 at the time and did not know anybody else who was interested) so my first viewing was either on TV or video. I watched it a year or so or go and thought it was far better than I remembered. Claude Whatham did a difficult job well, his casting was well done given he probably didn’t have the budget to make the film he really wanted to (unlike Peter Jackson!). I think you and Suzanna were perfect and fitted my imagined versions of the characters, the two boys not at all. But therein is the problem for anyone who has read the book viewing the film.

    It must be pleasing for you that there is still so much interest 40 years on!

    Thank you again for your posts, anymore you can do will be read with pleasure!

  4. Looking fwd to hearing more about them all! Perhaps the other contender for Titty was TOO outgoing? Claude might have wanted more of a contrast with the Amazons. Anyway, it’s clear to us all (and the reviewers) that he made the right choice.
    I guess we’re all interested too in the director’s mental picture of Nancy, who is such a crucial figure to so many readers. I have never been able to ‘see’ her (though I tried, with an article entitled ‘Illustrating Nancy’ and involving studying all AR’s drawings of her) – she’s always a clear voice over my shoulder, a quick movement of legs and hands and red cap – so Claude had a great responsibility on his shoulders not to shatter thousands of readers’ illusions.
    BTW, I thought that Peggy was v well-cast – not dissimilar in style (artless cheeriness and the odd galootish action) to Phyllis in the Railway Children film.

          1. All our thanks must go to your mother, Daphne. She was very far-sighted in obtaining and then keeping all these articles and cuttings.

              1. That’s a kinder word than my children use about me, with my lofts full of papers (all important, of course!) and books and records all over the house.

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