The BBC drama series Swallows and Amazons Forever! was first broadcast at a very odd time. Instead of being mainstream BBC One Saturday night viewing in the run up to Christmas as we expected, it was moored in a by-water, shown on BBC Two at 6.30pm on Tuesday evenings. Very few people saw it. This was odd, especially since it was a big budget production with a strong cast. Perhaps it was because Colin Baker who played Dr Dudgeon had just been cast as Doctor Who.
However, when the series was released on video it was treasured by many:
‘This video is a delight!’ wrote Dr Duncan Hall from North Yorkshire. ‘…the animated credit sequence and the music are both a delight and you won’t get tired of them! The stories themselves are amongst the best ever written for young people and they are brought to life with relish by the director and excellent cast. The locations are all spot-on; anybody who has ever had a magical holiday on the broads will love this video for that alone! And the wildlife photography is fantastic as well. A last point: it is true there are no Swallows and Amazons in the programme – but the two books were part of Ransome’s famous ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series of books, so the title does not seem TOO inappropriate to me. Buy it!!!
The drama serial was soon released on DVD ~ which was hugely appreciated:
This is a beautiful adaptation of Ransome’s ‘Coot Club’ & ‘The Big Six’. The child actors/actresses are excellent. There is almost an historical element as the DVD charts childhood without mobile phones and electronic games. Simply gentle and innocent yet a good degree of drama. 5 out of 5 stars Excellent
Mike Souter said, ‘ So pleased I bought this. I interviewed Henry Dimbleby on location in the 1980’s and seeing the episodes again brought back many happy memories. Charming series.’
Some viewers wrote to say they thought the twins playing Port and Starboard should have been aged eleven. They, in fact, were (both) eleven-years-old.
‘If you like nature, sailing, kids and bad plots this fits the bill. I have sailed on the Norfolk Broads and this series captures the atmosphere perfectly. The sailing is technically accurate too. I’m old enough to remember England in earlier times. Once again the atmosphere has been captured nicely. The unusual Norfolk regional accent is evident and sometimes realistic. This is a classic and fully in the spirit of the Swallows and Amazons books.’ 5 out of 5 stars -Wonderful ~ C Bauers, Suffolk
‘We really enjoyed this adventure it has inspired my kids to do a sailing course!!’ ~ David Francis, France
‘Watched the series as a child and have loved it my whole life. A family favourite, simply charming! Very indulging to sit back with a cup of tea and lose myself in the antics of some wonderful characters. I love it.’
‘Highly recommended entertainment for the whole family. Good old fashioned fun that children use to have before computer games were invented.’ J.Kennedy ~ Sydney, Australia
‘Just spent a week on a Broads cruiser with three granddaughters and played the DVD on the third night. It was quite magical that we had cruised to all the places mentioned in the films, and the girls were able to identify the filming locations, including the swing railway bridge at Reedham. We tried very hard not to have the radio too loud the next day for fear of becoming Hullaballoos, and kept well clear of coots nests. As with all films, these do not copy the books word for word, but I think Arthur Ransome would have been pleased with the result. Pity the TV companies don’t produce more films from the other books in the Swallows and Amazons series.’
We were hoping to keep going and adapt all the Arthur Ransome books. While I started casting children for Swallowdale and Picts and Martyrs, our Producer Joe Waters went up to Cumbria on a recce to find the main locations and to estimate a budget the next series. He returned looking crest-fallen. Filming on National Trust property in the Lake Distinct, when he was quoted fees of £1,000 a day – back then, even for open moorland – was simply going to be too expensive. Plans to adapt the Arthur Ransome books were put on hold. Indefinitely.
However, the original movie ‘Swallows and Amazons'(1974) is streaming on Amazon. You can read about how it was made in a choice of books available online here.
116 thoughts on “What viewers thought of the BBC serial ‘Swallows and Amazons Forever!’”
Sophie – v busy so I haven’t been keeping up with the fulsome praise that all this deserves. This latest post fills me with bitter regret that they never filmed Picts and Martyrs – WHAT a film that would have been. And I’ve always felt that Pigeon Post would have made a brilliant film. Imagine Titty’s dowsing scene…..
It could still happen. I’m not that keen on dowsing myself but loved both Swallowdale and Picts and Martyrs.
Yes, true, I only mentioned it because it was Titty’s bravest moment; and also a lovely moment when Nancy protects Titty, realising how distressed she is. But COULD we make P & M happen?? It’s such an action-packed plot, with wonderful scenes in the Dog’s Home etc, and a dramatic rescue etc. Wow………………………….
That’s sad but never mind although I have a dream to make at least one more of the books into a film
May be think of making a short montage of your favourite story, using photos, maps, sketches, and footage taken on locations. You could share it on Youtube. Have you seen the trailer I made for me book? We used my parents’ photos and home movie footage, adding copyright-free music. Please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXkQ8m8tKM&t=6s
Yes it’s loverly
cool yes also Peter Duck would be good
Which books would you most like to see adapted for the big screen?
Picts and Martyrs
We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea
Picts as a first choice. Winter Holiday with its blizzard would be spectacular. Sdale has too little plot after the shipwreck to be an ideal choice, I should think. Peter Duck has attracted a number of would-be adapters and would be my third choice.
‘Peter Duck’ calls out for a movie adaptation. Can you tell me who has been interested in this? I know who owns the Rights!
Sorry, no. Over the years Ransome’s Literary executors have mentioned to me that the rights had been acquired. One company was, I believe, American and rightly, I think, it was felt that Peter Duck would be ‘Americanised’ like poor ‘Treasure Island’ with Jim Hawkins. I believe it has been said that at any one time, somebody is pursuing dramatisation of one of the books.
A company (can’t remember the name) approached me to act as advisor for a cast iron project to film We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea. I never heard any more!
It’s as if they need Ransome’s blessing before going ahead. Those with the right heart and the determination will succeed. This is needed as film adaptations of the books are more expensive than one might think.
I wish we didn’t mean to go to sea was made
Yes, it has been put on as a theatre play in East Anglia. I am told it is very good.
don’t listen to what Roger warble said they started filming Peter Duck in 2014 it says on the Arthur ransom facebook page Rogerwardale spoiled it or something
Really? I don’t think that can be true as Back in 2011 I was in dialogue with the film producer who was negotiating for the rights to Swallows and Amazons with the possibility of other books in the series. I would ask Roger Wardale but he has sadly died. He was a great help and support, an authority on Arthur Ransome. Have you read any of his books?
i have got some of his books
Which ones do you have?
it would be a great movie I’m sure
It would be wonderful! Have you seen the Narnia movies? I think it would be like ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ or ‘Prince Caspian’.
I am interested a lot but I know it won’t happen
Peter Duck could start off with Titty or Tatty reading thier story of Peter Duck and she could close the her book where she wrote it at the end after the action
It would be great it could start and end with titty or tatty reading the Peter duck story they made up
yes would be great
brilliant picts and the martyrs and winter holiday and We didn’t mean to go to sea and Pigeon Post would be great secret water would be good too
I am reading ‘Picts and Martyrs’ right now!
Pit’s and the martyrs would make a feat film with the dogs home
I meant great film
The character of the Great Aunt would certainly project well on film or television. She is very amusing.
Which location would you use for Beckfoot? We used Brown Howe on Coniston Water as the gardens slope down to the lake.
I have the rare we didn’t mean to go sea Eastren Angles play dvd it’s great
Do you know of any celebrity names who like ‘Swallows and Amazons’ or Arthur Ransome – apart from Ben Fogel and Ellen McArthur?
Sorry, I cannot think of anyone except Adam Hart-Davies. Mention of the twins’ age reminds me. Debate about the ages of Ransome’s well-loved characters has always been popular among enthusiasts. Ransome never says — but he knew.
He noted that at the time of CC and TBS. Pete -9, Bill – 10, Joe 11, Dick -11, Dot 12. He does not give the ages of Tom and the twins, but working from those he does, the text and illustrations, I would suggest 14.
The age of 14 for the twins is quite a difference. Nowadays children seem to either play as siblings/family or in their exact year group. However back then village schools would have clumped all the ‘juniors’ aged 8-11 together. Am I right?
I think so. In small ‘two or three teacher’ village schools. Infant, junior, senior all lumped together in one building.
We audtioned a number of boys for the part of Tom who were aged 14 or 15, but it just didn’t seem right to cast a teenager with hairy legs. It became clear that we needed a confident boy who was still a child – someone other children could identify with. He also needed to be able to sail a river cruiser, which is too daunting for those who haven’t been brought up with boats. Casting kids who can sail takes a long time, as I found out.
Philip Pullman chose WD as one of his 40 favourite children’s books in a Waterstones promotion in September 2008, so Peter Willis “wrote to him offering honorary membership” [of the Nancy Blackett Trust], and “got a very nice letter back.” We’ve not managed to get him on board Nancy yet.
‘We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea?’
‘We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea?’ – Yes, Sophie.
Then there is Kate Adie who, on “I’ve never seen Star Wars” (BBC Radio 4 ), gave S & A 10/10 a couple of years ago. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00yz3hs
Also John Sergeant is a fan – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/greatlives/sergeant_ransome.shtml
Yes, I do remember Kate Adie’s vote. John Sergeant gave that very well considered interview on ‘The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome.’ Can you think of any younger fans who happen to be household names – The Prince of Wales named ‘S&A’ as his favourite book – but did Prince Harry??
I have the Eastern Angles play of We Didn’t mean to go to sea on dvd it’s great
the queen dose
hi its Arthur herbertson im wondering if they can still make a Peter Duck movie i wouldn’t mind it being Americanized as long as its still filmed in Britain
The rights are available. I know Harbour Pictures would live to make a British movie of ‘Peter Duck’ if the funding could be raised. It would be great fun!
Have you seen the DVD of ‘Coot Club and the Big Six’? It’s entitled ‘Swallows and Amazons Forever!’
Yes I have seen it I have the dvd
Did you enjoy it?
I loved it so good you did a great job of casting the children
If peter duck was made would it be the cast from the 2016 movie
And gibber the monkey would be an animation there would be the ship the wiled cat and the viper and Peter duck him self and bill the charcators
I am sure they could use a real monkey. It would be wonderful to get hold of traditional boats to play the Wild Cat and the Viper, along with other shipping. They still exist.
And they could start it off with Titty or Tatty reading thier story of Peter Duck
And black jake and polly tittys parrot
You could ask pepole in the arthur ransome sicoty to give money towards the founding and also the pepole in the nancy blackett trust
I am pretty sure members of the Arthur Ransome Society and The Nancy Blackett Trust would love to see a movie made but the budget would be in the region of 8 or 10 million pounds, which would need funding from a big studio like Warner Brothers. They would need to be confident that huge numbers of people would go to see it. The 2016 movie of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ has won some awards in America but I am not sure that it has made enough money to attract investors for another book adaptation.
The parrot would have to be called posse because that’s what he was called in the 2016 movie
I didn’t notice the parrots name had been changed. What do you think about changing the character’s names. Does it worry you?
That’s sad but never mind although I have a dream to make at least one more of the books into a film
That would be great
Have you seen the 2016 movie of ‘Swallows and Amazons’? What did you most enjoy about it?
I loved it I have the dvd my 2 favorte parts are when the amazons run after the swallows and when tatty says swallows and amazons forever in a magical way at the end and for hallaween last year I dressed up as nancy blackett from the 2016 movie me and mum painted the mask and did straw hier and I had a bow and arrow it was so cool
I could wear that costume one day at an agm
that would be great! Are you able to come to the next AGM? It will be in Lyndhurst in the New Forest in May 2019. I could ask if we can all dress up.
Arthur, you must have looked brilliant as Nancy! Hope I’ll see you wearing the disguise one day
I am yet to appear in my S&A fancy dress outfit. I’m not even sure if it still fits but I promise to wear it to the next TARS AGM.
That’s great I’m looking forward to it
Can you guess who I am going as?
You could be giong as titty
I have a surprise fancy dress outfit. It is a character Titty sings about in Swallows and Amazons.
It is quite difficult to dress up as characters from the Arthur Ransome books. You could draw up a list to encourage people. Will anyone come as a parrot, or Gibber the monkey?
Peter ducks not based in the lake district and swallows voyage and diggers camp and crab island and the earthquake and captain flint getting the ice creams and spades from that sweet shop would all be in the movie
The spades were bought in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, which I went to recently. I think they could have fun filming there and in the Caribbean. Much of Peter Duck is set at sea of course.
I went to see ‘Swallow’ from the new film and appear on BBC South Today. Please see: https://sophieneville.net/2016/08/19/swallows-and-amazons-films-profiled-on-bbc-south-today/
I have to of the whitemen swallows and amazons jigsaws the one where your on the grass and the one where your in swallow I don’t have the other I’m looking every where for them the first one of you on the grass I got of eBay the other I got from canser resherch second hand shop in arnold canser resherch get in a lot of jigsaws do you have the jiksaws
Well done! They are quite rare. There are four jigsaws in total. I think you will just have to keep searching on ebay and in charity shops. I was given three of the four, which I sold to Arthur Ransome enthusiasts to help raise funds for the Nancy Blackett Trust. I am re-reading ‘Swallows and Amazons’ right now. What are you reading?
I’m reading the new diary of a wimpy kid book the get away
If peter duck movie happend the trailer could be really good about peter duck and black jake giong after the tresure
It would be amazing. Do you think ‘We Didn’t Mean to Go To Sea’ would work as a film or a TV serial?
It would make a great tv show
And we have the Nancy Blackett in tip top condition. Please see: https://sophieneville.net/2013/07/07/sailing-the-nancy-blackett/
You must see around the Nancy Blackett one day. I was luckily enough to go sailing on her in the Netherlands last year. You can read about the trip here: https://sophieneville.net/2017/07/06/sailing-the-nancy-blackett-in-the-netherlands/
Yes it would be do you think there will ever be more swallows and amazons movies or tv shows
There might be but I don’t have news of any. What books are you reading right now?
I have done a script for we didn’t mean to go to sea
I email the Disney company to ask if they could consider makeing swallows and amazons movies I’m reading the latest diary of a wimpy kid book its funny have you seen any of the wimpy kid films there great do you think Disney could do a good job of the swallows and amazons?
They might do! Arthur Ransome did not want cartoon versions of his books though. He was disappointed by the adaptation of ’Winnie the Pooh’.
it turns out Disney cant Do it because right I have emailed wanner brothers and they have not got back to me yet
Well done you! Let me know how it goes.
Sent from my iPhone
they did not get back to but I I’m writing my own scripts for sires of them for an older children channel and older people can watch them to I have fished sireis one swallowdale script and I am writing sires to Peter Duck script now I will try and make them all in the future and I will cast them and put them on CBBC
I am doing all the ones that haven’t been done before
Great! Let me know what you think.
What were the planes for tv series picts and the martyrs and swallowdale were there ever any scripts made
No, but I began working on the concept. Joe Waters, the producer went on an initial recce to the Lake District but sadly decided filming there would be too expensive.
Reviewing swallow in swallow in swallowdale would have to be done with green screen and I am doing I have done a swallowdale scripet and I working on picts and the martyrs script
I meant resscuing
Well done you! I would love to see it.
Yes, I understand. Virginia McKenna’s son Dan the Diver specialises in filming diving scenes underwater.
what do you think of my SwallowDale script
I think the tone and the rhythm of the Coot Club / Big Six adaptations were just delicious, but them I’m fifty-six and – even though I was a boy – I spent the years between 8 and 12 wanting to be Nancy. The original film was PERFECTLY timed for me. Younger viewers may find a similar pace slow for a new visit to the lakes. I’m afraid I didn’t take to the 2016 film, largely because they made Uncle Jim an actual spy, and gave the Amazons blond dreadlocks and Manchester accents. That said, I’d be very excited to see something like Pigeon Post made into a mini-series. Get the chaps at Honister on board for the slate mine parts, and reduce costs as there’s not so much sailing. One moor looks much like another…
I would like to see Winter Holiday made into a film or TV series, along with Picts and Martyrs.
We all would but it’s a difficult story to achieve technically. Filming snow scenes is expensive and really means going to Lithuania to film but it would be done!
Lithuania! Would it really mean going that far!
I’m not an expert but it would be cheaper to film such extensive exterior sequences in a cold climate.
It would certainly give a nicer and better effect (and a much better experience for the actors and crew, I suspect) than filming completely in a studio with fake snow.
Umm – it might be chilly. Not great filming in freezing conditions!
I’m sure it’s not. But it must be visually better and more inspiring?!
It is tricky enough filming with children as they can only be on set for a few hours a day and have to receive schooling in term time.
I must admit, I hadn’t given that aspect of it any thought. Think of the marvellous experience they would have, though!
All that skating!
And what great memories they would have, for the rest of their lives!
They do gain hugely from the experience of working on location with a team but a lot of filming can disrupt schoolwork.
I agree, and I accept that schoolwork is incredibly important in any child’s development. But I still think that the gains from an experience such as involvement in a film far outweigh any disruption.