The re-mastered DVD of the 1984 BBC drama serial of ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’

In 2014, Revelation Films contacted me, saying that they were thinking of producing new packaging for a 30th Anniversary release of ‘Swallows and Amazons Forever!’, the BBC Drama adaptation of ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’ starring Rosemary Leach, Julian Fellowes, Colin Baker, John Woodvine and Henry Dimbelby. It also featured William the pug dog, who became a national treasure when he took on the role of Ethel’s Little Willie in Eastenders.

Swallows and Amazons Forever
Swallows And Amazons Forever! (Coot Club & The Big Six) SPECIAL EDITION [DVD]

I spent nine months working on this television series that was shot on 16mm film almost entirely on location in East Anglia. We spent the idyllic summer of 1983, mainly afloat on the Norfolk Broads. DVDs now offer Extras, which I was commissioned to write.

They tell me that this DVD is one of their top ten bestsellers along with LA Law, Highway to Heaven and Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman starring Jane Seymour.

Henry Dimbleby and Rosemary Leach in 'Coot Club' and 'The Big Six'

Click here for the page on the Revelation Films Website

I wanted to suggest they had the book titles in larger letters: ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’ by Arthur Ransome. Neither the Swallows or the Amazons appear in it after all. However, interesting actors such as Patrick Troughton and Sam Kelly do. I thought that including photos of them might appeal to those who appreciate Classic TV.

Patrick Troughton as the eel man

It was thought that my shot of Julian Fellowes playing Jerry the Hullabaloo showed him looking too young to be recognised these days. I am sure he’d agree with me that it is just the mustache that is distracting. I don’t remember it being a real one.

Julian Fellowes as Jerry in Coot Club

The production manager at Revelation Films told me she liked the photograph used on the cover of the Puffin Book, which I explained depicted The Big Six. The publishers are currently searching their archives for the original shot, which I remember setting up at Gay Staithe. Sadly this abridged version of the books lacks Ransome’s own illustrations.

Coot Club - book cover

I suggested they edit the episodes together into two films but I understand some parents like being able to show each 28 minute episode at a time. We loved the opening titles graphic and music at the time but they seem rather dated now.

Coot Club - The Teasel sailed by a double
We chose the pug as a puppy so he really was called William. He was quite young and playful when the series was made.

Sadly Revelation Films only own the UK rights but I’ve noticed you can buy it on . There are other outlets but you want to be able to guarantee the quality.

Roger Wardale's book

I am currently reading Roger Wardale’s new book Arthur Ransome on the Broads, which is also available from Amazon  It is illustrated with photographs of some of the boats that we used when we were filming. This was the Teasel’s costume:

The false transom used on the yacht Lullaby during the filming of ‘Coot Club’ that now resides at Hunter’s Yard ~ photo: Roger Wardale

I loved seeing Roger’s photographs of the Fairway yachts in full sail. Perhaps one of Lullaby should be on the new cover of the DVD.

Sailing on the River Ant: photo ~ Roger Wardale
Sailing on the River Ant: photo ~ Roger Wardale

For more about the boats used in ‘Coot Club’ please click here

To read about the making of the original film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ – please click on the image below. You can read the first ‘Look Inside’ section free of charge:

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

31 thoughts on “The re-mastered DVD of the 1984 BBC drama serial of ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’”

  1. Interesting about ‘copyright regluations’ as a reason for not editing the episodes together. I have a VHS Video release where they did exactly that and it works very well indeed. It has a BMG logo on the box, and ‘The Family Collection’. Also WH Smith Exclusive. The spine says Digitally Remastered 74321 266333. I daresay some people prefer separate episodes, but at such a distance from the original serialised broadcast it seems to me perverse to stick with them. And I speak as a fan of the signature tune!

  2. I hope that ‘Arthur Ransome on the Broads” brings back some happy memories of the filming. Thank you very much for the mention.
    I think the Puffin people had the right idea and I like the group photo a lot.
    If ‘Swallows and Amazons for ever’ HAS to appear, let it be as small as possible and cut the S&A flags altogether and replace with a coot flag. (Two coot flags, one for Titmouse and another for the D&G)
    Otherwise I think the puffin photo would make an excellent basis for the cover.
    Photos of the noted actors would look well on the back.
    I can’t see that any add-on goodies about locations or the filming would spoil the magic for people at all. Satisfy their curiosity, perhaps, and send them to the Broads to see for themselves?
    So, go to it Sophie!

    1. Thank you for all your points about the new DVD cover, which I shall pass on to Revelation Films. I will send you a draft of my ‘Coot Club’ posts that have been put together as a little book. I could get a list of the film locations from Liz Mace but think it’s good to leave a bit of the adventuring to readers. They can explore for them selves.

      1. I am looking forward to seeing it. I’m sure you have enough material to make a nice little book. It is possible that if it were to be independent of the DVD it could reach a larger audience.
        Picking up on Jill Goulder’s idea of a series (hello Jill!) there is Ring of Bright Water.

        1. I agree with all of Roger’s comments – we’ll have to keep pestering Sophie, Roger! (Don’t worry, Sophie – not really! – though we do think it’s a really appealing concept)

        2. There was ‘Ring of Bright Water’. Now and again my mother gets approached by companies hoping to re-make it as she has the only tame otters in the country.

          As you know, you need quite a bit of material to make a book. ‘S&A’ was unique in that as children we kept diaries – akin to Titty’s log. My parents able to take quite a few behind-the-scenes photos – and then kept everything for forty years!

            1. PS I supported a book on Unbound (‘Saving Bletchley Park’) with £10, and it’s now fully subscribed and will be published – result!

            2. I once went to a seminar given by Unbound books and met some of those involved – very interesting people. I have sent draft copies of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’ off to a publisher who does TV and Film ‘tie-ins’ and am waiting to hear. They might be able to include colour photographs. However, since it has been so carefully proof read by Peter Wright, Roger Wardale, Chris Holmes and others I feel I could offer very decent copies, with black and white photographs, through On-line retailers without having to bother anyone for funding. The Kindle fire version would have both colour photos and behind-the-scenes movie clips. Suzanna Hamilton is happy to help record an audio. book

  3. Hi Sophie
    Sounds great! I bought the DVDs of S&A and S&A forever from and they are both advertised as being region 2, however they are not, they play on my region 4 player in Australia. In fact they are region free – That’s what that green U means in the bottom left hand corner of the cover in the picture you have posted. Can’t they bring them out region free like this? I think they could sell quite a few more! I definitely agree that the book titles should be the main wording on the cover and the S&A forever, either removed, or made much smaller. I also agree that it would be much better to splice them together into two films – I am certain that most people would watch them this way. The original music fits very well, but may be dated for a modern audience – but then again, this is dated for a modern audience anyway, so they either like it or not, keep the music. A large percentage of people who buy this are going to be Ransome fans and marketers should remember this when they are designing it. The extras on the DVD including stills is a great idea. I think a booklet is also a great idea, or if they really must, they could do it the way that some others have and make it a digital booklet on the DVD. I’d like to see stuff about the making of the films on there, but then as a Ransome fan and a sailor, I’d also like to have something written about Ransome, his life, and particularly the writing of the S&A books. Get someone like Roger Wardale to write it to make it more special. Best of luck to them rereleasing it – I think it’s a great idea.

    1. As you can see, Roger Wardale has recently published a lovely book about Ransome’s time on the Broads, detailing how he wrote ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’. I learned that it was his wife who bullied him into including Dick and Dorothea. He wasn’t around for the filming though. Would you like to know more about how the serial was made and who was involved in making them?

  4. Hello Sophie – I agree with your suggested wording/ font size changes for the cover, and the behind-the-scenes ‘extra’ sounds terrific – I don’t think it would cause tears in the nursery! Not so sure about a full illustrated booklet (a bit passe), but mugshots of the main/ famous actors in character, with a few biog words on each, would be good – or on the back, as Roger suggests (hello, Roger!).

    On the cover, ‘Featuring Julian Fellowes as Jerry the Hullabaloo’ might be a better addition than the dated photo?

  5. Your illustrated book on making the series gives me an inkling of an idea for you: how about a whole series of illustrated books on ‘Behind the scenes of’, about classic films? Certain genres only perhaps, e.g. children’s (Railway Children etc) and things like Born Free. After all, the ‘film tourism’ business (tours to see locations of films) is flourishing; and the evocative photos of the era of the making of these films should have a wider audience. Just a thought!

    1. I could write about the films I made. I am not sure if I would get commissioned to write about others. Certainly there has been a documentary made about making ‘Born Free’. Virginia McKenna has a chapter about making it in her autobiography.

      1. Well, I think you underestimate yourself! – I would see film-makers being very interested in getting some promotion for their classic work through the very professional treatment that you’re giving to the films that you already know about. You have evolved an excellent template! (Yes, Born Free’s been done in one sense, but as part of a series it might be refreshed.) Anyway, just something to dream about ……

  6. When this was repeated a year or so after original broadcast it was in fewer, longer episodes. Editing it would mean losing some content though because the “recap” is not always identical to the first showing.

    I was a child and Ransome fan when it was first broadcast and it was just my favourite thing ever! I know some have commented that Port and Starboard were too young and so on, but the actors all just became the characters for me. I remember finding all the locations, navigating my long suffering parents round the broads. We saw the Death and Glory at Stalham! I love the idea that a cleaned-up DVD could one day inspire my daughter in the same way.

  7. I’ve recently re-watched ‘S&A Forever’ – still a really exciting story, and the shining star is of COURSE William. I wonder how he was trained, and how he coped with the filming environment?
    Re the above discussions, the constantly reappearing irritating music drove me nuts by the end (in contrast to the S&A theme) and the ‘link’ re-caps at the start of each new episode became very tedious, even though – as doctordunc says – there are a few different twists. A single run right through would be brilliant – let’s hope!

    1. William was the sweetest dog. He was only about 6 months old when we started filming, which was the key to success as he enjoyed everything involved, especially being out on the water, playing with the children and generally being cuddled. He was bought and trained by Tony and Jan of ‘Janimals’ who used provide all the dogs for television dramas. I worked with them again when they provided two collies to play Gerald Durrell’s dog ‘Roger’ in the first BBC serial of ‘My Family and Other Animals’, which we shot on Corfu in 1987.

      I’ll pass your comments about the music to Revelation Films.

  8. This was a great serial and a brilliant adaptation of the books. I am so pleased to have it on DVD.
    I think Jill G’s idea of a behind-the-scenes book on classic films is a geat idea and I think you could do it. I’ve said more than once, I wish we had such information about the very early days of the cinema.

      1. It’s a fascinating subject, one that I’ve been interested in for years. I have many early films on disc, going back to D W Griffiths, King Vidor, the Melies Brothers and Mitchell & Kenyon, etc. They are great and some of them are so powerful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: