Lovely Aldeburgh on the Suffolk Coast
was shown at the Aldeburgh cinema with a Q&A afterwards with Sophie Neville who played Titty speaking to the actress Diana Quick.
Sophie was signing the last first edition copies of ‘The Making of Swallows & Amazons’.
Opposite the cinema, books by Arthur Ransome, who once lived in Suffolk
adorn the shelves of the award-wining Aldeburgh Bookshop
The sun shone and holiday makers enjoyed the beach
where you can buy fresh seafood and chat to the fisherman.
Swallow, the lugsail dingy that starred in the 1974 film
was sailing with the Aldeburgh Junior Lapwings who had a Swallows and Amazons regatta that weekend. You can read about what they got up to here.
Thanks go to The Aldeburgh Bookshop for their sponsorship
On Saturday 26th September at 3.00pm the original film of Arthur Ransome’s book ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was screened at the Riverside cinema in Woodbridge, Suffolk as part of their celebration of ‘100 Years of Film’.
I was on stage to answer questions about how we made the film after the screening. Swallow, the dinghy we used on the movie was rigged up outside the cinema and admired by many.
Back in April, I was invited to a similar screening of ‘Swallows & Amazons’ (1974) also held to raise funds for the up-keep of Arthur Ransome’s yacht Nancy Blackett. As the film ended I was invited up on stage to answer questions about how it was made. Marc Grimston sent a list of these, so I could answer them here for those unable to get cinema seats.
As a child were you like Titty? In 1973, I was aged twelve and at five-foot two, was really too old and too tall for the role of Titty but it was easy enough to pretend to be nine years old. I was on-screen a great deal so it probably a good thing that I was old enough to cope with long filming days. I thought I was much more like Mate Susan but perhaps that made it easier for me to play Titty.
How many tried for the role of Titty? About 1,800 children originally auditioned for the six parts in ‘Swallows & Amazons’. Claude Whatham, the director, wrote inviting me to an interview. In the end there were five girls up for the part of Titty. You can read more about the final audition here.
Sophie Neville on stage with Peter Willis, President of the Nancy Blackett Trust
Had you read the books before? I had read most of the books in the series and loved them, so it was very easy to take on the part. We never had to sit down and learn lines because we knew what to say from reading the book.
Sophie Neville taking about Swallows & Amazons
Were they any disasters during filming? Swallow’s mast broke!
How did you stay safe with the snake? It was a real adder, but quite a tame one. I think they lowered its metabolism by keeping it cool.
How did they make the lion noises? It was a recording of a real lion.
How did you capture their boat? In one take!
How did they film the night scenes? We shot many of them inside Mrs Batty’s barn.
Sophie Neville with Swallow’s flag
When you filmed the approach to the houseboat it seamed as if Amazon was coming in fast, was she? Yes, she hit it quite hard!
How long did it take to film? We spent forty six days onset in total, which meant spending about seven weeks in the Lake District.
Do you still have the parrot? I don’t. The green parrot belonged to Mrs Proctor of Kendal where the residents were terrified of him.
What happened to Amazon? She is owned by a family living in Kent who love sailing her in the lakes. She was the same Amazon as used in the BBC serial of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ made in 1962, when Susan George played Kitty.
Have you been back to the island? Yes! I last returned with Nick Barton who is planning a new film adaptation of ‘Swallows and Amazons’.
Are there adaptations of any other Swallows and Amazon books? Yes, in 1983 I was able to work on the BBC serialisation of ‘Coot Club and The Big Six’, starring Rosemary Leach, Colin Baker, Henry Dimbleby and Julian Fellowes as one of the Hullabaloos. It was my job to cast the children and look after them during the three months we spent on location, which was great fun.
Click here for further details: Riverside Cinema in Woodbridge
Arthur Ransome was born in on 18th January 1884. This Saturday will be his 130th anniversary.
Around the world, those who loved his books will be celebrating his birthday. Around the UK, from the South Coast to Giggleswick in North Yorkshire and up in Scotland, various branches of The Arthur Ransome Society are holding events in High Wycombe, Glasgow, Exeter and on the Orwell where Arthur Ransome spent so much time sailing.
As you can see in the Comments below, Pamela Copley has just written from Australia to say:
‘There is a celebration of AR’s birthday in a suburb of Melbourne on Saturday – straight after the AGM. There will be a member from the UK group too.
Cheryl Paget tells me that, ‘In New Zealand members have met in Auckland for a weekend of Ransome inspired activities. We have sailed under the Auckland Harbour Bridge in a 57ft ketch rigged deck scow, toured the historic naval town of Devonport and walked to the top of the dormant volcano of Rangitoto.’
‘We would like to have a small exhibition in this year.’ In 2014, publication of new Japanese translation of Ransome saga was complete.’
So, this week, I ask the question: How has Arthur Ransome influenced your life?
What impact have his classic books, or the adaptations of Swallows and Amazons for film, television or the theatre, had on your family?
Do add a line or two to the Comments below.
I am guilty of denial. When people asked, ‘How has Swallows & Amazons influenced your life?’ I’m afraid I used not to be that forth-coming, because I had moved on from acting in films. If you had asked me in 2010 I would have shrugged and said, ‘Not much.’
But then I stopped and thought again.
How much time I have spent exploring wilderness areas? I’d forgotten that it was the maps in Ransome’s books that attracted me to reading Cartography at university. I went to draw numerous maps all over the world.
I love living outdoors. I love fell walking, mud-flats, and being out on the high seas. I would drop everything to sail to China or the Caribbean tomorrow. I put this down to the fact that my father took us sailing and camping even before I read Ransome’s books. But who influenced Dad? Born in 1929, he was an avid reader of Arthur Ransome and would eagerly wait for the next book about the Swallows and the Amazons to be published. It would be a longed-for Christmas present.
It then occurred to me that John’s careful planning, Susan’s packing, Titty’s log and Roger’s humour still steer my life. The food, the phrases, the urge to travel, became part of my life long ago. I’ve lived under Swallow’s flag.
I for one, sail into the year ahead with Titty’s words still singing in my ears,
‘Here we are, intrepid explorers, making the first ever voyage into uncharted waters? What mysteries will it hold for us, what dark secrets shall me revealed?’
‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ by Sophie Neville is available from The Nancy Blackett Trust shop:
If you have ever wondered what Nancy Blackett is doing now – here she is. Built by Hillyards of Littlehampton in 1931 she was bought by Arthur Ransome with royalties from Swallows and Amazons and became both the inspiration and model for his book about the Swallows’ unplanned voyage to Holland ~ We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea, in which she was known as the Goblin. She also appears in Secret Water.
I was at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club to give a talk on making the BBC adaptations of two other Arthur Ransome books set in East Anglia, Coot Club and The Big Six.
I was sure that people would rather be out in the sunshine but it was well attended.
After watching a clip of Ginger and Rosa, the BFI/BBC feature film directed by Sally Potter that starred Nancy Blackett, we wandered down to the jetty in front of the new club house, and grabbed a chance to go out on the Orwell.
Soon sails were being hoisted and we were underway, sailing down river in the evening light.
Conditions were perfect for Nancy, a 28 foot Bermurdan cutter.
I took the helm, whilst the others did the hard work.
We were soon sailing past Pin Mill, which also features in the book.
Some members of the crew were experienced sailors,
others had previously managed to avoid spending much time on the water, but we all had a wonderful experience and were sad when the sails were stowed for the night.
We saw a couple of Thames barges also coming in, as Nancy settled down after a successful day. Think of joining The Nancy Blackett Trust and sailing her yourself.
For more photos please click here
Nancy had been brought up from her birth at Woolverstone on the River Orwell in Suffolk to Buckler’s Hard on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire for The Arthur Ransome Society International Annual General Meeting held at Brockenhurst College near by.
Apart from being Arthur Ranomse’s model for the Goblin in two of his books in the Swallows and Amazons series ~ We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea and Secret Water ~ the Nancy Blackett has recently appeared in Sally Potter’s feature film Ginger and Rosa.
I went to visit her when she was open to visitors at the Boat yard at Bucklers Hard on Sunday 26th May.
We emerged having wondered how Arthur Ransome managed to fit himself into the heads, which are right in the bows. Apparently he used to sit there smoking his pipe. How his wife squeezed herself in I do not know – she was 6’3″ tall.
On the morning of 27th May we had a quick look around the historic village of Bucklers Hard,
including the Master Builder’s Hotel,
before finding Nancy at the marina.
After climbing into our life-jackets, we left the mooring and motored down the Beaulieu River.
Once we reached the Solent, our sails were hoisted and we were sailing towards the Isle of Wight.
Peter Willis, Chairman of the Nancy Blackett Trust was with us.
It was exciting to take the helm as we made our way up to Lymington on a broad reach at about 4 knots, at first against, then with the tide.
Having left at about 10.00am we reached the Royal Lymington Yacht Club soon after 3.00pm and moored up for the night.
We had enjoyed perfect conditions and the most wonderful experience.
Nancy’s crew then welcomed aboard sailors from the Royal Lymington Yacht Club who were keen to see around her.
If you would like to sail the Nancy Blackett do visit her website and join the trust. The next meeting will be on Saturday 6th July when Sophie Neville has been asked to give a talk on ‘Filming ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’ in Norfolk’.
The Nancy Blackett was recently profiled on BBC 1 by Coutryfile when Matt Baker went out on her first sail of the season.
Here is a compilation of the programme made up by the Nancy Blackett Trust: