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.

I worked on the television series that was shot on 16mm film 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 Amazon.com . 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:

'TEASEL'
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

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