Sunday, 28 February 2016

Barking signing - 27th February 2016

Today was the latest celebrity signing session at Barking Library, and it was an interesting mix of faces, mainly from Doctor Who.
Barking Signing - 27th February 2016
After cancelling twice before at the last minute, I like many was kind of hoping Jeremy Wilkin would finally put in an appearance, but all our hopes were dashed as yet again he was a no-show.

Still, the rest of the line up had some great names always worth meeting, plus some I had not met before and was looking forward to seeing for the first time.

There was a minor Eleventh Doctor cast reunion, with two actors who both appeared in A Good Man Goes To War and The Wedding Of River Song.

FRANCES BARBER has an amazing body of work, from the Pet Shop Boys musical Closer to Heaven; to appearing alongside Ian McKellen and Roger Allam in the Old Vic's pantomime production of Aladdin; she appeared alongside Peter Capaldi in Do Not Disturb plying his wife; as a opera diva in Inspector Morse.

In Doctor Who she starred as Madame Kavarian in A Good Man Goes to War and The Wedding of River Song (and 5 other episodes, sometimes uncredited).

I was very excited to get Frances to sign my book, as I have seen her in many great programmes down the years.

SIMON FISHER-BECKER played Dorium Maldovar in The Pandorica Opens, A Good Man Goes to War, and The Wedding of River Song. He also played the Time Lord Science Minister Kavil in series 5 of Gallifrey stories Emancipation, Evolution and Arbitration.

KELLY HUNTER played the Shadow Architect in The Stolen Earth returning to the role in The Magician's Apprentice.

Kelly very much liked my book, remarking on its cover before happily signing inside.
MOYA BRADY played Bridget Sinclair in Love & Monsters.

Moya was the last of the new series guests at today’s line up, and she was great to chat to.

The next couple of guests were from the classic series.
HENRY WOOLF is a London-born film, stage and TV actor who played the Collector in The Sun Makers. The diminutive actor was a close colleague of Harold Pinter and performed in a number of his plays; Pinter's The Hothouse is dedicated to Woolf.

His best-known  ilm work has included Marat/Sade, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Gorky Park. TV work other than Doctor Who has included Rutland Weekend Television, The Protectors, The Sweeney and Steptoe and Son.

PETER STENSON played a Voord, an Ice Soldier and the Second judge in The Keys of Marinus.

Since then he appeared on Taxi!, R3, Adam Adamant Lives!, Champion House, The Wednesday Play and Terry and June.

GEORGINA MOON is known especially for playing Lt. Sylvia Howell in Gerry Anderson’s UFO. She was Erotica in Up Pompeii!; Miss Finch in You're Only Young Twice, and appeared in How's Your Father?.
She starred in two Carry On films: Carry On Camping and Carry On Behind as well as the film version of Bless This House.

FRANCOISE PASCAL first appeared in Coronation Street, playing Ray Langton's friend, then Play of the Month for the BBC in Don Quixote with Rex Harrison. She was cast in numerous comedy series such as Happy Ever After with Terry Scott and June Whitfield, as well as My Honourable Mrs with Derek Nimmo. Her most notably comedy part was in Mind Your Language.

After the usual autograph opportunity as well as a chance to get a professional photo with the guests, there was the ever popular question and answer session.

It proved to become a lively discussion, bordering on a debate.

In fact at one point Simon Fisher-Becker said he felt like he was on Question Time!

The discussion opened with Henry Woolf, who by the sounds of things thoroughly enjoyed his time on The Sun Makers, especially the electric wheelchair he was given. He had insisted on practice time with the chair in the BBC rehearsal rooms so he was proficient at its use on set, which I think shows through.

Georgina Moon had not appeared in Doctor Who, but had notably member of the supporting cast in Gerry Anderson's UFO as a member of the SkyDiver personnel. She particularly remembered her cringeworthy string-vest uniform, that left little to the imagination!

Kelly Hunter talked about her work with her theatre company which brings Shakespeare plays to those with learning difficulties. The format draws the audience into direct contact with the actors, and a range of improvisation ensues.

Next we heard from Francoise Pascal, and the discussion hit upon her time in Mind Your Langauge, a sitcom from the 1970s about a group of foreign characters learning English at evening classes. The series had proved controversial at the time, even more so no, with its accentuated characterisations of black, south Asian and Europeans.

Despite being a series not screen in the UK for many years, Francoise explained how it is shown in a number of countries the characters originate from, proving in a way that although it is seen in the UK as racist, it is not perceived as such in those countries.
The discussion continued with the audience, and the rights and wrongs of such programmes was drawn into question and sharp focus.

Moya Brady drew the conversation to her times working with Russell T Davies on Love And Monsters, which she explained had been about the fans. Sadly it had failed to hit the right note with the audience which had disappointed her, but she thoroughly enjoyed her time working on it. Asked about Peter Kaye, she explained how with a lot of productions, unless you are in scenes together you don't necessarily spend time together off-set, so she hadn't seen much of him.

A lot of Peter Stenson's appearances in Doctor Who were in full body costumes and masks. The first of these was as Voord in The Keys Of Marinus, where he was required to wear a full-body wet suit and head mask. Being skin tight, and under the hot studio lights, it was very uncomfortable and he was soon sweating resulting in the suit getting quite squidgy to wear! At one point he took one of the boots off in sight of the cameras and he poured the collected sweat onto the studio floor, which the gallery saw. The studio doors was opened after that to allow a throughput of cool air, but it had little effect.

Francis Barber has had an amazing career, working with some incredible actors and is still very busy today. She had just finished work on a series for HBO with Dustin Hoffman shot in Italy, and before that another filming in Mexico.

She revealed that she auditioned for the part of Mrs Slocombe in the upcoming Are You Being Served? revival, but didn't get it. Harking back to earlier discussions, she questioned how on earth such scripts were written then, and how they can't be done now.

Simon Fisher-Becker chipped in that he had been put forward for Mr Rumbold, but hadn't been called for an actual audition.

He talked about agents and how they are a necessary evil: good to have when negotiations get tricky; annoying when they get in the way of a good part. His agent is disinterested in convention bookings, so he has a young PA to help him out, who's got 40 bookings this year already, some as far afield as Australia and America.

Discussion turned to how a lot of actors and catwalk models are pressured into looking or acting a certain way, making for a blandness in characters on screen.

I raised an interesting point which I heard at a Gerry Anderson convention last year. At a panel containing all the surviving voice artists who played the Tracy brothers, a member of the audience had expressed his appreciation of classic Thunderbirds. However, he had an issue with the latest CGI revival. He is blind, and cannot distinguish the voices for the Tracy brothers from each other - they all have a similarity in tone, accent and style. This had stunned the audience last year, and several of the panel were visibly challenged by the idea today.

It's something we don't necessarily think about, but is an increasing problem - a lack of diversity and a levelling out of types of actors being used.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Eye spy with my little eye -
something hidden on eBay

It’s funny what turns up on eBay sometimes.

Someone sent me a link to this listing for a job lot of buttons. A real mixed bag of all sorts of buttons, in tubes. But one tube caught my eye.....

JOB LOT Buttons (in tubes) 30+ tubes
One of the photos for the auction shows a very familiar button - at least to fans of the Matt Smith wardrobe.

In fact, while I’m thinking about it, I do have a number of spares of these buttons, so if you want a set to adorn your waistcoat, drop me a line.

A set of six screen accurate buttons are available at £12 a set.

If you want a set of Matt Smith waistcoat buttons, please mail me at
for details.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Custom Frock Coats - that's a coincidence!

One of my readers dropped me a line over Christmas, along with a photo.

He had been watching a film over the festive period and something rang a bell with him in connection to the custom frock coat I recently made for a client of mine in the US.

He was watching the 2009 Guy Ritchie version of Sherlock Holmes, and noticed that Jude Law’s costume as Doctor Watson bore more than a passing resemblance to what I had made!

It’s not precisely the W Bill fabric my client choose, but it’s damned close.
The only difference is the horizontal grid-lines are a light blue, but their spacing and background colour certainly look to be a match.

Not only that, it was used in a very similar way with a stylised, short frock coat and waistcoat, along with a match pair of trousers!
Neither my client or I had seen this before the commission, so that’s an unexpected surprise to say the least.

That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Custom Frock Coats - blue two-piece

I was very pleased with how the brown frock turned out for my UK client, but out of the two I’ve done the blue one for my US client is my personal favourite.

It's been challenging to make, as the brown grid pattern demands that it is matched and balanced across the seams wherever possible.

The placement of the lines running parallel to seams have to be carefully pre-planned. If they sit close to the seam it will make he pattern look irregularly spaced; if they fall into the seam there will be a gap in the pattern repeat, which also will look odd.

The cutting of the breast pocket welt is particularly critical.

If you look closely I have matched the grid lines vertically AND horizontally, plus also ensuring that the welt has grid lines passing through it both ways. If the grid missed the welt it would look like a separate piece of blue fabric, disjointed form the rest of the coat.

The waist seam at the front is carefully cut so the spacing of the horizontal lines is not interrupted or distorted.

Obviously there are areas of the coat that cannot be 100% marched due to the shaping and fitting that darts and seams create, but these discrepancies have been concealed under the arm or towards the back out of sight.

There was a slight hiccup with the cloth for the coat - something my client didn't know about (until now!)

When he spotted the Shetland tweed on the W Bill website it showed a stock of 3.5 metres. From my experience they are good at managing their stock, but before ordering I did get them to check that there was enough for me to make the coat. They came back to me saying there was a measured 3.4 metres, which I asked them to reserves while my client saw a in-hand swatch. Once approved I called to order the tweed, only to discover that only 1.2 metres was left!

The cloth was already on re-order and due in within a couple of weeks, so luckily all was not lost. But through the inconvenience I get them to supply 4 metres for the cost of the 3.4 metres I was expecting to pay for.
As a result, there was enough fabric left from cutting the coat so allow for me to make a matching a waistcoat - an opportunity my client jumped at.

I used the same pattern as the Matt Smith waistcoat from Day Of The Doctor, which naturally goes with the frock coat.

To tie the two garments together, I used the navy blue velvet from the coat's collar to make the welts for the pockets.

This made things a little easier for me, as I didn't need to pattern-match across the welts from the body of the waistcoat!

The back of the waistcoat uses the lining fabric from the coat.

Being made from genuine W Bill Shetland Tweed, the coat has their special label inside. My own is concealed inside the pocket.

For this coat we stuck to the buttons and buttonhole configuration of the Matt Smith coat, though with the five-button cuff as I did on the brown coat.

The same top quality brown horn buttons were used on the waistcoat. This picks out the colour of the grid, and the thread used for the buttonholes themselves match too.

I must admit I wasn’t 100% sold on the choice of fabric to start with, but now it is all made up and together, I think it is a stunning outfit which I hope the client enjoys wearing.

Barking signing - 5th December 2015

The final Barking signing event of 2015 was a late addition to the calendar, and brought together a handful of interesting guests.

Barking Signing - 5th December 2015
As I arrived I bumped into a couple of good friends, Chris and John, who I hadn’t seen for a while, so it was good to catch up with them before going in.

The guest list wasn’t as full as previous events, but I did still need five autographs, so the buy-four-get-one-free policy was perfect for me. There was a predominance of Eleventh Doctor actors too, which we don’t usually see for some reason. Tenth Planet Events are quite classic series biased - not that I am complaining!

NINA TOUSSAINT-WHITE played Mels in Let’s Kill Hitler.

I got her to start a new blank spread too, with a view to adding Alex Kingston when I get the chance.

LIZ WHITE portrayed Alice the servant in The Snowmen. She also voiced Genestain The Brink of Death.

Liz was on my hit list too.

BILL PATERSON played Dr Edwin Bracewell in Victory of the Daleks and The Pandorica Opens.
He has co-starred with many Doctor Who actors during a career. He was the lead character in Sea of Souls, which was produced by Phil Collinson immediately before his move to Doctor Who. During the series he worked with many Who-related guest stars, including: Paul McGann, Michelle Collins, Colin Salmon, Michelle Duncan, Peter Guinness, Christina Cole, Peter Capaldi, Sarah Haynes, Nicholas Gecks, Ellie Haddington, Louis Mahoney, Michael Obiora, Eric Mason, Bhasker Patel and Struan Rodger.
After Souls, he was the senior Crown Prosecutor in the first four series of Law and Order UK. He was thus the boss of Freema Agyeman's character — and eventually surrendered his wig to Peter Davison.

Bill is someone I definitely wanted to meet. He's been appearing in series down the years with his distinctive Scottish accent, from Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy in 1978; through The Singing Detective; and the many documentaries and to adverts he's voiced since. I'm greatly looking forward to his Fraiser in the upcoming Dad's Army movie due out early next year.

SIMON FISHER-BECKER played Dorium Maldovar in The Pandorica Opens, A Good Man Goes to War, and The Wedding of River Song. He also played the Time Lord Science Minister Kavil in series 5 of Gallifrey stories Emancipation, Evolution and Arbitration.

I have simon in my book already, which is just as well since he is there today outside of the Tenth Planet Events guests, and is charging separately. Best of luck to him.

ANNEKE WILLS played the First and Second Doctor's companion Polly from The War Machines to The Faceless Ones.

Anneke is a lovely lady, but I got her autograph at a previous event, so I don't need her today.

JAYE GRIFFITHS played Jac in The Magician's Apprentice and The Zygon Invasion, as well as a lead role in 1990s espionage drama Bugs.

Jaye is one I need for my book, and I got her to sign a new blank spread so I can add Kate Lethbridge Stewart in due course.

MICHAEL MCSTAY played Derek Moberley in The Seeds of Doom.

I'm not over familiar with Michael as an actor, but with the fifth free autograph, I've got him too.

Once everyone had their autographs it was time for the Q&A session.

It kicked off with Liz Smith talking a lot about her time on Life On Mars. She recalled the attention to detail the producers went to for every aspect of the series. She said there were drawers in the police station containing index cards full of supposed crime info. None of it was seen, but it was there just in case it was needed.

She also told us a hilarious story about dog poo! The producers had made fake poo - in white as that was what happen to it in the 1970s due to the additives in dog food at that time. I must admit it chimed a chord with me and they were right!

She also remembered the ‘period’ costumes that had to be made, as true vintage clothes don’t really fit the figures of today.

Turning to Bill Paterson, it quickly emerged this was his first EVER event appearance for anything he had done, so it was a bit of a coup getting him.

As well as talking a little about Doctor Who, he spoke about his up-coming appearance as Fraser in the Dad’s Army film. He said it was over a year since they had shot it, but the producers were waiting until February to release it as similar films with elderly casts perform better if released during the first three months of a year!

Nina Toussaint-White recalled her first big break, working on EastEnders and seeing the Albert Square at Elstree Studios, a stones throw from where I live.
She said although it has quite a big cast, it was quite a lonely experience to work on as she only ever got to meet and interact with a limited number of the cast, mainly those playing her close family.

Simon Fisher-Becker is well known for being a big Doctor Who fan, but he said this was affirmed when he was first on set and seeing the TARDIS. This made him even more of fan rather than a follower.

Jaye Grifffiths was someone I wanted to hear from, but was desperately disappointed with her comments and recollections.
For her acting is just a job and nothing more. It is all about the next job, rather than endlessly looking back at the last. She described acting as more about the people you work with and how you bounce off them rather than the work itself. This meant her memories of programmes she has worked on are all impressions rather than recollections of specific happenings.

Talking of Doctor Who, she said she was totally unaware of UNIT and the place it holds in the folklore of the series. She did say working with Gemma Redgrave was enormous fun, as was being chased by aliens and commanding UNIT personnel with their big guns!

Addressing the whole line-up, they were asked what had been their worst location shoot. Jaye’s was undoubtedly having to be in the Thames for Bugs. It was freezing cold and filthy but the only footage used was a tight close-up, so she could as well have been in a warm bath rather than a stinking river!

Michael McStay remembered having to film on a rubbish tip close to Heathrow airport, and Bill’s worst was the heat of Karachi for the Channel 4 series, Traffic.

Anneka Wills, vertically, remembered the studio-based tank filming for The Underwater Menace, which has recently been released on DVD.

She then had the nerve to say what I am sure a lot of us have been thinking, that The Underwater Menace is really just a load of rubbish. She went on to say the release itself wasn’t the best and felt quite rushed and incomplete.

I have to say I do agree with her. Pity it wasn’t one of the Patrick Troughton Dalek stories that had been re-discovered.