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Halloween with Most Haunted’s Richard Felix

Interview contents and images are copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2014

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“Have you seen Death? It has seen you and is watching closely. By the time you finish reading this, Death may well have become a little more intimate than when we began. Soon, you and Death will be inseparable.” – D. A. Griffiths

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. I was a good little boy who always said his prayers at night and was even an altar boy for good measure because God and the Devil were very real to me as a child. Catholic Church, Catholic School and Catholic guilt – my Holy Trinity. Words and phrases like eternal life, world without end, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, still reverberate but I lost my faith somewhere along the way.

It’s difficult to say when or even why but the idea of kneeling, singing and praying together as part of a congregation suddenly became weird to me – especially the act of Holy Communion; Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. And then you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. The little Damian may have amicably taken part in this ritual mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ but teenage Damian was out of there. And he never went back.

Still, those eternal questions remain: Why am I here? What will happen to me when I die? Does my bum look big in this dress? Perhaps in the absence of God or faith, I chose to pursue the supernatural or paranormal in my exploration of life’s unanswered questions but the truth is, I wasn’t much convinced with this either.

I was talking about all this with a friend of mine, Ashley Waterhouse, curator of the Derby Gaol (old English for jail) and Police Museum, while I was researching Victorian Police for a new book on the subject. Ashley said I should have a chat with Richard Felix and he was right! Of course, I knew Richard from his four years on TV’s Most Haunted and was impressed by his passion and knowledge as a historian and paranormal investigator. Perhaps he could answer some of my questions but I also wanted to ask him if his own brush with death as a teenager (he was diagnosed with cancer but made a full recovery) contributed to his interest in the afterlife and also about the controversy surrounding Most Haunted’s authenticity.

So, Godless and without any faith or belief system of my own, I made my way to meet Richard Felix to explore the paranormal – maybe I would even see a ghost! As I sat on the train from Uttoxeter to Derby, it amused me to recall that poster behind Mr. Mulder’s desk.

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Damian: Derby has been named the ghost capital of England. Well, here we are in Derby, specifically we’re sitting in the Derby Jail, which itself, has been called a strong contender for the title of most haunted place in Derby. So, are you telling me that I’m now in what could be the most haunted place in England?

Richard: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. But it could get better than that Damian because Derby is the most haunted city in Great Britain and this is probably, with its history and everything else, the most haunted place in Derby but what you’ve got to remember is Britain has actually got more ghosts than anywhere else in the world because the ghost thing is an English-speaking people thing. England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, they all have a ghost culture that non-English-speaking countries don’t have – they don’t do ghosts like we do. They’ve got their beliefs and superstitions such as the Mexican Day of the Dead but in terms of actual ghosts, England is the most haunted country in the world and Derby is the most haunted city in the world!

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Damian: OK. First of all, what evidence is there to support such a claim and secondly, am I safe to continue with this interview?

Richard: Oh yeah, absolutely – of course you’re safe! The evidence, would you believe, didn’t actually come from me. It all came about through my work over the last twenty-two years of ghost walks, tours, trips, books, DVDs and everything else about not only Derby but the whole of the country and it really came about on a visit to York when I bought one of those little Pitkin tourist books and it said at the very beginning that York, with a rumoured 140 sightings of ghosts within in the city, surely York must be the most haunted city in Great Britain. And I read this and came back to Derby and it was not long after I’d written a book, me and a medium friend of mine, called The Ghosts of Derby, that I asked him exactly how many ghost stories have we got and he said well in excess of 150 documented first-hand accounts. In other words, we know the names of the person –not of the ghost– but the person who actually saw the ghost so it really came from that and about four or five years ago a priest in his seventies who lives in Wales and is also a karate expert, self-defence expert, biker…

Damian: That’s quite a combination…

Richard: …Yeah and he also does all sorts of statistics for magazines and it was for a double-pack paranormal DVD that got commissioned and he declared Derby to be the most haunted city in Great Britain with York and Chester a joint second. YES! So you see, it wasn’t me – it was in all the newspapers so it must be true mustn’t it?

Damian: Indeed. Well, I’ve certainly come to the right place then. You know how people say that if you suddenly find yourself in front of a wild animal, the best thing to do is stay absolutely still, what advice can you give me should I suddenly find myself next to a ghost?

Richard: Talk to it.

Damian: You want me to talk to it?

Richard: Give it respect. Give it the same respect you would have given it when it was alive because remember it was once a human being like you and possibly still thinks it is and possibly doesn’t even realize it passed over. In fact it probably hasn’t passed over because it’s still around. That’s the big one that so many people don’t seem to understand. Of course the next thing to tell you is that the profession of a ghost, if they had one, wouldn’t be to scare you.

Damian: That was going to be my next question and it’s the title of a certain book, What is a Ghost?

Richard: Well, that’s the title of my book!

Damian: Yes I know Richard – it’s what’s called a plug!

Richard: Ha! Well, the word ghost which we use is nothing more than a Proto-Indo-European word well over 3000 years old, “ghodyz” means to be frightened of – that’s it. From it comes the old English word “gast” and the German word “geist” and they all mean the same. When William Caxton came over here with his printing press in the fourteen-hundreds it took the old English word “gost” but he spelt it with a silent H because that was the Flemish spelling and we got our ghost. So anything that we don’t understand, something that walks through the wall, throws something off a mantlepiece or walks up the stairs but you can’t see them, doors open on their own, we refer to it as a ghost because we’re frightened of it. We need to change it. I’d like to change the name to energy; an energy force that has left the body but is still around.

Damian: It’s not quite as media-friendly though is it, energy instead of ghost? A film called “Ghost” is going to attract a big audience whereas “Energy”, well, not so much…

Richard: No, you’re absolutely right, it wouldn’t work. People want to be frightened and that’s why they watch Paranormal Activity and Most Haunted for the fear factor but I’m the guy that’s trying to get people away from that and actually explain what a ghost really is which is an energy source. 40% of it I believe to be the spirit or a soul of a dead person, an intelligence that knows you’re there that can come back and interact…

Damian: But let me ask you this, you’ve just mentioned an intelligence but before you said that ghosts possibly don’t realize that they’ve passed over so exactly how aware or intelligent are they if don’t even comprehend that they are actually dead?

Richard: It’s operating on a different level, be that a spiritual plane, dimension, frequency or vibration. In other words, the ghost that I actually saw going past the kitchen in this very building, I don’t think it saw me and I don’t think it saw the kitchen as it is now. I think it is in its own realm as the jail was back then years ago. Hence the fact that it walked through the wall so supposing there was a door there originally in 1756, but we’ve now put the door there, I don’t think the ghost would come through that door, it would come through the original door here because it’s on a different frequency or vibration. In other words, in its time, that door was open and that’s why sometimes they are headless or legless because they are actually on the original floor that was lower or the ceiling higher than the present one. I don’t think that they know the building has changed even if the building’s not there anymore.

Damian: So the kind of ghost that we are accustomed to seeing in films are more perceptive and intelligent than “real” ones?

Richard: Ah, not always but they can be. They can be an intelligence that knows you’re there, that can come back if you need them and be around you if you’re in need or trouble…

Damian: The Patrick Swayze kind of ghost perhaps?

Richard: Oh yeah, very much so. The number of times after Christmas that a little girl might see an old lady but isn’t afraid of her. Then the photos come out at a Christmas party and the little girl says that’s the lady I saw in my bedroom the other night. Well it’s her Grandma and the little girl might be three and the old lady  has been dead for five years. That happens over and over again because she’s still around, they don’t go anywhere. They’re not up there, or down there.

Damian: Ghost sightings and incidents apparently tend to occur here from around October –naturally in time to cash in on Halloween!– through to December and then tail off until June or July. Why would there be more or less sightings at particular times of the year do you think?

Richard: That’s a good question. There’s various reasons for that and I don’t believe for one minute that ghosts are creatures of the night because whatever incident created a ghost usually happens in the day time.

Damian: What incident might that be for example?

Richard: A hanging perhaps and we don’t hang people at night. In the olden days where most ghosts come from, as soon as it got dark people went to bed.

Damian: But can you tell me why would most ghosts be from the “olden days” as oppose to more recent times?

Richard: Oh I’ve got a huge theory for that one and it’s all down to what they believed in at the time rather than what people believe in now. For example, have you ever heard of the ghost of a caveman?

Damian: No.

Richard: Exactly. So, prehistory or two-thousand years ago, there are very few ghosts. I’m not saying there are none but there are not many. Have you ever seen a ghost wearing a hoodie and smoking a joint with his backside hanging out of his jeans walking through a council house wall?

Damian: Thankfully not.

Richard: So there’s a huge period in between and it all started two-thousand years ago with the creation of Christianity.

Damian: Well we’re going to come on to that but back to the original question of why there would be more or less ghost sightings at particular times of the year…

Richard: So basically in October you can tie in the pagan beliefs of Halloween but the other reason is that it’s also darker a lot earlier at that time of the year so regardless of what I say about ghosts not being creatures of the night, the fact is that your sensors that see or hear are more heightened in the dark. That’s why we filmed Most Haunted in the dark and also because it’s more scary. People are more scared and more alert in the winter months.

Damian: You’re actually scared of the dark aren’t you Richard?

Richard: Well actually, I’m scared of what’s in the dark. There’s a difference isn’t there?

Damian: Perhaps. Tell me how you first became interested in the paranormal and if your own brush with death as a teenager may have contributed to this?

Richard: I’ve been frightened of the paranormal since I was four and that’s because I played with kids that were a lot older than me and they used to frighten me to death with ghost stories, not frighten, terrify me and from the age of four I used to lay awake at night waiting for the green ghost. It’s still with me, I never went to the toilet alone or slept without the light on until I was at least fourteen – I’m terrified of ghosts! I’d hide under the bedsheets, count to sixty and then with both fingers crossed and fein deep sleep and then it wouldn’t do anything to me. I need to see a physiatrist don’t I?

Damian: Quite possibly.

Richard: So I think having a fear in something probably gives you an interest into it as well. And then of course it all started when I became chairman of Derby tourism and thought we needed ways of promoting the city. York do ghosts walks so why don’t we? So I started the legendary ghost walks and we’ve had a million and a half people on the ghosts walks in the last 22 years!

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Damian: Let’s talk about the Derby jail which we’re sitting in now. If I said to my partner that I was going to buy an allegedly haunted old jail, I suspect she would react somewhat disapprovingly to say the least. What did your wife have to say on the matter?

Richard: At the time I had already taken over Derby heritage centre which was three-thousand square feet of Tudor grammar school that had got a history going back to 1160 with famous boys that went to school there like you wouldn’t believe in that building. Thomas Linacre, the founder of the Royal College of Physicians, Bishop Juxon, the man that stood on the scaffold with King Charles I and ghosts – very haunted as well so I started the ghost walks. I’d bitten off an awful lot with this building and my wife was not too keen on me starting another project that took me eighteen months to make on a very small budget because, I won’t go into this, but I’ve never had the slightest help from the city in any way. I can see her now sitting in a cafe in the Eagle Centre as it was then telling me I don’t want you to do this.

Damian: But you just ignored her anyway?

Richard: Of course I did!

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Damian: Getting back to the theme of childhood and the paranormal. Children are fascinated with ghosts and horror but as you get older and friends and family pass away, do you think this takes away the fun aspect only to be replaced with sadness and melancholy – does ghost hunting become a more emotional experience? I mean you’ve made a living out of ghosts and death…

Richard: Yeah, it’s not a dying business at all! I was actually always frightened to death that my Dad would appear in my bedroom when he died. But I wasn’t frightened when he was alive so why the hell should I be frightened of him appearing when he’s dead?

Damian: I’d be somewhat disconcerted if a dead person suddenly appeared in my bedroom. Then again, I’d be disconcerted if anyone suddenly appeared in my bedroom without knocking. Anyway, did your father ever appear?

Richard: Well, talking of the whole emotion thing and how it changes, I actually travelled in the car with him after he was dead without me seeing him and he was seen by somebody else.

Damian: Who was driving the car?

Richard: I was driving – it wasn’t him! I travelled with my father and he was seen in the rearview mirror of the bloke in front all the way down through an army camp where Dad and I used to go. The guy got out and said hello Richard are you and your father OK and looked into the passenger seat and realized that no one else was there. He knew us very well and was head of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and he said there was definitely someone sitting in the passenger seat next to me.

Damian: I’d like to move on to the thorny issue of religion. I was raised a Catholic but I now have a number of doubts concerning the faith and religion in general and I suppose it’s the same with ghosts…

Richard: It is the same thing.

voodoodoll1Damian: My Nan is a devout Christian and would undoubtedly be disappointed that I’m in a haunted old jail doing an interview with a paranormal investigator accompanied by your resident psychic (Chris Thompson) sitting in the corner who has just been showing me his collection of African Voodoo fetish dolls! Do you think it is possible to be a religious person and also pursue the paranormal?

Richard: Yes. Yes I do – absolutely.

Damian: Are you a religious man?

Richard: No but I believe in a creator. I’m Church of England, I was christened and I usually wear a cross but the only reason I wear it is for them and not for me – those believers and I’m talking about the dead ones. It’s a little bit like a reverse magnet, if you put two magnets together, one pushes the other one away and I believe that wearing a cross does the same thing – repels them for want of a better word.

Damian: Are we talking about spirits?

Richard: Yes. It’s gets them away from me because I’m frightened of them.

Damian: Not to be cynical but wouldn’t it be in your best interests not to repel them as a paranormal investigator?

Richard: But I’m frightened of them!

Damian: Not really very good for business though is it?

Richard: Hah! I actually wore a fantastic Saxon cross that was found on the lakes in Ireland where the Irish King is buried and it’s a Celtic cross that would have been worn by a monk and on Most Haunted, and this is real – it was ripped off my neck. There was two supposed evil monks in this place in Portsmouth and you could see the mark on my neck where it was ripped off!

Damian: This was actually caught on camera in an episode of Most Haunted?

Richard: Yeah, too right it was. That was real. I know that was real, it actually happened to me.

Damian: Can we just clarify your stance on religious faith and the possible contradiction it might pose with paranormal investigation?

Richard: I’m not anti-church, I’m anti-man. Man that has corrupted the church and used it for their own gains. When you ask me if I believe in God, the problem that I have is, and call it God if you will, you could call it anything from Jehovah to Allah but we’re all talking about the same thing – a man in the sky. I believe that something created all of this.

Damian: So while you might entertain the idea of a God that created us, in terms of the New Testament at least, you just dismiss all the events depicted in the Bible?

Richard: I’m sorry but do you really think that Mary wasn’t playing around…

Damian: I really wouldn’t like to say but we’re sat here in a supposedly haunted building discussing spirits returning from the dead. How is Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Christ any different from the ghosts or spirits that you have spent your life investigating?

Richard: Maybe we’re singing from the same hymn book. I mean I’m talking about someone that dies, goes wherever and then comes back. The Church is talking about a guy that died after he was executed and three days later came back. I suppose the only difference with Jesus is that it was a physical resurrection as oppose to just spiritual. But there’s no proof for either.

Damian: But that’s where the issue of faith comes in isn’t it?

Richard: Yes and I have a lot of time for anyone that has faith.

Damian: Regardless to what faith or what they believe in?

Richard: Yes, I don’t care what you believe in. If you believe in spacemen that will come and take you back at the end of your life to wherever you came from then good for you. But please, please don’t kill people because you think your faith is slightly different from someone else’s.

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Damian: Moving on. You are probably best known to many people for your appearances on TV’s Most Haunted with Yvette Fielding. Can I ask why you left and perhaps comment on some of the negative publicity regarding the controversial issue of the show’s authenticity?

Richard: Well, when I joined Most Haunted I believed in most things that happened at the beginning but basically it degenerated into Scooby-Doo and that was my problem. So what I’m saying to you is that on the show, I never caught anyone faking anything in the four and half years I was on the programme. I’m not saying they didn’t, because I know that everything that happened couldn’t have been a ghost every five minutes. It’s as simple as that. How long have you been here now – has anything happened to you?

Damian: Sadly not…

Richard: Exactly. But if we were on the show something would have happened over and over again by now and it doesn’t work like that. But an awful lot of stuff that happened on that show I genuinely can’t explain – I really mean that. For me, when a door slammed shut on Most Haunted, it was always presented as a scary ghost, screams went, I probably ran off because I’m frightened of ghosts and you probably jumped off your sofa at home. It always had to be a scary ghost but what I wanted to do was to go away and find out why that door slammed shut because I wanted to check if someone had left a window open. What you have to do in the ghost business is to tick all the normal explanation boxes first and for me there was never any normal boxes on Most Haunted. That was the trouble and because of that I thought I needed to go. I was one of the few people on that show, apart from Derek Acorah and other mediums who would lose credibility. The other people, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, were cameramen, hairdressers and things and it didn’t matter how many times they fell over, felt sick, got a headache, got scratched – they wouldn’t lose any credibility. I would.

Damian: You’ve mentioned Derek Acorah and the two of you are very good friends?

Richard: Very good friends with Derek and I believe that there is an absolute genuine side to him.

Damian: You say that you believe there is a genuine side but that implies to me that you’re suggesting there is perhaps another side to him that is possibly less genuine?

Richard: I would say that on TV the problem you’ve got is that if you’re told by a TV company that I want two ghosts in the attic, one in the bathroom, two down the toilet, one in the garage, three in this room and one down there and don’t ever say there’s nothing here, then I would say what are you going to do about that when you are told you’ve got to find ghosts in every room?

Damian: So you are saying that there’s a pressure to make something up in terms of delivering the goods in order to entertain the audience?

Richard: Oh I believe you’ve got to come up with the goods and I would imagine that you probably have to stick to a script to a certain extent. I’ve seen a side to Derek that is totally different to what I saw on Most Haunted because again, it was an entertainment show, or at least later rebranded as an entertainment show.

Damian: You’ve done live shows many times yourself and if someone spends their hard-earned money to come and see you, you’re going to brand that as the real thing as oppose to simply entertainment aren’t you?

Richard: Me personally?

Damian: Yes.

Richard: Yes but I don’t see dead people. I try to produce a rational explanation for people to talk about that I believe entertains them, because, I believe that the reality behind ghosts is far more fascinating than the Scooby-Doo side of things. It’s very unfair to the world to disrespect the whole medium thing and still laughs at the whole idea of people talking to the dead because we just don’t understand it yet – science won’t take it seriously because there is too much Scooby-Doo surrounding mediums. But if I was to tell you that a man named Stevie Wonder, when he can actually find a piano – can play it. I mean he can’t even see – nevermind read music – it’s a gift and there’s something different in his mind to what’s going on in ours but so too does a medium have something different but people won’t accept that bit. I mean I could sit down with a piano for the next thirty years and I still wouldn’t be able to play “I Just Called to Say I Love You” like Stevie Wonder can or even write it for that matter. It’s another part of the mind that we haven’t explored – YET!

Damian: And sadly we must end on that musical note for now Richard. Thank you very much indeed.

Richard: Thank you Damian.

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Well, I didn’t see any ghosts but then I’ve never seen Jesus either. It’s like it says on the poster…

I want to believe.

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

For more information about the Derby Gaol, including its fantastic new Derby Police Musuem, please go to http://www.derbygaol.com/

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My thanks to Richard Felix, Chris Thompson and especially museum curator, Ashley Waterhouse.

+ Dedicated to PC Wayne Johnson +

Wayne was a police constable for 31 years and even won Bobby of the Year. His passion, knowledge and support concerning the Derby Police Museum will never be forgotten. Wayne sadly passed away shortly before this interview took place.

T

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BOGART’S GIN

“The whole world is three drinks behind” – Humphrey Bogart

There were many great movie stars during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Many of these, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni and George Raft, to name but a few, were his onscreen as well as professional rivals. None, however, have endured in the popular imagination as much as Humphrey Bogart.

From the birth of the Bogie persona in The Petrified Forest (1936), to his first true breakthrough “fully fledged” role in The Maltese Falcon (1942), the star-making performance in one of Hollywood’s greatest films, Casablanca (1942) to more introspective and mature characterisations in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and The African Queen (1951)  – not to mention those classic collaborations with his wife, the late great Lauren Bacall, the silver screen’s hottest couple in To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948), Bogart’s cinematic legacy continues to prosper. Indeed, he has been voted the greatest movie star of all time.

Now, ROK Drinks and the Humphrey Bogart Estate have teamed up to create the ultimate tribute to the iconic movie star and gin connoisseur – his very own bottle! In this exclusive interview, Damian Michael Barcroft talks to Bruce Renny, the head of marketing at ROK, and Robbert de Klerk, the co-managing partner of the Humphrey Bogart Estate, about Bogart’s Gin. Grab your hat and coat – there’s a new gin in town…

bogiegin3Damian: Like every other Bogart fan around the world, I can’t wait to get my hands on a bottle of Bogart’s Gin, but can you tell me how this all got started – was it the Bogart Estate or the guys at ROK who came up with the initial idea?

Bruce: This is really a story about perfect timing. Around the time that we were getting ready to bring our gin to market, we were introduced to the Bogart Estate. We already knew we had the best quality gin so, when we were presented with the possibility of making one of Hollywood’s biggest icons, who was also a true gin lover, the face of our gin, the decision was easy.

Robbert: At the Bogart Estate, the key to any partnership is authenticity. We have been approached many times with requests to lend Bogie’s name to a drink. We have always said no. Sometimes because it was a drink Bogie didn’t enjoy, and sometimes because the drink wasn’t great. And then we were introduced to ROK Drinks. Not only were they getting ready to launch a gin, which was one of Bogie’s very favorite drinks, but the gin was absolutely top notch. And on top of that, you can’t ask for better partners than ROK’s co-founders, John Paul DeJoria and Jonathan Kendrick. It was clear to us that this was the right time to take the plunge.

bogiegin2Damian: What was the reaction from Stephen Bogart, son of Bogie and Bacall?

Robbert: Stephen is my co-managing partner at the Bogart Estate, and he was involved from the very beginning. He has always been very clear that the first priority of the Bogart Estate has to be to protect and promote his father’s legacy. He absolutely loves Bogart’s Gin, and agrees ROK Drinks is the right partner to launch a spirit bearing his father’s name.

Damian: And how has the spirits industry received the product?

Bruce: The reaction has been both overwhelming and positive. We were frankly a bit surprised by how broadly our launch announcement was covered. We’ve been fielding product requests and distributor inquiries from just about every region in the world.

Damian: Bogart was born in 1899 and often described himself as a last-century man. Indeed, gin was a favourite drink during the Victorian era but I’m wondering why its popularity is increasingly on the rise?

Bruce:  It’s premium gin which is seeing a big uptake in many parts of the world – particularly artisanal pot-still gin – because, we believe, people are increasingly appreciating the delicate, subtle and complex flavours which many upscale gins now have. Bogart’s Gin, for example, is infused with coriander, macadamia nuts and citrus zests.

Humphrey Bogart enjoying a drink at home

Humphrey Bogart enjoying a drink at home

Damian: Apparently, there are  over 700 different  gin  cocktail recipes – what can  you recommend? 

Bruce: Bogart’s Gin is of such high quality that you can actually sip it neat. It also goes very well with a slice of cucumber. And you’ll never taste a better gin & tonic than one made with Bogart’s.

Damian: I heard it was a Dirty Martini but do we know what was Bogart’s personal favourite?

Robbert: You heard right. Bogie loved martinis, and the dirty martini was very popular in the 40s and 50s. It’s great to see classic cocktails making such a big comeback recently. If you ask us at the Bogart Estate, a real martini is made with gin, not vodka.

“Never trust a man who doesn’t drink” - Humphrey Bogart

Damian: Each bottle will contain one of Bogart’s classic quotes. For gin enthusiasts and movie fans, who will undoubtedly want to collect the lot, can you tell us how many different bottles there will be and give us a few examples of the quotes?

Bruce: Well, that will depend in no small part on what we’re allowed to put on the bottles. Humphrey Bogart said some great things about drinking, but some of his quotes might not pass muster with the relevant authorities! Lucky for all of us, he was a very quotable man, and we have plenty of material to choose from. All I can say is that we’ll do what we can to bring you as many of his quotes as possible!

“When he gets barred, he gets barred from the right places” - Lauren Bacall

Damian: There’s a great story about Bogie enjoying drinks with a few friends at the New York nightspot, El Morocco, in 1949. Apparently, they were accompanied by two 22-pound stuffed pandas and words were exchanged because the waiter refused to serve them. Recalling the incident later to a reporter, Bogie said, “I can take my Panda any place I want to. And if I want to buy it a drink, that’s my business.” Please tell me this quote will be on one of the bottles?

Robbert: That incident is famously known as “Panda-gate.” A young lady seeking attention tried to grab the panda. And Bogie, who bought the panda for Stephen, prevented her from taking it. She actually pressed charges, and Bogie was acquitted by the judge, who ruled that Bogie rightfully defended his property and that the woman acted up at the urging of the night club’s publicist. Bogie gave that great quote on the courthouse steps. If we can fit it on the bottle, we may well include it at some point!

Damian: When will Bogart’s Gin be available to buy both here and the US?

Bruce: We plan for Bogart’s Gin to be on the shelves in time for Christmas.

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Visit the following websites for more information on Bogart’s Gin and Humphrey Bogart:

http://humphreybogart.com/

http://www.bogartspirits.com/

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Jonathan Harker and Dracula

A thrilling new stage production of Bram Stoker’s immortal classic…

JONATHAN HARKER AND DRACULA

18 – 27 September, Theatre at the Mill, Belfast prior to UK tour

Writer and historian Damian Michael Barcroft previews an innovative new theatre production using multiple cameras, backing screens, projections, surround sound and a newly commissioned score in this exclusive interview with its star, Gerard McCarthy, who plays every character from the novel including Jonathan Harker and Dracula…

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Damian Michael Barcroft: Fans of Dracula have read the book, watched countless film and television adaptations over the years and possibly even seen the odd stage version or two. How do you keep the story fresh for a new audience?

Gerard McCarthy: Oddly enough, we’ve kept it fresh by going right back to the original text and not messing with it. Dracula is not sexy & sparkly, we’ve not set it in 2014, there are no gimmicks or slants on it. It is a 100% truthful and honest retelling of Bram Stoker’s story which I personally don’t think can be bettered.

Damian: Perhaps the most iconic screen interpretations of Dracula are the films featuring Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee but we’ve also seen some other interesting performances such as those by Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine, Jack Palance, Louis Jourdan, Frank Langella and, of course, Gary Oldman. More recent incarnations include Marc Warren and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. I’m wondering which of these performances you personally admire and to what extent they may have influenced your own interpretation of the role?

Gerard: I’ve seen them all, some with my director, and a lot by myself! Our “Drac-Stack” of research DVDs is now very impressive. I suppose it’s inevitable that every actor will bring their own individual energy and interpretation to the role, and although it has been useful to watch so many great actors portray Dracula, I probably have the most admiration for Gary Oldman’s portrayal because it is so true to Bram Stoker’s description of The Count.

Damian: The character of Dracula means different things to different people from the child-friendly Halloween costume cliche to more wider readings of the text incorporating almost everything from Marxist metaphor to Freudian preoccupations. However, arguably the three most significant aspects of the character are embodied by the performances of Lugosi (foreign aristocrat), Lee (overtly sexual and dangerous) and Oldman(animalistic and romanticized passion) – which of these elements do you consider to be indicative of your Dracula?

Gerard: As the novel is made up of various characters’ journals and their own account of what happened, they each witness very different elements of Dracula’s personality. Of course he’s very charismatic with Jonathan as he’s absorbing all the information about London and learning about Carfax, but that’s certainly not the same guy that Lucy encounters in Whitby, or convinces Renfield to invite him into the asylum! He’s manipulative, highly intelligent and ruthless. He snatches and murders babies. So that, to me, is the most important thing to remember here, this “man” is the absolute embodiment of evil. He is every single threat to mankind rolled into one, every serial killer, every terrorist organisation. He has the capacity and the intention to completely destroy humanity as we know it and to lead a race which he has created.

Damian: I’d like to turn our attention to the often neglected character of Jonathan Harker which you also play. In addition to Dracula, the other more theatrical characters –certainly those in which writers and actors have had the most fun characterizing– are those of Renfield and Van Helsing. For me at least, Harker is possibly the least interesting of Stoker’s characters so I’m wondering how you intend to make him appealing?

Gerard: I suppose the main challenge of playing Jonathan is that he is so naive. He doesn’t know what a vampire is, he doesn’t know why he only sees Dracula at night time or why he doesn’t have a reflection so the audience is already streets ahead of him! This doesn’t make him stupid, he’s certainly not that, so it’s important to watch him gradually put all the pieces of the jigsaw together and to remember that this is all new to him. Jonathan is actually my favourite character to play because he grows throughout the play, he gets stronger and braver and towards the finale finds the strength to do things that he would never have done at the beginning. I guess, in a way, he has as much of a metamorphosis as Dracula.

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Damian: One interpretation of Harker might be that he represents the straight-laced Victorian gentleman and their fear of sex and female empowerment. How does the vision of Victorian patriarchal society that is represented in the book translate to your version, which presumably, eliminates the female characters?

Gerard: No, they’re all there. It would be impossible to give a true retelling of the story and eliminate the females, so I do play Mina and Lucy as well. Mina is, after all, the driving force behind the chase back to Transylvania. It would be ludicrous to cut them.

Damian: How do the multiple cameras and back screen projections complement the story and indeed your performance?

Gerard: Michael Poynor, the director, didn’t want to ignore the fact that the story was predominantly told through the medium of film, and it allows us to convey huge chunks of the novel very quickly. The audience doesn’t have to listen to Jonathan describe the Castle for five minutes if they get to see it at the same time as he does. The screens act as his eyes, and through the projections they get to see exactly what he does. I have to say, it’s very clever, but then that’s exactly why I wanted Michael to direct me in this. He lives and breathes theatre and what he’s capable of creating is the closest thing to magic that I’ve ever seen.

Damian: I believe that the sound design and specially commissioned music score also play a vital role in the production?

Gerard: Yes, Mark Dougherty’s score adds so much to the storytelling. It sets the tone and atmosphere for every scene before I even open my mouth. He’s a very talented and accomplished composer and I’m delighted that I’m getting to work with him so closely on this project. He’s someone I’ve admired and respected for a long time.

Damian: Thank you very much indeed.

Gerard: Thank you! Hopefully see you and all the other Dracula fanatics at a show, I’m sure we’ll do you proud.

~

Official website: http://www.jonathanharkeranddracula.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mrjharker

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JonathanHarkerAndDracula

Book tickets here: http://www.theatreatthemill.com

~

Damian Michael Barcroft

https://twitter.com/mrdmbarcroft

RStitlecardLARGE

RIPPER STREET: Best TV Soundtrack

Congratulations Dominik Scherrer!

~By~

Damian Michael Barcroft

dominikscherrerThe 59th Ivor Novello Awards took place on Thursday 22 May 2014 at the Grosvenor House, London. The Ivors celebrate, honour and reward excellence in songwriting and composing. They are presented by BASCA and judged by the writing community.

Ripper Street, composed by Dominik Scherrer won the prestigious Best Television Soundtrack Award. The other nominations were for Mr Selfridge composed by Charlie Mole and The Thirteenth Tale by Benjamin Wallfisch.

I spoke to Dominik earlier today who gave me the following quote regarding his much deserved win: “It’s rare that they let us composers out of our studios, but didn’t quite expect this! To be in the company of some of my heroes such as Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Nile Rodgers is awesome… The Ripper Street soundtrack is successful because it involves many great collaborations: The Ripper Street production team, directors and the writers were always in favour of pushing things further and creating something unique. A great music team and we had very creative and accomplished musicians playing on it.”

Dominik is currently working on the much anticipated Ripper Street soundtrack album which is due to be released shortly although the exact date is yet to be confirmed.

Did you know?

Crimson Noise Ltd, Dominik Scherrer’s recording studio is located at Brick Lane in Spitalfields, the same area where Annie Chapman, Jack the Ripper’s second victim was murdered!

The Daily Mail complained about the use of banjo and fiddle in his score and suggested that the sound of a barrel organ would be more appropriate for the 1890s. The barrel organ was actually used in the score!

Other instruments included Mandolins, Mandola, Sethar, Dobro and the solo on the theme tune is played on a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle.

Dominik and series creator, Richard Warlow, wanted the music to have a Western feel and portray Victorian Whitechapel as a kind of Wild West.

~~~

My exclusive interview with Dominik will be published right here at dmbarcroft.com in the autumn to coincide with the broadcast of the third series of Ripper Street.

Damian Michael Barcroft

https://twitter.com/mrdmbarcroft

~~~

RS3one

RIPPER STREET III: An epic year in Whitechapel…

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Good evening Whitechapel and a huge welcome to both new fans and those friends who have been with us from the very beginning. Against all of the odds, Ripper Street is back and in the words of Will Gould, Tiger Aspect’s Head of Drama and Ripper Street’s Executive Producer, it’s going to be “an epic year in Whitechapel.”

As many of you will have heard by now, Ripper Street has just begun filming and speaking on location in Manchester, Matthew MacFadyen said, “I’m delighted and excited to be back for a third series of Ripper. Thank you to Amazon, thank you to our fans who wanted more, and thank you to our wonderful writers and producers for giving us the most thoroughly brilliant, gripping and heart-rending episodes.” Series creator and lead writer, Richard Warlow, added: “It’s a day many of us thought we’d never see, but it is particularly wonderful to be able to say that cameras are rolling on Ripper Street once more.”

So, what can we expect from the eagerly anticipated third series? Plot details and official confirmation of all the actors that will be joining Matthew MacFadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg are still a closely guarded secret but Tim Leslie, Vice President of Amazon Instant Video in the UK assures us that “the third instalment of the show is set to be grittier and more exciting than ever.”

However, we do know that MyAnna Buring will be returning in more of a “starring role” as Long Susan: “It’s so exciting to be able to come back and continue Long Susan’s journey… As a cast and crew we’ve become a kind of family so to be reunited is beyond lovely… And to know it was made possible by the support of fans of the show makes it all the more special.”

I’ll be keeping you up to date with all the news and developments including exclusive interviews with the cast and crew but for now, I’ve compiled the following list of frequently asked questions to tide you over…

When can we watch it?

The third series of Ripper Street will be made available exclusively to Amazon Prime Instant Video members in the autumn. BBC1 will screen the series a few months later and will continue to be distributed globally by BBC Worldwide.

In addition to the DVD boxsets, the first series is available for unlimited streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video now and series two will also be launching on the service from 2nd June.

Why isn’t Ripper Street filming in Dublin anymore?

While filming has just begun in Manchester, the shoot will then move to Loughborough before finally returning to its traditional production base in Dublin. Filming is expected to be completed by late August.

How many episodes will there be?

The third series is going ahead as originally planned (i.e. before it was cancelled by the BBC late last year) with eight episodes as was the case with both series 1 and 2.

Who will be writing and directing the third series?

Episodes 1, 4, 7 and 8 will be written by series creator Richard Warlow. Episodes 2 & 3 by Toby Finlay and episode 5 by Rob Green. Block 1 will be directed by Andy Wilson while Anthony Byrne will direct Block 2.

Will the story follow on from the end of the last series?

The new series will move forward and begin in 1894. However, it will still deal with the aftermath of the dramatic series two finale.

Can you reveal any details regarding the storylines for series 3?

No, not really… However, here’s a clue: One story will revolve around the infamous Macnaghten Memoranda and if you’re unfamiliar with this report by Sir Melville Macnaghten, google it – I assure you it’s bloody good fun…

~~~

Well, that’s all for now but as my dear Granny always advised before making my way home through the fearful abyss, don’t talk to strangers and if in doubt, ask a policeman. Speaking of which, I leave you with Sergeant Bennet Drake himself, Mr Jerome Flynn…

“I am just thrilled that we are getting the chance to do another season of Ripper, to inhabit that world and the wonderful character that is Bennet Drake…all I can say is that what I’ve seen of the scripts so far is very exciting…we really hit the ground running dramatically and all our characters are taken on intense journeys. It’s going to be quite a ride.”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

With thanks to Iain McCallum and Ian Cubbon

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ENDEAVOUR SERIES 2 DVD OUT NOW!

“It meant everything to me that audiences took Endeavour to their hearts.”
- Russell Lewis

With the first Endeavour film, First Bus to Woodstock, the bar for quality drama and thrilling detective fiction was set as high as the Oxford dreaming spires that have witnessed some of the most talented cast and crew working in the television industry filming beneath them since 1987 when the original Inspector Morse series began. Lewis honourably continued in their noble footsteps but it is arguably with Endeavour that the franchise has reached its artistic peak with some of the most ambitious –and often downright epic– films to date. Indeed, if there is a classier, cultured, more beautifully written and consistently well crafted series on television, I haven’t seen it yet!

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So, looking back, is the second series as good as the first? Well, I’m glad you asked because if you’re looking for the thrills and shocks of series one with episodes like Fugue, then you won’t be disappointed with gothic “haunted house” suspense of the second film of series two, Nocturne. Similarly, if it’s the heart-pounding emotional drama of Home that concluded series one, the grand finale of the second, Neverland, is equally gut-wrenching – and oh, what a cliffhanger…

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If you’re reading this and are a fan of Morse, then you won’t need a reason to complete your Morse collection with this Series 2 DVD which is released today but I’ll give you two anyway in the form of the extras. First we have Creating Endeavour: The Next Chapter of Colin Dexter’s Legacy which features interviews with Michele Buck (Executive Producer), Russell Lewis (Writer/Executive Producer), Colin Dexter (Creator of Morse), Abigail Thaw (Dorothea Frazil) and Shaun Evans (Endeavour Morse). In addition to seeing some of the Morse family speaking so passionately about the show, highlights include some lovely footage of Shaun joking around on the set with Colin.

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The second, Spires, Ashtrays, Quads and Pastels: Shooting Endeavour’s Oxford, offers a fascinating insight into both designing and shooting the films with Alex Cox (Locations Manager) and Anna Higginson (Production Designer). Again, it’s the passion of these artists that comes across most whether they are discussing interior/exterior shots of sets such as Morse’s bedsit, Thursday’s home or the police station, filming the driving scenes (there are only three or four streets in Oxford that they can actually use for such sequences and can’t record the dialogue if it’s shot on cobbles!) or even the small details such as Thursday’s pipe stand. You’ll also learn why black gaffer tape is so instrumental to filming the show. Highly recommended and can be purchased from as little as £13.97.

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ENDEAVOUR COMPLETE SERIES TWO DVD
Running time: 356 Mins Approx. Audio: Stereo. Subtitles: English Hard of Hearing. Aspect Ratio: 16.9. Region Code: 2

Special thanks to Mammoth Screen’s Damien Timmer

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BREAKING RIPPER STREET NEWS!

Ripper Street nominated for Best TV Soundtrack

- Damian Michael Barcroft -

Dominik Scherrer’s stunning and innovative music score for Ripper Street has been nominated for the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Best Television soundtrack. This is possibly one of the biggest awards for the soundtrack industry.

I spoke to Dominik earlier and he is “very pleased that there is recognition for such an unusual soundtrack”. My full and exclusive interview with the composer will be posted soon on this website.

The Ivors celebrate, honour and reward excellence in songwriting and composing. They are presented by BASCA and judged by the writing community.

The 59th Ivor Novello Awards will take place on Thursday 22 May 2014 at Grosvenor House, London.

Congratulations Dominik and the very best of luck!

Best Television Soundtrack Nominations:

Mr Selfridge
Composed by Charlie Mole
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing and Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Ripper Street
Composed by Dominik Scherrer
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing and Sony/ATV Music Publishing

The Thirteenth Tale
Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing

©itv/MammothScreen

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis – Part IV

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Viscount Mumbles and Rowsby Woof ~

ACT V
“HOME”
(The last in our selection box. Unwanted. Alone)

“Home is the sailor, home from sea…”
- A. E. Housmam, R. L. S.

First Bus To Woodstock, Girl, Fugue and Rocket all done and dusted. So, one final interview with the writer and executive producer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, and as Chris Geiger once observed, all journeys eventually end in the same place, home…

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

Damian: At its very worst, Endeavour is simply the best detective-whodunnit show on television. At its very best however, Endeavour also boasts strong character development which rewards long term fans by enriching the “Morse Mythology”. The final film of the first series is perhaps the best example of the latter and explores Morse’s history to unparalleled (with the possible exception of First Bus) emotional effect while simultaneously incorporating the events of Cherubim and Seraphim from the original series. To what extent were the childhood aspects of this story something you intended to explore when you originally plotted the story/character arc for series one?

Russ: Well – that’s very kind of you to say so. But certainly over the last two or three years everyone involved has done their very best to honour its heritage and deliver a story cycle worthy of its much admired progenitor.

You’ll have to excuse me if my recollections are a bit hazy. I know it’s only a year and a bit ago, but there’s been a lot of ink under the bridge since then. And a fair amount of blood. But I’ll try to remember as best I can.

With such caveats in mind… HOME, like the rest of the series, went through a number of evolutions, some more violent than others. I’d always wanted to end it with high drama, and something that invoked the Western, (another passion), but if memory serves my first pass at it was very linear. The Coke-Norris story – if it existed at all, and I suspect it didn’t – did not feature Mrs.C-N. Starting on this, I realise that my recollections are really, really shaky. In fact I’m fairly certain the Coke-Norris angle might have come later. The best person to ask would be Sam Price [Script editor]. Things fly in and out across the drafts as you try to get the thing right – the blend of case and personal material – so that sometimes (often) it’s very difficult to go back and recollect the exact order of things. But Sam seems to manage it effortlessly.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

But the potted version is – my first go round was too radical a departure from the mood we’d established over the first three films in the series, and the single. Sometimes you need to go too far out, to overstate something, so you can find the thing you’re looking for – and then, once you’ve found it, you can dial it down on a second and subsequent pass. But it’s better to overshoot, than not to try something. These things are as much about trust as anything else, and I’m v.lucky with the Mammoths [Mammoth Screen - the Production Company]. We have a long history, and they know my methods. However, we were fairly up against it for time – Christmas 12/13 was spent hunkered down rewriting it to shoot early January – and it got circulated quite early, with much of the sturm und drang still intact – which somewhat frightened the horses.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

I think… there was another gangland story woven into it – which I’ll spare you – and things got a bit (a lot!) Peckinpah in the final couple of reels. Colm McCarthy, who I’d worked with on Murphy’s Law and FBTW, came back to direct HOME and had been waiting for some kind of an Endeavour twist and that simply wasn’t in place. So he was a bit – unsurprisingly – non-plussed. Some stories come together easier than others.

I think it was Damien Timmer who suggested we reconnect it with what he calls ‘fragrant ladies’. That would be ‘fragrant ladies’ in terms of characters, rather than in the audience – of whom I’m sure there are many. And fragrant gentlemen too, no doubt. It had become very boysy. Not exactly a British gangster flick, but certainly less dusty dons and ivy clad quads than might be expected. A very wistful, ‘But it will be charming, won’t it? Won’t it? It will be chaming.’ is Damien’s standard mock nervous response to some of my more outre diversions or descriptions of storylines I’m kicking around.

When you work with someone — as long as I’ve worked with with Damien, say — you develop a kind of shorthand. What he was saying, in his equally charming way, was he thought we could afford to dial up the Rattigan/Coward meter. Both masters of a particular brand of quiet, English desperation. An understated darkness at the centre. So… you get a note like that, a strong tug on the choke-chain, and a light bulb goes on. Ping! Sam Price, our doughty Script Editor, and me – are great admirers of what were once termed ‘women’s pictures’ – the work of Douglas Sirk, etc. The filmic, American version – to a degree – of the same kind of territory Ratigan and Coward made their own in Britain. Things not said. Still waters. Soldiering on. Celia Johnson returning to her husband at the end of Brief Encounter. Relationship dramas.

Going back to HOME, I guess the elder sister, Helen Cartwright (nee Sloan) played by Olivia Grant (from Girl), would fall into that ‘fragrant lady’ category. The scene she plays with Dr. Prentice – a negotiation of sorts – is pretty electric and very quietly erotic. She’s like a wire, thrumming with untapped energy. That proverbial thin batsqueak of sexuality. At some point his hand touches hers, and Olivia gives this intake of breath, which tells you everything you need to know, and in its way says so much more than something overt. Beautifully directed by Ed Bazalgette, and played to perfection by Olivia and Mark Bazeley.

So, it was just a case of reconnecting it with that. Reconciling the gangsterism with something more in keeping with Endeavour world. The Browning Version is a great favourite. Such a brilliant play – and two terrific film versions. And most recently a knockout R4 version with Michael York, Joanne Whalley, Ioan Gryfudd and our own Henry Broom, Mister Martin Jarvis. And so I kind of ran aspects of that through the Endeavour filter. Rattigan had taken inspiration and recast themes from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. So it was interesting to the give the wheel another turn. Thus Clytemnestra becomes Millie Crocker-Harris becomes Millicent Coke-Norris.

(I took it as some kind of cosmic approval that when we finally found a Production Base for Series 2 it was in a village called, of all things, Taplow…)

But – yes, Endeavour’s home… I think it’s something we’d always been leading towards. Again, like the Thursdays, I may have tried – unsuccessfully – to introduce them earlier in the run. A visit from Joyce, maybe. Happily, they found their moment – though some scenes didn’t make the cut – in the last. And that was fitting. Pretty much everything there was extrapolated from Colin Dexter’s clues. There’s a bit of mild license with certain things. Cyril and Constance may have divorced at a certain point according to canon – but I felt we had a little wriggle room. They might have divorced at such and such a time, but they could believably have split up many years earlier, which would explain the closeness in ages between Endeavour and Joyce. A dignified veil was drawn over the chronology. But many families had what were then seen as ‘dark secrets’. A certain amount of ‘What would the neighbours say?’ People moved, pretended to be married, widowed, etc.. Keeping up appearances.

I certainly felt that things had not gone altogether swimmingly for Cyril and Gwen. The return of the prodigal when Endeavour’s mum died providing a constant reminder for both of them of a previous set of circumstances from which they’d tried to move on, or strike from history. And there was Endeavour as a boy dumped right back into the middle of it. Unwelcome. Resented by Gwen. A constant reminder of the first Mrs. de Winter. So their mutual antipathy sprang from that. Cyril chose Gwen and Joyce over Endeavour. Anything for an quiet life.

There was a scene we shot and cut – or perhaps dialogue from the scene where Endeavour first arrives home, which really played to Endeavour and Gwen’s dislike of one another. Some harsh exchanges. But sadly – for length, they ended up on the cutting room floor. I think in the end we felt we’d got just about enough with what survived to understand that relationship.

There were some other home memento bits that didn’t make the cut. But they’re on file. Who knows?

Damian: It could be argued that all of the films from series one share the thematic elements of family: the possessive Sloan family and Pamela’s fighting for custody of young Bobby in Girl, the contrast between Morse’s loneliness and Thursday’s happy family life in Fugue, the family feuds between the Brooms in Rocket and not least the risk to Thursday’s home and of course the troubled home of Morse’s childhood in this film. Many writers often return to the same ideas, motifs and preoccupations, was this notion of family ever a conscious dramatic decision or did the stories simply evolve this way?

Russ: I think it was unconscious. It was something Dan McCulloch first brought to my attention. You know – sometimes your nose is so close to the page, and for so long, that you don’t always get above it to take an overview. The family thing was certainly in my mind with the Morse/Thursday dynamic – Endeavour’s unhappy home, as against Thursday’s boisterous, loving brood. And, by extension, Endeavour’s professional family. Something of a ragbag – Bright, Jakes, Strange, Max and Dorothea. Each of them… unconventional in their way. I’m hesitant to say dysfunctional, but they are all to a greater or lesser degree solitary. Taking solace in the companionship of their fellows. Between those two notions it’s probably not too great a surprise to find a theme that bled out into the other stories. Thank you, Doctor Freud.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

Damian: I suspect you’re going to dodge this next question like a bullet but I’m going to take aim and ask it anyway. Obviously Morse, Strange and Max were the creation of Colin Dexter but of all your original characters for Endeavour, Thursday is perhaps the most well defined in terms of characterisation. I accept that this may be an unfair comparison given that Thursday obviously has more screen time than the supporting characters such as Bright, however, if we look at his many quirks and mannerisms, the character details such as his home life and family – not to mention the sandwiches, it would be hard to argue that Thursday isn’t the most vivid and well-drawn. So, here goes, of all the characters in Endeavour, is Thursday the one with which you most identify or perhaps infuse with your own personality – possibly with particular reference to his dialogue?

Russ: Fascinating. Um… Of the original characters… Well, as you say, he occupies more story time than any of the rest of the ensemble. So it’s difficult to make a fair comparison. They are all facets of oneself to some degree, I suppose. They have to be. Aspects of one’s personality, or those one has encountered along the way. Isolated and exaggerated so one can get a handle on them and they don’t all sound the same. But I’m very fond of them all. Of Colin’s originals as much as those I’ve added. Someone like Max – who looms large in the books – but who only appeared in, what was it, seven of the thirty-three films… the opportunity to flesh out his younger days, fill in some of the blanks, is really too good to resist. And you add James Bradshaw’s delightful performance to that, and that makes you want to know him all the more. Extraordinary to think that already Jimmy’s racked up more onscreen adventures with Endeavour than his later incarnation did with Morse. And it’s the same with Sean Rigby’s Strange. A terrific actor through whose performance one gets the chance to explore hitherto unknown aspects of that original character. And the Thursdays, and Dorothea, and Bright, and now Nurse Monica Hicks who has brought so much to the thing in her relationship with Endeavour… It’s just a dream ensemble of brilliant actors who bring these fascinating characters to life. That one gets to spend so much time with them in one’s head… Ridiculous good fortune to play with them in one form or another for the best part of a year at a time. And even in the breaks between series, they’re still there. The ideas for them stacking up.

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©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

But, yeh… Thursday. You know – it’s Roger Allam, who’s pretty damn fine — in character or out. And rather adorable to boot. He’s Thursday. I just do the words. He wears the hat.

I couldn’t truthfully say I identify with Thursday as his experiences are so far outside of my ken – the War pretty much sets him apart from anything I could imagine. But I have known people with his qualities. And one reads as much as possible – to try to gain some insight into what makes someone like that tick. He most definitely is not me. Far too physically brave for one thing. He’s the Chandler ideal, I suppose. ‘Down these mean streets…’ And no doubt an idealised version of the man who was good enough to raise me and give me a name. He too was of that extraordinary generation who went through so much, and gave so much, and asked so very little in return.

So, I mentioned before about that quiet, unshowy heroism. That understatement you get with something like ‘Fires Were Started’. The dialogue… I’m a sucker for any slightly antiquated idiom. Mostly stuff I remember from a kid. Little things – ‘steps’ rather than ‘a ladder'; ‘wireless’ over ‘radio’. Period court transcripts are very useful for that kind of thing. I’ve probably said this before, so stop me if you’ve heard this one, but music was my thing when I was younger. I don’t know – you develop an ear for rhythm and tone. And that carries over into being sensitive to patterns of speech. A word here, a phrase there. File it away. With Thursday it’s definitely a 1940s slant. Too many black and white war pictures. (If there is such a thing as too many of those.) In Which We Serve; The Cruel Sea; Ice Cold in Alex. All of those Sunday afternoon delights.

It sounds glib, and probably is, but I’ve just tried to keep him human. He’s got a dark side, like most of us. A hinterland. He’s seen the worst, and perhaps now looks for the best. There’s certainly a great kindness to him. An old-fashioned sense of courtesy, now far less in vogue than it once was. He’s of a generation that thought it was the right thing to do to hold a door open, or give up his seat on the bus for a woman. Happily, he’s married to Win – who would take it very amiss if he didn’t do those things.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

Damian: Some might argue that Fugue was the most suspenseful of the first series although I would have to say that Home takes that honour. You deliberately, and quite masterfully, trick the audience into thinking that the threat is with Thursday and his family throughout the episode right up until the very end. Indeed, I was constantly thinking I can’t believe they are going to kill off Fred and coming to the conclusion that maybe Roger Allam didn’t want to do the show anymore! So, to not only have the unexpected twist of Morse actually getting shot in the nail-biting finale, but also connect this to John Thaw’s slight limp was truly a stroke of genius. Can you please detail how these events came to be tied together and was the leg thing an idea you always wanted to incorporate?

Russ: Well, I’m very glad you liked HOME. FUGUE was the more obvious Saturday morning pictures, edge-of-the-seat roller-coaster, but that you found HOME suspenseful is very gratifying. Endeavour catching a bullet was always in there, I think. And being able, in those last moments, to reconnect it again with John Thaw, and by association with Kevin Whately, and James Grout, and those original thirty-three films. There was always the possibility that we might never have done any more, and, if that had been the case, I felt very strongly that we should, at the end, honour that heritage once again.

Damian: The death of Morse’s father was a particularly beautifully written and performed scene which I suspect lesser writers might have overburdened with unnecessary dialogue. I’m curious as to whether this scene, and indeed the others with Cyril Morse, were always written with such brilliant understatement with so many wonderful implicit thoughts and emotions?

Russ: Well, you’d better add me to the lesser writers roster. In a fairly late draft, I think, Morse pere had goaded Endeavour during that first visit with a reference to Susan Fallon – (Bryce-Morgan). Something along the lines of ‘D’you ever see that girl?’ Which Endeavour hadn’t answered. It was there as a kind of rebuke – Cyril Morse mocking his son for his high-falutin’ ambitions – university, etc. He was, in effect, reminding Endeavour that for all his airs, girls like Susan Fallon would be forever out of his class. And – as I say – Endeavour left it hanging.

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And then the final scene – when Endeavour visits Cyril, who is by this time comatose… I revisited it. Endeavour lays bare his soul – and is only able to do it when his father is no longer in a state to respond or make comment. He describes his feelings at having lost Susan. And then the final line was ‘Is that how it was for you?’

I’d felt that the final question from Endeavour to his father was the kicker. A conversation that they should have had many years before. It seemed to me fairly plain that Cyril and Gwen’s marriage had not been an altogether happy one – ‘I’d have rung it through myself only she won’t let me.’ But that having made his bed, Cyril – for pride, or sheer bloody stubborness – had stuck it out. And with that question he was reaching out to find some common ground with this man. Was this unhappiness and regret something they shared. Had he ever stopped loving Endeavour’s mother? And it’s a question Cyril will never be able to answer. ‘Not every question gets an answer’ as Thursday warns Endeavour earlier in the series. I’d wanted to deal with what we affectionately refered to as ‘Susan, Susan, Susan’ across the first series. To bring it full circle from that brief maddening glimpse we got of her at the window in FBTW. The ‘other shoe’ – which had never dropped.

So – that was my original version of it. With the exception of the final question, it had been a speech I’d had in my back pocket for Endeavour since before Rocket. One of those that just pops into your head more or less complete. An aria. It could have gone in – albeit somewhat ungallantly, though no less truthfully — into one of his scenes with Alice Vexin, but I rather foolishly kept it up my sleeve for the last.

I think it was the day it was shot, I got a call from the floor asking if we could drop it. Both Shaun and Colm had issues with it. That it took away from the profundity of the moment. That it was a moment beyond words.

It was something we’d batted back and forth across the net in pre-production and after the read. So… they wore me down, and in the end I waved a white flag. Hold on tightly, let go lightly. B^) Seriously… it wasn’t so much that I ‘suddenly remembered my Charlemagne’, but rather my Carol Reed and Graham Greene, and the difference of opinion they’d had over the ending of The Third Man.

You know – Shaun and Colm are both bright, smart fellas, and, like the man said, if enough people tell you you’re drunk, then maybe you should have a lie down. I suppose it comes back – as these things so often do – to Sir Arthur Quiller Couch’s advice. Murder your darlings. And believe me, you’d better. Because otherwise you’ll find there are plenty of people willing to murder them for you. B^) In the nicest possible way.

So – there you are. Any praise due for masterly restraint in that sequence belongs wholly to Shaun and Colm. Theirs is the glory. The moral is… Work with good people. They will save you from yourself more times than you can thank them for.

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Damian: Well, I could talk about Endeavour all day and I fear we have – several times! Therefore, let us move swiftly on from the end of series one to the last of this year’s films, Neverland and for the final time, will you please tell us just a little something about what we can look forward to?

Russ: It’s a tough one. Of all the films to date, this is by far the hardest to offer a teaser on. Almost anything would be a spoiler. It is early December… and the annual Police Widows and Orphans Gala is upon us… HMP Farnleigh… A report Endeavour was working on for Bright heralds a new beginning… Sunny Prestatyn…

~~~
FILM FOUR:
NEVERLAND
TONIGHT AT 8 ON ITV
~~~

EPILOGUE

Damian: I think it’s safe to say that 1966 was a most productive and remarkable year for our friend Morse. I wonder about 1967…

Russ: You and me both.

Damian: Russ, we have reached the conclusion of our odyssey and what a journey it was – thanks for taking me with you!

Russ: Damian, after all this time, it’s been a true pleasure to revisit the first four films from Series 1. I’ve dropped by the website to read the interviews you did with Abigail, Sean, Jimmy, and found them all hugely informative. I believe you’ve one with Barrington coming up – so, look forward to looking at that. When we’re in production we really don’t get to spend very much time hanging out or chewing the fat, so to read what the rest of the gang have to say about our joint criminal enterprise has been a delight.

All of us involved in making the show are very appreciative of all the work you’ve put in. And I’d like to offer personal thanks to you for making my own ramblings appears so lucid. Your choice of illustrative material has been pitch perfect.

One thing I mentioned earlier – about working with good people making all the difference. Most of the questions across these interviews have been about plot things in the first series, and Endeavour Morse as a character – and I hope I’ve answered them as comprehensively as I can – but what they haven’t given me the opportunity to do, and, if you don’t mind, I’d like to do now, is talk about Shaun Evans.

Whatever the rest of us on the production side might have put together to make it work on FBTW – the right story, the right look for the piece, whatever it was — ENDEAVOUR was always going to be pretty heavily scrutinsed, and judged a hit or miss, rightly or wrongly, on Shaun’s performance. It was a gig which would have struck many as pretty daunting on the page. For all kinds of historical reasons. It came with a lot of additional weight. And no small amount of expectations. Approached the wrong way it was the kind of gig that could turn someone’s head or blow their mind. That Shaun avoided both possibilities is testament to his integrity as an artist and his absolute dedication to his craft.

He found the character as he would any other, by drawing on the text, and by going to the source – to Colin’s novels – through which he found his way back to an Endeavour in his mid-twenties. It was the only sane course of action. And that’s the key, really. We’ve never set out to present Detective Chief Inspector Morse. You’ll see glimpses, of course. How could you not? But to offer up some kind of fully formed version of the character with the same emotional cargo he’s hauling in his middle years? It would be crazy, and impossible, and wrong to attempt it. These are the adventures Detective Constable Endeavour Morse. A young man, with all of a young man’s dreams and insecurities still intact. Not exactly your regular Joe. An outsider for so many reasons. But at this stage of his life still burning with hope, and the potential for happiness, and so much to prove to himself and the world. And Shaun just got that and knew it and felt that in his bones from the off.

That we’ve now got to the end of the ninth film, and the second series, and he’s still bringing something new to it, and letting you feel that we’ve barely scratched the surface, really is a mark of just how deeply he inhabits the role. Sometimes you get very lucky. Working with Shaun would fall into that category.

None of us involved ever forget where we came from with this – the creative debt we owe to the extraordinary work of so many talented people that came before; the writers, directors, actors, producers, execs, musos, innumerable cast and crew who ploughed the field and paved the road. Truly, the shoulders of giants. We’re hugely grateful for having been allowed to make our own contribution to something begun all those years ago on a wet holiday in Wales by Colin Dexter. That we have been given that opportunity to do so for the past three years or so is due in no small measure to Shaun Evans who has reintroduced many to an old friend, and also brought a certain, special kind of Oxford magic to a whole new generation, with his pitch perfect portrayal of the heart, mind, body and soul of Endeavour Morse.

Thank you for watching.

Damian: Goodbye, sir.

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“Ask me no more, for fear I should reply”

“The sum of things to be known is inexhaustible, and however long we read, we shall never come to the end of our story-book.”

- A. E. Housman

~

I would like to thank the following for their time and generous support:

James Bradshaw

Barrington Pheloung

Sean Rigby

Amanda Street-Shipston

Abigail Thaw

and

Russell Lewis

~

The Inside Story

The last look at significant events and encounters from the first series and how they relate to the original Inspector Morse

Bright is quietly impressed by Morse’s shooting range results and notes that he has his Sergeant’s exam coming up soon. Morse later tells Thursday that he learnt to shoot when he was 12. It was the first Christmas after his mother had died and his father bought him a pistol. He would take the young Morse to the common after rabbits.

Morse’s sister Joyce rings to tell him their father (Cyril) is ill (he has suffered from angina for years). Not wanting to leave Thursday short while he takes some time off from work to see his father, Morse recommends Strange to serve as Acting Detective Constable in his place. Strange is very pleased… “Little acorns matey” indeed!

Morse’s stepmother Gwen, only manages a lukewarm welcome back to his childhood home (somewhere up north). Morse’s sister, he calls her Joycie, is much more pleased to see him again. Morse visits the grave of his mother (Constance) at the local church.

Just before Morse goes back to Oxford, Joyce tells Morse that his father is proud of him in his own way (although he never liked the police) but that he reminds him too much of his mother.

Thursday encounters his old nemesis, Vic Kasper. He tells Bright that Vic had recently become persona non with Sid and Gerald Fletcher (Get Carter).

Morse talks to Mrs Carter (now Wilkins), the widow of Mickey Carter who was killed by the Kasper gang. She tells Morse that Thursday looked out for her and sent money at the end of each month up until she got married again. Thursday had taken Mickey under his wing from a young constable. One night Mickey went to see an informant by himself but it was a setup. Thursday blamed himself, especially when he couldn’t prove anything and no one was charged. With a young family to keep safe, Thursday moved to Oxford to start afresh without the continuing threat of Kasper.

Morse is shot in the leg by Mrs Coke Norris during her confrontation with him and Thursday.

Morse’s father dies. Morse and his sister Joyce are at his bedside.

Strange takes his Police Sergeant Examination Paper.

Morse finally sees a doctor about his leg injury. The doctor tells him that it will mend but may well find himself saddled with a limp during middle age particularly when he is overtired or the weather turns.

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In memory of Zack. Goodnight little man – we love you. x
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THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Barrington Pheloung

BARRINGTON PHELOUNG

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Papageno ~

MORSE is the loneliest of men. However, despite numerous doomed relationships and tragic love affairs, often overshadowed by the ghosts of girlfriends past, he does have one constant companion which is his music. In addition to being a devoted listener of BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 (although this is mainly to catch every episode of The Archers and the occasional Desert Island Discs) and Classic FM, Morse has an extensive library of LPs which highlight his many musical heroes including Wagner, Mozart, Puccini, Strauss, and not least Rosalind Calloway, to name but a few.

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Since 1987 to the present day, music has featured so prolifically and prominently throughout the original Inspector Morse, Lewis and now Endeavour, that it is also inconceivable that every single note has been the responsibility of just one man. Indeed, in addition to composing all the original music for the three series, he has also arranged all the classical pieces and various “source music” that you hear in each and every film which are performed under his supervision. It is, therefore, a true honour to present this exclusive interview with one of my musical heroes, Mr Barrington Pheloung.

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DAMIAN: Barrington, you were first approached to write the music for the original series back in 1985 and I believe your first brief was to compose a theme that epitomized Morse’s cultured and cryptic mind while simultaneously capturing his melancholy nature. You did this with one of the most memorable and iconic television themes of recent times, expressing various aspects of the character with music that is both beautiful and yet haunting. Can you describe the complex character of Morse?

BARRINGTON: Morse had an incredibly cryptic mind (as do I finishing off The Guardian crossword – only two to go) but Kenny McBain and Anthony Minghella who wrote the first screenplay wanted me to explore the complexity of this character. He loved cryptic crosswords and classical music and therefore he was very close to my character.

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DAMIAN: For all his intelligence, Morse is rather inarticulate when is comes to communicating – especially with the fairer sex. To what extent would you agree that your music expresses the emotions and psychological makeup of Morse that are often implied rather than ever explicitly stated?

BARRINGTON: Less is always more. Morse is not inarticulate but slightly fumbling when it does come to his relationships with women.

DAMIAN: I hope you’ll forgive my lack of professionalism when I confess that I’m a huge fan of your work and own every Morse album that has ever been released. One of my favourites is The Passion of Morse, which in addition to the majestic Sinfonietta in MorseThe Morse Suite, also features some of your other work including Bach Sarabande, Cello Suite from Truly, Madly, Deeply, Bach Keyboard Concerto, Partita from The Politician’s Wife and Fantasia For the Little Prince. I really do recommend this album to both Morse completists and also those who might like an introduction to your other prolific work which has encompassed various film, television and theatre projects over the years. However, the main reason for highlighting this is because you mention in your sleeve notes for the album that some of the pieces, including the Morse track, are very personal and as much about you as they are about the film characters. Would it be too much of an intrusion to ask you to elaborate on this?

BARRINGTON: Every piece of music that I have written in my life has been based on my life and my own close family connections. Therefore I take this very seriously as an obligation.

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DAMIAN: You share more than a few of our favourite detective’s pastimes don’t you?

BARRINGTON: Yes I enjoy a pint at the pub and I certainly love chess and of course the cryptic crossword although Morse does The Times and I do The Guardian.

DAMIAN: Inspector Morse introduced the now familiar two-hour format for TV films and I’m wondering if it is true that the creative choices and stylistic features such as the use of slow camera pans were specifically designed to accommodate long sections of the beautiful music?

BARRINGTON: Our (Minghella and Kenny McBain) incentive was to try and produce a feature film rather than a television episode. Therefore, I was given much more scope to create longer sequences of music.

DAMIAN: You’ve said that you found it somewhat daunting when you were first asked to write the music for Lewis – why?

BARRINGTON: It was that I simply didn’t know where else to go. However, Kevin Whately’s character was so powerful and strong that I believed we had a new way to go and I even wrote him his own theme.

DAMIAN: The writer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis, seems to take an active interest in all aspects of production beyond simply writing the scripts. Obviously much of the music that is used frequently relates to certain plots and characters such as in First Bus to Woodstock (Un bel di from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and the character of Rosalind Calloway) and Fugue (perhaps most notably the inclusion of Verdi’s Otello in finding clues to track down the serial killer, Dr. Daniel Cronyn aka Mason/Gull). I’m wondering at what point in the production do you become creatively involved and to what extent the musical choices are discussed with Russ?

BARRINGTON: Endeavour, Morse and Lewis has always been a subjective choice. Sometimes by directors, sometimes by producers and writers but ultimately I’m given the final choice and more often than not, these are the works that I have conducted many times before.

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DAMIAN: Unlike much television and cinema, where the scores are often used to compensate for the lack of dramatic and emotional depth, your music is chosen carefully and selectively which results in a far more potent contribution to the overall meaning of both the story and its characters. For as much as audiences love and remember the soundtracks, the music is actually used rather sparingly isn’t it?

BARRINGTON: Yes indeed – less is more; always.

DAMIAN: Like Russ, you do enjoy to play rather cunning games with audiences in which you often tease us with various clues but also a few red herrings. Can you give us a few of your favourite examples?

BARRINGTON: On many occasions I have given red herrings in Morse code pertaining to the killer i.e. she did it – he did it.

DAMIAN: Although not as prolific as Colin Dexter’s cameos, you have also made a couple of appearances in the original series, how did this come about?

BARRINGTON: Indeed I have made many appearances on film because I was requested to be on set as the conductor/producer of the music and therefore I was just there.

DAMIAN: I can’t think of another composer who has written the music for a franchise with such longevity and you must be one of the few people to have worked on every single Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour film. What’s the secret behind keeping the music fresh for both the audience and you as a composer?

BARRINGTON: Very simple, if I can’t think of an original theme or to keep a way to keep my music new then that will be time to give up.

DAMIAN: You did a concert at the Royal Festival Hall back in 1991. Is there a chance you might perform again in this country as I’m sure I’m not the only fan who would be thrilled to hear the Morse theme performed live?

BARRINGTON: I would love to as soon as I am asked.

DAMIAN: One final question. I must ask why, a man of your musical talent, is also running a lawn mower repair service?

BARRINGTON: I do indeed repair both my mowers here and in Australia where I have a 30 thousand hectare mountain however, I don’t repair anyone else’s mowers!

DAMIAN: If Russ is the brains behind young Morse, you are his heart and soul. Your music continues to enrich our understanding of the character and its been an absolute privilege to do this interview. Thank you very much indeed Barrington.

BARRINGTON: Thank you and may god bless.

~~~

Special thanks also to Amanda Street-Shipston of DNA Music Ltd.
www.dna-music.com
For more information about the composer, please visit his website:
http://www.pheloung.co.uk/

The final Endeavour film of series 2 is tonight at 8 on ITV

barry01