The Future WAS Fantastic!

The Future is Fantastic!It’s been five years since the last full-weekend Fanderson convention – and it was certainly worth the wait. We look back at The Future is Fantastic! – an event featuring unforgettable guests, mouth-watering merchandise, beautiful puppet and model exhibitions, heart-warming reunions and new friendships and that damned Saturday night quiz…!

When fans reflect on the whole weekend, many will say that the highlight was undoubtedly Sylvia Anderson’s first-ever appearance at a Fanderson convention. She received a standing ovation and a film-star-like entrance, with camera flashes going off for several minutes as the interview started.

Sylvia Anderson

Sylvia Anderson entertains the audience

In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Fryer, Sylvia spoke about the early days of working for Roberta Leigh, the financial troubles of AP Films that culminated in Lew Grade bankrolling their productions, and overhauling Ed Bishop’s dress sense for UFO! She also talked about her relationship with Lew Grade, and the great man’s softer, humane side, which came to the fore as her personal problems developed. According to Sylvia, Lew was honest – he didn’t understand scripts, and wanted to see finished the finished production before making a judgement about it. He trusted the team to deliver them and make the creative decisions. The only advice he ever gave Sylvia about Lady Penelope was not to make her too posh!

Shane Rimmer on the big screen

The Tracy brothers reunited

Before this, the Tracy brothers were reunited for a highly entertaining interview with Marcus Hearn. Voice artists Shane Rimmer, Matt Zimmerman, David Graham and Jeremy Wilkin talked about wrangling with equity for Thunderbirds royalties, why modern actors can’t speak their lines properly and the new Thunderbirds Are Go! series. Incredibly, Matt and Jeremy also discovered that they had appeared in the same production of Twelfth Night back in the 1950s…This was just the kind of oddity to come out of a Fanderson convention!

Fanderson Sales


The weekend also saw the launch – or imminent launch – of several exclusive new pieces of merchandise. Fanderson’s very own 3-disc CD soundtrack of Captain Scarlet was flying off the shelves, as well as the third installment in the club’s successful sweet cigarette card book series. Fanderson and Robert Harrop ran a sales presence all weekend on the ground floor of the hotel, while a separate dealers room was run upstairs. In particular, fans were wowed by Robert Harrop’s Parker and Light-Fingered Fred, commissioned exclusively for the convention and limited to just 150. Meanwhile Modiphius demoed their Thunderbirds Co-Operative board game, which is due out in December, and Alan Shubrook was selling signed copies of his Century 21 FX Update book, which was inspired by a trip to the old Century 21 film studio on the Slough Trading estate, prior to its demolition.

Light Fingered Fed and Parker

Thunderbirds co-operative boardgame

Alan also ran two presentations over the weekend to celebrate Thunderbirds’ 50th anniversary, and to share his experiences of revisiting Stirling Road. The new books didn’t end there. Marcus Hearn and Mike Jones provided fans with an overview of their stunning, lavishly illustrated new history of Thunderbirds, The Vault, as well as the 50th anniversary bookazine. The Vault in particular was full of photographs of rare merchandise and never-before-seen production stills. By showing slides of the finished book, they let the pictures tell their own story.

Just Preece

Mary Turner and Lady Penelope

Alan Shubrook and Parker

Brian Johnson and Eagle Transporter

Mike Trim and Brian Johnson discussed model and special effects, while Mary Turner and Judy Preece revealed some of their puppeteering secrets from their work on the Supermarionation series and Terrahawks respectively. The Terrahawks theme continued on Saturday afternoon with modelmaker John Lee talking about his favourite model on the series – the Overlander, a replica of which was on display.

Keith and Gwyneth Shackleton, with Marcus Hearn. Picture by Sharon Ankin
The headline attraction of Sunday was arguably Marcus Hearn’s interview with Keith Shackleton, head of AP Films (Merchandising) Ltd, and responsible for the licensing of merchandise for the Anderson series during the 1960s and 70s. Making his first ever appearance at a convention, and with his wife Gwyneth in attendance, Keith provided some great insights into the business decisions behind some of our favourite shows, including the setting up of the SuperCar Club, which received  70,000 members in its first three weeks! He also spoke movingly about the deteriorating relationship between Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, his resistance to selling AP Films to Lew Grade, and his disappointment at the failure to secure a network deal for Thunderbirds in America. Keith’s appearance proved so popular that an episode of UFO was cancelled to extend the interview.

Earlier, Terry Adlam (writer/director of Dick Spanner) helped to shake off a few well-deserved hangovers from Saturday night with his memories of starting off in the film industry. His first job – on  Raiders of the Lost Ark – saw him confronted by a python and come away with Steven Spielberg’s autograph. He was followed by Anderson super-artists Mike Noble and Graham Bleathman, who discussed the challenges of rendering complex models such as the Eagle Transporter with Mike Jones. Dust clouds help to reduce the need to draw elliptical wheels on the SPV, apparently!

Paradise Peaks - Graham Bleathman

The Sunday interviews ended with a Space:1999 theme. Supported by Ian Fryer, writer and story consultant Christopher Penfold provided a live commentary on one of the show’s most sophisticated episodes – Black Sun. This was followed by an interview with actor and stunt artist Roy Scammell, who regaled fans with his memories of a young Sean Connery, horrific injuries to his stunt colleagues and a future film project.








captains-of spectrum

In the best tradition of Fanderson conventions, plenty of other things going on away from the main features room during the whole weekend.

The model exhibition room was something really special this time, outdoing previous Fanderson conventions. Co-ordinated by Derek Eaton, Chris King and Chris Trice, but with contribution of many talented model makers, the exhibition featured many highlights, including an original Stanley Unwin puppet, a veritable fleet of Eagle Transporter craft, a host of replica and original puppets from Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, and beautiful reproductions of the Thunderbirds craft.

Space 1999 - Eagle Transporter

Troy and Marina

Terrahawks - The Overlander
Expertly co-ordinated by Katie Bleathman, there was also a packed programme of workshops that allowed fans to explore more specialised aspects of the Anderson universe, including learning puppetry techniques, hearing from a wide range of professional Anderson artists and discovering how to ‘dirty down’ your models.

With so much going on, there was also a separate screening room was running throughout the weekend for anyone who wanted a quiet moment away from the main features area.

As usual at a Fanderson convention, Saturday night was a chance for everyone to unwind with food, prize-giving, some friendly competition and a few drinks!  A raffle was drawn by the irrepressible Matt Zimmerman, followed by a buffet dinner and a fiendishly challenging quiz compered by chairman Nick Williams. Some people made a special effort to dress the part, while Lady Penelope, Grandma Tracy, Marina and Captains Scarlet and Magenta were also in attendance!

Throughout the weekend, fans donated generously to the cub’s two convention charities, Children In Need and The Alzheimer’s Society. Thanks to a host of puzzles, raffles, a blind auction, buying anniversary stickers and other donations, an incredible £1,278 was raised, to be split equally between both charities.

Phew! So there we have it. Nick Williams’s closing speech helped remind us just how many people have played a part in making this convention possible. Without your contributions – large or small, this weekend or six months ago – the future wouldn’t have been quite so fantastic. Thank you!

Thank you to Mark Simpson Wedge, Sharon Ankin and Mike Burrows for use of their photos in this report.

Thank you!

The Future is Fantastic!We wanted to repeat our thanks for everyone connected with helping to make The Future is Fantastic! a reality over the weekend. So, for any one who had to leave early, couldn’t make it to Maidenhead, or just want to be reminded of who did what, here is Nick Williams’s closing speech for The Future Is Fantastic!

Right up front, please accept my apologies if I leave you off this list. It’s certainly not intentional, and I’ve been wracking my brain for hours to try to ensure I’ve included everyone.

First, a lovely bit of feedback that that club secretary Stuart Drummond received on Saturday night:

When I first signed up for the “Future is Fantastic” I did wonder what I was letting myself in for. I have taken my Star Wars crazed son to a number of Comicons and presumed it would be a similar experience. Being a Gerry Anderson fan (but especially Thunderbirds) all of my life, I thought this would be my time to experience what my son has.

I attended today and spent over 5 hours at the Holiday Inn and had a truly fantastic time. I am old and cynical and I was concerned about what it was going to be like and the people that might attend, but I truly had a brilliant time. My only regret is that I did not sign up for the whole weekend.

Like everyone I have a few hero’s, albeit some our just stars of a television show of my childhood. However today was very different because I was able to meet a few of them and what truly great people they were.

I have you and your colleagues to thank for that and I am very much in your debt, unfortunately I was unable to stay long enough to see Sylvia which will be a regret I shall have to live with.

So I Just needed to say that I really appreciate all the work that was put into today’s event, memories of which will last me for a very long time.

Thank you very much indeed.

Kind regards

Craig Johnson

I hope everyone’s had a great time this weekend.

I’m delighted to announce that through your entries into our puzzles, raffles, the blind auction, buying anniversary stickers, donations etc, you’ve raised an amazing £1278 (plus the small change which we haven’t counted yet) for our charities, Children In Need and Alzheimer’s Society. Thank you all so much for your support.

Various people have been asking this afternoon what’s going to happen to the wonderful posters around the convention, and we’re happy for members to take them in exchange for a donation to the charities. In fact the only one left to go is the Eagle Transporter (with which Graham Purkiss immediately put up his hand and the poster had a new home!).

Before I get to the thanks, a bit of prize-giving for the two puzzles that were running through this weekend.

The winner of John Wilkinson’s fiendishly hard Top 50 music quiz with 94 out of 100 is Richard Yelland. Richard wins a copy of the brand new Captain Scarlet soundtrack CD which, if he’s already bought this weekend, Steve in Sales will exchange for something else of equal value.

There are two winners of Mike Jones’s 21 Object Of Adventure quiz, as they both got every one right. They both win a copy of The Vault book and new ITV DVD boxsets of Stingray, Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds, and they are Jack Knoll and Mark Simpson Wedge.

Now, an event like this doesn’t just happen without a lot of help, so there are a lot of people to thank – especially as everyone’s given up their free time to make it happen. I have quite along list of people to thank, so please bear with me.

First of all, our wonderful guests (and their families):

  • Mike Trim
  • Brian Johnson
  • Mary Turner
  • Judy Preece
  • David Graham
  • Shane Rimmer
  • Matt Zimmerman
  • Alan Shubrook
  • John Lee
  • Terry Adlam
  • Mike Noble
  • Chris Penfold

Plus new guests that we’ve not welcomed to a Fanderson convention before:

  • Roy Scammell
  • Jeremy Wilkin (and special thanks to Sheila Rimmer for putting us in touch with Jeremy)
  • Keith Shackleton (with special thanks to Marcus Hearn for putting us in touch with Keith)
  • Sylvia Anderson (with special thanks to Dee Anderson for making that possible too)

Now, someone that long-term convention go-ers will know who couldn’t be here. Len Davies moved to Los Angeles a few years ago and has carved out a successful career there, and was hoping to arrange that he could be with us this weekend. At the last minute his plans fell through but he wanted to contribute so provided our wonderful opening title sequence.

Thanks to the technical team who have made the event run smoothly:

  • Troy Hess
  • Glenn Pearce
  • Tim Mallett

And special thanks to Martin Phillips who stepped in at short notice when Glenn had to leave us temporarily on Saturday.

Thank you to the hotel staff, especially:

  • Jennie Jones
  • Kasia
  • Mirela
  • Andy
  • Luis
  • James

Thanks also to our security team, headed up by Mark Wallis and Matt Cruz.

I hope you’ll agree that our exhibition was amazing. There are loads of people to thank for that as everything up there is owned by private collectors and it’s taken a lot of organising:

  • Chris King (and special thanks to Chris’ wife Georgina and sons Alex and Leo for allowing their Dad time away from them to help us)
  • Chris Trice
  • Anna Tilbury
  • Andy Rolfe
  • Helen Rolfe
  • Glo Thorogood
  • Barry Davies
  • Annette Davies
  • Toby Chamberlain
  • Larry Peterson
  • David Sanford
  • David Sisson
  • Simon Rhodes
  • Martin Willey
  • Chris Potter
  • Pete Hutton
  • Peter Thornley
  • Derek Eaton

Thanks to:

  • Ralph Titterton for the music and soundtracks part of the programme.
  • Jeff Smart for making it possible to show his Spotlight on Captain Scarlet and Launching Thunderbirds documentaries
  • Giles Ridge at ITV Studios Global Entertainment for providing the Thunderbirds Are Go programming.
  • Thanks to Matt and Dan Buckley at Robert Harrop for sculpting two special characters just for us this weekend – Parker and Light-Fingered Fred.

Thanks to Richard Smith for absolutely understanding my vision for the ‘design’ of the convention, the posters, the convention book etc. Also, thanks to Sam Denham for stepping in at the eleventh hour to write much of the convention book and, again, perfectly understanding my vision for the style – especially Sam Shore’s introduction.

Special thanks to Lee Elliott, who has just stepped in the help with anything needed over the whole weekend.

Very special thanks to Graham and Katie Bleathman. To give everyone an idea of the kind of Katie’s wonderful nature, she asked that I make sure to thank everyone who participated in the workshops too. So thank you.

Finally, thanks to the Fanderson committee. The club is a fantastic team effort. It’s not always easy-going and fun either, and they’re all great support when times aren’t going so well. In addition to their ’normal’ duties for the club:

  • for their interviewing and all other duties – Ian Fryer and Mike Jones
  • for publicity in all its forms – Jay Mullins
  • for looking after our guests – Lynn Simpson, Jackie Dear and Mel Rowlands
  • for permanently manning the Fanderson Sales table – Steve Brown
  • for looking after registrations, both leading up to the event and during it – John Wilkinson and Stuart Drummond.

But most importantly, thank you to all of you for making it such a special weekend.

I’ll leave you now with a reminder of the fantastic futures that Gerry and Sylvia Anderson brought us.