Anderson fans flocked to the Holiday Inn Maidenhead last weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of The Secret Service, Doppelgänger and UFO and to raise money for charity The Silver Line, a free 24-hour helpline for older people. Incredibly, a combination of events over the weekend and sheer generosity of fans meant that over £8,000 was raised in total.
A great turn out
With around 250 fans coming from all over the world to be at the convention, Stuart Drummond and John Wilkinson had their work cut out on the registrations desk when the convention officially opened on Friday afternoon.
There was a huge range of guests throughout the weekend, covering all aspects of the Anderson productions and eras, appearing on the main stage and signing autographs.
There were no less than three UFO-themed two-hander interviews over the weekend. Penny Spencer partnered fellow SHADO operative Georgina Moon to talk about their experiences of acting and living in the 1960s, while Gary Raymond and Christian Roberts reminisced about their guest appearances in The Man Who Came Back and The Long Sleep respectively. Finally Susan Jameson and Michael Jayston talked about their memories of acting together as brother and sister on The Sound Of Silence.
Andrew Skilleter, Graham Bleathman and Steve Kyte spoke about their work on Alan Fennell’s Fleetway comics in the 1990s, as well as their memories of the original TV21. Mike Trim presented a fascinating slideshow covering his work as an illustrator after Century 21, and also teamed up with Dominic Lavery to talk about their experiences of designing for the Andersons 35 years apart.
The largest interview of the weekend was a Terrahawks mega panel consisting of Kaye Main, Terry Adlam, John Lee, Steve Begg, Judy Preece, Peter Tilbe and Gary Tomkins. Peter Hitchcock shared his memories of working on the Supermarionation heydays at the Slough Trading Estate, while other interviews included Steve Begg, Brian Johnson and Mark Woollard, and Dee Anderson joining puppeteers Mary Turner and Judy Preece.
Among the guest interviews, there were two special screenings of recorded interviews with Anderson grandees who are now sadly lost to us. Producer Jeff Smart provided a never-before-released audio commentary by the recently departed Shane Rimmer for Zeke’s Blues, a The Protectors episode that he both wrote and starred in. To further mark The Secret Service anniversary, fans were also treated to a filmed interview with Stanley Unwin from the Fanderson Archives.
Model room and art room
Away from the Features Room, there was a huge range of other things for fans to get involved in. The Art Room featured an incredible amount of original Anderson artwork from Frank Bellamy, Mike Noble, Ron Embleton, Frank Hampson, Graham Bleathman (who also organised the display) and many others.
The Model Room run by Chris King had a constantly shifting rota of original and reproduction puppets, vehicles from across the series, original props and costumes, and even a model of the AP Films studio building. The exhibition also extended to downstairs, where Ben Westenend’s impressive 6-metre studio scale replica of the Thunderbird 2 hanger, runway and launchpad was on display.
There was also a Music Room, where attendees could relax and complete a colouring-in sheet and potentially win a prize, and an Episodes Room holding all-day screenings.
The ever popular programme of Workshops, run by Katie Bleathman, included subjects as diverse as the digital music restoration for Fanderson’s soundtrack CDs, Anderson artwork and a chance to try your hand at puppetry. This year also saw a slot in which fans could ask Fanderson committee members Lynn Simpson and Nick Williams questions about the running of the club.
Run by Stephen Brown and Lynn Simpson, Fanderson Sales always pulls some exclusive goodies out of the bag at a convention, and this year was no exception. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Secret Service, two commemorative tea towels went on sale. In terms of new books, Super Space Theatre examined the compilation releases of the Anderson series and included a set of 13 artwork prints. The latest edition of the much-loved ‘FAB Book of…’ was also on sale, looking into the world of Anderson bubble gum cards. And there was exclusive news of a new upcoming soundtrack CD: an expanded re-issue of UFO!
Designed and edited by Mike Jones and Dave Nightingale, the convention book was styled as the ‘next issue’ of the original SIG, the ground-breaking commercial Anderson magazine of the early 1980s that ran for 20 issues and paved the way for modern fan publications such as FAB. It was a beautiful touch of nostalgia for all older fans, some of whom couldn’t believe it was a brand new issue!
Friday evening began with a glass of bubbly and a screening of the final episode of The Secret Service in the Features Room. This was followed by ‘Lord Parker’s Bingo’, hilariously compered by Mike Jones dressed as the eponymous butler from Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday.
Fast forward to Saturday night, and fans were treated to a ’70s and ’80s themed disco that ran until midnight. It gave some people the chance to wear their very best Anderson-themed fancy dress and win a prize…
Raffles and auctions
A number of raffles and auctions (live and blind) were held over the weekend, with all proceeds going to The Silver Line. Some highly desirable Anderson memorabilia became the subject of intense bidding wars, with the highest winning bid for an International Rescue plaque, produced by Virgin Trains to commemorate their unveiling of the Scott Tracy engine by Gerry Anderson in 2002. It sold for an eye-watering £1,500!
Thank you to everyone who contributed and attended
In an emotional closing ceremony, Fanderson chairman Nick Williams thanked everyone involved (below).
As previously announced, this was the last full weekend Fanderson convention (though we’ll continue with smaller events, and hope to support others staging events), and things certainly went out with a bang! It was a true Supercelebration that will live long in the memory.