Enid Blyton Day: 12th May, 2007
Once again held at Loddon Hall in Twyford, Berkshire, this year's Day proved to be the largest turn-out on record with 165 attendees. You can skip straight to the photos or read on for the full story...
Report Compiled by Nigel Rowe and Ming Khan
The best things in life, they say, are worth waiting for. The annual Enid Blyton Society Day is one of those best things in life! Worth waiting for? Definitely. The Society Forums were buzzing with excitement for weeks — nay, months — before the event. Who will be there? What happens there? Such eager anticipation. Let us hope we are not disappointed!
The excitement on the eve of the 11th was akin to that of Christmas Eve! For those of us who had been before, pictures of past Days spun in our minds. Eager anticipation of meeting old friends again, mingled with the wonders of meeting new friends. Oh, come on sleep, why are you forsaking us!
At last. Daylight dawned on a fresh, new Saturday. Hurrah! It's come at last. Car fuelled, SatNav primed, sitting comfortably? Well off we go!
This year's Day had gone into the Ginger Beer Book of Records, our previous record for ticket sales by more than 20. Unfortunately, some people just couldn't make it! Still, 165 die-hard Blyton fans attended — an incredible number; far more than ever before! Visitors came from all over the UK, and some from overseas. Frank came along from Germany, Paulo flew right over from Portugal, Prabhu Viswanathan travelled from the other side of the world (India) and Ming came by herself from Bangladesh.
Everyone was delighted that the Day was so successful — "Firstly my heartfelt thanks to Tony and all the others who helped make the event possible," was Zoe's (aka George@Kirrin) first line in her report! And not just Zoe either, everyone has thanked the organisers exclusively: "Thanks must go to the organisers of the day. Tony must be singled out," says Nigel Rowe (aka moonraker). "I know that he has spent days and days in organising speakers and all the hundred and one things that go into making this such a phenomenal success that it was. Where would we be without you Tony?" Anita Bensoussane says, "A very memorable and enjoyable Day — thanks, Tony!"
The excitement on pulling into the car park at Loddon Hall was at fever pitch. Which is better — to search out old friends or scan for an exciting new one?
"Ming's inside!" said Tony. "That was it for me," remarks Nigel. "I hot-footed it inside the hall, and there at the Society stand was a five foot tall girl, wearing a white coat. Wow, Ming, at last! How can the Day start on such a high? What a character! A truly lovely person who showered enthusiasm on all she met. She even got to have lunch with Imogen! What an impression she made on everyone. She has a warm personality, an infectious smile, a great sense of humour and a terrific knowledge and enthusiasm for all things Blyton."
Many old friends were there too, of course. It was great to see Anita again, another forum soulmate. This year there were many more people there who take an active part in the Society Forums. Jools, Anita, Ming, Paulo, Frank, Viking (Robert Canniff) and Lucky (John Lynch) Stars, Zoe, Viv, Rosie, Prabhu, Belly (Julia Bell), Daisy (Ilsa Cheeseman), Georgina, Laurence and others who inevitably we have missed out. Special mention must go to Matthew Roberts, our revered IT expert. Matt was freshly up from Cornwall. It was good to meet you for the first time, Matt.
Shelves and shelves and yet more shelves of delights were there to greet us. Many of our favourite series were there, proudly wearing their original jackets. "Look at us," they were saying, "buy us if you can!" Other stands displayed toys, badges and other artefacts. Other displays included original typed manuscripts of Enid's stories.
Anyway, on to the show — The guest speakers.
Our first treat was to listen to Nicolette Jones. She gave an interesting talk on the darker side of children's literature, even making comparisons between the works of J K Rowling (inevitably) and Blyton. It was also fascinating to learn that Nicolette had had her hair cropped as a child, in order to be like George! She also understood how children wanted sheds and passwords — she had herself! As Nigel mentions, "She is, amongst other things, the children's book reviewer for the Sunday Times. She gave a very interesting talk on children's writing, making comparisons, sadly inevitable, with authors such as J K Rowling. (I still don't see how JKR (as much as I love her books) can be compared with Blyton — JKR has written seven books — wow!) Nevertheless, a really fascinating talk."
Anita agrees. "Nicolette Jones' speech about the 'darkness' of much modern children's literature gave us plenty of food for thought." As Jools said, "[Nicolette Jones] reminded me a little of Mrs Rivers (as I perceive her to be) in a neat coat and skirt. She was charming and I found myself smiling along to her anecdotes about being a tomboy in her youth."
Nigel talks of Duncan McLaren. "The afternoon session opened with a talk by author Duncan McLaren on his forthcoming book, This is His Enid. He described in some detail the purpose and content of his book which I won't re-iterate here. Interestingly, the cover illustration was the cover of Five on Kirrin Island Again. The telescope was the correct way round, and the back cover was meant to show it the wrong way round. However, the publishers took this to mean the complete illustration, so it was a mirror image of the front cover!"
"Duncan McLaren's books This Is His Enid sounded very fascinating, and I have a sneaky feeling that I will buy that when it's out," says Ming. "Duncan read out a passage from a book called The Mystery of the Missing Books, in which Enid Blyton's books were stolen, and the Find-Outers try to solve the mystery. Enid met the four (Fatty was somewhere else) and asked them many questions, and they felt very nervous to answer. Then Bets said she felt she had the makings of a writer as well. Enid asked her why, and Bets said she was always making up stories at night. Enid explained that if she had, she should go on with it and send them to be published. After a lot of talking Bets thought Enid looked fatter than she did in photographs, and when she said so, Enid burst out laughing and collapsed on the floor. It came as no surprise to us Find-Outers fans in the audience, that Enid was really Fatty in disguise!
Marcus Harris and Gary Russell (Julian and Dick of the 70s ITV Famous Five series) then entertained us splendidly with an impromptu fifteen minutes or so on stage. Wow! These guys know how to keep an audience awake! Personally, we could have listened to them for a couple of hours!
They mainly reminisced with humorous anecdotes of their memories of filming the series as children. Surely, more time and a proper slot must be given to them next year, if they are available, with, we all hope, Jenifer Thanisch as well (Anne).
John Lynch (Lucky Star) comments, "Marcus Harris and Gary Russell in particular were excellent fun. They are very nice people too, freely signing autographs, laughing and joking and posing willingly for pics."
Anita recalls what Ju and Dick had said. " Both Marcus and Gary said that they were already fans of the Famous Five books before the TV series was made. Gary recalled telling his agent that he "really really" wanted a part in the series. He was considered for the character of Julian at first, but eventually got to play Dick of course. At his audition he was asked if he could ride a horse and, although he'd never been on a horse in his life, he said yes. As soon as he found out that he was to be Dick, and that the first story to be filmed would be 'Five Go to Mystery Moor,' he hurriedly booked some riding lessons!"
"Marcus told us how he chased after one of the producers after his audition, asking what exactly one had to do to get noticed," Anita continues. "Should he perhaps have fooled around like one or two of the other 'hopefuls' had? Speaking out like that obviously did get him noticed, as he was chosen to be Julian! Gary remarked that it is now exactly thirty years since the filming of the series began, in 1977. He and Marcus have both been back to Exbury since, and Marcus said that he showed his children round the area, exclaiming excitedly, 'Look – this is where Daddy filmed the Famous Five!'"
Lunch was much enlivened with the antics of a Noddy car and a Malory Towers storyboard. When we stood behind the board to take pictures, we all felt as if we were all children again. And not forgetting Noddy's car, sitting in it with a blue hat and a bell on the head made us feel as if we were on the streets of Toyland!
There's more to this. Someone missed us while we were there! "By the way, did anyone see Esra from Chorion, who was apparently at the Day asking people for their opinions about the publication of Enid Blyton books?" asks Anita. "I'm afraid I missed her, but I would have have liked to talk to her."
"No, I had no idea she was there," remarked several forumites. "Maybe we should have put her on the stage!"
Tony is quick to pop in with his reply. "I talked to Esra several times (Yes, I was there on and off!) and I had seen a forumite group in earnest discussion at the back of the hall and I told Esra that these were the people that she needed to talk to. I steered her to the right place and you had all gone!!"
Poor Esra! How very remiss of us all. Anyway, back to the Day...
Unfortunately, the promise of two clips from the Adventure series fell a little short. The clip from Island of Adventure was in the wrong format, so couldn't be shown. However, the TVS production of Castle of Adventure could be shown, and it was terrific. To me, this is the best film or TV adaptation of any Blyton story. It was brilliantly cast, and even the minor plot changes didn't annoy too much. I loved the additional (in a way) character, Sam; although I can understand that he is not everyone's cup of tea! Sam (Brian Blessed) even said to the children, "A picnic? Not a good day for a picnic!" He was right on cue too, for outside the rain was lashing down and it really was a terrible day for a picnic! And our next event of the Day was...?
Thirteen of us Forumites were off to Gloomy Water to have a picnic. How many highlights can you have in one day? Jools dragged Nigel off into the trees to try and find a pleasant spot to lie down, and some others went the other way. We missed the suggested location, and settled down on the path overlooking Gloomy Water. What a spread. Viv and Rosie amazed us with the food and drink, Anita had been up all night baking, and others of us had visited the local Co-op! Cold chicken, sandwiches, pasties, scotch eggs, hard-boiled eggs, Ming-balls (yes, really — coconut delicacies from Bangladesh), jelly and blancmange — all washed down with ginger beer and apple juice.
It is said that what goes up must come down. This was true for our spirits. Such happiness had to come to an end. It was back to the car park in Twyford, and time to say our goodbyes. (Well, we did all have a bit of a laugh at Jools' car!) It was with a degree of sadness that we all drove back to our own homes.
Nevertheless, who could be sad for long? We had experienced a terrific day, full of highlights. Cyber friends had become firm buddies and we would soon be online again to share our memories of a great Day.
Enormous thanks must go to Tony, for once again spending hours, nay days, nay weeks in preparations. Nigel says, "I know from my visits to his house, what a fantastic effort he puts into the Society. We are so fortunate to have him at the helm." Thanks must also go to Norman Wright and David Cook — we have a great team.
A few days after the glorious Twelfth, Tony mentioned he had a letter from a first timer at the day. "I thought I ought to share the first line of it with everyone," Tony said. "'First of all, sorry you didn't make it to Twyford on the 12.05.07...'" Tony adds on the forums "Oh dear! I know I have a fairly low profile at the Day, but I was there. Promise!"
Martyn (Timmy-the-dog) remarks on this. "I guess you 'd better sit on the stage for the duration next year, Tony, so as not to confuse the first-timers!"
Tony certainly doesn't want this! "No, I am more than happy to leave all the stage work to Norman Wright. The Enid Blyton Day was originally his idea before the Society even existed. His first Day was in 1993 and he has been the 'compere' ever since. He does an excellent job and both he and David Cook work like beavers before anyone arrives. I must also mention Flora Watson who is Imogen's cousin — she did a very splendid job on the Society stall, far more efficient than I would have been!
That is the work force in a nutshell and the fact that the Day runs so smoothly is entirely down to them."
Oh well, Norman Wright WAS superb on stage! Tony's "fairly low profile" made him seem even more fun!
Here's looking forward to next year — more new faces, more old friends, who knows who we'll meet.
And there we must leave them, laughing and joking, and remembering the good times they shared. They will be back though, you can depend on it. But that's another story!