Out now – Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation

BIG FINISH HAVE today (6 April) released, in digital download format, Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation – a two-hour conversation between the celebrated genre actor and voice artist and interviewer Toby Hadoke.

A new Big Finish press statement announcing the release gives more details:

Released today is an in-depth conversation about the life and career of Carolyn Seymour, an actress of renown in the UK and the US and best known to Big Finish listeners as Abby Grant in Survivors. Now she sits down to talk to Toby Hadoke about her astonishing career and life outside of the spotlight, unfiltered and unvarnished. 

This is the latest release in the incredibly popular Big Finish in Conversation series, where listeners get the opportunity to spend quality time in the company of their heroes, exploring their life stories in frank detail. 

Big Finish in Conversation: Carolyn Seymour is now available as a digital download for just £7.99, exclusively HERE!

Known best to Big Finish listeners as Abby Grant in Survivors, Carolyn Seymour is an actress who is equally at home in a Hollywood blockbuster, a British cult comedy or drama series. She played Jenny in Take Three Girls, Zita in the Steptoe & Son movie, and starred on the silver screen alongside Peter O’Toole, Albert Finney and Michael Keaton in a career that has lasted five decades.  

Now she opens up in an exclusive two-hour interview with writer, actor and comedian Toby Hadoke, talking with openness and honesty about her astonishing career and life outside of the spotlight. 

Carolyn Seymour said: “I have always hated giving interviews, and always, in my effort to be diplomatic, my words would be twisted into some kind of other person’s thoughts. This interview isn’t like that! I didn’t have to worry about that with Toby, so he asked the questions, and I gave him the answers, unedited and totally frank. What you get is purely and simply me. I hope that you get to know me a little, I hope that I don’t seem as distant as I might have done. My life has been full, challenging, sometimes a joy, and other times not so much… but work has always saved my soul. I thank [Big Finish senior producer] David Richardson for helping me to heal, and listening to my myriad stories with patience and humour!” 

David Richardson added: “I first noticed Carolyn Seymour when I was 14 years old – her performance as Abby Grant in Survivors made me take notice. Abby was, without a doubt, one of the first strong roles for women on TV. And from there I carried on watching Carolyn’s amazing work through her career – over to America, playing such memorable characters on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Quantum Leap… so many, many shows. I never dreamed I’d be lucky enough to work with her, or even better to know her as a friend, but in 2014 I was able to track her down to France, and over the last seven years she has become a regular player at Big Finish.  

“I know, from sitting in the green room with her, that Carolyn has the most fascinating life stories to tell. It’s a rich and sometimes dark journey – but here she shares it with Toby Hadoke without varnish. She calls herself an open book, and this is a book you won’t be able to put down. This time spent with Carolyn Seymour is time well spent indeed.” 

Big Finish in Conversation: Carolyn Seymour is now available as a digital download for just £7.99, exclusively HERE!

This release contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners. 

Hampton Court Castle and the Severn Valley Railway prepare to reopen to visitors

The rear of Hampton Court Castle in Herefordshire

TWO OF THE most popular current-day tourist attractions which provided filming locations for Survivors back in the 1970s, and which have remained inaccessible during Covid lockdown restrictions, are now preparing to re-open and welcome visitors once more.

Hampton Court Castle, the location used throughout the latter episodes of series one of Survivors as the site for ‘The Grange’, re-opened its gates on 1 April 2021. With Covid restrictions still placing limits on how far people are allowed to travel, access to Hampton Court Castle is currently intended for “local people” only.

Those local visitors will be able to access the formal gardens, the ‘river walk’, and the main grounds of the estate. At present, the castle itself, together with the Gothic tower and the gift shop, remain closed. There will be some restrictions to movement through the gardens, including a one-way system that can ensure adherence to social distancing. The cafe will be open, providing takeaway services only, offering a limited menu.

Rail services on the Severn Valley Railway, which provided locations for the series three Survivors episodes Law of the Jungle, Mad Dog, and Bridgehead (and footage used in Power), will recommence on Monday 12 April.

Services will run between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster, with seats needing to be pre-booked for “travel in a private compartment or reserved table seats” on “specially tailored return trips”. Stations along the line will only be accessible to those with pre-booked tickets for specific journeys. The Engine House will remained closed until 17 May 2021, and there are social distancing restrictions and additional safety protocols in place whilst travelling.

A programme of events, including ‘steam galas’ and special services, has been announced for the coming months.

A SVR video, produced during last year’s easing of lockdown restrictions, gives a good indication of how services will operate in the coming weeks and months.

Myra Frances (Anne Tranter, Survivors S1) dies aged 78

Myra Frances - Anne Tranter - Genesis - Survivors

MYRA FRANCES, WHO played the role of Anne Tranter in two episodes of series one of Survivors, has died of cancer just weeks after her seventy-eighth birthday.

Frances’ death, at 01:30 on Tuesday 30 March 2021, was announced on social media today by her husband of 45 years the actor Peter Egan. The couple had married on 13 February 1977, and had a daughter, Rebecca Egan – who has also pursued a career as an actor.

The news of Frances’ passing was quickly picked up by news agencies, including the Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Sun, OK, The Independent and Metro.

The character of ‘spoilt rich girl’ Tranter first appeared in Survivors‘ second episode “Genesis”, when she flags down Greg’s car on the main road next to a quarry. Wrapped in a fur coat, and with an immaculate appearance, her character makes an immediate impression. She insists that Greg help her, by freeing her partner Vic Thatcher who’s become trapped under an overturned tractor.

Tranter, who had enjoyed a life of privilege and indulgence before The Death, soon has Greg lined up to replace the now seriously injured Vic. When Greg insists on leaving, she abandons the patient to his fate telling the returning Greg, now in the company of Jenny Richards, that the injured Vic was already dead.

Myra Frances - Anne Tranter - and Ian McCulloch - Greg Preston - in Genesis - Survivors

Tranter later refuses to join Greg and Jenny as they head off into the night to trace the source of the signal from Abby’s fire. Her disappearance is referred to in the next episode “Gone Away”, when Greg confirms to Abby that she was no longer in the barn the trio were overnighting in when Greg made good on his pledge to return to collect her.

Frances’ formidable character returns in the eleventh episode “Revenge”, when Tranter arrives at the Grange settlement in the company of the good-natured tanker driver Donny. With Vic rescued from his isolation at the quarry and now living as part of Abby’s community, the scene is set for a confrontation between Vic and Anne – with him determined that she must account for her wickedness and cruelty in leaving him “to die in his own filth”.

When the two are finally reconciled by their recognition of the value of life itself, she heads off alone towards an unknown future – but with a reaffirmed sense of self.

Myra Frances - Anne Tranter - Revenge - Survivors - 01
Myra Frances - Anne Tranter - Revenge - Survivors - 02

Prior to her retirement, Frances had enjoyed a successful and varied screen career.

As well as her appearance in Survivors, she also memorably guest-starred in the 1979 Doctor Who story ‘The Creature from the Pit’ in the role of Lady Adrasta.

Frances also played the role of Stella Clisby, in series four of Hadleigh, and appeared in a number of episodes of the lunchtime legal series Crown Court.

In addition, she appeared in episodes of The Sweeney, Z-Cars, Angels, Within These Walls, The Newcomers and The Organisation – the show on which she met her future husband.

The day before her death, MyLondon coincidentally ran a short feature recalling the controversy that surrounded Frances’ appearance alongside Alison Steadman in the BBC drama Girl, where their characters shared what was claimed to be the first lesbian kiss on British television.

On the big screen she took roles in films including Don’t Just Lie There, Say Something!, Very Like a Whale and Remembrance.

In retirement, and alongside her husband, Myra Frances devoted considerable time and effort supporting animal charities and campaigning for better treatment of animals.

Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation – Big Finish podcast preview

THE 28 MARCH 2021 Big Finish podcast, presented by Nicholas Briggs and Benji Clifford, includes a preview from the upcoming audio release Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation.

The Centurion Seymour edition of the podcast is available to stream or download from the Big Finish web site, and through all usual podcast plaforms and services.

The preview includes a discussion of the personal and professional challenges that Seymour experienced working on the Steptoe and Son movie and securing the role of Abby Grant on Survivors. She also reflects on the sexist culture that afflicted the entertainment industry during the 1970s, and the impact that this had on women working in film and TV.

After the preview, the hosts discuss how much they have enjoyed working with Carolyn on Big Finish productions since she began to lend her audio talents to the company’s output. Briggs and Clifford also reflect on how positive their personal interactions in the studio always are with this most singular of actors.

Known best to Big Finish listeners as Abby Grant in Survivors, Carolyn Seymour is an actress who is equally at home in a Hollywood blockbuster, a British cult comedy or drama series. She played Jenny in Take Three Girls, Zita in the Steptoe & Son movie, and starred on the silver screen alongside Peter O’Toole, Albert Finney and Michael Keaton in a career that has lasted five decades.

Now she opens up in an exclusive two-hour interview with writer, actor and comedian Toby Hadoke, talking with openness and honesty about her astonishing career and life outside of the spotlight.

Please note release contains discussion of alcoholism and attempted suicide and therefore is not suitable for younger listeners.

Big Finish have also released the first trailer from the release, which can also be listened to on, and downloaded from, the Big Finish site.

Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation will be released next month, and is available for pre-order from Big Finish.

Further information about the release was first released in a Big Finish press release back in February.

Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation – cover and trailer released

Carolyn Seymour: Survivor cover design

BIG FINISH HAVE released the cover image for next month’s digital audio release Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation, and the first teaser trailer.

Big Finish’s ‘In Conversation’ series provides an opportunity for an in-depth one-on-one question-and-answer session with actors famous for their genre work on screen and an audio.

This latest release features Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant, Survivors – on screen and on audio) in conversation with Toby Hadoke.

The list for Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation on the Big Finish site explains:

Known best to Big Finish listeners as Abby Grant in Survivors, Carolyn Seymour is an actress who is equally at home in a Hollywood blockbuster, a British cult comedy or drama series. She played Jenny in Take Three Girls, Zita in the Steptoe & Son movie, and starred on the silver screen alongside Peter O’Toole, Albert Finney and Michael Keaton in a career that has lasted five decades.

Now she opens up in an exclusive two-hour interview with writer, actor and comedian Toby Hadoke, talking with openness and honesty about her astonishing career and life outside of the spotlight.

Please note release contains discussion of alcoholism and attempted suicide and therefore is not suitable for younger listeners.

Big Finish have also released the first trailer from the release, which can also be listened to on, and downloaded from, the Big Finish site.

Carolyn Seymour: In Conversation will be released next month, and is available for pre-order from Big Finish.

Further information about the release was first released in a Big Finish press release back in February.

Sequel to ‘Genesis of a Hero’ published

AUTHOR JOHN EYERS has just published Survivors: Salvation, a long-awaited sequel to his ‘cult classic’ novel Survivors: Genesis of a Hero.

Forty-five years have passed since the paperback and hardback edition were originally published. “I thought a follow-up was due,” says the author.

First published in 1977, Survivors: Genesis of a Hero was itself the sequel to Terry Nation’s original Survivors novel which had hit the bookshelves the previous year.

Eyers’ novel picked up Nation’s story just four hours on from its shocking conclusion – the fateful reunion of Abby Grant and her long-missing son Peter.

With the remainder of Abby’s group having arrived in France, following their sea-crossing, Eyers focused attention back on British shores. Genesis of a Hero tells the story of the now-orphaned Peter Grant’s rise through the ranks of the Wormley’s National Unity Force and his eventual emergence as a leader of the fiercely independent Welsh rebels The Red Dragons. This force destroys the army of Wormley’s successor, and secures the future of the Welsh clans – at least for now…

Survivors: Salvation continues the story of Peter Grant’s struggles against new threats to his rule, and to the society he’s now responsible for – and his growing anguish about his past actions.

Tortured by guilt for killing his mother, in post-pandemic Britain, Peter Grant is still and haunted by the fiery holocaust that he devised to ensure his victory at Llyn Edno.

He has found a passionate love with Branwen, the feisty warrior and clan leader of the Red Dragons.

But his family brings with it new challenges and responsibilities, and he struggles to make sense of his roles as war leader, father and husband in this fractured, conflicted world.

Spurred on by the deaths of his mentors, Chad and Daniel, Peter seeks to protect his people by forging a path to peace with the adversary he thought he had defeated five years before.

Just when it seems his hopes might be realised he finds himself facing an enemy he did not know existed, an enemy so pitiless, so numerous, that it could lay waste to friend and foe alike, an enemy of such horrendous proportions that for the first time Peter faces utter defeat.

This time he won’t be able to kill his way to victory.

As Britain plunges once more into chaos will a young woman with the Sight and her warrior sister be the Saviours, or is there yet another threat looming, just over the horizon?

‘John Eyers’ is the pen name of author Peter Hill, who also wrote the TV tie-in Special Branch: In At The Kill using the same pseudonym that was first published in 1976.

Peter has also published many works under his own name, including The Staunton and Wyndsor series, The Hunters, The Liars, The Enthusiast, and The Savages. He’s also authored the Commander Allan Dice books, The Fanatics and The Washermen.

“I have returned to novel writing after a career in TV drama,” Peter explains, “and published Killing Tomorrow, the first of a new series, Evolutions Path, as an ebook. I have recently published the second book in the series, The Ladies’ Game and started work on the third one. These are future fiction novels in the same genre as Genesis of a Hero.”

Survivors Salvation has been published in both paperback and Kindle formats (released on 11 March), and can be purchased by visiting Peter’s author page on Amazon.

Peter has also republished Survivors: Genesis of a Hero, which is now also available as a new paperback and as a Kindle title.

A review of Survivors: Salvation, and an interview with Peter Hill, will both be published on the Survivors: A World Away site in the coming weeks.

As Peter is producing his new works as an independent author, he is asking those who enjoy Survivors: Salvation to help promote the book by posting a review online.

“It would be great if you could spare a few minutes to post a review, which will help others when searching for books,” he says. Those producing books in this way “have to rely very much on word-of-mouth referrals like reviews to bring our books to the attention of readers,” he explains. “I’d really appreciate a few words.”

Peter Hill. 2021. Survivors: Salvation. ISBN: 9798598531433 – paperback (14 February); Kindle (11 March).

In conversation – Carolyn Seymour: Survivor

Carolyn Seymour

BIG FINISH HAVE today announced the release of a two-hour ‘in conversation’ session with Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant).

For this digital-download-only release, Carolyn was interviewed by writer, actor and comedian Toby Hadoke in January 2021.

Carolyn Seymour: Survivor is available for pre-order from the Big Finish site, and will be released in April 2021.

Known best to Big Finish listeners as Abby Grant in Survivors, Carolyn Seymour is an actress who is equally at home in a Hollywood blockbuster, a British cult comedy or drama series. She played Jenny in Take Three Girls, Zita in the Steptoe & Son movie, and starred on the silver screen alongside Peter O’Toole, Albert Finney and Michael Keaton in a career that has lasted five decades.

Now she opens up in an exclusive two-hour interview with writer, actor and comedian Toby Hadoke, talking with openness and honesty about her astonishing career and life outside of the spotlight.

In the Big Finish press release, Tony Hadoke says –

I knew Carolyn would be interesting but was thrilled by her openness, her refreshing honesty and the way she was happy to field any question I wanted to throw at her. She’s definitely a survivor. This may be a one woman show – and what a woman – but there are a host of supporting players and she brings them all to life; from HG Wells (well, bits of him) to Terence Dudley via Michael Bryant and Peter O’Toole. The time we spent chatting just flew by.

Big Finish - In Conversation logo

Photo of Carolyn Seymour (c) Tony Whitmore

Hampton Court features in Antiques Road Trip

Hampton Court on Antiques Roadtrip (S21, E17) - arriving at the front of the estate

HAMPTON COURT IN Herefordshire, a key filming location in the first series of Survivors, features in a new episode of the long-running BBC auction show Antiques Road Trip.

Presenter Christina Trevanion visits the grounds of Hampton Court and its gardens to learn more about Tudor methods of soap production – household items which were manufactured by hand and perfumed with flowers and other naturally grown materials.

“Taking a break from shopping, Christina heads to a very fine garden to discover the fascinating history of how the Tudors kept themselves clean”

BBC

In Survivors, the lack of soap is briefly referred to during Abby’s group’s tenure at The Grange in series one. But it is in Survivors second series that the residents of Whitecross get stuck into the laborious business of making their own soap supplies.

Fittingly, Christina arrives at the house by motoring along the long front driveway in a “very robust” Series One Landrover. “Not as nippy” as the Porsche Speedster that her rival collectibles trader Serhat Ahmet is driving “but better over the bumps,” the episode’s description explains.

The short sequence at Hampton Court includes some striking aerial shots of the house and gardens.

The episode (Series 21, Episode 17) was first shown on BBC One on 8 December, and (for viewers in the UK) will be available on the BBC iPlayer until 7 January 2021.

Hampton Court on Antiques Roadtrip (S21, E17) - presenter Christina behind the wheel of the Landrover

Bid to reinstate rail line through Monsal Dale meets opposition

BBC East Midlands Today - report on lobby group aiming to secure funding to reinstate the rail line between Matlock and Buxton - August 2020

A CONTROVERSIAL BID to secure millions of pounds in government funding to reinstate the Matlock to Buxton rail line, along what is now the Monsal Trail, has run into opposition from the public and the Peak Park authority.

The original rail line, which formed part of the connection between London and Manchester, was closed in the 1960s as part of the infamous Beeching cuts which devastated large section of Britain’s rail network. With the tracks removed and the rail tunnels sealed, the section between Buxton and Matlock fell into disuse.

It was in 1977, during the early years of this period of neglect (and before the tunnels had been sealed), that the Monsal valley was selected as an ideal filming location for the third series Survivors episode Mad Dog.

The Headstock Tunnel as seen in the Survivors episode Mad Dog
The Headstock Tunnel as it appeared on screen in 1977 in Survivors episode ‘Mad Dog’

Monsal trail

In recent years, after attracting extensive funding for rennovation, the rail tunnels along this section of the line were repaired and re-opened, and the Monsal Trail developed as a leisure and tourist attraction for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The Trail has proved to be an extraordinarily popular location, attracting large numbers of visitors year round, and has succeeded in becoming an important ‘jumping off’ point for those who’ve been encouraged by their experience to explore the Peak District more widely.

Lobby group MEMRAP (the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership) has launched a campaign to secure funding for a reinstatement of the old line.

MEMRAP argues that allowing the Monsal Trail to exist solely as a recreational destination means wasting a valuable resource that could be harnessed to “reconnect isolated communities, provide additional capacity for the national railway network (both for passengers and freight), and help Derbyshire to meet its carbon emissions targets”.

MEMRAP are backing the work of the Peak and Dales Rail campaign, which claims that trains could be running over the Monsal viaduct once again by 2030.

Feasibility questions

The group’s proposals will, the Peak and Dales Rail campaign hopes, persuade central and local government to fund a full feasibility study and detailed construction plan.

If approved, MEMRAP hopes that the multi-million pound costs of the construction of the line (which would include bridge building, flood management, and major earth works) would come from “private investment […] or from national government, or indeed from some combination.”

If the project secured funding, access to the tunnels and to the viaduct by pedestrians and others would face the axe. MEMRAP chief executive Stephen Chaytow said he did not want to see “the Monsal Trail lost” entirely and its proposals would see the Trail retained in “some capacity”.

It’s clear however that, were the rail reinstatement to go ahead, leisure access to the Monsal Trail would be sharply curtailed and the experience transformed out of all recognition by the primacy that a live bi-directional train service would have to secure in the limited space available.

Peak authority sceptical

The Peak District National Park Authority remains entirely unconvinced by MEMRAP’s plans. A 2019 study by the Authority found that the easily-accessible trails available in the National Park played host to “more than half a million visits each year from walkers, cyclists and horse riders.” Of those 500,000 annual visitors, 330,000 made use of the Monsal Trail.

The organisation’s Conservation and Planning Director John Scott insists the railway line and the Trail are simply “incompatible”.

“It’s hard to see how you can have the railway back and have the Trail experience as it is at the moment,” he explained to the BBC.

Save the Monsal Trail petition banner

The proposals have sparked opposition from individuals and groups entirely unconvinced by MEMRAP’s cost-benefit calculations. A Help Save the Monsal Trail petition on the Change.org site has already (by 20 November 2020) attracted more than 10,500 signatures.

It’s difficult to tell at present, if MEMRAP’s proposals have any credibility or traction. An application has been submitted to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway ‘Ideas Fund’, with the backing of two sponsoring MPs Robert Largan (High Peak) and Nigel Mills (Amber Valley).

Train traction

The bid will, however, be in competition with other rail reinstatement proposals from across the country, many of which will not be accompanied with the same kind of eye-watering price tag, unproven economic rationale or impassioned local opposition that the MEMRAP plan will have to confront.

Countless major infrastructure ‘projects’ (particularly those which originate from private organisations and lobby groups) fail to secure funding or official backing and grind to a halt at the “feasibility study” stage.

The proposal can though count on some local rail-enthusiast support. A competing Re-open the Railway between Matlock, Bakewell, Buxton and Manchester petition on Change.org has attracted thousands of signatures. Tellingly, the statement accompanying the petition is silent on the fate of the Monsal Trail in the event that the line is brought back into use.

East Midlands Today – 18 August 2020
East Midlands Today (late evening news summary) – 18 August 2020
East Midlands Today – 29 August 2020

Earlier echoes

As the debate continues, it’s impossible not to reminded of the controversy that greeted the construction of the Monsal viaduct and the building of the rail line back in 1863. The celebrated critic and social commentator John Ruskin famously denounced what he saw as the witless desecration of the valley’s beauty in the name of “progress”:

“The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange – you Fools everywhere.”

John Ruskin, 1871. Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain.

Once opened, trains ran across the viaduct and through the valley for around 100 years before the Beeching cuts led to the lines being ripped out. Over time, the viaduct that Ruskin had considered such a monstrosity blended into the landscape of the Monsal valley, and became an integral part of one of the Peak District’s most recognisable and acclaimed vistas. Within ten years of the line’s closure, its impressive spans and brickwork had secured Grade II Listed Building status.

Fans of Survivors might well find themselves torn in relation to the rail reinstatement plan. While the return of trains to the Monsal valley would almost certainly render key Mad Dog filming locations inaccessible once more, and compromise the gentle tranquility of the valley, there is one other consideration.

Charles Vaughan and Greg Preston were both enthusiastic advocates for the reactivation of dormant rail services across post-Death Britain (admittedly in legacy, steam-powered form). In Survivors, it was Charles and Greg who were most determined to “get a national network going”.

Hampton Court ends its visitor season as new lockdown confirmed

Hampton Court - Herefordshire

HAMPTON COURT IN Herefordshire, the principal filming location for the second half of the first series of Survivors, has closed to visitors for the remainder of 2020.

Hampton Court had reopened the grounds of the estate in early July, once the first Covid-19 lockdown restrictions had been lifted (the site usually reopens from its winter break in March or April, but had remained shut during lockdown).

With the new restrictions unveiled by the Johnson government taking effect from 5 November, and running to early December (in the first instance), the owners of Hampton Court have decided to end the visitor season with immediate effect, forgoing any plans for Xmas and end-of-year events.

An announcement on the Hampton Court Castle site explains:

We are closed to day visitors for the 2020 season. We will reopen in April 2021