Romford Horror Festival shares video of audience with Ian McCulloch

Ian McCulloch on stage at the Romford Horror Festival 2024

THE ORGANISERS OF Romford Horror Festival have posted an official online recording of the audience with Ian McCulloch which took place on 2 March 2024.

In this session McCulloch plays his guitar and sings, discusses his early musical career, his work on stage and television and his appearance in three Italian horror films Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombi Holocaust and Contamination.

Although the focus of the weekend was the horror genre, McCulloch does discuss (17ms-25ms) his role as Greg Preston in Survivors, his relationship with Terry Nation and producer Terry Dudley and the three episodes that he wrote for the series.

An audience with Ian McCulloch, Romford Horror Festival 2024
An audience with Ian McCulloch, Romford Horror Festival 2024 – Survivors section

Ian McCulloch to appear at Romford Horror Festival on 2 March 2024

An audience with Ian McCulloch at Romford Horror Festival on 2 March 2024

IAN McCULLOCH (Greg Preston, Survivors) will be appearing at the ‘Horrhiffic’ Romford Horror Festival on Saturday 2 March 2024, taking part in two separate talks as well as a signing session.

McCulloch will join a panel of actors from celebrated horror movies, discussing different aspects of screen horror and the work of horror writers and filmmakers. Later in the afternoon, he’ll be interviewed on stage in ‘an audience with Ian McCulloch’ .

McCulloch will also be present for the screening of some pre-release footage from the upcoming The Witches of the Sands film, in which he appears. Finally, McCulloch, along with other panel guests, will hold a signing session for attendees.

Ian will be with us to discuss his career and will be doing signings on Saturday and possibly Sunday. He’ll also be present for some sneaky footage from upcoming movie The Witches Of The Sands, in which he stars.

Romford Horror Festival

‘The afternoon show’ panel discussion (15:00)

A casual afternoon panel discussion with Ian McCulloch, Cinzia Monreale, Caroline Munro and Pauline Peart. Over the course of an hour we’ll discuss a wide range of topics in the world of horror. From the classic to the modern day indie.

Romford Horror Festival, 2024

An audience with Ian McCulloch (17:00)

Ian McCulloch found demand on both British Television and Italian Horror, from the chilling BBC Sci-Fi drama Survivors in which he played the leading man for the first two seasons, Italian Horror where he starred in three controversial movies Contamination, Zombie Flesh Eaters and Zombie Holocaust and even a stint in Doctor Who. It’s sure to be a quirky hour of chat.

Romford Horror Festival, 2024

Tickets for these events (and all-day passes to all events) can be purchased in advance from the Romford Horror Festival web site.

The Romford Horror Festival takes place at Premiere Cinemas, Level 3, The Mercury Mall, Mercury Gardens, Romford RM1 3EE, between 29 February and 3 March 2024.

Full programme details can be found on the festival web site:

Ian McCulloch as Captain Horst Markway in The Witches of the Sands - close-up

Ian McCulloch as Captain Horst Markway in The Witches of the Sands 

Ian McCulloch as Captain Horst Markway in The Witches of the Sands - close-up with sword

Big Finish share video interview with Carolyn Seymour and Lucy Fleming

Big Finish share video interview with Carolyn Seymour and Lucy Fleming

BIG FINISH HAVE released a short behind-the-scenes video interview with Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant) and Lucy Fleming (Jenny Richards) reflecting on the legacy of Survivors and the pair’s work on the audio series.

Published today (1 October 2024 – Seymour’s 76th birthday), five days after the release of Survivors: New Dawn 4, the interview sees the two actors describe the impact of the original TV series and their pleasure at being able to revisit and continue on audio the storylines of characters they first played almost 50 years ago.

“It’s always fun working for Big Finish,” says Fleming. “It’s just a joy. We’re really lucky to be doing this.” Seymour agrees. “We have a wonderful team. We just love it. We have such a good time.”

Big Finish have made clear that the release of Survivors: New Dawn 4 brings to an end the company’s work on the series – after nine boxsets inspired by the events of the original TV series, the four box set New Dawn imprint and three Survivors audio books.

Big Finish. 2023. ‘Survivors with Carolyn Seymour and Lucy Fleming’, 1 October.

Ian McCulloch discusses his career on screen at Uni-Versal festival, Aberdeen

IAN McCULLOCH (GREG Preston) will take part in an ‘in conversation’ session at the upcoming Uni-Versal 22 mini-festival hosted by the University of Aberdeen on 5 March 2022.

With this strand of Uni-Versal focusing on the history of film, McCulloch will be reflecting, in particular, on his post-Survivors work on three Italian cult horror movies. Pre-publicity for the event summarises his screen career as follows:

Ian McCulloch is a Scottish actor best known for his performance as Greg Preston in Survivors (1975). In the 1970s and 80s, McCulloch found himself in classics of Italian horror, playing Peter West, the lead male character in Lucio Fulci’s notorious Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) and also displaying his thespian skills in Luigi Cozzi’s iconic splatter template Contamination (1980).

UNI-Versal Film: In Conversation with Ian McCulloch (Zombie Flesh Eaters)
Room KCF8, King’s College, Aberdeen AB24 3FX
Saturday 5 March 2022 – 20:00-22:30

Tickets: £5.00-£8.00
Tickets became available to purchase online from 10:00 on 1 February 2022.

The session is part of a programme of events that includes Screenwriting with Sergio Casci, Shaken Not Stirred – Bond: Past, Present & Future and a panel discussion on Driving Diversity in the Arts.

UPDATE – 1 FEBRUARY 2022: Organisers have now confirmed that the event will include a screening of the most well-regarded of McCulloch’s three Italian horror movies Zombie Flesh Eaters. As a result, the runtime of the event has now been extended to 22:30.

Uni-Versal - Dark Nights - Ian McCulloch - Zombie Flesh Eaters screening - 5 March 2022

New study of performance and production in Survivors

A NEW BOOK which examines the way in which actors perform in television drama, and the way in which their performance is captured by the camera, uses Survivors as one of its illuminating case studies.

In The Changing Spaces of Television Acting: From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama, author and researcher Richard Hewett scrutines the craft of actors and performers working on The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who and Survivors.

He looks at the interplay between custom and practice, acting theory, evolving technology and other factors in shaping how performance for television is realised. Hewett pays particular attention to the distinction between studio and ‘on location’ production, exploring the influence that ‘place’ exerts on the way that a story is translated from page to screen.

Hewett’s book builds on the research that he undertook for the doctoral thesis, and an academic journal article that he published as one of the outputs of his research findings. Yet it’s clear that the aim of the book is to reach a non-academic as well as an academic audience.

For those interested in the history of British television production, there’s a great deal in Hewett’s book to capture the attention.

Enthusiasts with a particular interest in Survivors will be able to enjoy some fascinating and original reflections on the making of the show, informed by new interviews with cast members (including Lucy Fleming and Denis Lill and Roger Lloyd-Pack), and illustrated with numerous screencaptures from different episodes of the show.

In a Q&A with publishers Manchester University Press, Hewett explains that he enjoyed “every aspect of writing the book, from re-viewing the case studies to poring over archive documents.” He suggests that conducting interviews was the most satisfying part. “It was fascinating to have my theories challenged by the practitioners who originally worked on my case studies,” he says – people who were on set at the time and who were able to offer “their own unique perspectives.”

This book provides a historical overview and then-and-now comparison of performing for British television drama. By examining changing acting styles from distinct eras of television production – studio realism and location realism – it makes a unique contribution to both television and performance studies, unpacking the various determinants that have combined to influence how performers work in the medium. The book compares the original versions of The Quatermass Experiment (BBC, 1953), Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-89) and Survivors (BBC, 1975-77) with their respective modern-day re-makes, unpacking the effects of the shift from multi-camera studio to single-camera location production. Textual analysis is combined with extensive archival research into production process and reception, alongside interviews with numerous actors and production personnel from more than sixty years of television production.

Richard Hewett. 2020. The Changing Spaces of Television Acting: From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama. Manchester: Manchester University Press, ISBN 9781526148636.

Posting Letters to the Moon completes New York run

LUCY FLEMING AND Simon Williams completed the New York run of their spoken-word production Posting Letter to the Moon earlier this week.

The three week run at 59E59 Theatres was the first overseas tour for the show which offers “a romantic, funny, and touching portrait of life during the early 1940s featuring readings of wartime letters between Oscar- nominated actress [and Lucy Fleming’s mother] Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter) and her explorer and writer husband Peter Fleming (brother of James Bond creator Ian Fleming).”

Speaking to Hollywood Soapbox, during the run, Fleming suggests that the letters shared by her parents reveals:

the depth of their love and the bravery they showed each other from thousands of miles apart, the jokes they sent each other to keep their spirits up, their optimism throughout the five years of World War II when nobody knew who was going to survive, the way they dealt with the deprivations of rationing of food, petrol and clothes.

A copy of the full-colour programme from the US run is available for download below.

Denis Lill on tour in new play The Verdict

Denis Lill appears in The Verdict as Moe Katz
Denis Lill appears in The Verdict as Moe Katz

DENIS LILL HAS joined the cast of a touring theatrical production of the celebrated legal courtroom drama The Verdict.

Brought to the stage by The Middle Ground Theatre Company, this new production of the stage play, adapted from Barry Reed’s acclaimed novel by Margaret May Hobbs, is appearing at theatres across the UK and Ireland between now and the end of May.

Lill takes on the role of Moe Katz, a character he describes as a “rather tired and rather clapped out Jewish lawyer in Boston.” Katz has been the mentor to younger lawyer Frank Galvin since he left the US Marines. Katz has taken Galvin “under his wing, coached him and mentored him throughout the course of his career,” Lill explains.

Galvin (Ian Kelsey) himself is a troubled figure, battling with alcohol dependency and professional failings. But when Galvin picks up a hospital malpractice case it energises him to seek justice for a young mother, challenge the medical and legal establishments, and perhaps find redemption for himself in the process.

The Cotswold Life‘s review of the show’s run at the Everyman Theatre iin Cheltenham earlier this month, suggests that Lill “brought an utterly heart-warming humanity to the whole production.”

Galvin & Moe (Ian Kelsey & Denis Lill) in The Verdict

The Verdict by Barry Reed

Directed and designed by Michael Lunney.  Adapted by Margaret May Hobbs.


The Powerful Bestselling Courtroom Thriller that inspired a multi Academy Award-Nominated film.

Frank Galvin is a washed up veteran lawyer and an alcoholic. He is presented with one last chance to redeem himself when he is given an open-and-shut medical malpractice case that no one thinks he can win. Up against the unforgiving medical establishment, he courageously refuses an out of court settlement, believing it is negligence that has condemned a young mother. Smelling a cover up, he instead takes the case and the entire legal system to court.

You will recall the five times OSCAR nominated Sidney Lumet film with Paul Newman, James Mason and Charlotte Rampling.

Ian Kelsey is known by millions for his regular roles in Blue Murder, Emmerdale, Casualty, Down To Earth, Where The Heart Is, Doctors and Coronation Street.  Denis Lill is best known for playing Alan Parry (father of Casandra) in Only Fools and Horses, as well as regular roles in The Royal, Rumpole Of The Bailey, The Regiment, Survivors and many more. They are joined by Paul Opacic (Bad Girls/Emmerdale/Hollyoaks), Christopher Ettridge (Goodnight Sweetheart), Richard Walsh(London’s Burning), Karen Drury (Brookside), Josephine Rogers, Michael Lunney, Okon Jones, Anne Kavanagh, Holly Jackson Walters, James Morley, Jog Maher, Alexandra Fisher and Greg Fitch.

The characters of Moe, Galvin and Dr Thompson (Denis Lill, Ian Kelsey and Okon Jones) in The Verdict

Denis Lill talks theatre and The Verdict

DENIS LILL recently spoke to the Bournemouth Echo about his appearance in The Verdict, and the pleasures and the perils of touring theatre…

Describe the character that you are playing in the Verdict?

He’s a 75-year-old, rather tired and rather clapped out Jewish lawyer in Boston and he’s the man who plucked our main character of the play, Frank Galvin, off the boat, straight from the war in his U.S Royal Marines uniform. Taken him under his wing, coached him and mentored him throughout the course of his career.

As an actor what is the biggest challenge when you are discovering a new character?

The biggest challenge, apart from learning the words and getting them all in the right order, is about getting under the skin of that character and finding out what makes him tick and what makes him sound right as well. For me it’s very important for a character, particularly an American character to actually sound right, he has to be believable, the last thing you want is an audience saying he doesn’t sound quite right, sometimes an English actor doing an American accent doesn’t quite sound right, but in our case we are very lucky, we have a great cast and everybody seems to be able to do exactly what they are asked to do.

Is it difficult for you to do an American accent?

No, it’s never been a problem for me. I was born and brought up in New Zealand and during the war, when I was a baby we used to have American soldiers billeted in our house from the Pacific Theatre and I think possibly subconsciously when I was one or two I got used to the sounds of these American voices, plus the fact that I was brought up on American movies and I love Westerns.

Do you share any of the same personality traits as Moe Katz?

Not a single one I don’t think, Moe Katz drinks Earl Grey Tea, which is something that I do from time to time not a lot else in common though which is actually good as it means I can reinvent myself as the character, right from scratch and it works, which is a nice part of being an actor. You have to have that chameleon charisma about yourself, so you can adapt, adopt and steal outrageously from people.

What do you like about the play The Verdict?

That’s easy, the quality of the writing is without parallel and having waded my way in the past through tours and plays which have been either been badly adapted or badly written, it’s such a relief to come across literary quality like this because it does a lot of the work for you. Also I’m a great stickler for discipline, writers don’t use a word just because it’s a word they use it for a specific reason, and I’ve met some actors who just regard the script as a rough guide as to what they are going to be saying but I stick to it as I have a great respect for writers. I try to be as accurate as I can as far as their script is concerned and this script is no exception, in fact this script is probably an essential as the quality of the writing is just so wonderful.

You are a very familiar face from T.V roles in Only Fools and Horses, The Royal, Rumpole of the Bailey etc – is TV or Theatre your true love?

I have a love hate relationship with the theatre, it’s a very inconvenient work place as far as one is working very unsociable hours, particularity if one is working in the West End, at the end of the show one is spat out and you have to get your head down, head for the nearest tube station and go home. But by the same token the creative process is very, very exciting unlike television or film where you are literally thrown in and you’re cast mainly by the way you look. Television I enjoy, I like the hours, film is even better as you are out there in a field somewhere, your sword in one hand, hacking away at people and galloping around, that’s great fun, it’s brilliant fun! There are lots of pros and cons in every medium, but as far as my favourite? Films pay the best but theatre is more satisfying!

Nicky Findley. 2019. ‘Only Fools and Horses actor in legal drama at Lighthouse Poole,’ The Bournemouth Echo, 14 February

Galvin & Moe (Ian Kelsey & Denis Lill) in The Verdict

The Verdict: tour dates

  • Tues 19th – Sat 23rd February – Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
  • Tues 26th February – Sat 2nd March – Lighthouse, Poole
  • Tues 5th – Sat 9th March – Theatr Clwyd, Mold
  • Tues 12th – Sat 16th March – Coliseum Theatre, Oldham
  • Tues 19th – Sat 23rd March – Theatre Royal, Winchester
  • Weds 27th – Sat 30th March – Jersey Opera House
  • Tues 9th – Sat 13th April – Grand Theatre, Blackpool
  • Tues 16th – Sat 20th April – Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
  • Tues 30th April – Sat 4th May – Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
  • Tues 7th – Sat 11th May – Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
  • Tues 21st – Sat 25th May – Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Mary Rooney & Moe Katz (Karen Drury, Denis Lill & Alexandra Fisher) in The Verdict

The Mad Death – interview and review in Starburst

Richard Heffer - The Mad Death - Starburst #449

RICHARD HEFFER (JIMMY Garland, Survivors) is interviewed in the current print edition of Starburst magazine, discussing his leading role in the three-part 1983 rabies mini-series The Mad Death.

Coinciding with the release of The Mad Death on DVD for the first time, Heffer recalls the making of the series, the topicality of its dramatic themes, the chilling and memorable opening titles, and his evident delight in taking on the role of no-nonsense government vet Michael Hilliard.

The DVD release is also reviewed in the online edition of Starburst magazine. The review concludes that the series:

remains gripping, thought-provoking, unsettling and disturbing; an overdue release from the TV archives from an era when the BBC made more shows that deserved those kinds of adjectives.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Interview – Richard Heffer: The Mad Death’. Starburst, No 449, p.92.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Review: The Mad Death (1983)’. Starburst, 3 May.

UPDATE 16 JUNE 2018: My review of The Mad Death appears in the print edition of Starburst magazine No 450.

Rich Cross. 2018. ‘Review: The Mad Death (1983)’. Starburst. No 450, p.85.

The Mad Death - DVD review - Starburst No 450

Abby and Jenny reunited in new Big Finish Survivors audios

Carolyn Seymour - Ian McCulloch - Lucy Fleming

In an exclusive interview, Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant) and Lucy Fleming (Jenny Richards) discuss their characters’ fraught and emotional reunion in the closing episode of the new series of Big Finish’s Survivors audio adventures.

FOLLOWING ON FROM the finale of series six “Lockdown”, which saw Abby Grant track down Greg Preston, series seven of Big Finish’s new Survivors audio dramas delivers the no-less-anticipated reunion of Abby Grant and Jenny Richards. The two leading female characters from the original TV series meet up in the episode “Reconnection”, written by Christopher Hatherall, which unfolds some months after the closing canonical instalment of the TV series “Power”.

In a break in recording, Lucy Fleming (Jenny) is quick to praise Hatherall and his fellow scriptwriters working on this latest series. “Big Finish are a very special lot of people, and they work so hard,” she says. “The quality of the writing, and the thought that goes into which way to take the story forward, is incredible.”

Carolyn Seymour (Abby) readily concurs. “The people who write this stuff are just amazing,” she enthuses. That writing team has “got to know the characters,” says Fleming “and know how to write to their individual strengths and weaknesses.” On a series with such “dark” subject matter, the writers understand the importance of lighter moments too. “Finding humour in very tough situations – because we do have, in these scripts, very tough situations – really helps, I think,” she adds.

The reunion of these characters, both emotionally scarred by the experience of loss, is not an immediately happy one, as the pair fling accusations at each other and Abby (temporarily) retreats into drunken self-recrimination. “What I like, in these very action-packed stories, are the quieter and more intimate scenes, like the very challenging one we’re about to record,” Fleming explains. It’s in those reflective moments that the stories “explore the real problems that people are having to confront in this new world,” she says.

Big Finish have responded to Lucy Fleming’s request to have Jenny’s more pro-active, independent side highlighted

Seymour agrees. “I think what’s really interesting about this episode is how it unfolds on a very truthful level,” she says. “It’s not abstract, it really gets to the nitty-gritty.” As the two survivors seek to reconcile their differences, Seymour says that scriptwriter Hatherall “has decided that we’re not going to be able to skirt over important issues that we have to deal with.” It’s an approach that makes for some intentionally disquieting and some “quite uncomfortable” listening, she says. In the end, each character understands that “one of them will always end up supporting the other,” a recognition that rekindles their close connection and mutual dependence.

Fleming is pleased that Big Finish have responded to her request to have Jenny’s more pro-active, independent side highlighted and her domestic responsibilities downplayed. “It’s very gratifying,” she says. “And I think it’s the right call. In those sort of situations, you would become more resourceful and want to get out and do more demanding things, rather than stay at home and do the boring stuff.” Seymour is not immediately convinced. “Well, Lucy might,” she suggests. “I’d be quite happy to have Abby stay at home by the fire,” she jokes. “Jenny could be out there chopping wood and ploughing the fields!”

The pair are just as impressed with the calibre of the guest actors brought in to work on the show. “They’re so clever at getting fantastic supporting cast in,” Seymour says. “I’m just stunned at the level of talent.” With recording on series seven largely completed back-to-back with series six, it proved to be a lengthier studio commitment than normal. “I had one episode a couple of weeks ago, and then this one, and then one ages ago. So, it’s nicely spread out for me, which I prefer actually,” says Fleming. Seymour, in contrast, had recorded three episodes in as many intensive days. “That doesn’t matter to me,” she says. “It’s great. I love it.” Fleming is unsurprised. “Nothing phases Carolyn,” she suggests.

As the events of “Reconnection” conclude, the framework of the TV series has well and truly been left behind. Had either of them ever wondered what had become of their characters after the end of the television timeline? “We did talk about that a lot, at the time, when we were making the TV series,” Seymour recalls. “We wondered what our trio might go on to do next. But once I left, I stopped.” Fleming suggests that the focus was much more short-term than that. “It was really all about surviving,” she says. “There wasn’t really much thinking about ‘OK, in an ideal world, what would you do next?’ It remained a question of how – and if – you would survive.”

If Abby and Jenny are going to be together, and running a commune, then it means that things need to move ahead,” Seymour affirms

With the story arcs for series eight and nine still under wraps, neither know for certain if the following two Survivors box-sets will push the timeline on into the future. “I think they’re planning to keep things going forward,” Fleming suggests. “If Abby and Jenny are going to be together, and running a commune, then it means that things need to move ahead,” Seymour affirms. “That way we could get to deal with more of what the end part of the first TV series was all about.”

What would that mean for the character of Greg Preston (played by Ian McCulloch), who features in series seven in flashback, and via tape recordings, in Simon Clark’s “Legacy”? Greg is reported to have died by the time of the penultimate television episode “Long Live the King”. “I don’t know, actually,” Fleming admits. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

* The seventh series of Big Finish’s Survivors audio adventures is out now, and available to buy in both CD and digital download formats.

Big Finish - Survivors - series seven - cover

Posting Letters to the Moon – Nettlebed Village – 21 April 2017

The Henley Standard has published a preview of the performance of Posting Letters to the Moon at Nettlebed Village Club on Friday (21 April 2017). Based on interviews with Lucy Fleming and Simon Williams, the feature hints at possible future performances after what is the last date in the current tour schedule.

Posting Letters to the Moon is a reading of the wartime letters between the actress Ceila Johnson and her husband Peter Fleming read by their daughter Lucy Fleming, with Simon Williams.

A brief encounter with Celia’s letters

Lucy Fleming - Simon Williams

THE wartime letters of the actress Celia Johnson and her husband Peter Fleming are the focus of a special fundraising performance at Nettlebed Village Club later this month.

The couple’s youngest daughter Lucy Fleming will be joined by her husband — and fellow actor — Simon Williams for a reading of the letters in aid of the venue’s roof fund on Friday, April 21.

The show, entitled Posting Letters to the Moon, has been performed a number of times previously — most recently at Carnforth railway station in Lancashire, where many of the scenes for David Lean’s classic 1945 film Brief Encounter, in which Celia starred opposite Trevor Howard, were shot.

But this is the first time the piece has been performed in Nettlebed — just down the road from where Celia was living at Joyce Grove at the time of the letters’ composition.

Following the outbreak of war, she had found herself separated from her husband, who was away on active service for long periods, but the couple wrote to each other regularly.

Touching and amusing by turns, Celia’s letters tell of her experiences during the war — from coping with a large, isolated house full of evacuated children, to learning to drive a tractor, dealing with rationing, learning to surf during occasional holidays in Cornwall, and all the while accepting offers — when she could get away — to act.

Unable to commit to the often lengthy run of a stage play, she preferred the less time-consuming schedules of film and radio.

These allowed her to devote time to her family and her work for the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps in Henley.

In addition to a number of patriotic wartime propaganda films and broadcasts, Celia’s most notable films of the period were In Which We Serve (1942) and This Happy Breed (1944), both of which — like Brief Encounter — were written by Noël Coward and directed by David Lean.

In the letters, Peter, the brother of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, writes about his adventures and trials working on military deception operations in India and the Far East.

Lucy, who put Posting Letters to the Moon together with her sister Kate Grimond, said: “It was a joy to discover these letters, and I hope the audience will find them as funny and moving as I do.

“The title is explained in the show. It refers to the difficulty of knowing how to get letters to my father, who was away for most of the war.”

Lucy and Simon’s appearance at Nettlebed is only the latest in a series of joint acting ventures.

The couple can currently be seen in cinemas playing Lord and Lady Wavell in Viceroy’s House, about the 1947 partition of India.

They also play estranged husband and wife Justin and Miranda Elliott in The Archers on Radio 4.

The April 21 performance of Posting Letters to the Moon will include an audience Q&A session — and Simon anticipates that a few questions about Ambridge might come up on the night.

He said: “Lucy plays my horrible wife, who I’m leaving in the story — it seems I’m divorcing her. Justin’s having an affair and I’ve asked Lillian [Archer], who’s a very popular character, to marry me, so there’s all kinds of things going on and a lot of people who come to see the readings are very keen to find out what’s going to happen!”

While Simon clearly enjoys every minute of working on the long-running Radio 4 soap, projects like Posting Letters to the Moon are much closer to home.

Lucy’s close resemblance to her mother, who died in 1982, has often been remarked upon — and Simon says this is something that is further brought out by the readings.

“She sounds incredibly like her. Which is why the letters are so moving, really. You can actually hear Celia’s voice — you know, that voice from Brief Encounter — you can hear it.

“She has a wonderful, light way of coping with emotion and such a lovely light sense of humour.

“The letters are wonderful — they describe what it’s like trying to be a young newlywed with a young family living in a great big house with lots of other children.

“And she was a policewoman in Henley and she was trying to plough and help run the farm with tractors and things.

“And then she was off making the films she made during the war and doing propaganda broadcasts and things.”

It sounds as though Celia — who was awarded a CBE in 1958 for services to the theatre, later becoming a Dame Commander — was juggling rather a lot during the war years.

“She absolutely was,” says Simon. “And all that on fuel rationing and food rationing and things. So the letters are full of interesting history as well as being funny and touching and romantic, you know? They’re wonderful.”

In keeping with the fundraising nature of the enterprise, the staging of Posting Letters to the Moon will be fairly minimal.

“This is just Lucy and me sitting on stools and reading the letters and filling in the gaps and the history and things,” says Simon.

“We’ve done it a few times in different venues and it’s a wonderful mix of history and lightheartedness — and bravery, you know? They were so brave.”

Simon, who has been married to Lucy for 31 years, will be reading the letters home written by his late father-in-law, who died in 1971. He said he had known Peter growing up, as their families were friends.

Much of Peter’s war service was highly secret at the time, but some details nevertheless emerge from the letters.

“He was in the Far East,” says Simon. “He was in Norway and then he was in North Africa and then he was mostly in India and Delhi — working, funnily enough, for Lord Wavell, who I played in Viceroy’s House.

“But there’s not so much history in his letters because obviously his letters were censored, you know? There’s interesting background stuff about the war, but the details of what he was doing, he obviously wasn’t allowed to expand on that.”

The family thread that runs through the event extends to Nettlebed Village Club itself, as Simon acknowledges.

“Lucy’s great-grandfather [Robert Fleming] built the club, and so it seems rather fitting that we should be fundraising to get the roof rebuilt. It’s a wonderful great big building.”

Dating from 1913, the club is in need of a complete new roof at an estimated cost of £240,000.

A community grant has been awarded to the project by South Oxfordshire District Council and together with local donations and club funds the total raised so far is approximately £160,000.

With £80,000 still to be raised, various other fundraising events are being arranged and work is expected to start in the summer.

As well as being home to the Nettlebed Folk Song Club and Sam Brown’s Fabulous Ukulele Club, the club building — consisting of a large hall, a small hall, a bar and a billiard room — is used for a wide range of functions and community activities.

“We have weddings and we have quiz nights and we have bingo nights and we have dances and discos and stuff,” says Simon. “It’s always in use, you know? And it’s always there for people to hire if they want it.”

For Simon, looking ahead to the Nettlebed Village Club performance of Posting Letters to the Moon, there is something else that Celia and Peter’s letters have to offer us today.

“The beauty of it really is that people don’t write wonderful letters now — a letter that has pen and ink and news and sentiment. They just send a little emoji, you know, on their texts on their mobile phones. It’s not quite as eloquent.”

With a seated capacity of around 227, Simon says that tickets for the show have been “selling quite well”, adding: “If they sell too well, we’ll just have to do the show again some time. We might do it as part of the Henley Literary Festival — or we might do it in The Studio at the Kenton.”

Tickets for Posting Letters to the Moon are priced £15. Doors open at 7.30pm for 8pm and the club’s bar is open from 7.15pm.

To book, call Nettlebed Village Club treasurer Sue Worth on 0118 934 5960 or visit

Tanks vs squirrels…

“THERE is a fair amount of quiet din, going on in the distance. I think they must be rumbling up the tanks.

“I saw a mass of these monsters parked along the woods near Joyce Grove. One, roughly the size of the Albert Hall was rather charmingly named Cupid.

“I don’t know why I tell you all about this imitation battle when you know all too much about real ones but at the moment it impinges on our life and it makes a change when walking to the village to see tanks instead of squirrels.

“I really prefer squirrels but I can visualise a moment when I’d rather see a Cupid.”

— Celia Johnson to Peter Fleming,
March 9, 1943


Henley Standard. 2017. ‘A brief encounter with Celia’s letters’, Henley Standard, 10 April,