Severn Valley Railway launches £1.5m ‘survival fund’ appeal

Severn Valley Railway - Survival Appeal - April 2023

THE SEVERN VALLEY heritage railway service has launched a one-and-a-half-million pound ‘survival fund’ to secure the immediate future of the line which runs between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth.

For fans of Survivors, the Severn Valley Railway (SVR) is significant as one of the iconic filming locations used on the third series. In 1977, BBC Outside Broadcast cameras filmed sequences for the episodes Law of the Jungle, Mad Dog, Bridgehead and Power at the Highley and Hampton Loade stations and in the surrounding areas on and close to the line.

The most recent organised Survivors fan visit to the SVR took place in May 2019, during the Mad Dog 2019 event.

Falling visitor numbers – rising costs

The SVR has been hit hard financially by the impact of the Covid pandemic, by the soaring costs of coal and electricity, and by the experience common to many leisure and tourist attractions in the UK: that visitor numbers have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with a resulting loss of revenue.

“Last year, passenger numbers were almost one third lower than pre-Covid,” the SVR confirms. “In 2022 alone, we saw a drop in expected income of £1.5 million. Other heritage railways and local attractions had exactly the same experience. It became obvious that the cost-of-living crisis was really starting to bite.”

In response to the depletion in funding, the SVR announced in February that as many as 18 members of staff would be made redundant, that the early-season timetable would be restricted to fewer operational days, and that other cost savings would be found.

As bank reserves were depleted, overheads have still had to be met. “Our forecast for the coming year and into 2024 shows that we will not have any reserve in the bank,” the company says. “This means we won’t be able to lift ourselves out of the financial difficulties that we currently face.” Hence the need for the ‘survival fund’ appeal.

An Urgent need

“We urgently need to raise £1.5 million to enable the SVR to overcome the current financial crisis and implement longer-term plans for its future,” Managing Director Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster explains.

Dunster emphasises that the financial situation that the SVR is wrestling with is acute, and that the success of the ‘survival fund’ is essential. “Without this help, the SVR may not survive into next year,” he warns.

To find out more about the SVR’s plans to address the financial crisis, and stabilise the heritage railway for the future – and to donate to the SVR ‘Survival Fund’, visit the dedicated section of the SVR web site.

Another obvious way to help put cash in the SVR coffers is to arrange a visit to either end of the line and to purchase a ticket to travel to Highley or Hampton Loade stations or to the Country Park Halt.

Steve Brailsford

Steve Brailsford at Hampton Court

STEVE BRAILSFORD, ONE of the catalysts responsible for the emergence of organised Survivors fandom in the 1990s and active within it ever since, has died.

Long-time friend and fellow Survivors fan activist Adrian Hulme writes:

Many of those involved with the world of Survivors fandom since the 1990s will have connected with Steve Brailsford at some point. Those who knew Steve well, and who counted him as a friend, will be deeply saddened at his untimely passing.

Steve made a massive contribution to Survivors fandom. From the start he was heavily involved, and continued in a major way for well over 20 years. A true fan till the end, he had most recently been running the Survivors Newsletter Facebook page.

An enthusiast for the programme since it was first shown on BBC1 in 1975, Steve later recalled that although he “loved Abby, Greg and Jenny’s characters”, he was especially pleased by the arrival of Paul Pitman in Spoil of War – “probably identifying him with my own ‘social category’ at the time,” he suggested. After he watched the third series finale Power (“an excellent episode in its own right”, he judged), he was dismayed to discover there would be no fourth series of Survivors. “I even sent in a script”, he revealed.

It was the arrival of Survivors on satellite TV in the UK in the 1990s that rekindled Steve’s interest in the show, even though he only had terrestrial TV at home at the time Survivors began screening. I remember him telling the tale of hiding the remote control for the Sky TV in his local pub so he could watch Survivors‘ first appearance on UK Gold. This was much to the annoyance of the regulars wanting to watch the Grand Prix at the time.

Steve was right there at the start. He attended the Dreamwatch convention in 1994, which was really the kick-off point for the era of Survivors fandom that continues to this day. Steve wrote a report on the convention in the very first issue of Over The Hills. Through that fanzine he got to know Bob Meade and Mark Wheatley. Together with Mark he organised the very first organised Survivors fan event, which took place in Herefordshire on 7 September 1996. This ground-breaking location trip included a lengthy tour of the the grounds and castle interior of Hampton Court, a venue that it was all-but impossible to get access to at the time.

Steve was a regular on virtually every Survivors location trip, or ‘Reunion’ as they were called, over the following two decades. Steve and Lynne Sweetman pioneered the Survivors Hampton Picnic, an event that continues to this day.

Steve loved an on-location ‘re-enactment’ of a scene from the series, often joining in the action (and supplying the dialogue) or directing from the sidelines. He was game for anything, and joined in laughing, joking or just strolling through life. If a ‘Reunion’ took fans anywhere near water (be it a river, a ford, a stream or a weir), you could guarantee that Steve would want to paddle, wade or swim in it, whatever the time of year and regardless of the weather.

The world was a better, calmer place when you were with him. Many a happy hour was spent in his company at the evening get-togethers that were always an integral part of fan location trips.

Steve was a talented singer and guitarist, performing at open mike events locally and at several fan gatherings. He took great pride in recording his own version of the song Reaping and Sowing (available on YouTube), in tribute to the original version written by Ian McCulloch (Greg Preston) which featured in the first series Survivors episode Corn Dolly.

Through his activities in Survivors fandom Steve met Lynne Sweetman and became involved in the publication Bridgehead, which evolved into the Survivors Newsletter which ran for 72 issues in total. Although Steve only became credited as Editor from issue 16, there is no doubt he had an active hand in previous issues. Steve continued to work on compiling the Newsletter throughout its run as a print publication and was without doubt its chief contributor. When the Newsletter came to an end in physical format, Steve helped to set up a Facebook presence. When Lynne died in January 2018, Steve amended the name of the Survivors Newsletter Facebook page in her honour, and continued to run and post material to the site.

Steve and Lynne had a deep and strong friendship over many years. For those who read the famous “small print” section of the Newsletter, they would see Steve referred to as her “friend in the North” in every issue.

Steve enjoyed writing and made probably the biggest contribution of anyone to the genre of Survivors “fan fiction”. He wrote stories for both Over The Hills and the Newsletter. In 1995 he self-published three standalone Survivors tales: The Darkest Hour, Land of the Free and The Hills of Home. This was followed up in 1996 by two contributions to an anthology produced with Mark Wheatley: The Long Run and Contact. Steve’s last published work of Survivors fiction appeared in issue 71 of the Newsletter, and followed on from the events in the finale of the BBC’s 2008-2010 remake.

Steve took life with ease. He always walked forward hand open stretched and greeted you with a great smile and a warm handshake.

Those that knew him will raise a glass in his honour. But perhaps, better still, they will remember him every time they have a paddle in the waters of Survivors.

Top Bloke, Survivors Legend. You are really missed mate.

Adrian Hulme, 20 June 2021

Steve passed away in hospital on Sunday 13 June 2021

Entertainment Focus enjoys a full rewatch of Survivors

Portraits of Abby Grant, Tom Price, Greg Preston, Charles Vaughan, Jenny Richards and Arthur Russell by artists Tom Bailey - illustrating the critical rewatch of Survivors by Entertainment Focus
Portraits of Abby Grant, Tom Price, Greg Preston, Charles Vaughan, Jenny Richards and Arthur Russell by artist Tom Bailey

TWO JOURNALISTS FROM Entertainment Focus have recently been enjoying a full rewatch of all 38 episodes of Survivors from all three series of the show, and sharing their thoughts, criticisms and observations in a series of linked articles in the online magazine.

Good-humoured, interesting, sometimes contentious, but usually well-informed, Greg Jameson and Samuel Payne began their journey with The Fourth Horseman several weeks ago and are working their way right through to Power.

The five linked articles published so far take the form of a conversation between the two. As you track their critical rewatch through each of the three series, you’ll find yourself nodding in vigorous agreement at some points, and shaking your head in disbelief at others – but then that’s a key part of the fun in hearing someone else’s perspective on what might well be your favourite TV show.

As well as screen-shots from different episodes, the series includes an original artwork by Tom Bailey – which presents six portrait caricatures of Abby Grant, Tom Price, Greg Preston, Charles Vaughan, Jenny Richards and Arthur Russell (see above).

Series one

Series two

Series three

Portraits of Sam, the Laird, Alec, Agnes, Brod and Hubert from series three of Survivors by artist Tom Bailey

Survivors ‘reaction videos’

There’s a different perspective on the early episodes of Survivors‘ first series in the form of a new set of ‘reaction videos’ available on YouTube. ‘Reaction videos’ are now a common format of fan participation on the platform. In them, fans video their reactions to watching film and TV shows, so the viewer sees their responses to the drama as it unfolds on-screen.

YouTuber medusa cascade produces ‘reaction videos’ exploring a variety of sci-fi, cult and TV shows, and has uploaded her responses to the first nine episodes of series one of Survivors. Each video is a 10-15 minute edit of the highlights of each episode view. Medusa Cascade is new to Survivors so her reactions are those of a first time viewer – and she has a particularly intense and emotional reaction to seeing Law and Order for the first time.

Lynne Sweetman

Lynne Sweetman

LYNNE SWEETMAN, A long-term Survivors fan, and someone who organised and took an active part in Survivors fan activities since the 1990s, has died.

As part of a group of new Survivors enthusiasts who made contact with each other through small ads and convention appearances, Lynne played an important role in building the momentum of a new wave of Survivors fandom that was triggered by the screening of the series on cable-satellite station UK Gold and the release of the first series on sell-through VHS cassette in 1993.

Lynne became involved in supporting the work of the two first Survivors print fanzines Over the Hills (1994-1998), set up by Carole Stevens, and Whitecross Calling (1997), which she co-edited with founder Mark Wheatley. At a time when the internet remained in its infancy, Lynne put a great deal of effort into trying to make contact with Survivors cast and crew members by post and telephone. She had an impressive success rate, and was able to develop and maintain a network of contacts and connections with many of those associated with the production of the show. Lynne carried out, or otherwise helped to make possible, a number of important early interviews, including two memorable face-to-face encounters with Roger Monk (Pete) and Lorna Lewis (Pet Simpson), and later a solo catch-up with Chris Tranchell (Paul Pitman).

When uncertainty surrounding the future publication of both Over the Hills and Whitecross Calling risked the loss of an important conduit for information about the series, in early 1998 Lynne set up the Bridgehead newsheet. Initially this was an irregular two-sided A4 photocopied sheet which provided news about cast appearances (on-screen and on-stage) and other updates, which was distributed to readers who pre-supplied a stack of stamped-addressed-envelopes.

Over time, Bridgehead developed into the more substantial and subscription-based Survivors Newsletter, which contained short features, news stories, reviews and details about Survivors filming location visits, which became known as ‘Reunions’. Lynne became a regular attendee at numerous Reunions in Herefordshire, London, the Derbyshire Peak District and elsewhere during the height of their popularity between 1997 and 2003. She also attended a number of theatre appearances by actors from the series, and enjoyed the opportunity to meet up and socialise with cast members after performances.

Adrian Hulme, an organiser of Reunion events since the 1990s, emphasises how important the launch of Bridgehead was. “If it wasn’t for Lynne, fandom would have waned after the closure of Whitecross Calling,” he suggests. “The internet sustains it now, but without the efforts of Lynne and a small number of other keen and capable organisers, I don’t think it would still be going,” he adds. “Lynne’s contribution to keeping that fan momentum continuing was very significant.”

The Survivors Newsletter, maintained a broadly regular quarterly publication schedule for over a decade. No other print-based Survivors fan publication came close to matching this publication achievement. Things began to slow down in 2009, with the Survivors Newsletter appearing less frequently over the next four years before the final issue (No 72) appeared in April 2013.

Together with the print edition, the Survivors Newsletter existed alongside a number of online versions of the publication. Beginning with a collaboration with Chris Barker’s Felbridge Camp site, several independent newsletter web sites were set up on a variety of different internet platforms over the years. With print publication finished, the Survivors Newsletter set up a presence on Facebook and, alongside current news and updates, began to print selected extracts from the newsletter archives.

As personal health issues became more pressing, plans to produce a Kindle-based version of the newsletter went unrealised. The same concerns left Lynne unable to participate in the more recent Reunion events. The next Hampton Court Survivors Reunion will take place on 26-27 May 2018, and organiser Sean Ambler confirmed on 5 January that the event will be dedicated to Lynne’s memory, with the gathering of fans and the setting providing “a fitting place to hear and talk about everyone’s Survivors moments with her.”

Lynne Sweetman died on 4 January 2018

Photo of Lynne by Adrian Hulme

Hampton Court Survivors Reunion 2018

Poster by Steve Clutterbuck