My most recent venture in the Theatre has been to appear in “Once Seen on Blue Peter” – a play by Tim Whitnall, at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018 where it received 5 star reviews. (see Theatre)
In March 2018 I celebrated my 40th Anniversary as presenter and Commentator at the World’s Greatest Dog Show, Crufts at the NEC in Birmingham where i was presented with a magnificent cake (I doubt it will ever get eaten!!!).
As usual, my colleagues were Dr Jessica Holm (would you believe we have worked together on the show for 26 years), Frank Kane, Jim Rosenthal and Graham Partridge, with Clare Balding holding it all together in the studio. It was most enjoyable again, with a super Whippet taking best in Show, with a wonderful Pointer as Reserve. (I have to admit that I was hoping the beautiful Newfoundland youngster from the Working Group would take the trophy, but it wasn’t to be!). The fun events in the main arena were as entertaining as ever, with an almost perfect performance from the winner of the International Freestyle Heelwork to music competition. All of these events can be found on the Crufts dedicated YouTube Channel, if you would like to catch up. Channel 4 did us proud again, but you can watch all of the principal events and the group Judging in its entirety also on You Tube.
had a second 40th birthday to celebrate in March when i went to Belton House (a National Trust estate in Lincolnshire) where, in March 1978 I had opened the newly designed “Jungleland” Playground. It has been recently developed further and i was invited back this March, to cut the 40th birthday cake. It was a real honour and a most enjoyable day.
Speaking of the National trust, I was invited to appear in two episodes of Ch5’s series “The Secrets of the NT”. My contribution was about some tapestries made by Mary Queen of Scots that were on display at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk; and a second appearance telling the story of the original hydro-electric scheme to provide electricity at Castle Drogo in Devon ( the last castle to be built in the UK).Both were transmitted in early 2018.
I was also re-engaged to host the Dog Arena at the 4 day show, Countryfile Live South, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, and also at Countryfile Live North at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. I had hosted the Arena at the inaugural show in 2016, and I hope to be invited back in August 2020. We hope for good weather, always unpredictable in the UK, but whatever the weather it is a splendid Show, with the Dog Arena being just one of many exciting Countryfile events.
Having missed the Annual Suffolk Dog day in 2018 because of my involvement at the Edinburgh Festival, I was back again in 2019, and look forward to the show in 2020. Over Half a million pounds haas been raised for the Suffolk Foundation during the 12 years of the show’s existence. Other big outdoor shows in 2019 have been the Three Day Show at Malvern, and the Malvern Autumn Show.
There were some very interesting celebratory events for the 60th Anniversary of Blue Peter – this amazing programme began life back in October 1958. I attended the live transmission of the show at Salford Quays on October 16th, managed to get a word or two in the show at the beginning, and was involved with the film of the Blue Peter Time Capsule being deposited in the National Archive at Kew in West London. A wonderful day. Massive following and praise for the show on Twitter and facebook.
Big Finish continues to provide me with wonderful scripts of new Doctor Who stories. I think we may have finished all of the Companion Chronicles, but the new series of “The early Adventures” is allowing us to explore new areas. The writers are brilliant, and Maureen O’Brien and i completed two more in January 2018 – I think that means i have starred in 28 original audio productions – They are such a pleasure to work on, and the production values are outstanding.
The Doctor Who events continue to come round. In November 2016 I was invited to Long Island Who in New York, and where I was privileged to escort 53 fans of the show to the top of the Empire State Building. (This was a nod to my first appearance in the show in 1965, as Morton Dill, a tourist from Alabama visiting New York and where he had an interesting encounter with the Doctor and his then companions, Vikki, Ian and Barbara, and after them The Daleks.) We all had a wonderful time, and the people i met there were a joy. I have to thank my friend Howard Hayes, pictured here with me on the observation platform, and the showrunner Ken Deep, for making me so welcome. the second picture is of me and Anneke Wills speaking at the convention.
Also in November 2016 I visited the Dr Who convention in Chicago, and followed that in January and February 2017 with the Gallifrey Convention in Los Angeles, and Regenerations in Baltimore. All three events were memorable, and i was lucky enough to take advantage of the los Angeles trip to take a few days off in Arizona to meet with my old buddy Rick Jones, he of the BBC’s Play School, Fingerbobs and that great ’70’s London pub and club band, Meal Ticket. (Check out their three re-released Albums.)
Arizona was a lovely experience – wide open spaces, Cowboy country, as I think the following picture illustrates. Rick had taken me on the Arizona trail. Just imagine the early pioneers in that landscape.
Back in the UK there are a few Doctor Who related events to record. In February, Emma Freud and Richard Curtis asked me to join SEVEN Doctors for breakfast with some Charity Auction winners, raising money for Comic Relief. The auction for the prize of dining with the 7 Doctors (with me as guest waiter) raised over £800K!! The meal was taken at the Wolseley (next to the Ritz) in London’s Piccadilly. Five doctors, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Sylvester McCoy were at the table, plus Peter Capaldi and Paul McGann who appeared “live” via Skype on a couple of iPads. Legendary or what? It was a huge success and everyone had a great time. The food was fantastic, too!!
I shall be attending Doctor Who signings in Manchester and Lincoln in April, plus Cardiff in May, and have also just filmed an episode of a series on YouTube called Bitesize Who, which is a skit/parody/sketch roughly based on my first Doctor Who serial from 1965, The Time Meddler. It is amazing to think how enduring Doctor who has been in my life.
Many years ago I had the privilege of driving the APT – the Advanced Passenger Train, which tilted into corners, making the ride incredibly smooth – just before the Government scrapped the project. Consequently I recently took part in a documentary highlighting the APT and the BT 125 which will be shown on Channel 5 in the late Spring 2018. It brought back some interesting memories, not least the British Transport safety films I made in the late ’70’s, including Robbie which was all about trespass on the railway and its possible consequences. Robbie, a keen and excellent footballer, lost his legs on the tracks!
I have also recorded two segments for Secrets of the National Trust for Channel 5 last month – transmission in the spring – The VWorp gathering on November 25th in Manchester was postponed until February 2019. Feet up for Xmas now. Lovely!.