Village Of The Damned Cast Reunited at the London Film Comic Con 2019
Being a guest at the London Film & Comic Con 2019 at the Olympia London (courtesy of Bowington Management) is something I’m very excited about. I am looking forward to meeting up with Barbara Shelley and Martin Stephens again. It’s been a while since we last met.
London Film & Comic Con Signing Event
In a great hall of the Olympia Exhibition Centre, Martin Stephens, myself and my sister are sitting behind long tables covered in black baize. There are heaps of photographs from the Village Of The Damned in front of us, several Sharpe pens, and plenty of water provision — for the day is hot and humid. We are prepared and waiting for film enthusiasts to come and meet us.
There are a large number of stars from many films lined up throughout —a veritable constellation within the Olympia firmament! For example, just a few tables down from us is William Shatner ‘Captain Kirk’ and across the way Walter Koenig ‘Chekov’ from Star Trek — I love these actors! (Yes, you’ve guessed it! — I’m a ‘Trekky’)
What a joy it was for me to be introduced to Walter Koenig! I was ‘beamed up’ to Starship Enterprise for a wonderful moment meeting Chekov! But, he didn’t say ‘nuclear wessels’ once!
Village Of The Damned fans are not the only fans at the table today. I have my personal paper one beside me! And Kerry (of showmaster events.com) sitting next to me (just out of shot) owns a cool battery-operated fan and is kind enough to point it in my direction! Well, the temperature these past few days has been breaking UK records rising to 39 degrees!
The Village Of The Damned has a large fan base and the first of them turn up at 10:00 hrs — a few are wearing special Village Of The Damned T-shirts (I want one!) — and they keep us busy signing photographs, magazines and posters thereon in. I look at the long queue and am amazed at the impact this film has had on so many people.
I enjoy the morning signing photos and chatting with the fans — and their questions reawaken some old happy memories of working on the film as a child.
I speak with a couple (one of whom is wheelchair bound) who tell me they have travelled twelve hours by train all the way here from Germany for autographs of the cast of Village Of The Damned. They explain they could not travel by air because of difficulties concerning wheelchair access. I personally, prefer travelling by train — it’s greener (and you’re still on the ground!). Don’t get me wrong! I’m not scared of flying — I just prefer being on the ground. I practise my meagre phrases of German on them. They seem impressed! Well, they laugh anyway.
There is one important member of the Village Of The Damned reunion yet to arrive. Barbara Shelley is expected to join us soon at noon.
Barbara Shelley arrives and it is wonderful to see her again. However, I am shocked to see how frail she is looking. She is in a wheelchair and has a plaster on her forehead from a recent fall.
This event will be Barbara Shelley’s final appearance. There will be no more public signings after this one.
The lengthening queue of fans are waiting for her signature and Barbara spends the next hour signing photographs continuously. At 13:00 hrs we break for lunch.
The Green Room
The ‘green room’ is a term used by actors for the room backstage used for relaxation and refreshment. Origin for the usage dates way back when actors waited off stage ‘on the green’ at a time when travelling theatres set up the stage on the green of a village or town.
In the green room there is a hot buffet with an array of steaming stainless steel containers offering a wide selection of dishes. (I sketched in the steam!—because I took the photo at 8 a.m! I also added a bottle of wine and laid the table!)
I am a bit of a ‘I will have a bit of this and a bit of that’ sort of person when food is self-service I pile my plate up high. Well, I’m hungry! My preferred dish after tasting the selection was the Shepherds Pie. At home, I consider Shepherds Pie my ‘signature dish’ — it’s the one I make when I want to impress our dinner guests (as opposed to poisoning them — which I am more inclined to do!). I should like to compliment the chef on the crispy potato topping and wish I could chat to him (or her) to gain an insight into how he (or she) made it. It was the tops! (Is that a pun?). It is delicious and I want more! Martin also chose the Shepherds Pie (he’s a vegetarian, so he scraped the delicious top off the dish leaving the meat roofless! I’m a telltale aren’t I?) I went back for seconds but Martin must have got there first, as nearly all the topping had gone and only the meaty base filling remained!
I glance across the table and watch mutual friend Steve Hardy retrieve Barbara’s napkin from the floor picking it up like a courtier for a lady who has dropped her handkerchief. I am moved by the love and care that this self-effacing thoughtful man affords our ‘First Leading Lady of British Horror’.
*Following the success of Village Of The Damned in 1960 Barbara Shelley became Hammer Horror’s No.1 female star.
After lunch, we are all back at our stations and are kept busy signing photographs and memorabilia. Some fans bringing along their own posters — a couple I had never seen before! There were also several copies of the Little Shoppe Of Horror magazine to sign — every fan should have one of these! It’s full of articles, interviews and facts about Village Of The Damned.
I love signing events such as this — they are a great opportunity for us all to get together and keep in touch. To meet up with Martin and Barbara after several decades can only be described as extraordinary!
Sitting beside each other signing photos gives us time to chat. Barbara has told me many a fascinating tale from her brilliant life — regaling me with stories and gossip (things she would never have told me when I was a child, I’m sure!) — revealing a rare glimpse into her glittering past when she was the leading actress. She entranced me with recollections of her time with George Sanders. Treasured memories of a true film star.
Barbara seen here in this snap with director Wolf Rilla and my sister Teri at a reunion in Letchworth 2005.
I got my own personal poster signed by us all!
Now I understand why people ask for signatures. Why they queue up waiting in long queues for signed copies of photographs, posters and memorabilia. To have an autographed photograph is to gain a small piece of a person whom you admire, revere, idolise and remember from a film you saw as a child, someone you grew up with (or worked with). It is a link with the star, and evocative of a special time.
At 16:00 hrs in the afternoon there is a photo shoot for anyone who wants to have their photo taken with us.
We are smiling but I must warn you to ‘Beware the Stare’.
My thanks to Thomas of Bowington Management without whom I should not have had the pleasure of meeting up with Barbara and Martin again nor enjoyed such a great event. But, Thomas, remember I am watching you!