A long time ago, I got Paul Darrow — Avon from Blake’s 7—to sign a lovely big publicity still from the series. The photo features Avon, Blake (Gareth Thomas) and Vila (Michael Keating.)
A couple of years after I got Paul’s autograph, I asked Gareth Thomas to add his own, at the Nexus 2000 convention in Bristol. He happily obliged, but on seeing Paul’s signature top left, he said, “Well I’m not letting him have top billing,” and carefully signed in the space just above his old friend’s name.
(In the bar the night before, I’d seen Gareth take in his stride a winsome fan’s request to sign one of her breasts. He was charming and gentlemanly, of course, and barely raised an eyebrow. It makes me wonder what other things he’d signed, over the years…)
Sadly Gareth passed away last year. A while afterwards, I heard about a fan day being organised as a memorial and a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s UK. It’s been a long time since I’d been to any events in fandom, but this one seemed to call out to me.
The fan day — simply called Blake—was yesterday, and I enjoyed it immensely. As well as fans, there were several people from in front of and behind the scenes: I got to meet Paul Darrow again, and Stephen Greif (the original Travis, and the best. Yes, I’m saying it), along with costume designer June Hudson and many of her wonderful costumes, and visual effects designer Mat Irvine, who’d brought along original props including both the Liberator and Orac himself. (“Itself,” corrects Avon, whispering in my imagination…)
The main event for me, though, was finally meeting the third actor who’d come along, Michael Keating, and collecting the last autograph for my photo! “Gosh,” he said, “that was a long time ago! Don’t we all look young?” He remembered the location as soon as he saw the photo. “A nuclear power station… Somewhere near Bristol, I think.” (He was spot on. According to knowledgeable sources the photo was taken at Oldbury-on-Severn Power Station — one of the decommissioned Magnox reactors — on 30 September, 1977, the second day of filming, for the episode Time Squad.)
I thanked Michael for all the entertainment over the many years, and he signed my photo, and thus completed a minor mission that’s been gently in the back of my mind for about two decades. It’s with a picture framer now, but I scanned it in first so I could share it with you:
Yesterday, along the way, there were memories, conversation, jackbooted Federation thugs, a charity auction, a raffle, and helpful tips from the knowledgeable, including one about an occasional “Beer and Blake’s 7” meetup in Bristol I’ll have to keep an eye out for… And too much else to mention. Last I heard, the event had raised somewhere between £1500 and £2000 for Alzheimer’s UK, so well done to Gary, Hazel and the rest of the team!
Here’s a few photos; I’m assuming you’re a Blake’s 7 fan if you’re still reading, so you might enjoy some of these! (And go check out Horizon, the official Blake’s 7 fan club’s site, too…)