35 years in the forest
By J.P. Reedman
I first came upon Robin of Sherwood in early 1984. I was living in Canada but had crossed over to Port Angeles in the US to visit a friend—and recover from pneumonia. On the TV was an advert for a new cable station, Showtime—and a forthcoming new series, Robin of Sherwood.
Immediately, I was captivated. This felt like MY Robin Hood. I’d loved the legend since around 5 years old, but always disliked most tv and film versions with their tights and silly caps and unrealistic swordfights. Robin of Sherwood had young actors, decent period clothing, real forests that were clearly English and real castles and abbeys instead of wobbly, fairytale sets.
Later that year, I visited England for 5 months. I kept seeing snippets on Robin in teen magazines such as JACKIE, PATCHES and BLUE JEANS. I told myself I was a bit too old to be looking at such magazines…but I went ahead anyway!
The mid-80’s was a strange time socially and culturally; a time of change and flux. There was a raised interested in the ‘New Age’, paganism and folklore that hadn’t been seen since the 60’s, but was now it was entering the mainstream, rather than being part of a ‘counter culture’. History was becoming more popular and more appreciated too, with battle re-enactments taking place and the formation of English Heritage.
Many influential books and events came into my life between 1983-1986, with Robin being one of them—there was also Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and Sharon Penman’s Sunne in Splendour. I was still in the U.K. when Lindow Man, a preserved Iron Age body, was found in Lindow Moss, at Lammas, 1984, strange goings around a mound in Derbyshire hit the press, and the following year was the 500th Anniversary of Bosworth Field. ROS was part of that time, with its positive depiction of paganism and use of mysticism mixed with actual history; the myth of the Divine King who dies for the land mixed that of the merry trickster of the forest.
When I returned to Canada, I was frustrated. I really wanted to see all the series but it had not aired there. Videos of it would not be released for several years. Fate played its hand. I met my friend Dianne, who had ‘camera copies ‘of ALL the episodes (a camera copy was a shaky horror filmed from the TV with a video camera!) She also introduced me to fandom…and fanzines! At first, I resisted any organised fan-stuff but in May 1989 I went, with great nervousness, to my first convention in Seattle, with Michael Praed, Ray Winstone and Mark Ryan attending. And I was hooked. Totally. Within a short time, I was sending out fanfics and doing my own zine.
|Terry Walsh, Phil Rose and Robert Addie.|
|Phil Rose and Judi Trott|
Several years later, Michael Praed appeared in ‘Carousel’ in Dublin. Artist Frances Quinn kindly invited me to stay and I had a blast. I will forever have fond memories of the Tivoli Theatre and the little pub over the road…
In 1992 I moved to the UK permanently and soon found out how popular ROS was still. Soon I was in talks regarding a convention—Albion. It was there I met my future partner, Dan, who was sitting directly across the table from me. A few years later, I was on the committee for a new convention, SILVER ARROW, which had something a bit different at the time—a location trip! We visited forests and castles by coach. We nearly had a disaster the first year when the party got lost, went off the track and climbed a massive hill muddy from the previous night’s rainfall. People were covered in mud—but thankfully, everyone survived. Some said that was their favourite bit!
|series creator Kip Carpenter with myself and Dan (on right.)|
Our last Silver Arrow took place in 2003. Several of the cast members had sadly passed away and we felt we could not continue to come up with new ideas. Over the years we had guests such as Michael Praed, Judi Trott, Robert Addie, Phil Rose, Nikolas Grace, series creator Richard Carpenter and wife Annabel Lee, Jeremy and Robbie Bulloch, Stuart Linden, Esta Charkham, and Anthony Valentine, and we had taken fans to visit Leigh and Blaise Woods, Chepstow and Farleigh Hungerford castles, Black Rock in Cheddar and Wells Cathedral. It was time to pass on the torch.
My interest in the series and the legend remains, however, and I am still in touch with some of the cast. My years of writing fanfic was invaluable practice for my other later original works; you would get feedback, and yes, fans WOULD definitely tell you if you ‘got it wrong’! While Dan and I don’t do fandom ‘activities’ these days, we still collect props and other memorabilia from the series—we have enough items to start our own Robin of Sherwood Museum (I wish!), including Michael’s costume, Robert’s armour and the sword Orias! My most treasured possessions.
The day in the 80’s when I heard the words ‘When the Hooded Man Comes to the Forest, There to Meet with Herne the Hunter, and Be his Son and Do His Bidding…’ was also the beginning of a great, ongoing adventure in Sherwood for me…
Links to my Robin of Sherwood-inspired series, THE HOOD GAME: