Tuesday 14 May 2019

Celebrating 35 years of Robin of Sherwood: Interview with Daniel Rendell from Silver Arrow Tours #RobinofSherwood

Nothing’s forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.
Celebrating 35 years of Robin of Sherwood.

Exclusive Interview with Daniel Rendell
 Uber-Fan, Admin, Convention organiser, Location finder, Prop collector. Plus, Archaeologist!

Memories of Robin of Sherwood.

Hi Daniel, welcome to Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots…. It is so exciting that you could join us here today to talk about your memories of Robin of Sherwood.

As the co-admin of the very popular Robin of Sherwood Facebook Group and the organiser of the Silver Arrow Conventions, Robin of Sherwood has certainly influenced your life. What was it that first appealed to you about the show?

I’d grown up watching old black and white swashbuckler movies, and loved pirates, and any period film with swords. A favourite was always Scaramouche. I’d grown up in West Somerset, not far from some ros locations, and were greatly influenced by local legends, folklore, and sites connected to King Arthur. I hadn’t been a huge Robin Hood fan in truth, but RoS was different. I think it showed that the outlaws had a higher purpose, were fiercely loyal to one another even ‘til death, and that they were battling to preserve a way of life. Later I realised that it was the idea of the ‘man outside of the law’ that was a draw.  Someone living off their wits, righting wrongs, and defending the down-trodden. I was quite a quiet child but with a strong moral centre so I loved Robin’s conviction and charisma, and that he wasn’t a textbook, square jawed, perfect hero. He had rough edges and an otherworldly mystery.

The Pre-Raphaelite beauty of the show in how the characters looked, and how the scenes were shot - how the mist curled around the trees, and light, shadow and smoke were all used to create mood really interested me later.

It is said that you are a ‘fountain of knowledge’ when it comes to Robin of Sherwood, what is your favourite episode and why?

My favourite is the first two years, but I have to say the second series is where RoS was at for me and represented the show at its peak. I adore the look of The Lord of the Trees, when the village set moved from Mells Estate to the centre of Bristol, in the valley alongside the River Frome. It felt wonderfully idyllic. I’d always been curious as to where exactly it had been filmed and was the first fan to revisit the location a few years back and work out where all the huts had been positioned.

The Swords of Wayland however had a filmatic quality to it, made for the big screen, and I think is the one episode that stands the test of time. It had danger, mystery, stunning big budget locations, and fed upon some very interesting mythical ideas and symbolism which ran into the last episode that year, The Greatest Enemy.

As for being a “fountain of knowledge.” I probably am borderline Asperger’s, so it means that anything I am interested in I really have to know everything about. I always found I had a good memory for detail or minutia. 
You collect Robin of Sherwood memorabilia. What is your most prized collection piece?

I was very lucky a number of years ago to cross paths with someone who worked as a student in the HTV design department, who did work on all three years of the production. At the end of the show a lot of things were thrown away by the production company. This was all before the prop industry was a thing per se. Now people would kill to own a piece of production history and such things tend to be preserved more, especially if they are cult films or shows. He could not bear to see items destroyed, so rescued a lot of items from the skip. They sat in his loft for many years but seeing my fascination and enthusiasm for the show, it took no persuasion at all to part with them. I had always maintained that ros was a collaborative production, where the crew were just as important as the cast. Being able to read all the scripts that had been used on location, and see the amount of effort that went into producing an hours worth of tv gave me a renewed respect for people who work in the industry who don’t are sometimes not given the same respect as actors who star in the productions.

Last year I was privileged to get the chance to be the first fan to view many of the principal artists costumes which, unknown to many, had been sold off by HTV to a theatrical costume supplier in Wales. I came to be the owner of one of the main costumes Michael Praed’s wore, and a few other bits of pieces. Robert Addie’s armour is an astonishing, and completely practical piece that could effectively still be worn as a suit of armour into battle today. It is immensely heavy, weighing around 7kg, and it certainly gives me sympathy for Robert who was forced to wear it, and even ride with it on. It’s impossible to put on without help.

But aside from the physical props and costumes, it’s probably the paperwork that gives me the most pleasure as it’s wonderful to pour over the call sheets, set plans, and production drawings of a winter’s night, as it adds another layer of appreciation of the show seeing how much hard work went in behind the cameras lens. All the sets were meticulously drawn out to scale onto architect’s paper, so that the production designers could make the steps, balconies & huts, in order to bring the episodes to life.

You were a big part of Silver Arrow Conventions. How did this come about?

Quite by accident. I had previously attended Albion 95 and 96, and gotten to know Janet, my future partner, and her friend Julie. Janet was running the UK fan club at the time and was responsible pretty much for championing the show in the UK, and creating a thriving European fandom that we come to take for granted today. It was after the first Silver Arrow that a few of the committee members dropped off, so it required more people to help organise future events. This was all pre-internet of course, so organisation took place a good year before, writing to guests, making leaflets and distributing around re-enactment events, new age shops, and just about anywhere you could leave a leaflet, trying to raise interest and awareness for the show and fandom. We wanted to host them in Bristol, being the “birthplace” of RoS, which would allow us a good base to host a location trip to some of the major filming locations on the second
 day. This we believed would make the conventions a little more memorable for fans than just sitting in a hotel room for two days watching video tapes.

Silver Arrow offered Robin of Sherwood location trips. Were you surprised by how popular these trips were? What was your most memorable location trip?

I’ve always maintained that getting out broadens your horizons, and that it gives you a new perspective on the show if you’re actually in the same spot as the actors were. The locations were one of the major attractions of the show. The forest could be seen as ‘the star’ in effect. Blaise Castle Estate has this effect on you. It’s a dense ‘jungle’ which strikes me as being what a medieval forest should look like. It also has several quite distinguishable ros features, like Goram’s Chair, which is a promontory which overlooks the valley below. This is where you get that wonderful pack-shot of Robin of Loxley looking out over his kingdom, and whilst doing his epic monologue at the end of the first double episode. For me though, Wells Cathedral holds some wry amusement. That year I had been made to dress as Robin, so found myself walking through Wells Cathedral, dressed as Michael, carrying an unsheathed sword, something I doubt you could get away with now. Rounding the corner to the famous stairs that lead to the Chapter House, I was quite unprepared for the number of cameras that were being whipped out to take photos of me running up and down the stairs, with sword in hand. I think I made it on to the HTV news that night too. It gave me a sense of what it might have been like to be on a film set for the cast, and certainly made me realise Michael’s pain to have to run up those hard, stone steps, and then pose for photos to please ‘my public!’

You are now the co-administrator of the Robin of Sherwood fan page over on Facebook, and to date, it has over 4,000 members. Are you surprised that 35 years after the show first aired that there is still such an interest in all things Robin of Sherwood?

Not at all. Quality always lasts. Ros is still as relevant as ever. Robin Hood is an international symbol and every country around the world has a figure back in history who was a ‘Robin Hood’ for them. It’s the idea that will never die. We get daily requests to join the group from people all over the globe. The group attracts a lot of intelligent, well-reasoned debate on all aspects of the series, its cast, and associated topics such as medieval history, to costume making, and film production. I have always tried to inject a sense of humour and sense of fun for the group. You cannot be serious all of the time. Being fans sometimes you tend to only see things from one perspective, so I like to play Devil’s Advocate from time to time to question well established opinions, and to look critically at things to see what could have been improved had there been more time. Ros wasn’t totally a perfect package all of the time, but by appreciating the problems with being a fast-paced tv production and how they often had to make sacrifices, it makes you realise how special it was, and why it is still held up as being one of the landmark drama series of the past 50 years.

Thank you for stopping by and talking to us today, Daniel.

If you would like to join the Robin of Sherwood fan page over on Facebook, you can do so HERE!

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx