Thursday 2 May 2019

Celebrating 35 years of Robin of Sherwood: Exclusive Guest Interview — Barnaby Eaton-Jones from Spiteful Puppet #RobinOfSherwood #audiobooks @BarnabyEJ

Nothing’s forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten. 

Celebrating 35 years of
 Robin of Sherwood.

Exclusive Guest Interview
Barnaby Eaton-Jones
 from Spiteful Puppet

It was 28th June 1986 when we saw the credits roll for the last time. And like many other dedicated fans, I remember thinking, that can’t be the end? There are too many unanswered questions. But little did we all know that it was not the end. Time waits, they say, and so must we. I am glad to say the wait was worth it!

We are continuing with our celebrations of all things Robin of Sherwood today, and it is my very great pleasure to welcome Barnaby Eaton-Jones from Spiteful Puppet onto the blog today!

Robert Of Huntingdon aims his bow...!

Hi Barnaby, welcome to Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots. It is so fabulous that you could join us today and talk about your Robin of Sherwood journey.

Your audio production company, Spiteful Puppet, could have chosen any television show to resurrect — why Robin of Sherwood?

Well, nothing’s forgotten. Nothing’s ever forgotten. Ahem. But, it wasn’t their idea (although I found out later that they’d looked into doing it and then decided to do their own version of the Robin Hood legend called ‘Hood’, by Iain Meadows; which won a fair few awards). Spiteful Puppet actually didn’t come on board the project until quite late into production but the actual start of the whole journey began, for me, when a lovely fan called Rowena Sayer passed on the only copy of Richard ‘Kip’ Carpenter’s unproduced ‘The Knights of the Apocalypse’ script to me – which she’d won in an auction a few years before – that even had Kip’s annotations in biro on it.

It was like being handed the Dead Sea Scrolls. I felt like Herne the Hunter. And the script was a hefty 2-hour movie size. So, I soon felt like Hernia the Hunter as I didn’t want to put it down.

Anyway, Rowena wanted it to go back to Kip’s estate, as he’d not long passed away, and handed it over to me at the 30th anniversary event I was running. Harriet, Kip’s daughter, graciously agreed to it being adapted for audio, the cast agreed to come on board (and Jason Connery and Mark Ryan magnificently backed me up when it all nearly fell apart, which I’ll always be humbled and grateful to them for doing that), and Spiteful Puppet then kindly press-ganged me into their company.

As for why ‘Robin of Sherwood’ (you may have noticed I’ve waffled on without answering the question), it’s because it’s so powerful and evocative and mystical and mysterious as a series – with such symbolism and adult themes – and it’s all wrapped up in storytelling that is so engaging and exciting that you can’t help taking yourself back to it and watching it all over again. Many people said it was too ‘visual’ a series to put on audio but it’s the words and the music and the sounds and the feel of it that pulls you in. With those original television pictures playing in your head, it’s so easy to allow the audios to seep into your ears and create new episodes for you to re-play that you can see happening in your mind’s eye.

Judi Trott (Marion) and Jason Connery (Robin).

I cannot even begin to imagine how exciting that must have been to be handed Richard Carpenter’s script for ‘The Knights of the Apocalypse’s.’ How easy was it to get ITV and the original cast onside?

To get the one-off licence for ‘The Knights of the Apocalypse’ was a journey worthy of Phileas Fogg from ‘Eighty Days Around The World’ – if he’d been stopped at every country he entered and told to turn back and start again but by going a different route. Ha. There were a lot of ‘no’ emails from ITV, to begin with. One of the original producers of the television show, Esta Charkham, fired off a very firm email to them on our behalf and – with the added bonus of a script from the original creator/writer of the series – ITV slowly thawed.

Clive Mantle (Little John).

Then, when KOTA was a success, I think it took about two years of negotiations to get a licence to continue. These things are never quick! The great thing about building a relationship with a licence holder is that you can prove yourself and ITV have been really supportive of all that’s come since KOTA.

As for the original cast, they were marvellous for ‘The Knights of the Apocalypse’. You couldn’t have asked for a more positive bunch, partly because they knew the first one was a Kip script (so it had his essence running through it) and partly because – I hope – they felt they could trust me because I’d organised some events for the show that they’d attended and seemed to have a fun time doing so. I also had the naked photos of them all at an orgy in Nickolas Grace’s hot tub too. That helped the most. Ahem.

Nickolas Grace (The Sheriff of Nottingham).

I am sure the photo was the deal breaker!! The original writer, Richard Carpenter, sadly passed away some years ago. How did you go about finding new ones?

I feel absolutely gutted, to this day, that the whole process of getting ‘Robin of Sherwood’ on audio arrived just too late for him to contribute properly too. I’d sent him an email about it all very shortly before he unexpectedly passed away. I don’t know if he read it. I like to hope that he did and that he was excited about the possibility of a new version on audio. It’s been a genuine joy to get to know his daughter, Harriet, and her positivity and knowledge has played a big role in not straying too far away from her father’s template for the show.

Finding new writers was a real challenge. I asked a lot of writers I knew (and a lot I didn’t) to provide pitches for an episode that they might conceivably write. All of them provided something unique and fascinating but not every pitch felt like a Kip script idea. That was the barometer, really. Whether it felt like something Kip would come up with. He had a way of writing that I managed to ape (as I was one of the three writers who adapted ‘The Knights of the Apocalypse’) and I found I could capture his dialogue well. I needed writers who could do the same. Everything had to be approved by Kip’s Estate, ITV and Spiteful Puppet – so, there were a lot of hoops to jump through before anything got commissioned. Then, of course, there was the cast’s opinions and thoughts (some of whom had always talked about how collaborative Kip was in his writing, discussing things with them). It really was a process of trial and error and elimination.

My original pie-in-the-sky idea was to get in Anthony Horowitz (who wrote a few episodes of Series 3, when Kip’s workload on the television show became too much). Sadly, he’s a very busy man but he’s always acknowledged that Kip was his mentor and gave him his start in the business. One day, perhaps, he and I will find a way to make it work. But, for now, I think we’ve had some amazing writers follow in Kip’s footsteps. Big thanks to Iain Meadows, Jennifer Ash, Paul Birch, Paul Kane and Tony Lee (all fans of the television show) for just getting it so right.

Hats off to all the writers who have made this possible. Stepping into Richard Carpenters shoes must have been incredibly humbling to them all, but I think they have done a marvellous job. Do you have a favourite original episode? New audio episode?

I do, yes. And I’m not telling. Tee hee.

No, it’s always difficult picking a favourite ‘thing’ because it often depends what mood you’re in that day. It’s why I fail spectacularly at the ‘Top Ten Films’ or ‘Top Ten Books’ type of lists.

Michael Praed (Robin: Season 1 & 2) Jason Connery (Robin: Season 3)

If you buttonholed me today (which is apparently quite painful depending where you buttonhole), I’d have to say ‘Herne’s Son’ for the television series. That’s simply because, like ‘Doctor Who’ before it, changing the lead actor for the lead role in a highly successful television series - and giving such a brilliant reason and backstory for doing so - makes it such a risky and clever adventure. Plus, I quite fancy Jason Connery. Don’t tell him. It’s why my wife looks so like him. Ha.

As for the audio, I’ve got to go with ‘What Was Lost’. That’s because it was the first episode(s) of an imagined Series 4 that never got to be on television. Following on directly from the end of Series 3, myself and Iain Meadows (the writer) had a few conversations with Jason Connery about where the series should go and where he’d like to see his character be after the harrowing events of the conclusion of ‘Time of the Wolf’. The excitement of the ‘anything can happen’ storyline, where we’re not bound by the continuity of the television stories, was intoxicating.

Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much) Producer/Director Barnaby Eaton-Jones.

It wasn’t a full-cast audio, as there was a mutual decision from us and Jason for him to deliver it as a narration because it was such a big deal and it really needed to be his voice telling the story of his Robin. He put in such a good performance over what is essentially a movie-length story (or a two-parter, if we’re talking television terms) that I don’t think it loses anything by not being performed by the rest of the cast on this occasion. I remember checking the final recording for levels, by listening to the first five minutes – and then finding myself at the end of Part One, having been drawn into the story totally. It also helps that our sound designer, Joseph Fox, is a canny devil and can perfectly create a soundscape that feels like you’re there living out the story in your head with the narrator (or full cast).  

Tell me about the Hooded Man events?

There’s been a long history of events celebrating the television series (as there often is with popular or cult shows) and I basically am following in the forest trails of other well-loved versions. However, I think I’ve managed to provide something a little different to previous UK conventions that, like my taste in shirts (which fans seem to take delight in commenting on!), are just bigger, funnier and more colourful.

That’s really all down to the cast being willing and happy to come along and join in the fun (the comical ‘cut’ scene from KOTA, performed by them at the 2016 convention, was a highlight for me!) and also because the fans themselves are a happy and supportive bunch. I run a bi-annual weekend event and am just experimenting with a one-day event in-between, celebrating one episode rather than the series as a whole (which the weekend ones do). I’ve been able to donate a lot of money to The Sherwood Forest Trust because of this and also I’m really very proud of the newly-forged friendships (and relationships and marriages!) that have come out of the events since I started them in 2014. My happiness always comes from seeing others happy.

They’re a lot of hard work in the planning, which is just me trying not to melt my brain too much, but - of course - none of it would run smoothly without my willing bunch of interviewers and stewards and the fact my wife basically is a clockwork machine at the actual event and allows me to float about whilst she marshals the troops.

Lastly, anything new in the Robin of Sherwood pipeline?


Oh, you want to know? Sorry.

It’s something quite big, actually. It’s been difficult to keep it a secret but I’m hoping, in a week or so, I can announce it. Keep your eyes peeled by liking my Facebook page – HERE!.

Jason Connery

I don’t want to end on a blatant plug so can I just say a quick thank you for interviewing me. I always feel a little bit of a fraud being interviewed about ‘Robin of Sherwood’, because I’m just holding the hood at the moment until someone else comes to wear it, and I know I’m in a very privileged position to be running events and providing new stories for this amazing show. I don’t ever take that for granted.

I’d also like to just take a moment to thank the ever-lovely fans, who are a very groovy bunch of diverse people from all over the world (waves manically around the globe), and also the amazing cast/crew from the television series who – without question – have been so welcoming to me and encouraging but rightly protective of the legacy of the series that means so much to them.

Michael Praed.

I’ll always try my best to get it right for Kip, for the original cast/crew, and for the fans.

Thank you so much, Barnaby, for taking the time out to talk to us about Robin of Sherwood today!

Robin of Sherwood
The Knights of the Apocalypse

England in the reign of King John and a dark force is intent on conquest. Only the hooded man can stand against it… The church lies impotent at the mercy of the Pope and the interdict against the kingdom. With the people living in fear and a series of disappearances that threaten the very fabric of noble society, Robin ‘i’ the hood and his band of outlaws must race to rescue the past so that the future may be protected. A journey to Huntingdon and beyond Sherwood will see them battle their most dangerous enemy yet as Herne’s son faces The Knights of the Apocalypse…

Pick up your copy of
The Knights of the Apocalypse

To find out more about Spiteful Puppet or to purchase other audio CDs in the Robin of Sherwood Series, visit their website HERE! 

Catch up with the Robin of Sherwood celebration posts HERE! 


All images are copyright protected.  SpiteFul Puppet and Robin of Sherwood Knights of the Apocalypse have kindly granted permission to use the said images for the purpose of this blog post only.

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