Daemonic vignettes

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Image Credit: Ian Bayley (All Rights Reserved)Image Description: The author, and Ian Bayley, with Katy Manning

Impressions of An Afternoon at Devil’s End, 23 June 2019, by Matthew Kilburn

23 June 2019 was the second occasion on which I’d shown a DePaul University group led by Paul Booth around Aldbourne. In 2018 I’d taken one around the village as well as up to the Four Barrows, in wetter weather! This time, Paul had seen that An Afternoon at Devil’s End was scheduled for the middle of the trip and thought it would be educational to take his students to a small British Doctor Who convention. I still had the opportunity to talk a bit about Aldbourne’s history and Wiltshire generally as well as production conditions on 1970s Doctor Who, as well as the county’s ritual landscape, of which the Four Barrows are a part.

Damaris Hayman’s recollections were sharp and her opinions firm. I was left musing on what the fate of a programme might be if an experienced comedian who wants to prove he can be a serious actor cedes the role to a classical performer who wants to show he can do comedy —I suspect that’s how some Pertweephiles saw Tom Baker in Season Seventeen.

John Levene seems very self-conscious about his move into the acting profession, but he’s not alone in having started as a background artist and making his way into speaking roles. He talked about chocolate as a temptation to be avoided, leading the DePaul students in the party to take careful note of those especially dangerous British brands. An expedition to Aldbourne Co-op later didn’t find any Black Magic, but Fry’s Chocolate Cream was found and extensively tasted for research purposes. 

“Lots of my rellos went to Oxford,” drawled Katy Manning with smoky authority from beneath her sunglasses when Ian and I explained where we came from. Facing people wielding a variety of hand-held screens, Katy emphasized face-to-face communication and the importance of touch, reminding us that when The Dæmons was made no-one had personal computers or mobile phones. She had no idea that her arrival in Aldbourne with Jon Pertwee in 1971 would be met by onlookers. “I think they’re fans,” said Jon. And so the world changed. A couple of the DePaul party remarked that Katy was “hip”. One could believe the term was invented for her.

Our party was the last to reach Richard Franklin. I expect an previous group had been made of local residents as Richard’s early comments expected a similar audience and not a party dominated by American students. He was appreciative that people travelled such a long way to visit Aldbourne and meet him.

After the tour of Aldbourne came the photo session on the green, as Richard, John and Katy piled into a clone of Bessie and Damaris joined them in her wheelchair.The official photographs were taken by Robin Prichard. Robin has been running photo opportunities at Doctor Who events for many years now and is an expert in marshalling stars and fans. He also has a knack for beating the weather, finishing this session under the threat of rain. At the end of the day he was running two photo printers to make sure everyone had their advance orders before they went home—including extras… 

This article was first published in The Tides of Time Special Edition Summer 2019

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