1. Whose idea was the new educational DVDs and how did they come about?
Believe it or not, these have been in the pipeline since the commissioning of Sooty Series One. I can distinctly remember talking about them when Richard, Alex Skerratt and I wrote our very first episode. (The New Ride - fact fans!!) It was always Richard’s intention to make them and as I used to be a Primary School Teacher - I was always going to do the main writing, but we never set an actual date until last year.
2. We all know about the “Learn with Sooty” range from the Matthew era in the 1980’s/90’s. Did they serve as inspiration for this special new series?
I watched all of the Matthew "Learn with Sooty” range, but sadly the teaching methods had really dated. Our DVD’s had to back up current Educational policy, so sadly the Video range was not helpful. However in the “Learn To Read” episode there was a lovely gag where Sweep spells his name - Smeed. I included that gag as a tribute to “Learn With Sooty” but it had to be cut for time. Shame!!
3. Were they a challenge to write?
No, they were a pleasure!! I met up with Richard and had a great day out at Wookey Hole to look at all the locations and see if they sparked any story ideas. I then went back home, started writing and made occasional visits to the library at the Cheltenham University. I trained there and they have an excellent library for teachers. I also (For the ABC DVD) relied heavily on an old College Friend called Sarah Gittins - who became a Primary School Teacher specialising in the teaching of Phonics. So, I not only went back to my roots, but it gave me the chance to catch up with old friends as well.
4. What made you all decide to film on location at Wookey Hole Caves?
Due to Richard’s friendship with the brilliant Gerry Cottle who runs the Circus School down there.
5. Was the next instalment also filmed there and will it follow the same sort of story with the magical wishing well?
The “Fun With Numbers” was also filmed at Wookey Hole, but features totally different locations. That was another reason for filming there - everywhere looks amazing on camera and there are so many different looking places all in the same area. “Fun With Numbers” has a totally different storyline and is incidentally Richard’s favourite Educational DVD!
6. Will there be any more DVDs in the series? Perhaps a science one?
I hope so, it really depends on the success of these - fingers crossed!!
7. It may surprise many fans to hear that you voiced the magical wishing well! I thought it sounded like Peter Dickson! Was that fun to do?
Great fun!! We were originally thinking about Brian Blessed, but we went with me - as I’m a lot cheaper!! I have performed many voice overs in both Sooty series and I love it. It also gives me the opportunity to work with one of my favourite people on the set - Nick Bennett (Sound Recordist for both Series of Sooty and also plays the bald man with the wig in ABC!)
8. It was also nice to see the likes of yourself, Wendy Abrahams, Brenda Longman and Nick Bennett receive quite a lot of screen time. Did you have a lot of fun filming it and will you all appear in the next instalment?
Yes, you will see Brenda, myself and some other members of the crew in the next instalment.It was a lot of fun and we all had a great time. I think this was my favourite Sooty experience from start to finish. All the Crew have become good friends Wookey Hole put us up in a nice Hotel, and it was also a lot less pressured than the Series.
9. One of our admins is American and he’d hate me not to ask you this: is there any chance these new DVDs will make their way across the pond. Also as Sooty has a very large following in Australia and New Zealand, is there any chance they will receive a release over there?
Very much depends on the UK Sales. I really hope so.
10. Everybody’s been so busy recently; you with Theo and Wendy, and Richard with the stage shows. Was it hard to find the time to film these new DVDs?
Richard is a clever chap, he knew that as a lot of us work in Children’s Theatre, we wouldn’t be free during the School Holidays; so he scheduled this whilst the Children were at school - when most of us would be free.
11. Ian and Anne Miles served as executive producers on the ABC DVD. People may know them for producing popular shows such as Fun Song Factory, MacDonald’s Farm and Teddy Trucks. Were they a lot of help, having been in the industry for so long?
They are just a seal of quality. People know with experts such as Ian and Anne on board, the Product is bound to be good.
12. How is everything going with Theo the Mouse? We hear you’ve been quite busy touring recently
Theo continues to be as much fun as ever and huge thanks to the Sooty fans who have turned up to see him. We have met some fantastic Sooty friends whilst on tour, including the brilliant Esther Stanger who appears on the Numbers DVD as an extra. I am always overwhelmed by the fans’ knowledge of the Programme and the love they have for the Brand. Theo is about to tour all the Pontins Holiday Parks, so I think we are about to meet a lot more Sooty fans there.
13. We couldn’t possibly let you go without asking about the Sooty Movie. Can you tell us anything about it? Anything at all???
It’s going to be brilliant!! Scripts are being written at this very moment.
14. Considering that Paddington and Postman Pat have recently received wildly successful movies, do you think the upcoming Sooty one will receive similar success?
How about this for a short answer - YES!!
15. And what about a third series of the Sooty television series?
There are no plans at the moment for a third series as all the attention is on the Movie. If this changes - we will let you know.
16. Finally, is there any message you would like us to pass on to the legions of Sooty fans out there?
Yes, I say this at the end of every Sooty interview I have been involved with, but it’s because I really mean it. Having seen the Sooty Live Show numerous times, I love to listen to the audiences as they come in. I really enjoy hearing the kids discuss their favourite episodes, their funniest moments, etc and am always overwhelmed by their recall. Huge thanks to all the Sooty Fans for keeping the Brand alive in people’s affections. Also huge thanks to Richard for never compromising his vision on how to win those affections. Sooty is literally about to go in an area he has never encountered before - movie stardom!! Thank goodness Richard is around to make this happen.