This is a UFOria convention report and an Ed Bishop interview which appeared in issue#3 (December 1988) of the UK magazine "Dark Star".
UFORIA - Convention Report
by Rob DyerAlthough the Fanderson UFORIA convention took place as far back as 18th June I did promise to give it a mention and besides it was a great day!
It was the first time a convention had been devoted to U.F.O., Gerry Anderson's first live-action series that appeared on our screens at the end of the sixties. Not as popular then as it's predecessors, the series (despite appalling scheduling) has since grown a devoted following. This was proven at the Conway Hall in London where 400 fans gathered for the ten-hour event that had an impressive guest list. Gerry Anderson, Ed Bishop, George Sewell, Dolorez Mantez and Shane Rimmer were just some of the stars associated with the show who appeared.
Dotted throughout the days programme were five carefully chosen episodes of the show that had not been seen in most ITV regions for many years. Money raised during the day went to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Appeal. First on stage was effects man Derek Meddings giving insights not only to his work on U.F.O. but many other Anderson shows. Ed Bishop and George Sewell were due on stage but, delayed by British Rail, Ed's absence was filled by Shane Rimmer (better known as the voice of Scott Tracy from THUNDERBIRDS) an unbilled guest who just managed to make the event at the last minute. Shane, star of latest Anderson production - SPACE POLICE, had a good humoured approach to the few questions aimed at him. George Sewell had so much enthusiam for the whole thing that at one stage, when the audience questions began to dry up, he stood up and with arms out called out for more insisting there were dozens of subjects yet to touch on. The audience responded well and the questions and answers alike were interesting. Dolorez Mantez requested not to appear on a panel but spent most of the day signing autographs along with George Sewell and Ed Bishop. At three o'clock Gerry Anderson and writer Tony Barwick took the stage. Anderson obviously finding it difficult to sound fresh went through the motions but added little insight or feeling to his answers.
Eventually Ed Bishop did arrive and when he walked onto the stage the entire hall roared it's appreciation. It appeared as though the conventions 400 strong presence were all crammed into the hall. Ed Bishop spoke with obvious affection for the show and seemed overwhelmed by his own popularity. His revelations and his charismatic character won the audience completely. 56 year old Bishop cited A Question Of Priorities as his favourite episode from the series and gave details of his career since the show and his current projects. As a whole the day was well planned and organised. The Chairman of the day Helen McCarthy told me that over 150 subscriptions had to be refused after the convention sold out more than two weeks beforehand. A U.F.O. weekend based in the midlands is being arranged for next year due to the demand. Enthusiasm won the day and made it the huge success it was. Enthusiasm by fans and stars alike.
ED BISHOPOn 18th June this year, at the Conway Hall in London, Fanderson, the official Gerry Anderson fan club held the first ever convention devoted to U.F.O. Actors and actresses from the series attended the event including the show's star Ed Bishop, who played the lead role of Commander Straker. Rob Dyer spoke to Ed and found out that he probably likes his fans even more than they like him!
We were sitting in a small room at the rear of a large hall where Gerry Anderson was speaking to 400 fans. Ed should have been on stage but he had been delayed on his journey by British Rail...
'Well, I live in a little village in Warwickshire. I've lived up there since 1980. I bought a large old house, an old farm house. I find it very convienient for London, it's only an hour away,' Knowing that not all television personalities like conventions, I asked Ed how many he had been to.
'I've been to every one that they've asked me to. Not so often in the States because I have to take time off to go over there. If I'm there I've attended them. I've been to a couple in San Francisco, one in Los Angeles... I don't go over there especially to do them.'
Conventions seem to attract the cult minorities, the real fanatics. Was Ed surprised that people would turn up time and time again? 'No, it doesn't surprise me. Of course, in England you don't get the lunatic fringe which you can get in America. People tend to get carried away over there. Especially in L.A. They say that at one time America tilted towards California and that everything that wasn't nailed down slid into California and that accounts for it. I don't know how true that is!'
Was he working on anything at the moment? 'No. You got a job for me?! No, I keep busy doing voice-overs. I've done a lot of those since commercial radio started here in England. They're my sort of bread and butter. In a way I don't worry about work much because I know that I'm making a living on the voices. So I can pick and choose a stage play or something when they come along.!
Earlier, outside Ed met up with George Sewell, his co-star from the show. I asked him how long it had been since they'd seen each other. 'I was just trying to work it out...I think it must be at least ten years since we've seen each other. That's the way it goes in this business. Sometimes you work with an actor and you see him constantly and others you hardly ever see. It's funny the way things have worked out. The old crew from U.F.O. - Gabrielle Drake, Dolores Mantez, George (Sewell), Mike Billington, all those people, I hardly ever see them.
'How often does he see Gerry Anderson?
'Gerry I've seen at all the conventions. I've done a couple of jobs for him because he produces commercials now and I've done some voice-overs for them. Actually I was in one, for a store that doesn't sell toy guns to children, Early Learning Centre. It was me and Sandra Dickenson, that little blond girl - the wife of Doctor Who (!). She and I actually appeared, you can just make out it's us and our voices as well. So I have worked with Gerry recently. Then he had this new puppet series (SPACE POLICE) and he wanted a promo film narrated about that. I occasionally see some of the old boys. The guys who were directors...Ken Turner, who's got his own company now making the THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE films. Derek Meddings (Anderson's effects man) I haven't seen because his work is all special effects. It's been fun coming to this 'con' because I've seen so many people I haven't seen in all these years and we take a trip down memory lane.'
In the past few months, some ITV regions have been repeating U.F.O. I wondered, had Ed seen the show at all since it was made?
'Oh yeah. They're just showing them now in my area which is Central Television, Unfortunately they are on late. Eleven, twelve, one o'clock, somewhere like that. My kids have recorded them. It was great seeing them again. You say, 'Oh, I remember that guy' and 'Oh my God! What ever happened to her?', that sort of thing. They hold together, I think there is going to be a new audience for them every 'X' number of years. I keep getting a schlock of mail from Italy, Yugoslavia or somewhere in America and I know that they're being shown. I send people a picture of me as I am now, I don't know if that shatters their illusions! Time moves on you see.'
The stars of the show who were at the convention that day had hardly changed. When you consider that some, like Ed Bishop, were almost in their 40's then, almost twenty years ago.
'I'm amazed that somebody recognises me in the street, you know. I was standing in a doorway in Soho and a very well-dressed guy in his 30's stopped dead in his tracks. He spun around and says 'You used to be in U.F.O.' I said 'Yes, that's right!'. He says 'You're Ed Bishop!' I said 'I know!'.
The first article is one page long and has one photo, of Ed Bishop and George Sewell outside of the UFOria convention.
The second article is two pages long and has three photos, two of Ed Bishop sitting at the convention, and one a publicity shot of a SHADO Mobile in the forest.