TV’s The Avengers - weekend tribute

Chichester is hosting the big birthday party this weekend for one of the great landmark TV series.

The Avengers 50th anniversary celebration will be at the University of Chichester - a two-day conference at the university’s Bishop Otter campus on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26.

Hosted by TV presenter and long-time Avengers fanatic Paul O’Grady, the weekend will see major names from the series gather together for the largest reunion of cast and crew in 40 years.

It’s very much a public event, with tickets available directly from the university.

Masterminding it all is the university’s Adam Locks, who is promising fun but also serious academic intent.

“We have already filmed a number of interviews, and we are looking to build this into an archive for future academic research. This has been a long journey, a year and a half in the planning. We are establishing a unique oral archive about one of the most important shows in British TV history. Many of the people have not been interviewed before; particularly not on film.”

The conference grew out of the university’s The Dept. Of Media Presents lecture series which brings significant figures from British film and TV to Chichester to talk about their craft. Among the speakers was Brian Clemens who was one of the producers and main writers for the Avengers.

“I was talking to him afterwards and it transpired that the 50th anniversary was coming up. I thought we should do something about it and so the focus has moved from an individual to concentrate on a whole programme.”

With spectacular success.

As part of the celebration, O’Grady will be carrying out in-depth interviews with headline guests Honor Blackman and Linda Thorson, who played Cathy Gale and Tara King respectively in the series.

Also during the weekend, exclusive video messages will be played at the event from Patrick Macnee, who played Steed, and Joanna Lumley, who starred as another of Steed’s sidekicks, Purdey, in the New Avengers. A full guest list and further information about the event is available by visiting: www.chi.ac.uk/theavengers.

On Saturday night, delegates and guests will mingle at a recreation of the Hellfire Club, where a charity auction will also be held.

All due acknowledgment of a genuinely-important series.

“It was in the vangaurd of that type of fanstasy, spoof, spy genre,” as Adam says. “It really influenced things like The Champions and Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased). All their quirkiness came from The Avengers.

“With The Avengers, you also had very high production values. From 64, it was made on 35mm film. It looked very glossy and high quality, and that means that it has dated very well.”

Sadly, time has claimed a fair number of people who worked on the series, particularly just recently. But Adam is delighted to have been able to pull together so many people.

“I am so pleased that we are doing it now. None of the major TV networks is celebrating it. There is no other great academic interest.”