A fitting second edition of The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974), by award-winning author Sophie Neville, has just been published by The Lutterworth Press. The glossy re-packaged book boasts a new filmography along with even more memorable diary extracts and insights into the cast and crew’s life behind the scenes. After being cast as Able-seaman Titty Walker in director Claude Whatham’s adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s book, it was Sophie’s mother who encouraged her to record what has now become “a little bit of film history.”
Originally released as an eBook, it first came out in paperback (published by Classic TV Press) to coincide with the 40th Anniversary Special Edition re-mastered DVD and Blu-ray of the movie, distributed by StudioCanal in August 2014. A couple of years later, plans for an updated version started to gather pace after a number of new stories began floating to the surface. Reading the book had stirred her mother’s memory, as well as those of many people Sophie had never met, who wrote to her with amusing anecdotes and details. These details included names for the credits such as John Foster the ‘snake wrangler’ from Cumbria – the man who provided a live adder. Among others was Lesley Bennett (who played Mate Peggy), who’d been living in the Netherlands, and working in Dubai, when Sophie first began to type up the diaries. She met her future publisher on the publication of Swallows, Amazons and Coots (Lutterworth, 2016) written by Julian Lovelock, editor of The Arthur Ransome Society’s journal Mixed Moss. Sophie provided an engaging introduction for the book drawing on her role as the current President of the society and a foreword to Albatros Media’s new edition of Arthur Ransome’s novel Swallowdale in the Czech Republic.
Interest in Ransome’s work, especially Swallows and Amazons has remained strong since his death 50 years ago, and in recent times Sophie has been in demand as a speaker. She has maintained strong links with the Lake District, performing signings and Q&As after the 40th anniversary screenings of the film. During one such event at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, all 250 seats were quickly filled and queues of people had to be turned away. She has further illustrated talks lined up this autumn and at the Tavistock Festival and Books East in 2018. After attending the Arthur Ransome Society Literary Weekend in Edinburgh, Sophie will be dashing to Coniston to take part in the marathon reading of Swallows and Amazons on September 3rd. Other celebrity readers signed up to read chapters include Hannah Jayne Thorp, who played the part of Peggy in 2016’s film version of Swallows and Amazons, and Christina Hardyment, author of several Ransome-related books, and senior executor for the Arthur Ransome Literary Estate. Meanwhile, next year The Arthur Ransome Society (the UK’s second largest literary society) will return back to Coniston for a long weekend of events from 25th to 28th May 2018, where they will be welcoming new members.
By David Banning (@theArtBagger), author of An A-Z of Cumbria & the Lake District on Film (Hayloft, 2016), with a foreword by Sophie Neville.