The Great T-Bag Tea Party 2012

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Fantom Films announced in November 2011 that they were organising a T-Bag themed event featuring cast and crew to celebrate the upcoming release of T-Bag on DVD.

Guests confirmed for the event included Elizabeth Estensen (Tallulah Bag), Georgina Hale (Tabatha Bag), John Hasler (T-Shirt), Jennie Stallwood (Debbie), Matt Zimmerman (various characters), Jan Hunt (various characters), Grant Cathro, Lee Pressman (writers) and Ray Childe (costume designer).

Although the DVD boxset was postponed by Revelation Films the event went ahead, and here is my write up of the day, including photographs and Tweets that Fantom Films posted at the event.

The event took part in London in the George IV Public House & Comedy Club, so my day started with travel down to venue in London, the journey down there was uneventful but the day promised so much I was getting nervous and excited. I had my DVD sleeves (of the first three series) for the cast to sign and was looking forward to catching up with Lee and Grant who I met on the Reunion DVD filming back in 2007 and whom I've been in contact with for several years about T-Bag and my website. I was looking forward to meeting the cast, John Hasler I had met at the Reunion DVD filming, but I was going to meet Elizabeth Estensen, Matt Zimmerman and Jan Hunt for the first time.

Arriving at King's Cross station the nerves had kicked in, now I had the challenge of finding my way to Chiswick, having never been on the tube before I had looked beforehand on the internet how to actually get there and found my journey there relatively simple (with only one change and a few minutes of waiting for the next tube train), arriving at the nearest tube station, Turnham Green, was easier than I expected. Having got there in plenty of time I had a walk round the local vicinity and had a (really tasty) portion of chips from the chip shop round the corner for only 1.50 (and they say London prices are expensive). After eating my chips I psyched myself up for the event that to come.

On arriving at the George IV pub I had a drink (non-alcoholic, I was driving home later), I saw Dexter (from Fantom Films) at the bar so said Hi to him. I sat down in the pub for a while, then I noticed Lee Pressman (who I have been in contact with via e-mail for a few years now and met during the Reunion DVD filming), he looked like he was enjoying his pub lunch so didn't want to disturb him until he had finished eating.

I had some time to chat with Lee before the 2 'o clock kick off, and whilst waiting Grant Cathro also sat with us and had a chat, during this conversation Matt Zimmerman had turned up too and I got introduced to him. I must say I was just nervous meeting Matt but had to try to control my nerves there were more cast members still to meet.

We spoke about the situation over the DVD boxset being postponed but still remain hopeful that later in the year Revelation Films will pick it up again (the series does truly deserve to be available on DVD so the next generation to see what Children's television was like without high budgets and computer graphics, when only imagination and storytelling was what children need to be entertained). Lee also showed my a photograph he had taken on his mobile phone of the first series DVD being in a retail outlet for 15, I mentioned that I had also seen this DVD in another branch of the same retail outlet for 5 (bargain - in fact I've since bought it as another copy).

Lee talked about finding Jan Hunt via a pantomime website called (see posts here) and Grant had mentioned he had dug out some of his writing books where many of the episodes were scripted and brainstormed (these I would look at later).

I also met Ian who was going to be conducting the interviews with the cast and crew once we got started, Ian it turns out is my age so at that right age to remember the series from the earlier to the latter series. We then walked through to the room at the back of the pub where the event was about to take place, walking through Ian checked that the first episode aired on the 4th April 1985, and I confirmed this was correct!

Most people were already in the room so I picked up my 'paperwork' at the desk which consisted of the planned schedule, a T-Bag tea party souvenir booklet and other Fantom Films leaflets. There were a fair number of people already seated (all T-Bag fans and nice to see you all there and it was great to speak with you too, there were too many people to be able to speak to everyone but recognised some people from the facebook group).

Hi twitter! The Great T-Bag Tea Party Event is about to start!! We'll be tweeting live if you have any questions for our guests tweet us!

1:57 PM - 4 Feb 12 via web

Fantom Films Tweet

Panel One: Lee Pressman & Grant Cathro

We're starting with a 2pm panel starring Lee Pressman & Grant Cathro being interviewed by @Iankubiak

1:59 PM - 4 Feb 12 via web

Fantom Films Tweet

Grant Lee

Lee & Grant

The first panel consisted of Lee and Grant, they talked about having both, separately, worked on the Thames Television children's series 'Words, words, words' submitting different sketches for the programme. Then being asked about pitching a new show to educate children about letters of the alphabet and Lee subsequently pitching the idea of 'Dotty in dictionaria', akin to 'Alice in Wonderland'. The discussion and questions led onto to Alan Horrox who became the controller of Children's and Education Department at Thames Television after Marjorie Sigley. Alan saw how the series were getting high viewing figures so recommisioned the series each year and his input to the show was to change T-Bag's antagonist from Debbie to another girl and maybe not having T-Shirt's baseball cap facing a different way.

A little late but we are off! chatting with Lee and Grant! Any questions?

2:13 PM - 4 Feb 12 via web

Fantom Films Tweet

The Tomorrow People 90's revival was then mentioned with Alan Horrox wanting it to be different to the 70's series, and it was noted that some of the 70's cast members were disappointed they were not going to be in the revival, even though they hadn't considered that they would all have been in their mid-forties.

Lee and Grant touched on the subject of Thames Television losing it's franchise and them having their own office at Thames Television (due to the number of programmes they were currently involved with), Carlton Television then picking up Mike & Angelo to continue with and Angelo always initially being thought of as an Angel (instead of an alien).

Then perhaps one of the trickier questions, what was their favourite episode or moment, neither Lee or Grant could give a definitive answer as they never felt that any episode was perfect (that's writers for you) but T. Bag's Christmas Ding-Dong coming very close with the ensemble cast and the Christmas pantomime/opera scene near the end. They touched on some of the 'backstage' episodes having great stories (like Exit with a Puff from T. Bag and the Rings of Olympus).

What was your favourite T-Bag episode? A difficult question for the writers to answer

2:31 PM - 4 Feb 12 via web

Fantom Films Tweet

Panel Two: Jan Hunt & Matt Zimmerman

There was now a change of order to the planned schedule and both Jan Hunt and Matt Zimmerman took to the stage.

Slight change to the schedule Matt Zimmerman & Jan Hunt have been moved forward and on now!

2:45 PM - 4 Feb 12 via web

Fantom Films Tweet

It started with Ian calling out 'It's Friday, it's 5 'o clock, it's...' and on cue we all yelled out 'Crackerjack'

Just had a round of 'crackerjack!!' for Jan Hunt

2:46 PM - 4 Feb 12 via web

Fantom Films Tweet

Jan & Matt

Jan & Matt

Jan had such fond (and vivid) memories of Crackerjack and told us the tale of being cut whilst playing a cowboy scene with cowboy boots being thrown and one catching her face. Being on Crackerjack was very physical with running and jumping over walls and being active, someone asked Jan if she got danger money whilst working on Crackerjack, she said she didn't but maybe she should have done! Jan recalled sketches from Crackerjack of her playing a cartwheeling Queen Victoria and a tapdancing 'Shirley Temple'. Jan has many talents and breifly mentioned she could tap spoons on her knees and legs but as she didn't have any spoons she couldn't give us a rendition.

Fantom Films reseraching Jan Hunt showed that she is an honorary patron of The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America, Jan spoke about this and showed a real passion for music halls and theatre.

Matt spoke about how he wanted to become an actor but at one point in time having been given two job offers, one in an accountancy firm and the other in the theatre (which paid more) he went into acting. Matt talked about his voiceover work playing the character of Alan Tracey in Thunderbirds and how the small cast of Thunderbirds being close and working so well together.

Jan recalled a moment in her career being part of the double act 'Jan and Kelly' and at one stage was promoting a record and the next taking a job of selling tinned tomatoes at a trade show but having to hide under the counter after they saw their manager at the same event!

Jan continued to talk about the ups and the downs of being an actor, recalling a moment whilst working in a supermarket demonstrating wallpaper erasers, Jan would tell customers that she would be in the theatre in a few weeks time and looking at their faces knowing they did not beleive her.

Jan and Matt talked further about the best and worst aspects of being an actor, on the positive side there was complete job satisfaction, doing something they enjoy, and being around other cast and crew who were great to work with. But there is always a downside and they mentioned the profession is overcrowded and statisically about ninety percent of actors are, at any given moment, out of work. They then talked about the differences of working for the BBC or at ITV. They seemed to favour ITV as it paid more and had better food in the canteen but the only good thing about the BBC was the bar!

Jan also mentioned that she was due to start production on the Birds of a feather tour with Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph in a few weeks time and how much she was looking forward to producing and directing the show.

At one point Jan, completely in character, said 'Black Hearted Belle' and I couldn't have been the only one who grinned and felt a shiver of nostalgia.

After a few questions from the audience the subject of the show appealing to children now was mentioned.

Looking back if Jan and Matt was such a great double act and if they had been in a T-Bag episode together they would have been T-Riffic!

Autograph time

The Photo wall

The Photo wall

A few moments were taken for us to get photographs and merchandise signed by the cast and the writers, I bought a few photographs and queued up to get some of them (and my DVD sleeves signed), it was great to speak with them (even though I felt extremely nervous), I had a few photographs taken with Jan, Liz and John. I said to Jan how good her and Matt were on the panel and spoke to Liz and John about the show and my website (John encouraged Liz to have a look at my website).

The photographs and autographs can all be seen below

With Jan

With Jan

With Liz and John

With Liz and John

Wonders In Letterland DVD sleeve
Signed by Lee & Grant

T-Bag Strikes Again DVD sleeve
Signed by Liz

T-Bag Bounces Back DVD sleeve
Signed by Liz, Jan, John & Jennie

Tea Party programme
Signed by Jan & Matt

Turn On To T-Bag
Signed by John, Lee & Grant

T-Bag and The Sunstones of Montezuma
Signed by Grant

Panel Three: Liz Estensen, John Hasler & Jennie Stallwood

Liz, Jennie and John

Liz, Jennie and John

After the signing session Jennie had just arrived and it was time for the next panel.

Liz started talking about how she had got the role of T-Bag and meeting Leon Thau then started talking about when the series started broadcasting and her Son (who was about a year and a half at the time) could hear her voice coming from the television which made him stop still for a moment before he wandered over and walked around the back of the television set.

Liz commented on her lovely costumes and even said that her son had some of T-Shirt's costumes from the show.

They reminisced over the curiosity shop, Jennie recalled filming the scene outside the shop (for wonders In Letterland episode one) beng on her 11th birthday. John recalled being nine at the time of recording the first series. They talked about how Marjorie Sigley had found John and thought he would be good for the show, Liz remarked that she thought 'another child', about not having to talk down to him and even admitting that John knew more about the T-Room scenes so she relied on him to let her know what had just happened in the episode that they were filiming the catch up scenes.

Liz, Jennie and John

Liz, Jennie and John

When asked the question about which was his favourite girl (out of Jennie, Diana, Kellie, Natalie and Evelyn) John couldn't be drawn to give a definitve answer, although with Jennie sitting next to him (with a glass of wine), he said she was one of his favourites having spent three series together.

John and Jennie talked about how easy it was as a child to learn and absorb the lines of dialogue and having to do so many hours of schooling during filming breaks, usually brought on by Leon Thau recalling his stories of past glories to the other main and guest cast. They spoke of their fondness for their Tutor, Janet, who John noted that he had seen her name in the credits of the Harry Potter films as head of education.

John recalled the moment that Liz telephoned him when she decided not to carry on in the role, he said that was a lovely thing to do and that meant a lot to him. Liz then talked about her next role of Shirley Valentine in theatre and currently enjoying being in Emmerdale with job-security and being comfortable having a steady job and going into work everyday and knowing everybody else on the show.

They were then asked if they all liked a cup of tea, the reply wasn't overwhelmingly positive though!

The person recording the event then had a suggestion of Liz clicking her fingers and disappearing. Liz told us that she didn't really have magic powers so couldn't really disappear but after clicking her fingers she was told to leave the stage, the resulting video can be seen below.


Fantom Films apologised that Georgina didn't make it to the event, she was concerned that she might not be able to make it home afterwards with the bad 'snowy' weather forecast.

We then got chance to have a photograph and an autograph from Jennie, I was extremely nervous but Jennie was so lovely and listened about my humble website!

With Jennie

Photograph signed by Jennie

Some people stayed to mingle a while, I had another catch up with Grant and had a chance to look through the scripting books her had bought, they covered a few series including T-Bag and the Pearls of Wisdom and T-Bag's Christmas Ding-Dong. I had mentioned the question earlier of their favourite episode or moment and said my favourite moment was the ending of Pearls of Wisdom with the pearl flying upwards and then landing perfectly back on the compass therefore destroying T-Bag. After finding this, and wondering how they could have described it in the book, I had taken a picture of it on my camera!

Script Excerpt
Liz, John & Grant Liz, John, Jennie, Lee & Grant

Liz, John, Jennie, Lee & Grant

I stayed a bit longer but had to go at about half past five, knowing it would take me about 35 to 40 minutes to get back on the tube to King's Cross. I said bye to everyone, saying how lovely it was to meet Liz, John and everyone. My journey back was reasonable, I waited on the platform a while for the next tube train, but caught the next tube connection within seconds. The train waited at one station en route and I was doubting that I'd make it back in time, but within about five or so minutes we were moving again, I made it back to King's Cross and my train was waiting there due to depart in about ten minutes, I boarded the train and found a seat and saw a few snowflakes fall outside. I made my journey back home and caught my connection train within minutes of arriving at the next station. On the train coming home I thought about what a great day I had.

Many thanks to Philip Stobbart for some of the photographs used here, to see the rest of Phillip's photoghraphs click here.

Many thanks goes to Fantom Films for oganising the event and all the cast and crew for making it a T-Riffic day (enough with all the 'T' puns)!