#TBT – The boats used for filming the BBC drama ‘Coot Club’ on the Norfolk Broads in 1983

Originally posted by Sophie Neville on 19th January 2013

Norfolk County Sailing Base, Ludham

The ‘Titmouse’ under sail in 1983

I think Jim Searle might have given me this lovely photograph of  Titmouse, and that it might have been taken when the boys from Norfolk who played the Death and Glories were given sailing lessons prior to filming in the summer of 1983.

Henry Dimbleby resting between takes in the 'Dreadnaught'

Henry Dimbleby resting between takes in the ‘Dreadnaught’.

The Dreadnaught was a terribly useful punt. We may have even used it for the camera. Henry Dimbleby is sitting on the life jacket he was obliged to wear during rehearsals, despite the fact that he jumped into the water in the action to avoid being spotted by the Hullabaloos, the holiday makers who had hired the Margoletta, in reality the Norfolk cruiser Janca.

Coot Club - Bruce McCaddie the designer

Bruce McCaddie, our Designer with Prop Master Ricky King in the ‘Cachalot’

Am I right in thinking that this must be the Catchalot? It looks as if Bruce McCaddie is sorting out a fishing rod.

The Death and Glory at Gay Staithe

The Death and Glory at Gay Staithe

One of the jobs Bruce gave to his construction team was to build the cabin on the Death and Glory, with its flower pot of a chimney. He transformed the look by adding rigging from the mast.

Bruce Mackadie

Our Set Designer, Bruce McCaddie using a dressing boat to approach the ‘Death and Glory’ complete with her cabin. Is the ‘Titmouse’ moored alongside?

Bruce loved the boats. Instead of being an extra person on the camera boat he would take one of the period boats he used to dress the back of shot to gain access to his sets – which of course were often other boats. In terms of set design ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’ were rather unusual productions to work on.

Coot Club - the camera boat

Angela Scott with the camera boat used out of vision during the filming

One of the only shots I have of the camera boat is this one, which looks as if it might have been taken up near Horsey Mere. It shows Angela Scott, the children’s tutor making a funny face at the end of the day. You can just see Penny Fergusson and what could be Mary Soan on board. Jill Searle may have been there too. She became a great friend of Liz Mace, our Production Manager who had always been keen on sailing.

Lullaby undersail, playing the Teasel with her stage name painted on a false transome

Lullaby under sail, playing the Teasel for the BBC production of ‘Coot Club’,  with her stage name painted on a false transom

The Teasel was played by Lullaby. Roger Wardale tells me she is  a mahogany hulled crusier, a gunter-rigged, 4-berth ‘Lustre’ class yacht built in 1932 and kept at Hunter’s Yard in Ludham, where I believe she is still available for hire. She is similar to the 3-berthed ‘Fairway’ yachts that Arthur Ransome and his wife would hire for holidays on the Broads  in the 1930’s.

The Teasel towing the Titmouse

The Teasel towing the Titmouse – click on this photo to see a close-up of the cockpit

One of the secrets of filming Coot Club is that, although this looks as if Mrs Barrable is sailing the Teasel, it is not Rosemary leach but a young man from Hunter’s Yard wearing her costume. Caroline Downer, who played Dorothea Callum, Richard Walton, who played Dick, and Henry Dimbleby who played Tom Dudgeon are in the cockpit, but we also used ‘doubles’ that day to play Port and Starboard.  I found girls two girls from Norwich, Julia Cawdron and Claire Dixon, who played the twins for a day.

The reason for this was that sailing scenes are time-consuming to film and quite tricky to edit together. While our Director Andrew Morgan was busy filming the scenes at the Farland’s house with Andrew Burt and the twins, Sarah and Claire Matthews, accompanied by their mother, I was on a second unit headed up by the Producer Joe Waters. Although Joe had directed a huge number of dramas he asked his film editor, Tariq Anwar, up to direct the sequences, knowing that he would be cutting the shots together.  He came up to the location with his wife and we took most shots from the Camelot.

Tariq Anwar is still working away, editing  Vivaldi, based on Antiono Vivaldi’s early life. Written and directed by Boris Damast it stars Elle Fanning, Neve Campbell and Brian Cox. His latest credits include Great Expectations and The King’s Speech as well Down the River featuring Joe Henry, Tom Jones and Hugh Laurie. I haven’t seen the documentary but presume it must include the odd boat.

Do write in the comments below if you can fill me in on the names of those who helped us with the boats for the series.  My address book lists: Jim and Jill Searle, Rupert Latham, Pat Simpson of Stalham Yacht Services, Richardson’s of Stalham, Lawrence Monkhouse, Keith King of Feny Boatyard and the Steam boat Association. I still have a certain sticker on the front of my BBC address book ~

Coot Club - My Address Book

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