National Séance 2023
Happy Hallowe'en, and here's hoping you all enjoy National Séance later on this evening at 21:25 sharp. Or, should I say 21:28?
Yes, for the first time in thirteen years, our annual live event shall commence a full three minutes later than expected following a truly remarkable discovery made by Ceefax Sleuth, Jason Robertson (better known as The Teletext Archeologist) who, from two off-air recordings kindly donated for the upcoming 'On The Night' Blu-ray from Lawman Productions, has deftly extracted the precise time-code that marks exactly when Ghostwatch aired. Within micro moments of posting this news online, verification came via Paul Hayes on X, care of the programme's PasB.
It seems as though, despite being listed for broadcast at 21:25, and its runtime being one hour, 30 minutes and 55 seconds long, apoximately 3 minutes each side were taken up by a combination of News and Sport beforehand, or bumpers leading up to Match of the Day straight after.
For the record, I would just like to say how consistently amazed I am that some fascinating factoid so often manages to rear its head in time for each event. It's truly awe-inspiring just how much is still to be gleaned about this programme, and I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to share unknown minutae with fellow Pipes-Phobes.
Speaking of which, boy, did I have plans for this year's event, but what with this being the Thirteenth and all... Foxhill, we have a problem.
Short version: thus far, I haven't been able to shift my fourth insidious, self-replicating, submicroscopic infectious agent of the month, and consequently, have no choice but to jettison my plans for a special live commentary. In an effort to save you from ninety full minutes of effusive coughing, I shall instead stick to keyboard duties, as per usual, on the newly-rechristened X.
But before we begin...
On Wednesday the 16th of August, word reached us care of BBC News that legendary broadcaster, Sir Michael Parkinson had passed away at the age of 88 following a brief illness. I, like so many of his fellow admirers, was deeply saddened by this announcement. So, with only the greatest respect and admiration in mind, I felt it important to dedicate this year's event to his lasting memory.
I think it is fair to say, the casting of Ghostwatch was paramount to its lasting success. I firmly believe there were no better choices than Craig Charles, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith - also sadly no longer with us, 1955-2014 - and Gillian Bevan, et al.
In simple terms, the actor required to portray the show's 'Presenter' required somebody with every hallmark that Sir Michael possessed. By then, a familiar face to millions of viewers, Parkinson had established himself as a singular and superior voice in television, cultivating an adaptive, convivial interviewing style that could only be ambitiously emulated by his contemporaries.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Sir Michael on just a small number of occasions. The first, I recall, came about thanks largely to his son Mike - likewise a straight-talker, and always a pleasure to speak with. We were invited to his office at Parkinson Productions; a tall, elegant space, with classic Art Deco styling. A writing desk to the right of the door was home to a manual typewriter - perhaps reminding those who visited that the old ways are still the best...
As we proceeded to set up the shot, at last the door opened with a confident swoosh. There was undeniably a buzz in the air, and polite introductions were made about the crew. I vividly recall the steady approach Sir Michael made to greet me personally. I think I squeaked, "Hello, Sir Michael" or something to that effect. Very assuredly, he shook my hand, raised those quintessential eyebrows, and with a smile asked where we would like him to sit.
Writer, Stephen Volk accompanied us that day - we all put forward a wide array of questions which were professionally answered, many in good humour. I recall asking Sir Michael whether he was surprised by the effectiveness of his performance in Ghostwatch, despite moments earlier claiming not to be an actor. His modest and unassuming response will be included in an upcoming compilation, available this evening on YouTube.
The second and final time I found myself in the company of Sir Michael was during the unforgettable BFI reunion screening at Southbank in late 2013. For one reason or another, I very nearly appeared alongside the panel on stage that night, but ultimately settled for camp-firing my personal Ghostwatch Story to him and others gathered from the cast & crew, in the green room. A rare opportunity, indeed.
These are just two tiny moments amongst the iconic legacy of an extraordinary gentlemen, to be sure, but it was an honour to have known him, even very briefly. Sir Michael's work continues to inspire, and sets a high standard worth striving for. I remain eternally grateful for his generosity and time.
GHOSTWATCH: On The Night - Still Coming Soon
It has been a while since the last update regarding Lawman Production's upcoming Blu-ray release of Ghostwatch. Fortunately, much of the design, and even planning, for the upcoming release (TBA) has been in motion for a fair while now, to say the least. All things being equal, it shouldn't be too long until the first few discs start rolling off the replicators.
First off, the running order for the release is currently expected to be the following:
- GHOSTWATCH: ON THE NIGHT
In striving to deliver the best possible presentation of GHOSTWATCH to date, the master file is being handled by restoration & authoring experts, Maniac Films, to ensure that it appears as uniform as possible, television-to-television. As Blu-ray has very strict requirements when it comes to mixing resolutions, we have settled on 1280x720 50p for the main presentation, which retains the ubiquitous smooth-motion from the era, and also squeezes out as much data from the master as possible. The stereo sound mix remains unchanged from what went out in 1992.
We are also proud to announce that both the opening and closing BBC continuity as spoken by Mark Waddington have been sourced and incorporated also!
A brand-new exclusive audio commentary, compiled from two separate recordings, is currently in the process of being mixed, with just a few moments remaining to integrate. The track features candid observations and recollections from Lesley Manning (director), Ruth Baumgarten (producer), Sarah Greene ('Reporter'), and Gillian Bevan ('Dr. Lin Pascoe').
- GHOSTWATCH: ON THE NIGHT - WITH CEEFAX SUBTITLES
Why have one copy of GHOSTWATCH on disc, when you can have two?
Since 2022, Teletext expert Jason Robertson has been painstakingly restoring the original Ceefax subtitle track from GHOSTWATCH line-by-line, using off-air VHS recordings from the night of transmission. So far, the process has involved somewhere in the region of 3.3 million lines of code tying together 2183 individual subtitles.
... Twice over, as not only did Jason run Jim Lynn's VHS copy through his custom set-up, but also the very cassette my father made the night we watched as a family, October 31st 1992. Having access to two copies has helped ensure that any errors or breaks in text can be cross-checked - thereby making for the most accurate recreation possible. We understand that this important historical artefact has remained unseen for 31 years, and cannot wait for you to check it out in all its glory (nope, not saying it).
The reason we're going with a completely separate video title in this particular instance is due to the specific formatting requirements for Blu-ray subtitles, which can restrict even the number of colours used to denote each speaker (just wait until you see how Pipes's dialogue looked). This standalone track will not be 'selectable' as with the more conventional subtitle track on the main feature, but rather baked-in to ensure a unique and aesthetically-correct means of viewing GHOSTWATCH on the night of broadcast - especially for Ghostwatchers hard-of-hearing!
- GHOSTWATCH ADVANCE TRAILS
By now, we all know the classic GHOSTWATCH trailer that played between shows in the run-up to transmission. Directed by Dr. Iain Macdonald, the special shoot starred Sarah Greene speaking to camera on approach to an unrelated haunted house. But did you know there were three slightly different versions which played at different times? Well, thanks to the hard work undertaken by those manning the archives, the terrifying trio has now been located!
Stephen Volk's terrifying sequel short to GHOSTWATCH will be accessible as a Teletext-style story spanning dozens of authentically-formatted pages, also compiled by Jason.
- GHOSTWATCH: BEHIND THE CURTAINS
Truly a labour of love - the documentary twenty years in the making - this 90 min feature-length exploration into one of the most extraordinary pieces of British Television will be available looking its best, following a superb picture grade by our fine friends at CODA studios, Soho.
- RETURN TO FOXHILL
Rich & Lesley are kindly invited back to 41 Foxhill Drive to meet the Sapkota Family now residing, who share their thoughts on GHOSTWATCH and how they came to discover their now-remodeled London home was once considered to be 'the most haunted house in Britain'.
- THE BROOM CUPBOARD
We've found it! Not seen in over thirty years, Sarah Greene's brief post-broadcast interview with Andi Peters in the iconic Children's BBC Broom Cupboard has at long last been uncovered.
- EASTER EGG
Said to be lurking somewhere within the disc's secure Grade-1 Archival System, be sure to keep your eyes peeled (not literally) for a special revelation concerning the dark origins of GHOSTWATCH, and the professional rivalry which engendered its creation...
- COLLECTOR'S BOOKLET
The final page count has yet to be confirmed, but rest assured there will be some exclusive, unseen material expanding on the history of the Foxhill Drive case that Ghostwatchers will be very interested to see...
Having produced the last Behind the Curtains DVD for 2013, Lawman Productions is pleased to report that this new release is progressing extremely well. Certain aspects are taking a little longer to complete as, by their nature, they are each an individual process. In many instances, edits are being paired down to the frame in order to ensure the absolute best result reaches Antipodean shores, likely some time early next year. Though, we shall do our utmost to release as soon as possible.
Here's hoping you all enjoy National Séance later this evening, Ghostwatchers. I doubt I'll be at my best, but fortunately, you guys always are. As always, I look forward to your photos, creations, gags, and formidable insights into one of the greatest television productions of all time. The event is a celebration, and without you, it would just be me wafting my overplayed, gold-leaf thin DVD into the player whilst crocheting a Bubby.
Thanks, guys. Just try not to have sleepless nights...