Our Follyfoot Story. The Forum and Website by Nik Short
On a glorious summer day in 2004 I was visiting my younger sister in Devon, we were reminiscing in the garden, she was talking nostalgically about "The lightning tree" and the television series Follyfoot which she fondly remembered. I have to confess, as a boy the series had passed me by. I had been watching other classics like The Owl Service, Timeslip and other such gems. Horses held no appeal to me at all, in fact they still don't today really.
I had however listened with interest to what she had to say and decided that upon my return to London would look the series up on the internet, in particular I wanted to see if any episodes were available to buy. It was my plan to surprise her with a present of whatever I could find, I also decided to watch Follyfoot for myself!
On my return home, I searched the internet with a growing disappointment, there was almost nothing, then I found a newly launched website, it was less than a year old if I recall, run by an British born New Zealander who went by the name of squeeznyz. The information was limited, it was after all a new website but I was eternally grateful to have found it. I decided to contact the web mistress whose real name was Louise, over time we became acquainted.
One my biggest disappointments of the early days was that no episodes were available to buy, a previously available VHS video of the first three episodes had been released and discontinued, research was hard. Later, I was able to buy a VHS copy of the official release from eBay, from then onwards for several months I checked eBay every day, occasionally episodes were sold, but probably because it was against eBay policy they weren't on the site for long before being removed, so I had to be quick. Over time I bought around 22 episodes. By this time, Louise and I were in regular contact, we had shared our collections and between us we had accrued around 37 episodes from the 1980's television re-run. Some of the episodes were quite poor in quality and some had bits missing but we were happy to have them. Later, I remember being particularly disappointed because we were unable to source the final episode which sometime later went on to become my favourite story of the entire three series.
In these early days neither Louise nor I knew how many episodes were made, nor how many were broadcast or even the names of the missing episodes. The other television fan websites we had discovered appeared to know less than we did. Even the film and television reference website IMDB had nothing listed in those days and "Wikipedia" did not exist. By this time, both Louise and I were researching independently and I shared my findings with her, we were both eager to find any missing information. During my research I found a newly published book called "The Hill and Beyond: Children's Television Drama - An Encyclopaedia" by Mark J. Docherty; Alistair D. McGown. It lists entries on every British-made children's drama to have been shown on UK screens since 1950, it was superb find and a brilliant source for my research. I found a full list of all the broadcast episodes. As fans now know there were thirty-nine in all.
I continued to research and contribute as did some newly found Follyfoot fans, the website grew quickly, in fact to such a degree that it was sometimes off-line because it had maxed out its space and capacity; it became a victim of its own success. It was around this time that I took a more active role with the website. I purchased the domain name follyfoot-tv.co.uk (unfortunately follyfoot.co.uk was not available although I negotiated it's purchase later) and started to host the Follyfoot website for Louise (I also hosted her other fan-based Peter Pan and Land of the Giants websites and bought similar domain names for them too). Now with more web-space available the site was able to grow further, I added a few of my own pages about Follyfoot related people in a section called "just off the tracks".
During this time I continued to search for the two missing episodes that eluded us. I was also looking out for better copies of some of the other episodes too. The missing episodes had never appeared on eBay so it appeared unlikely that they were about appear any time soon, I had an idea that could further the search and also give Follyfoot fans somewhere to meet each other, an internet chat-forum!
In late 2004 I created the Follyfoot forum. It was an immediate popular success, I was amazed by the interest and found myself immersed in its editorship. For those who haven't done such a thing, believe me, it takes a lot of time and commitment.
While continuing to help the website expand, I purchased a rather large unique collection of original Follyfoot photographs and articles from various magazines and publications. The collection cost me a massive £100.00 during a late bidding frenzy on eBay. I later discovered Sabrina, who I didn't know well at the time had been bidding against me. She was in fact trying to get the collection for the website too. We have since laughed about it.
Sometime later the unexpected happened, through the forum I had became acquainted with someone who had the complete Follyfoot series including the advertisements logos. It had clearly come from around its original airing time in the 1970's and unlike the eBay copies from the 1980's re-run was clear and truly uncut, in fact the episodes were longer than the now released official DVDs. What a find this way! Louise and I were finally able to watch the missing episodes and the story synopsis on the website could finally be completed. I re-watched them all in their uncut splendour. I was so lucky!
I continued to run the forum and in mid 2005 I embarked on a joint venture with Laurence from the Television Heaven website to campaign for the official release of Follyfoot on DVD.
Louise promoted it with links on the website while Laurence did the same, I organised petitions and made other efforts that we hope helped to persuade Yorkshire television and latterly Network DVD to release the series. I spoke with Steve Hodson and one of his daughter joined the forum, I also wrote to and had a reply from Christian Rodska. It was a hectic time.
In the summer of 2006 I organised and attended the first of the Follyfoot fans get-together at the Hollin Hall stables, near Littlethorpe, North Yorkshire (where Follyfoot farm sequences were filmed), it was a small event due to the its remoteness but enjoyed by all nonetheless.
In late 2007, two years after starting the Follyfoot on DVD campaign, Network Video released series one, series two followed in April 2008 with the final series being released in the October and a box-set shortly after this. I was overjoyed. Laurence and I will never know for sure how much our campaign influenced the release but it did nonetheless happen.
I continued to run the forum for another year beyond the DVD box-set release and reluctantly, due to the pressures of editorship put away my editorial keyboard in October 2009. I had been running the forum for five years. During my time as editor I had become acquainted with many lovely people, some were like the Dora's of this world, others like Steve, Slugger or the Colonel, one or two were less savory, like Sam Lockwood the unscrupulous trader from the series, we had them all, it was our own real life Follyfoot menagerie.
Like anyone passing on the reins of a much loved entity, leaving was not easy for me, I was saddened and choosing the right successor was also paramount to ensure the right level of editorship. I was... we were very fortunate, one of the cheeky Dora's I had met through the forum was a lovely woman called Jane, she got on well with almost everyone, I also knew Nick because we sometimes played a MMORPG together. I approached Jane and asked if she would like to continue as the new editor, she was clearly surprised because I hadn't previously let it be known I wished to stand down. As fans of the website and forum will no-doubt know, she accepted the challenge with Nick. They have made a fantastic job of it and have now taken on the task of re-building the website too.
Long may it continue.
"When the series was made, I doubt very much that the effect it has had on it viewers was intended – and the effect for me is so special!"
Nik Short - founder and editor of the Follyfoot forum (2004-2009) and contributor to follyfoot-tv.co.uk/.
Thanks to the following, without whom Follyfoot as we know it would not exist today:
Jo, Louise, Jane, Nick, Laurence, Colin and finally Network DVD.
Written April 2013.