Hello everyone, I am Ray Knight and I wanted to tell you the story of how I came to be involved helping Jane Royston write the book, Follyfoot Remembered, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of this award winning series.
I had always been interested in behind the scenes making of television programmes, and like a lot of fans, right from the first episode, I was intrigued by Follyfoot. The “secret” filming location just added to the mystery.
For such a high profile series, there was very little information available in the way of photographs and articles, so I wanted to find out more.
Sometime after the series ended, I contacted Yorkshire Television to see if I could buy videos of the show, but was told that they weren’t available at that time. I kept in touch with them and eventually was told that I could purchase all thirty nine episodes.
I remember I ordered six episodes at a time, on one three hour video cassette and as soon as they arrived, I would watch all six episodes and then send off for the next six.
Shortly after buying the videos, I was lucky enough to contact Gillian Blake, Steve Hodson, Arthur English and Desmond Llewelyn. As well as meeting and interviewing them, I was invited to the farm filming location, by the new owners.
As the years passed, I treasured my collection of Follyfoot tapes until one day, many years later, I entered the word Follyfoot into a search engine, which led me to Louise’s website. I was fascinated to see all the information that she had accumulated and this in turn led me to the Follyfoot forum.
I was introduced to Nik, a really great guy, who had created and was running the Follyfoot forum and who had worked so tirelessly in those early days, researching and promoting the show. I learnt all about the DVD campaign and we arranged to meet up for a chat over breakfast and share our Follyfoot collection and this meeting really inspired me to gain some inside knowledge, about the making of the series.
Thanks to the Follyfoot website, it was easy to obtain the names of the production team on the series, so one of the first people I contacted was lighting cameraman, Peter Jackson. I wrote to him, care of Yorkshire Television, and they kindly passed my letter on. Peter wrote back and was very interested and enthusiastic about the DVD campaign and offered to help in any way he could. Sadly, before I could get to meet him, he passed away, but I have since met his lovely wife and she has some interesting Follyfoot stories to tell.
Jane Royston was a name familiar to me, as she was credited at the end of each episode as being Horse Manager. I remember looking in the Leeds telephone directory, on the off chance that maybe she lived closed to the filming location and as luck would have it, there was one J Royston listed.
I rang the number in the early evening, but it was engaged, so I waited several minutes and tried again – still engaged. By now I was beginning to have second thoughts. Here I was ringing someone that I didn’t know and not even sure it was the right person, to talk about a series that was made over thirty five years ago.
I left it several more minutes and tried again. This time it rang and was answered. I said “hello” and apologised for ringing, but I was trying to contact Jane Royston. She said, “That’s me”. I said, “Is that the Jane Royston that used to work for Yorkshire Television on the Follyfoot series” and she said, “That was a long time ago”.
I went on to explain who I was and all about the Follyfoot website and forum, and how the DVD’s were being released, and Jane was really interested and explained how she had always wanted to write a book about behind the scenes, from the Horse Girls angle. Jane was really warm and friendly, with a great sense of humour and she invited me to visit her and offered to show me around the Follyfoot filming locations.
For me, this was a dream come true, because apart from the farm location, I had no idea where any of the other scenes had been filmed.
I flew up to Yorkshire two week later to meet Jane, and we had an amazing few days. For me, it felt like I had known Jane all my life. She is just so warm, friendly and generous and as well as re-visiting the locations, she also showed me her Follyfoot collection. Jane spoke again about writing a book and I said she should do it and that I would support her 100%.
And so together, from that initial meeting, we embarked on an incredible journey – Jane would write her account of how she came to work for Yorkshire Television, the pre-planning and all the behind scenes stories of working on Follyfoot and I would contact the actors and production crew for their account.
Along the way we were helped and encouraged by BBC local radio, who interviewed us and very kindly allowed us to publicise, the as yet unpublished book – Follyfoot Remembered. Jane was also back in contact with friends and colleagues who had worked with her on the series and who were more than willing to share their experiences.
As the book took shape, it soon became clear that we very short of relevant good quality pictures from the series and so Jane contacted Calendar, her local TV news station, based in Yorkshire. They put us in touch with the picture manager at ITV, and we were given unrivalled access to the Follyfoot archives, at Yorkshire Television.
The Follyfoot archive consists of three boxes – one for each series, containing literally hundreds of negatives, from all the thirty nine episodes. In addition, there were also publicity shots of the actors and of the farmhouse and location, before and after restoration.
I was like a kid in a sweet shop, and I think we spent around three days in total going through hundreds of negatives, seeing Follyfoot pictures that had never, ever been seen before.
With our picture selection complete, we were able to finish the book and send to the publisher. After what seemed like endless proof reads, corrections and amendments, the book was finally signed off and sent to print. The printing took around six weeks and I remember getting the call to say, that the consignment was ready for delivery.
After months and months of writing, revisions, designing, telephone calls and visits to Yorkshire, not to mention the odd setback, to actually have a fully bound copy of Follyfoot Remembered in my hand, was one of the best feelings in the world. The layout, content and photographs were exactly as I had imagined it, and I hope you all agree that the book is a fitting tribute, to this classic series.
Would I do it all again? You bet I would!