We Interview Paul Burton
InterviewPaul Burton is a film and television historian with an impressive background in most of the performing arts. He has written, produced, directed and appeared in various community theatre, film, TV and radio productions.
He runs a website dedicated to Elstree Studios and has worked alongside people such as Brian Murphy (George & Mildred), Jeffrey Holland (Hi-de-Hi!), Vicki Michelle ('Allo 'Allo!) and TV magician Paul Daniels. His latest book, to be published in late October 2008, is entitled The Morecambe & Wise Quiz Book. In September 2008 he kindly gave us an interview:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
For nearly twenty years now I have been running a variety of my own community theatre, film, TV & radio projects (see www.paulburton.org.uk) and last year I was approached to write a book about my work. The same publisher also published a book I co-compiled entitled The Official Carry On Quiz Book.
You write, produce & direct theatre, film & TV productions, but which of these aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy each role and love being busy! I am always looking to the next project.
How did you first start working in the arts?
When I was 16 I wanted to just become an actor. I went on a performing arts course at a Leicestershire college. And it was there that I first discovered a love for staging variety shows.
After leaving college I continued to stage my own shows, including variety shows and the musical Little Shop of Horrors, and this eventually led me to my first and real great love - television.
I then became a programme-maker for a community cable TV channel in Leicester called Cable 7. A moving target is harder to hit and I am always looking for new avenues to gain experience and to satisfy by artistic needs!
Why did you decide to start writing books?
For a long while now I have been working to get established as a film & TV historian. So writing books on the subject makes for an ideal outlet for this part of my work.
Ideally I would also like to be employed as a consultant on various TV documentaries which feature British film & TV comedy as their subject.
I am also the webmaster of a very popular website dedicated to Elstree Studios (Elstree Calling: www.elstreecalling.co.uk), and this has brought me into contact with many people and offered me some really unique opportunities.
Tell us about The Morecambe and Wise Quiz Book?
At the start of 2008 I started to look for a publisher who would be interested in publishing The Morecambe & Wise Quiz Book, and I was delighted when a fellow writer (sounds like something Ernie Wise would have said in a sketch!) put me in touch with London-based JR Book Ltd.
Is this going to be a part of an on-going series of books?
I have so far written two quiz books (The Official Carry On Quiz Book and The Morecambe & Wise Quiz Book) and would indeed like to write other titles of this nature. I certainly have lots of ideas for new quiz books.
Are you a Morecambe & Wise fan?
Yes, a huge fan! I first recall watching Eric & Ernie when they made their shows for Thames TV and instantly became a devoted fan.
How did you research The Morecambe & Wise Quiz Book?
I have quite a big knowledge on the duo which helped. In fact I would never write a quiz book (or any kind of book for that matter) on any subject that didn't interest me. I have to feel passionate about the subject and I certainly do about Morecambe & Wise.
I also used books and watched literally hours and hours of DVDs and videos which featured the duo. For a while I lived in some kind of twilight Morecambe & Wise world!
What can we expect from this new book?
The book (which is dedicated to Morecambe & Wise and Ann Hamilton) features 1,000 questions on Morecambe & Wise-related subjects including their various stage, radio, TV and film credits.
Along the way, the reader is also given the chance to enjoy a selection of recollections from those people who worked with the duo both in-front and behind the scenes, as well as providing many fascinating facts and figures connected with the double act.
Can you tell us who helped with the recollections?
I was very lucky to be given new recollections personally written by those who worked with and/or admired the duo including Bobby Ball, Richard Digance, Tony Hatch, Vicki Michelle and Dave Prowse. The book itself also features a foreword written by Ray Galton & Alan Simpson, who co-wrote Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe & Son.
Did you learn anything that surprised you about the late duo during your research?
Actually, it was more a case of what didn't surprise me. And that was just how much blood, sweat and tears Eric & Ernie put into their shows. My research constantly revealed how much they both gave to being a double act.
How long did it take to compile and check the 1,000 questions?
I wrote the initial manuscript in two months. But there then followed five months of making various changes to the questions and answers. Basically, I have eaten and slept Morecambe & Wise for the most-part of this year! That’s not a bad way to earn a living!
Did you find any conflicting facts? We know from our own work that there is a lot of bad information out there!
Yes. What I decided was to not take risk! If I couldn't be 100% sure on a question and answer, then I replaced it. Research on the internet provided it to be the home of the most conflicting facts.
Will we learn anything new about Morecambe & Wise that we didn't know before?
I'd like to think so. I am hoping that the publication will both educate and entertain both old and new fans of the duo. I also hope that it will remind people of Eric & Ernie’s lesser-known work.
I believe you have also have been busy making radio plays for various hospital radio stations?
So far I have written produced and had broadcast two radio plays. The first, The Wedding, is a drama which stars Paul Daniels. While the second, Brides to Be, is a radio comedy which stars Jeffrey Holland (Hi-de-Hi!), Judy Buxton (On the Up) and Vicki Michelle ('Allo! 'Allo!).
The latter was especially great fun to make (I also played a small role in this one!). I grew up watching Jeffrey, Judy & Vicki in their respective sitcoms and it was a great thrill to meet and work with them! Ironically they are now all on tour together in a new production of the stage version of 'Allo! 'Allo!
Do you have any other projects planned for the future?
Yes, but these are all in the planning stage at the moment. But fingers crossed there will be plenty more projects to work on in the future! In the meantime I hope people will enjoy The Morecambe & Wise Quiz Book. I think it will make for an ideal read for all the family this Christmas – an ideal stocking filler!
© morecambeandwise.com 2008