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Introduction to Portland Bill

Mik Parsons who co-wrote the music for Portland Bill has kindly provided extra information concerning Portland Bill as well as some brilliant photographs (shown at the end of the page)

Question - When did you first get interested in animation and television ?

Answer - I was a technician and Part time lecturer in animation and TV graphics at Leicester Poly during the 70s and 80s. John Grace, the author of Portland Bill, was a close colleague at that time, and we both taught animation to Graphic Design students there. That's how I got to collaborate on the music. Round about 1984 I left to go and lecture at Norwich School of Art and set up their Animation section (now run extremely well by Suzie Hanna who initially joined as a mature student)

Question - Have you worked on any other television projects ?

Answer - Yes but mostly corporate stuff - nothing really that you'd see broadcast. John went freelance and has done a number of things since (do a Google search and you'll find his details)

Question - What are you currently working on ?

Answer - I teach Interactive Media Production at Bournemouth University now and also teach a lot of Video Production too. I also have a sideline in producing and publishing programmes about how to shoot video. Eight titles called "Successful Production for Video" (www.vitmedia.co.uk)

Question - What do your friends / family think of your work on Portland Bill ?

Answer - My two kids watched it lots when they were younger and lots of students remember it from their childhoods

Question - Do you know when Portland Bill first shown on television ? (we think it was 1983 but not positive)

Answer - That sounds about right. There were actually two distinct series - both commissioned by Graham Clutterbuck from FilmFair. The first one had lower production values and didn't use as much music as we wanted. It was generally a bit rough in quality 'cos it was a bit rushed. The animator Barry Leith, had done some previous work on the Magic Roundabout I believe . The second series featured a different head animator Martin Cheek. Martin took a real pride in the project and also saw to it that a lot more of the music I had prepared got used.

Question - Was the program based on an actual person(s) or simply the Lighthouse (again we thought the Lighthouse but we may be wrong)

Answer - It was Maritime England Year and John had made some plasticine characters and produced some photographs based around the Portland Bill idea and entered them for a competition about Maritime England - which he won. Yes it is based on the lighthouse of course, and all the character names are based on the Shipping Forecast regions and other nautical puns, e.g. Cromarty, Dogger, Ross, EddyStone, Gale, FairIsle, FastNet. If you find Johns photograph on his website page - you'll see that he looks just like Cromarty - complete with short beard. Bill had a favourite football team too - the Hamilton Academicals. There's a song about them - cant remember if it ever got broadcast though - not all of them did.

Question - Do you know how many episodes were made in total ?

Answer - Yes there were two sets of 13 episodes, 26 in all. Each episode contained two stories with a song bridging each story.

Question - Would it be possible to get the full lyrics for the song your wrote ?

Answer - Unfortunately, this was all done before word processors so I have all the lyrics down on paper somewhere but not digitized. Maybe I should get round to this sometime. I'll let you know if I do.

Question - Do you have a website with examples of your music on ?

Answer - No -I went on to do a lot of jazz and stuff (composing and playing bass), and came back to the guitar again more recently. Maybe I should dig out the PB master tapes (it was all done on a Tascam Portastudio 4-track cassette recorder would you believe) and digitise it all into a CD compilation. There were quite a number of songs that never got used

Question - Is there any work that you would have liked to have done ?

Answer - John did a pilot called the BeePeeple which I also composed a set of music for, but it didn't get taken up.

Question - Where do you see yourself working in the years to come ?

Answer - In the garden. No seriously - Ill stay in education for a few more years and gradually take on more publishing I expect - and play some music on the side.

Question - Which of the Portland Bill episodes was your favourite ?

Answer - I definitely preferred the second series for quality (animator credited as Martin Cheek), but I remember enjoying the story where Ross and Cromarty each go fishing off the side of the lighthouse but wind up snagging each other's line's.

Question - What is your favourite kind of music ?

Answer - My music tastes are a rather divided between American Jazz (I played in Jazz Rock bands for years and loved Weather Report, Chick Corea, Herbie Hanckock and all that lot) but I also had another musical life as a "folkie" and started out with Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Pentangle etc. then moved on to John Martyn, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Beatles et al., Nowadays I listen to all that, and lots of guitarists like Pat Metheney (my favourite) John McLaughlin, Larry Carlton. On Portland Bill the music was based on a penny whistle and guitar, but I also like to play flute, fretless bass, a bit of drums, and even a bit of piano. Guitar has always been my passion though.

Little Gems - Well that's the cut list from about 37 or so questions that have arrived since Portland Bill was uploaded. He is still a very popular series. I have lost count of the number of people who request a better version of the music for download.

Mik - Thanks for asking. It's quite flattering to know that there are still people out there who are interested in all this. It was a fun series though - real cult stuff. I always felt a bit gutted because Postman Pat came out around about the same time - complete coincidence. Terry Wogan seemed to take a fancy to the theme tune and played it endlessly on his morning radio show. I believe that's why Postman Pat became such a great hit. I like to think if Terry Wogan had heard the Portland bill theme first - perhaps things could've turned out a bit more lucrative for both of us. Heigh Ho Best Wishes and good luck with your site - Mik Parsons.

the following images were kindly supplied by Mik

The man himself

Mik in his home studio

Barry Leith (Animator) and John Grace (Creator)

Barry Leith (Animator) and John Grace (Creator), he actually does look like his character.

Ship in a bottle

Ship in a bottle

Eddy's shop detail

Eddy's shop detail

More shop detail

More shop detail

Ross

Ross

It's great when the creators of such a superb series get in touch and we would like to thank Mik for his time and thoughts. Such help is always appreciated because it increases our understanding and knowledge of the program.