These photos were taken by Makeup Artist, Maggie Thomas, on location in France (Paris and Rouen), in the Black Country Museum in Dudley, and in Studio A at BBC Pebble Mill. ‘Sophia & Constance’ was a 6 part period drama, transmitted by the BBC in 1988. It was an adaptation of Arnold Bennett’s novel: ‘The Old Wives’ Tale’. It is set in 1964 in the town of Bursley in the potteries. It is the tale of 2 sisters: Sophia and Constance. Constance is the older and quieter sister, and is content to live and work in the family’s draper’s shop, whilst Sophia is more adventurous and outrages the family by becoming a schoolteacher. The series was directed by Allison Romey and David Hugh, and produced by John Harris. The Executive Producer was Colin Rogers. The cast included: Catherine Cusack, Melissa Greenwood, Patricia Routledge, Alfred Burke, Nigel Bradshaw, Freda Davies and John Scott Martin.
Photos taken by make up artist Maggie Thomas, whilst on location with ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, in the Yorkshire Dales.
We were a large number of make-up personnel with such a lot of main actors as well as hordes of supporting artistes. So we were all booked into pubs in the area and our make-up room was in the main hotel/pub in Lostwithiel. They were such happy days. The cast were a great bunch of people and made the long hours of work very enjoyable, as well as being in the glorious Cornish countryside in spring. The massive scale set-ups on a popular series like Poldark come as close to feature films as it is possible to get for television. There are all the period carriages and people who own and usually drive them who have to be made-up with facial hair and tie-backs and costumes. This is a whole way of life for them and they are in constant demand. They spend their whole lives around film sets. Their skill in manoeuvring the huge horses and carts, wagons and carriages is spectacular, especially when they have to keep doing take after take and getting the animal and vehicle back on their marks to go again, involving the most intricate manoeuvring. I think there are very few people left who can take over such work.
When we returned to Pebble Mill to start preparing for studio, I found I was to be doing a 100-year make-up on one of the cast. Fortunately, she was an older actress, which gave me a good base to work with and in those days we always had time to have some practice make-up before the day; but the hour-long make-up, layering fine plastic especially made for ageing make-up and drying each layer with a hairdryer, is very unpleasant for the actress and then the removal at the end is almost worse.
When we started on the scenes in studio we had some extra characters who had not been used on film and one of these artistes was Christopher Biggins, who was playing the part of a very frisky ‘Reverend’ Ossie Whitworth, who was up to no good with one of the Fair Ladies in the story. We, of course, had no idea that he would eventually become a National Treasure in I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, but even way back then his wonderful disposition shone out. He was the sunniest, most cheerful person and had the most uplifting effect on everyone around him. He is also a great entertainer and there was never a dull moment when Biggie was in the make-up room; he used to have us all crying with laughter. I was not surprised to see him overcome such ghastly challenges in the jungle and become chosen as The King by the whole country. It couldn’t happen to a nicer chap.
(from ‘Dishing the Dirt’ by Maggie Thomas available on Amazon authors on line)
Salman Rushdie on Pebble Mill at One
One day Salman Rushdie came to Pebble Mill to talk about his new book. I was working on Pebble Mill at One that day. I didn’t know anything about this man in my make-upchair; we had such a variety of people on the programme and many of them were not famous, so he was just another shiny head to powder. As always I was in the make-up room right up until we went on air and, as it was live, it was quite a challenge to find a corner on the sidelines and keep out of shot, ready to step in if any sweat appeared on the presenters when the cameras were not on them, and dab them with the cool chamois. On this day, when I looked outside I could see swarms of strangely dressed men with banners streaming into Pebble Mill Road . Even then I was too busy concentrating on my work to pay much attention. It was only when the item interviewing Salman Rushdie came on that this huge crowd of them outside started advancing on the building, shaking their fists and waving their banners. It was the most chilling experience of my life, partly because of the huge number of them and partly because there seemed nothing to stop them entering the building. Everyone was frozen to the spot and the poor interviewer struggled to appear as though nothing was happening. Fortunately, one of our security guards must have phoned the police and they soon arrived in some numbers and quelled the advance of the hordes. It wasn’t until I saw the local news that evening that the whole story was explained. His book had made some insulting remarks about their religion and they had come to protest. I have often wondered why a man of letters and supposed intelligence such as he didn’t realise that his ‘Satanic Verses’ would upset his fellow countrymen and how much it has cost this country to protect him from them. How unsuspecting we were in those days that this would become the norm.
From ‘Dishing the Dirt’ by Maggie Thomas available from Amazon authors on line