Sunday 28 April 2013


Following on from my post about Eric Fraser's contributions to The Lord of the Rings, I've a less familiar Tolkien image for you today.

When on 17 July 1982, the BBC began its revised 13-episode broadcast of the radio dramatisation of Rings with which I was involved, The Radio Times commissioned another of its famous artists to create an illustration for the programme page – Robin Jacques.

Robin Jacques (who, incidentally, happened to be the brother of actress Hattie Jacques) was a prolific illustrator whose exquisite, painstakingly-detailed work decorated over 100 books, amongst them the fairy-tale and folklore collections compiled by Ruth Manning-Sanders, from which these are just a few examples...

Robin Jacques was also a frequent contributor to The Radio Times and I was delighted that he was chosen to introduce the second coming of the radio Rings with a picture of Frodo examining the One Ring while magic forces swirl around him...

Once again, I was fortunate in being able to purchase the original art...

Tuesday 23 April 2013


to the

What is he saying, writing or thinking...? Any suggestions...?

Image: Chris Brown



Image : Bleu Turrell

Saturday 20 April 2013


It had to be done, and it had it be done immediately!

It was 1981 and I had just heard that the BBC radio serialisation of The Lord of the Rings that I had just completed co-adapting was to be featured on the front cover of The Radio Times.

The artist chosen for the task was to be the great – the legendary – Eric Fraser, whose work is currently the subject of a major selling exhibition at Chris Beetles Gallery.

As I mentioned when talking about the Beetles exhibition, having a dad who had worked in commercial art meant that I had long been aware of Fraser's stunning illustrations that, for years, had been among the finest graphic work decorating the covers and programme pages of The Radio Times.

Also, Fraser was already an experienced chronicler of Middle-earth history: in 1977 he had redrawn for publication by the Folio Society, chapter-header decorations to The Lord of the Rings designed by the then Crown Princess Margrethe (now Queen Margrethe II) of Denmark...

And, two years later, in 1979, Fraser had illustrated The Hobbit as a companion volume for the Folio Society...

SO... I knew that I simply had to own that forthcoming Radio Times cover art!

I wrote to Eric Fraser, care of the magazine's art editor, and back came a courteous reply from the artist telling me that he had not yet drawn the cover and perhaps I ought to wait until I saw the finished work before deciding whether or not I wanted to buy it.

However, I wasn't risking anyone else getting their hands on that cover – whatever it looked like! I wrote again, saying that I was prepared to buy it sight unseen. Another polite, but slightly incredulous letter from Fraser, said that – 'if I was quite sure' – it would cost 40 guineas. I duly gulped (40gns in 1981 was more than it sounds today!) and – telling myself that it could only increase in value – dashed off the cheque and waited for the 7 March 1981 issue of The Radio Times to appear...

Eventually, one morning, it dropped through the letterbox...

My perspicacity was rewarded: the moment it was published, the artist was inundated by requests to purchase the cover – from Tolkien fans and a slew of BBC personnel from the series' producer, via the Head of Radio Drama and the Controller of BBC Radio 4 up to the Director General! There were some very grumpy people as a result of Sibley having had the wit and persistence to approach the artist before he had even picked up his pen!

Eric Fraser also drew 26 decorations for the Sunday Radio 4 programme page for each of the original weekly broadcasts, although some never appeared due to industrial action...

Sadly, I didn't have the money to buy any of these additional Frasers, but I content myself that I had managed to acquire an iconic cover (his penultimate for The Radio Times), drawn two years before his death in 1983 and an image indelibly associated with the radio series – especially as it appeared on posters and record sleeves...

...and, once again, as a postcard for 2002, thirteen-episode repeat...

If you'd like to see the original, it is currently on show (but not for sale!) at the exhibition, Eric Fraser (1902-1983) at Chris Beetles Gallery in London until 11 May 2013.

This major retrospective exhibition features over 300 works at a range of prices.

Chris Beetles Gallery
8 & 10 Ryder Street
St James's
Telephone: 020 7839 7551

Gallery Opening Times: 
Monday - Saturday, 10:00 - 17:30

Wednesday 17 April 2013


Image: Margaret Thatcher (represented by Fluck and Law's puppet from the satirical TV show, Spitting Image TV show) visiting the exhibition, Rude Britannia at London's Tate Britain in 2010. 

© Brian Sibley 

Saturday 13 April 2013


In the Old Days (I won't say Good Old Days, because that's too subjective) when The Radio Times featured genuine cover art, one artist among the many who drew for the magazine stood head and shoulders above his highly talented brethren – Eric Fraser.

My Father, who shared Fraser's Christian name and who had worked in commercial art, first drew my youthful attention to Fraser's stunningly meticulous compositions, from elaborate cover designs (such as the one on the left, made sixty years ago, to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II) to his illustrations (often just vignettes) on the programme pages that had to capture the essence of a story, play or concert with an image that fitted to a precise vertical or horizontal space dictated by the height and width of the columns.

A school prize of the works of Shakespeare with Fraser's dramatic colour plates confirmed my admiration (and affection) for this highly skilled and disciplined artist and encouraged my weekly scouring of The Radio Times and my eager seeking out of books in library and bookshop that carried his cover art – like this wrapper for the 1962 Everyman paperback edition of The Pilgrim's Progress...

This fabulously dramatic composition is just one item on sale in the selling exhibition Eric Fraser (1902-1983), which opens on 17 April at Chris Beetles Gallery and runs until 11 May.

The diverse collection of Fraser art on sale ranges from book jackets and full-page illustrations in colour to his miniature masterpieces for The Radio Times – scenes from Biblical epics via Greek dramas to Tolstoy's novels and portraits of composers, explorers, Kings and Queens – and decorative head- and tail-pieces, each showing his characteristic mastery of black and white penmanship.

Here are just a few diverse examples of Fraser's brilliant artistry...

Also in the exhibition – though not for sale – is an Eric Fraser picture from my own collection, which I will tell you about in a subsequent blog post.

Meanwhile, the exhibition (accompanied by a 148-page lavishly illustrated colour catalogue, price £20) will be on show from next Wednesday at...

Chris Beetles Gallery
8 & 10 Ryder Street, St James's, London, SW1Y 6QB
Telephone: 020 7839 7551

Gallery Opening Times: Monday - Saturday, 10:00 - 17:30

Exhibition images: Copyright © ERIC FRASER/ CHRIS BEETLES GALLERY
[Note: The Radio Times Coronation cover is not part of this exhibition]

Tuesday 9 April 2013


'In 1993,' Annette once recalled, 'my birthday present was a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.'

Annette Funicello was discovered by Walt Disney (who wouldn't let her change a name that others might have thought too challenging for audience recognition) and she grew up in the public eye as one of the 'Mousketeers' on Disney's daily '50s/'60s TV show, The Mickey Mouse Club, before blossoming into the star of a series of beach movies alongside Frankie Avalon and TV series and family pictures for Disney.

Her developing assets set the pulses racing of a whole generation of red-blooded American boys while adults – and the rest of us less-red-bloodied lads – were enchanted by her beauty, charm and vivacity. Disney showcased her multiplicity of talents and the public rewarded her by making her a star.

'Mickey Mouse,' she later said, 'is part of my life. That really is something not everyone can call their claim to fame.'

She became one of only a handful of performers to be known throughout the world by her first name, Annette was also the first female to have a rock-and-roll number in the Top Ten ('Tall Paul'), a song written for her by Richard and Robert Sherman that became for the brothers a calling card to Walt Disney and the beginning of a long and Oscar-winning association with the Mouse Factory and its Maestro.

I met Annette (along with several of the other original Mouseketeers) in 1988 at the Disneyland celebrations for Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday and it was impossible not to fall under her spell.

At that time, unbeknownst to the world, she was already beginning to suffer with the early stages of Multiple Sclerosis, the illness that she was to battle with for the next 25 years...

Responding to the news of Annette's death, Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company said: 'Annette was and always will be a cherished member of the Disney family, synonymous with the word Mouseketeer, and a true Disney Legend. She will forever hold a place in our hearts as one of Walt Disney's brightest stars, delighting an entire generation of baby boomers with her jubilant personality and endless talent. Annette was well known for being as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, and she faced her physical challenges with dignity, bravery and grace.'

Here are a few of her classic moments and numbers...


Annette Funicello 
(1942 – 2013)

Sunday 7 April 2013


Funny how things come back from the long past to haunt – or enliven – your present...

My good friend, composer David Hewson (who scored a number of my shows and radio plays) has put on line an avant garde composition, Not Wanted on Voyage, that he wrote in collaboration with one of Britain's woefully overlooked modern composers – Richard ('Tony') Arnell.

Richard also plays the piano in the piece (recorded in 1990) and provides additional voices, while the poem itself is read – by me!

If you're game for ten minutes of unusual listening, join us on deck...

Monday 1 April 2013


A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up,
whether or no the sun be shining outside. 
– A A Milne

MARCH 32nd...?