On June the 3rd 2006, that rough band of gypsies, chosen to wear the white
band of courage and valour, came together for the first time in thirteen years.
It was hard to comprehend that it had been so long, but here we were back again
as a group for one of the UK's largest autograph signing fairs at a Heathrow
I had been in touch with the boys separately and some I'd hung out with
socially but a full reunion of the original Chosen Men was an absolute novelty.
The journey to Autographica 06 wasn't always a smooth one. The event is
organised and sponsored by Dave Phillips, but securing the attendance of the
lads to ensure that 'complete reunion' status, was down to me. A feat I would
find out is easier said than done!
In the months preceding the event, I e-mailed, sent texts and phoned the
assorted members trying get align our schedules. After several near misses, all
the pieces fell in to place in the forty-eight hours before the occasion
I awoke the day before with a childlike, Xmas-morning feeling in my stomach.
After surviving the day time with a flurry of extra confirmation phone calls, I
picked up John Tams at St Pancras Station. We made a dash along the Westway to
my house, then it on to the Radisson Edwardian hotel where we met the organisers
and other 'star guests' for a drink. The evening ended at a quieter watering
hole for a night cap and a rapid summary of the previous six years.
The drive into the hotel from home was mercifully quick due to an unusually
empty highway, but it was already unmercifully hot for that time of the morning.
Rather fitting as each year's Sharpe shoot began at the height of a summer at an
I knew John was already in the building but I couldn't fully exhale until I
saw everyone with my own eyes, especially Big D who was coming off a flight from
Dublin that morning. To divert the anxiousness, I started setting up all the
assorted paraphernalia at my disposal and place signs alerting the punters as to
the location of the Sharpe room.
First to arrive in the hotel lobby were Lyndon, Michael and Paul, the latter
I hadn't seen for at least five years. Lyndon, I'm in touch with all the time
and Mike I'd seen at a Sharpe Appreciation Society event recently; we now
Daragh had promised he'd be there so that was good enough for me; but we knew
he had competing engagements and until I saw his considerable presence in the
room, I wouldn't count my chickens. Until then we at least had a full reunion of
all the original cast of Chosen Men from 'Sharpe's Rifles'.
Needless to say our leader (before the 'Rifles' barn fight) slipped into the
Sharpe room and it was all hugs and welcomes as the first full reunion (bar
Sean) since the press showing for 'Rifles' thirteen springs ago. The game was
Accompanying us in the Sharpe room on the day were the 95th rifles Living
History Society who had their 'camp' set up to one side; the six of us were
seated at desks along the wall.
The crowds were slightly patchy due to the mid morning closure of the M-4 and
the weekend shut down of the Piccadilly line running out to Heathrow.
Autographica 06 was due to be held in March, weather wise a preferred time of
year for an indoor event. The organisers had settled on the hottest day of the
year so far, so unfortunately we had three factors keeping down the
I mattered little to our enjoyment; we were able to throw Chosen banter and
re-found snatches of memory across the room at each other. The open conversation
was immensely enjoyed by the fans that had made it out to Heathrow to see
The second day was scheduled to run pretty much like the first with the
exception of a proposed Q & A session to be held if demand was
The previous evening the organisers threw a splendid formal bash where the
'star guests' sat with the punters and ate dinner. Occasionally a microphone was
passed between the guests who took turns to recall amusing anecdotes pertinent
to their specialist subject. So it was left to assorted veteran astronauts,
cosmonauts, Richard Kiel [Jaws from Bond] and little old me to do the honours.
I'll take a long march in full kit under a hot Crimean sun over this any
It was a great night out with the boys, paying homage to Bacchus and relating
the sequence of events long clouded by the mists of time. While producing the
video diaries I've been re-living the Sharpe years and feel as though the lads
had never left my consciousness but being here in the flesh with them was a real
The crowds picked up very slightly on the second day and it looked like the
house sold plenty of signed photos, hopefully justifying the cost of bringing us
After a lengthy photo call was completed we shuffled off to a 'lecture room'
where we did a brief question and answer session which quickly became a Chosen
dialogue that the less bashful attendees could contribute.
The whole weekend flew by too quickly for my liking, especially as it had
taken thirteen years to materialize. Some might say that until the Blade himself
joins us- and believe me, we tried- it's not a real Sharpe reunion.
One day we may achieve that, but until then we had set a precedent and all
those who visited Autographica were very pleased and would happily attend for
more of the same. So, if fans from any Sharpe territory in the world can
organise a venue and sufficient sponsorship then contact me and have your very
own Sharpe reunion.
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