Whitstable Celebrates Cushing’s 100th Birthday

cushing_tardis26 May 1913: Peter Wilton Cushing was born. After an early career on the stage, he became an iconic figure for horror fans, especially thanks to his work with Hammer and Amicus, and his iconic roles such as Frankenstein, Van Helsing and an eccentric human inventor who called himself Dr Who.

 

 

 

In 1943, he married actress Helen Beck. Due to her failing health, they bought a property in Whitstable. Sadly, she died from her illness in 1971, but Cushing remained and became one of Whitstable’s favourite residents. In honour of what would have been his 100th birthday (he passed in 1994), Whitstable celebrated in style.

As well as the local samba band playing outside our very own Peter Cushing pub (which used to be an old cinema), the TARDIS turned up on the beach. Built from oak by TV prop maker Jason Onion, it wowed and delighted young and old alike. Queues of people were seen eager to have their photo taken next to big blue box, and Twitter was buzzing with those photos. The TARDIS is full-scale and Jason uses it to collect money for Children in Need. He told me it had been a great day, entertaining both families and Cushing fans, especially when he unexpectedly emerged from within. Jason’s TARDIS will also be popping up at Herne Bay’s Sci Fi by the Sea on June 16. Come along and see it if you get the chance. It looked both oddly comfortable on Whitstable’s dusty beach and yet almost ethereal, as if not really there.

 

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Whitstable also launched its Whit Lit 2014 festival with an appropriately timed talk in Whitstable’s museum (which has a Cushing exhibition). Stephen Volk (best known perhaps for writing BBC’s infamous Ghostwatch) read from his novella Whitstable, reviewed on Geek Syndicate here. He was interviewed by Wayne Kinsey, author of the Peter Cushing Scrapbook. They talked about Cushing’s life in Whitstable, but also his impact as a horror icon. They discussed how horror films depict good and evil and how they’ve changed since Cushing’s time. Volk explained why he chose Cushing as his character, and how he’d attempted to portray an accurate yet fictionalised version of him. There was even a brief debate about who would play Cushing, should Volk’s story ever make it onto stage or screen. We were even joined by staff from the Fortean Times, which had produced a Cushing tribute edition.

I’d like to think that for the most part, Peter Cushing would have enjoyed Whitstable’s tribute to the great actor, as it entertained and informed generations of fans.

 
Reporter: Ian J Simpson

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