Pam Ferris in 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'
PUBLISHED: 10:32 13 December 2016 | UPDATED: 10:32 13 December 2016
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Kent-based actress Pam Ferris is voicing the part of Grandma in a new adaptation for TV this Christmas of a children's classic. Words by: Sarah Sturt. Pictures: Channel 4 Television
Pam Ferris fell in love with Kent when she shone as Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds of May and, seven years, ago moved from London to the village of Elham.
She and her husband initially looked at a house in Pluckley (where the exterior scenes for the much-loved TV series were shot) but, as Pam says: “It would have felt like incest living there!”
She also reveals that all the interior scenes for Darling Buds were in fact done in Leeds.
“Not a lot of people know that,” she tells me. “So you’d walk out of a door in Leeds into the Kent countryside! It was a continuity nightmare.”
I am chatting with the star of such TV favourites as Rosemary & Thyme and Call the Midwife and films that include Matilda and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in advance of her voice-part in Channel 4, Lupus Films and Walker Productions’ animation We’re Going on A Bear Hunt, which airs this Christmas.
The half-hour film expands the universe of the much-loved book to include Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, The Night Manager), Pam Ferris and Mark Williams (Harry Potter, Father Brown) as the brand-new characters of Mum, Grandma and Dad respectively. Not that Pam actually encountered her fellow actors doing the recording process – “you’re basically on your own in a small box, it’s a dark and lonely job” – but there were definite pluses.
“There’s much more interaction with both the director and producer when it’s just your voice and you’re not having to worry about camera angles and lighting and so on – and it frees up the imagination wonderfully.”
Based on the hit bedtime book written by Michael Rosen (who plays the Bear in the film) and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury and produced by the makers of the hugely popular The Snowman and The Snowdog animation, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt follows the adventures of siblings Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max, the baby and Rufus the dog, who decide one day to go on an adventure in search of bears.
Coming up against a host of obstacles, the family ventures through whirling snowstorms, thick oozing mud and dark forests on their ambitious quest.
But when Rosie and Rufus become detached from the rest of the party, it looks like bear-hunting might not be such fun after all...
Channel 4 will broadcast the one-off, half-hour special this Christmas, bringing to life the irresistible story and beautiful artwork of the 25 year-old children’s classic.
Made with exquisite, hand-drawn animation, the film is set to enchant a whole new audience with its story of perseverance, optimism and a love of nature.
While Pam’s role as Grandma is small, it’s a key one as it introduces the concept of loss. Recently widowed, she is getting on with her life and helping her grandchildren cope with not having Granddad around any more.
The scene when Rosie, who finds Bear and realises he’s lonely, hungry and cold and not at all frightening, is truly poignant.
She gives him her Grandad’s scarf to keep him warm, and a cuddle that one senses is equally needed by Bear and child.
Later Rosie tells her Grandma how she’s feeling and Pam’s character explains: “There’s nothing wrong with being sad – it’s just a way of remembering happy times.”
But this isn’t a sad film, and children of all ages will find themselves joining in the familiar refrain of “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it.” And many will already have enjoyed their very own ‘bear hunt’ adventures with their grandparents.
Pam herself doesn’t have children but she and husband Roger Frost love going on long walks with their dogs Elsie, a Jack Russell and rescue lurcher Stanley in their local woods and to the coast – Whitstable and Deal being favourite destinations.
The couple have also thrown themselves into village life and Pam recalls how when they lived in London (“I’ve been a townie most of my life”) they only knew four or five people in their street but within a month of moving to Elham had “30 names and telephone numbers.”
She is very proud of the local Farmers’ Market the village runs twice a year and passionate about the work of the Fifth Trust (which provides fulfilling opportunities for adults with learning difficulties) in nearby Barham, where she has been has been co-opted onto the Board in a fundraising role.
The Trust has facilities on two sites in the Elham Valley for more than 100 students, many of whom get involved working in the on-site café or Vineyard Garden Centre, which gives them valuable life experience and skills.
And what of 2017 plans for this 68-year-old character actress? “I spend more time turning stuff down than accepting new roles, it has to be something that I really want to do – like Bear Hunt,” she tells me. “I love Michael Rosen and I adore his work.
“I’m just really enjoying being here, in Kent, with my husband and the dogs.”
Find out more
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is produced by Ruth Fielding and Camilla Deakin with Norton Herrick as executive producer for Herrick Entertainment and Helen McAleer and Julia Posen as executive producers for Walker Productions. Joanna Harrison and Robin Shaw are co-directors. It was commissioned for Channel 4 by Jay Hunt, Channel 4 Chief Creative Officer, Piers Wenger, Head of Drama, Beth Willis, Deputy Head of Drama and John Hay, Head of Specialist Factual.
We’re Going On a Bear Hunt is a Lupus Films Production in association with Bear Hunt Films, Walker Productions and Herrick Entertainment for Channel 4 Television Corporation. It’s a Lupus Films Production in association with Bear Hunt Films, Walker Productions and Herrick Entertainment for Channel 4 Television Corporation.