My Grandmother and Father always read me stories as a child, so I guess that's where I developed my vivid imagination. Many years later, I found myself on holiday with the family in Salcombe, Devon, and reading bedtime stories to my own boys, James and Freddie.
I ran out of stories in the book, so I decided to make up my own story about a group of little sea creatures called The Salties and began to sketch them in a red notebook, so the boys could identify with each character. The boys loved The Salties and began to ask for more stories, so I enlisted the help of my wife Katie and the notebook began to fill up with more stories around Salty Cove. The holiday ended and the red book of Salties stories was put away in a drawer and forgotten about.
Many years later, Katie and I were back in Salcombe. This time on our own and camping in a tent with our Parson terrier called Milo. Unfortunately, the weather was awful and we began to wish that we had booked a holiday home, instead of a tent! Suddenly, Katie produced the red notebook of Salty tales and we spent many a happy hour reminiscing over our storybook that the children had loved. We decided to develop a plan to take our idea to TV and make enough money to perhaps, one day, buy a little holiday home near Salcombe. Quite a tall order, under the circumstances!
Once home in Northamptonshire, we made a long list of what we would need: professionally drawn characters with the help of Phil Garner, a world, a strong logo, a website and URL, trademark, literature, publicity, exhibition stand, models, character costumes, promotional gifts, and a great deal of networking both in the UK and abroad. Little did we know this would take 20 years of our lives!
A chance meeting at a trade fair called Brand Licensing, led me to Francis Fitzpatrick, who had already developed his own highly successful children's' TV show called Jakers and knew the industry far better than I did. During what can only be described as a 'Dragon's Den' moment, I asked Francis to become a partner in the The Salties, in return for his help in taking it to TV.
Years later, Francis called me to say that he had found a team of very well known animators called Cosgrove Hall, who had created such iconic shows such as Dangermouse, Wind in the Willows and The BFG. Not only did they offer to re-work The Salties for TV, but also offered the services of their friend Sir David Jason for the voice-overs.
Now called Pip Ahoy!, by CHF Entertainment our idea is on finally on TV (Channel 5 Milkshake) and is a firm favourite with pre-school children everywhere, proving that if you have enough determination you can sometimes turn your dreams into reality.
2017 marks the tenth anniversary since meeting Francis at Brand Licensing and we have now started work on the 3rd series of Pip. This time, part of the production process it is being produced in China and we are very hopeful that we will soon sign licensing and merchandising contracts in China. Perhaps, a Pip Ahoy! theme park one day?
To all my family for helping me create the Salties (later to become Pip Ahoy!), to Salcombe for being such an inspirational holiday location. Heartfelt thanks to Lambros Atteshilis, Corrine Averiss, Pat Begg, Phil Bird, Danny & Helen Brown, Brian Cosgrove, Lynne Dickenson, Amy Dowzell, Francis Fitzpatrick, Teresa Gallagher, Phil Garner, Rachel Giles, the late Mark Hall, Simon Hall, Jean Hawkins, Keith Hopwell, Sir David Jason, Jenny Johnstone, Nicola Johnston, Rob Kay, Brendan Kelly, Roger Knowles, John Offord, Sir Eric Peacock, Chris Reynolds, Mike Robinson, Stacey Solomon, Emma Tate, Ben Turner, Julia Vockrodt, Adrian Wilkins, Nick Wilson, Ross Worthington, all the animators and team at CHF and to all my friends for their investments, support and encouragement.