Teignmouth Post Article – March 11th – Meet Susan Gandar

Meet Susan Gandar

Susan Gandar at ringmore Church
Susan Gandar at ringmore Church

Contributed by Viv Wilson

When she was a child, Susan Gandar came to Shaldon on holiday with her parents and sister for 4 weeks every summer and one of the things that lodged itself in her mind was the sight of Teignmouth Electron moored up in the river Teign. In her youthful imagination, its outlandish design had a dash of science fiction about it.

She and sister Debbie loved taking part in the annual water carnival and having a mother (Doris Lee) who was a professional costume-maker gave them a distinct advantage when the prizes were handed out.

Tears flowed like a waterfall at the end of each holiday when the time came to leave Shaldon and return to London so her father (John Box the well known film production designer) decided to make it more permanent and bought 17 Dagmar St from trawler owner, Gordon Hook. After a social visit to Gordon’s,  they had difficulty walking home and Doris gave up the struggle on the zebra crossing at the end of Bridge Road and lay down clutching the frozen salmon Gordon had given them. While they slept away most of the following day, Gordon took the sisters on an adventurous trip on his trawler sailing out of Brixham. They returned home bubbling with excitement and stinking of fish!

Later they bought 17 The Green so that Doris and Debbie could set up the Seagull Nursery School which remains fondly locked in the memories of many children from both sides of the estuary.

Susan began a career with the BBC working as a Location Manager in the Plays department where she was advised that one way of keeping a film crew happy was to choose Devon for the location. “The Sidmouth Letters” was filmed around the resort in 1982 and 4 years later she brought them to Brixham to film part of “New World” William Nicholson’s play about the pilgrims. They disguised the Golden Hind as the Mayflower and filled it up with chickens, goats, sheep and over one hundred locals dressed as pilgrims.

After working as First Assistant Director for a pair of Bergerac series filmed in Jersey, Susan was invited to give the pupils of Shaldon School a talk and this inspired them to write their own script and act it out.

The BBC’s show Casualty was failing and Susan was given the task of story consultant and script editor. New writers were brought in, changes made to the cast and within a years the viewing figures had doubled from 7 to 14 million.

As a teenager, Susan had sat among the buttercups in Ringmore churchyard and vowed that when she married, the ceremony would take place there. In 1989 this dream became reality but only after Martin Gandar had presented himself to the Bishop of London to obtain the required documentation.  The couple have now moved down to Teignmouth where Susan has recently completed her debut novel “We’ve Come to Take You Home” which will be published at the end of this month.

She will be David Fitzgerald‘s (Fitz’s) mid morning guest on his BBC Radio Devon show on Tuesday, March 29th.

Photograph Martin Gandar – Susan Gandar at Ringmore Church