Hit TV series George Gently filmed in Newcastle

PUBLISHED: 08:33 26 May 2010 | UPDATED: 20:44 13 February 2014

A Ford Corsair and and Ford Zodiac - in the drive at North East writer Michael Hamilton's home

A Ford Corsair and and Ford Zodiac - in the drive at North East writer Michael Hamilton's home

BBC TV detective drama Inspector George Gently is being filmed for the first time where it is actually set - in the North East. Michael Hamilton reports

North East Life magazine last year led the call to film the series Inspector George Gently here at home. In exclusive interviews both Geordie actress Jill Halfpenny, who starred in last years series, and Tyneside writer Peter Flannery, who also penned the award-winning drama Our Friends in the North, made impassioned pleas to make the series where it is set.
Now its become a reality. Previous series of the hit show were filmed in Ireland for money reasons but now theres cash backing to bring it all back home to the North East.
A 150,000 cash injection from regional screen agency Northern Film and Media (NFM) enticed the BBC to finally film in the region.
The homecoming for Gently is part of the revival of film and TV programme-making in the North East as a result of NFM and One North Easts content fund being established.
Filming has just been completed in Newcastle on an Alan Plater film for ITV - Joe Maddisons War, starring Geordies Kevin Whately and Robson Green as members of the Home Guard.
Jarrow-born writer Peter Flannery says: A writer gets a particular thrill from writing about the time and place which formed him, in my case the North East of England in the 1960s. Its now 15 years since the BBC filmed Our Friends in the North in and around Newcastle, so its especially rewarding for me to be back on my home patch.
Fun though it was to film the earlier series in Dublin, Ive long wanted the stories to unfold in the landscape in which they are truly set. Im coming home again and Im bringing Inspector George Gently with me.
In the first of two feature-length films - to be screened later this year - its 1966, England have just won the World Cup and the USSR are playing at Sunderlands Roker Park. The Polaris submarine is at Jarrow docks and there are CND protesters, led by radical students at Durham University, where a left wing professor is murdered.
Born Free is playing to packed cinemas, the Labour Party under Harold Wilson wins the General Election, the Moors murderers are found guilty and the Beatles are recording their landmark Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album. This is the colourful and nostalgic backdrop against which the drama unfolds.
At Palace Green real students from Durham University, dressed in mini skirts and other Sixties fashions, played the part of extras in the campus scenes.
In the drama Gently, played by Martin Shaw, is a Londoner and his maverick sidekick DC John Bacchus, played by Lancashire lad Lee Ingleby, is a Geordie whose marriage is on the rocks.
Sexual and social rebellion is in the air. Bacchus is horrified yet fascinated by the promiscuity and free-love on display. Gently, a war veteran, shrewdly recognises that liberation can be something of a mixed blessing.
Lee says: Bacchus is from the North East but he wants to get out. Its too small for him and his ambition is to get to London, go to Soho and work for the Metropolitan Police.
He doesnt like being told what to do. He wants to play fast and loose by his own rules, whereas Gently is much
more straitlaced.
Lee loves the Sixties music and fashions which feature in the show but he admits he gets a bit tongued-tied with the accent.
Im a Burnley boy so I struggle through the Geordie accent a bit. One of the guys in the show is from the North East so I grab him at every opportunity and ask him: How do you say this and how do you say that? If Im in doubt I just stick the word pet on the end!
In fact, Burnley fan Lee loved his time in the North East so much he even went along to the home of Newcastle United, St. James Park, to watch the Toon clinch promotion to the Premiership with a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Utd.
The atmosphere was brilliant. It was good to see them win promotion. Im glad they are back in the Premiership.
Ive had time to get in my car at weekends and do some exploring. Ive really enjoyed my time here.
Producer Suzan Harrison says: Its the first time weve had the authentic landscapes and accents. We dont have to pretend that Ireland is the North East any more.
Martin Shaw, who gained TV heart-throb status in the Seventies as agent Ray Doyle in The Professionals, says: It has made a huge difference. The North East is supposed to be where it is set and, with all due respect to Dublin and Ireland, it doesnt get any more beautiful than this.
I dont know the North East very well. This is my first time in Durham, although I have been to Newcastle before, and I think its spectacular.
Everyone talks about the cathedral but this is the first time I have got to see it and its quite breathtaking. In fact, the whole area is extraordinary. Working here has been wonderful.
Martin, who also starred as TVs Judge John Deed, adds: Id like to do another Gently but I take everything as it comes, one day at a time.

Shooting stars

Not only did I get to rub shoulders with the celebrities on the set of the hit BBC TV drama George Gently at Durham Castle - I also got to star in the show. Well, at least my house did.
The telly bosses wanted a typical 1960s house as the location for the chief inspectors residence.
And they thought my and my wifes home, built in 1962, just outside Langley Park, suited perfectly.
It all started with a note through the letterbox from production manager Mark Valentine saying they were scouting throughout the North East for potential residential locations.
A recce by the director and key members of his production crew followed, and within a couple of weeks it had all been decided.
On the day of shooting, a full four hours before the actors and cameras arrived, an army of behind-the-scenes workers - including designers, chippies, electricians and various other crew members - descended to prepare the house to the directors taste.
They only wanted to shoot exterior scenes at the front of the house. But that still entailed removing all the Roman blinds from the upstairs bedrooms and replacing them with Sixties Venetian-style blinds.
Then plants and assorted garden furniture were brought in to busy up the front faade. Award-winning production designer Maurice Cain explained he wanted it to look like a coppers house.
Next, two pristine vintage Sixties cars arrived (not on a trailer but actually driven up to the house). Local businessman Arthur Newton from Lanchester owns the cars and hires them out to film crews shooting period pieces.
One was a lovely powder blue Ford Corsair - which is Bacchuss car in the series - and a majestic dark blue Ford Zodiac.
As quickly as they descended, the fixers disappeared, leaving a perfectly preserved 1966 time-capsule in Langley Park. I felt like I was starring in another time-warp TV show - Ashes to Ashes.
Neighbours and children from the village gawped through the gates. Security men patrolled outside to keep autograph hunters at bay.
Then the TV cameras and production crew arrived - there seemed to be hundreds of them - including producer Suzan Harrison and DC John Bacchus himself, actor Lee Ingleby.
Imagine his surprise when he saw me - I had just interviewed him the day before at Durham Castle. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
The scene they were shooting involved Bacchus driving his Corsair up the drive and dropping off his daughter. She runs to the front door and is scooped up in the arms of Bacchuss wife - who happens to be staying at the home of the chief constable. (I cant divulge any more for fear of ruining the plot!)
Then they were off to Esh Winning chip shop to shoot another scene.
It all seemed a colossal amount of effort, preparation and hard graft for a few minutes of telly footage. But thats showbiz for you, darling. MH

Has your house ever featured in a television or film production? If so, wed like to hear about it. Please leave a message.

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