Channel 4 Finds Walberswick on Village Fete Day
This year there were some curious visitors to the Walberswick Village Fete, not just the nautical cut-out figures dotted along the street, but the crew from Channel 4’s ‘Hidden Villages’. The programme team got in touch with the website via the Parish Clerk who pointed them in the our direction. When Kay Ungless was asked to tell them all about Walberswick her response was “Where on earth do I begin..?!” and indeed - where would you? After many conversations they decided to concentrate on the unique village scroll and to meet Dani, our fifth generation Ferry-woman, who just happened to be opening the fete. (You can find our new Village Fete Photo Gallery here). During the recce the team also discovered an established connection between Walberswick’s resident comedy duo and Village News Editors Jan Etherington and Gavin Petrie, which Jan describes here:
Fete goers may have been surprised to bump into Dame Penelope Keith, as they wandered round the stalls and attractions. Penelope arrived with her husband, ex-policeman, Roddy and a small crew, to film our village for inclusion in her Channel 4 series, ‘Hidden Coastal Villages’ – a follow-up to the original series ‘Hidden Villages - in which she criss-crosses the country, seeking out special places. She travelled across on the ferry with Dani, examined the Village Scroll, proved a winner at the Hoopla – and came to our house for lunch!
My husband, Gavin (Petrie) and I have known Penelope for over 20 years, since we wrote a BBC1 comedy NEXT OF KIN, with her in mind. It was about grandparents bringing up orphaned grandchildren – and Penelope was perfect for the leading role, in which she admits she had been a terrible mother to her son and was very reluctant to be a ‘mother’ again, to three grandchildren she hardly knew. We realised we needed a very special actress to play an essentially unsympathetic character. Penelope had the audience on her side from the first episode, because there was a vulnerability about her, that we had also seen in one of her greatest comedy roles – Margo in The Good Life. . With William Gaunt as her husband, she epitomised the horror of the concept ‘The best thing about being a grandparent, is that you can give them back, at the end of the day. Unfortunately, Maggie and Andrew can’t!’
Penelope was wonderful to work with and very kind to the three young actors playing her grandchildren, even bringing a bucket of frog spawn, from her garden pond, into the BBC to show them. Only Penelope Keith would get that past BBC Security!
NEXT OF KIN ran for three series, between 1995 and 1998 and won over 10 million viewers each week. The complete 3 series collection is available on DVD.
PENELOPE KEITH’S HIDDEN COASTAL VILLAGES WILL BE TRANSMITTED ON CHANNEL 4 IN LATE 2017or EARLY ‘18. DATE TO BE ANNOUNCED.