TYNE DOCK ON THE TELLY

The first post of 2023 looks at TV and Film productions using South Shields locations. The latest being TV cop drama series Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn with her fake Geordie accent. Gateshead born Jill Halfpenny shudda’ been a shoo-in for that role.

And not forgetting an episode of Inspector George Gently with Martin Shaw filmed in the Rose & Crown pub at Holborn docks. Back in the ‘90s Catherine Cookson films were shot along the riverside and scenes from an episode of Spender starring Jimmy Nail were set up on the South pier.

Rewind further to the 1970’s and BBC TV series When the Boat Comes In, created by local Shields lad James Mitchell, they used The Customs House building at the Mill Dam as a backdrop.

But I remember in 1982 when a convoy of film trucks landed in South Shields. To be precise, Devonshire and Porchester Street in the Tyne Dock area of the town, and there was not one, but two projects filmed there. Those days I lived just two minutes away so took the chance to see the action.

There was BBC TV series Machine Gunners and a film called Ascendancy starring Julie Covington, who alongside Rula Lenska, had featured in popular ITV series, Rock Follies.

In March 2021 I interviewed Punishment of Luxury vocalist & actor Brian Rapkin, where he talked about his music and acting career on North East productions. So I recently got in touch and asked him about it…

‘Yes it was 1982 when I had a part as a Polish officer in Machine Gunners for the BBC. I was acting in a speaking part for the first time ever, and I remember being very nervous and excited.’

Brian was in demand during the ‘90s, as well as the aforementioned Catherine Cookson films, he worked in Newcastle on the TV series Byker Grove with Jill Halfpenny and Ant and Dec ‘They were just kids then’. He also featured in Spender starring Amanda Redman and Jimmy Nail ‘Mr Nail knew the actors were on tenterhooks so he chivied the crew along, that helped my nerves’.

I remember a few nights nipping over to Porchy watching Ascendency being filmed. I have a hazy memory of huge lights shining on a scene where a family were dragged out of a house in pyjamas and nighties and put up against the wall by armed soldiers. I haven’t been able to find any copies of the film to check the scene, or if it made the final cut.

Unfortunately I was still at school so a bit busy during the day, but straight after the bell I went to Porchy to see what was happening in Machine Gunners. I remember where one scene a milkman with his horse and cart was delivering bottles, and shouting at a group of kids ‘Where you going now’. Funny what sticks isn’t it?

Other locations in South Shields were used in the Gunners, one of them was Westoe School. I can’t remember exact details – wey it was over 40 years ago – but at the time of filming half the houses in Porchy were empty, and not long after the crew left, the street was knocked down. Devonshire is still there today.

Alikivi   January 2023.

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