Summer Wine On-line

Welcome to the official web site of the Summer Wine Appreciation Society, in partnership with Holmfirth Web. This is our tribute to the world's longest-running TV comedy series which is filmed in the Holme Valley, and surrounding villages.

 

Nora

 

Gerald Hayne's Column


REMEMBERING FIRST OF THE SUMMER WINE 

When they was nowt but young ‘uns  (including Clegg)

 

The pioneering idea to have a series which looked at the characters of Last of the Summer Wine when they were youngsters manifested itself in 1988 when FIRST OF THE SUMMER WINE was created;  after a 45 minute pilot this then ran for some 12 episodes in two series in 1988 and 1989.  The prolific Roy Clarke wrote it and Gareth Gwenlan, later Mike Stephens, directed and produced this nostalgic look at our favourite characters in their first flush of youth rather than in their second.  Our heroes chased jobs, girls and tried not to think of their futures – nothing different there then.  Peter Sallis was the only current cast member to be in FOSW playing the father of his character; the premise being that each episode was an extract from Norman Clegg’s diary.  The remainder of the young cast had roles which demanded partly normal acting skills and partly the need to impersonate the mannerisms of those already so well known to us.

In view of the increasing interest in FOSW I sought out one of its stars, David Fenwick who played young Norman, to find out some more about this unique prequel to our favourite tv series.  It was a bitterly cold day with frost everywhere when I put my questions to David and he recalled another time, when they were filming at Beamish Museum (for the trams and the bandstand) when on the last day of shooting they had handwarmers in their pockets as it was so cold.  The interiors were done at Lee Studios outside Manchester and all shooting was performed in front of a live audience.  Holmfirth was once again the base area and Sid’s Café became the chippy (fish and chips shop) and many other scenes were at nearby Netherthong.

David auditioned for the part of young Norman Clegg in London with Gareth Gwenlan and Roy Clarke.  He was aware that he was not expected to be exactly like Peter Sallis but rather to have an essence of him.  David felt very daunted at first but found that Peter has a very dry wit and he learnt a lot from him such as, for example, keeping your energy for the “take”.  The episodes have not been shown for quite a while (another curious move from the BBC) and are also not available on video or dvd.  David agreed that maybe those of us who are true fans might give some firm encouragement to the BBC to repeat these priceless episodes; he is sure that they would stand up today perhaps even more so than when they were first shown.

Compo, Clegg, Seymour, Foggy, Ivy, Nora and Wally were all there as youngsters and the link through Roy Clarkes skilled writing can be seen very clearly.  I asked David if there were any amusing anecdotes which he recalled from the making of FOSW and was delighted when he told me the following:

For the scenes filmed outside the Co-op in Netherthong and outside Clegg’s house the cobbles were rubber and unrolled on to the street (having been caste from the real cobbles there); these were then dressed with dirt and horse manure.  When he walked on it, it squeaked so the sound of footsteps had to be added later!  On another occasion it was boiling hot when they were lifting a caravan through the Peak District as David was in woollen trousers, shirt and tie with a thick wool jacket he asked if he could take them off (in shot) to be cooler.  He did this – and the next day when they carried on with the same scene he was just in his shirtsleeves and, you’ve guessed it, it was the coldest, rainiest freezing summer’s day ever seen!

The episode where as young Norman Clegg he is left to look after the Co-op shop on his own, he banged his cheek on the window dummy which was made of hard plaster.  He saw stars and his cheek started to swell up; this was LIVE in front of a studio audience; when the camera went on to the actor playing young Compo, David was putting ice on his cheek and then came back in to shot!  He says it is all there in the scene on film as there were no re-shoots!  Asked if he ever sees any others from the FOSW cast David stated that he has kept in touch with Helen Patrick, who played Nora Batty, and she now runs a 5 star restaurant in the Lake District!

David  has been in much in demand in the acting profession as can be seen from his website www.d-fenwick.co.uk with many UK television roles over the years (including a part in that other Yorkshire series Heartbeat) and the other night uk viewers saw him in the movie The Krays.  I asked him if, like so many of us, he thought that FOSW could and should have had a much longer run and he was positive that this was the case; the series achieved 7 million viewers on a regular basis but at the time, the BBC felt that this was not enough given the cost of producing a period series.  No doubt they would be delighted with such figures today!

Finally I asked this very personable and talented actor what his best personal memories from making FOSW were and he modestly commented that “sitting on a hot summer’s day  in the sun outside the Hyde Park cinema in Leeds listening to stories and jokes from my new pals on the pilot and feeling like I’d won the pools”.  He added that he had no regrets and that making FOSW had been a great time for him.  I enquired whether he would like to be in  a future episode of LOSW perhaps as the long lost son of Norman Clegg or in some other role and he modestly said that this was up to Alan J W Bell and Roy Clarke….. but he would love to do so and I, for one, hope that this could happen.

I can only echo David’s views and thank him most sincerely for his help in giving us an insight into the making of First of the Summer Wine.  Perhaps someone at the BBC will realise that here again they have a vintage bottling which should at the very least be opened again for those like me who have never had the opportunity to see it.  More musings and Yorkshire common sense needed “tha knows”………..

Gerald Hayne
February 2005

Editor's Note: Many thanks Gerald for submitting this fascinating interview. We receive lots of fan mail about FOTSW and we know this will be very well read by fans. 


© 2000 Area5. The Summer Wine On-Line web site brought to you by Area5 Public Relations, Holmfirth. Thanks to everyone who has contributed material to this web site, including Colin Frost, of Side's Café, Holmfirth.