Huge thanks are owed to Dannii Cohen, the greatest Brittas Fan of all, without whom the Reunion would not have happened.
There are links at the end to various articles in the press but these are my impressions of the reunion of the cast and writers of The Brittas Empire which took place on Monday October 2nd at Ringwood Health and Leisure Centre. The reunion marked the completion of a major refurbishment of the centre run by New Forest District Council. It started when New Forest DC business & fitness manager Toby White wrote to Dannii Cohen who runs Chris Barrie Fans website and what started as a simple idea grew and grew as all the cast were absolutely delighted at the chance of meeting up again after all these years.
Dannii worked so hard at contacting everyone and coordinating with the Leisure Centre before handing over to Sarah Buckle the Group Marketing Manager for the detailed management of the event. She organised everything brilliantly (herding cats sprang to mind on occasion!). Thanks too to Sara Hamilton looked after us so well all evening. The various other staff I spoke to were absolutely delighted with the new refurbishment and were looking forward to proper reopening the next day. It was a great achievement to successfully combine centre staff and members, building workers, councillors, actors and fans as reflected in the video of the ribbon cutting and press report with many photos.
Memories for cast and writers came flooding back as they walked along the drive to be greeted by a crowd of Leisure Centre staff, fans and press. Richard Latto of BBC Solent (also knowledgeable sitcom fan) and his cameraman recorded short interviews with everyone which I shall post when the editing is completed. Fans and press took photos and got autographs. It was lovely to watch writers and actors greeting each other with great affection – a reflection of the enjoyable time and closeness they had had when working on Brittas. The only notable absentee was director Mike Stephens who was on holiday in San Diego and sorry to miss the fun.
Chris Barrie (Gordon Brittas) was kindness itself when talking to Andrew Norriss about his writing and also when giving all the fans autographs and photo opportunities. I talked to Julia St John (Laura) about her recent role in I Capture the Castle. Jill Greenacre (Linda) is just as lovely as she comes across ons screen and we are hoping to see her again when she stars as the good fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk in Horsham. Andrew Norriss (writer) was so pleased to see Mike Burns and tell him how much he appreciated his comic genius. It is such a rare talent to be able to pull off a role like that and he was brilliant. I enjoyed talking to Tim Marriott (Gavin) who spent three years touring after Brittas doing lots of panto before returning to teaching, producing and directing many plays and musicals. He is now back touring with his own play Mengele which he will be taking to Australia. It was most interesting to hear Russell Deathridge (Tim) talking about his work as a leadership consultant which clearly gives him great satisfaction. Andree Bernard (Angie in series 1) was only sorry that she was unable to continue beyond Series 1 as she was contracted for work on Emmerdale. Judy Flynn (Julie) is good and busy and very happy in her life and we agreed that solitary walks in nature are most enjoyable. I was so pleased to have the chance to tell Pippa Hayward how much I enjoy her radio and she enjoys the freedom and variety of recording for radio. Harriet Thorpe who has been on stage in Witches and Mamma Mia was instantly back in her role as Carole as can be seen in the photos and videos. John Carrigan was accompanied by Anne (Anne and I had similar roles as chauffeurs, coat carriers, photographers!). Andrew told me that Patrick became a cast regular not just for being a good actor but also because he made a point of talking to the writers. As usual when the writers Andrew Norriss and Richard Fegen get together they fall about laugh laughing recalling all their favourite scenes. Andrew and others were whisked away individually for live interviews on Radio New Forest FM.
We were pleased to meet the delightful Christopher Lewis who wrote a fan letter to Andrew in 2015 and whose progress as harpsichordist, PhD and university lecturer I have followed on Twitter and Facebook ever since. Just the nicest person you could hope to meet and the fact that everyone was pleased to talk with him and have photos taken is testament to this. I listened in to the conversation between Andrew Norriss, Christopher and fellow sitcom aficionado Alex as they discussed a wide range of sitcoms, the attempted remakes and why and how they work.
I have heard about conventions but never been to one so it was interesting to watch this mini version. So many fans happy to see, talk to and have photos with the actors who have brought them great pleasure. We met Ruth Wheeler one of several in their leisure center ‘costume’. She kindly provided some Brittas group photos for fans to have signed and we look forward to reading her sci-fi book. Jake has just finished his first screen play and had his Brittas book and the DVD cover of Chance in a Million to be signed. Two other fans look great in in a photo with Andrew. Such nice people.
There are many blogs and write ups in the press with a range of photos. Here are links to a few…
The Gay UK have a great interview about Tim and Gavin’s relationship.
More photos to follow…