OK, I’d better fess up straight away. I was at the Gala Premiere of ‘Postman Pat: The Movie’ at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, in the midst of a horde of tiny tots straining their little necks to get a glimpse of an enormous figure in a (glitzy?) blue uniform holding tight to a black and white cat, whilst chatting to an elderly man who today was mostly wearing ‘shabby-chic’. BUT I wasn’t really here to see them …
Postman Pat had returned to Kendal, in Cumbria, NW England and was meeting his creator, John Cunliffe, who wrote the whimsical tales when he was a teacher at Castle Park Primary School. Set in fictional ‘Greendale Valley’ the area is actually based on Longsleddale, near Kendal, right on the edge of the beautiful Lake District. However, dear reader, if you look very carefully at the guy with his back to us, half-hidden between these two figures, you will discover the REAL reason I was here. You see, the cartoon film is voiced by some very well-known names, including David Tennant, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint and Ronan Keating, but the main attraction for me, and many others at this launch, was gorgeous, quirky, floppy-haired Stephen Mangan, who IS Postman Pat.
Yes, this charming, funny, slightly geeky in a sexy way, Hollywood movie star actor had come all the way to the ‘Auld Grey Toon’ to share in the fun that was this very English film premiere. I got right up close to him – and he’s a lovely in the flesh as he is on screen! He spent absolutely ages with the audience, many of whom I suspect shared my own ‘interest’ in him, though of course there were loads of kiddies who had no idea who he was, and were most definitely there to see PP and Jess. He happily signed autographs, posed for photos and chatted with all and sundry.
One teenage boy nearly fainted with delight when the actor signed his shirt. “Oh my God. Stephen Mangan’s signed my shirt. I can die happy!”
I always enjoy going to the Brewery Arts Centre. It’s a magnet for the creative arts and has a really varied programme throughout the year. The Freerange Comedy Festival, Kendal Beer Festival, the Mountain Fest and a wide range of live performances, from their very popular Youth Arts group, dance, adult education classes, comedy, music plus a great cafe, bar and restaurant ensure its popularity with all ages.
Author John Cunliffe was being interviewed by the press, national as well as local, including the BBC. He seemed delighted to be here and pointed up to the Brewery Bar saying,, “That’s where I used to write my stories. It’s bringing back lots of memories.” When asked what he thought about a movie being made of his most popular characters, he replied, “It’s great. I hope a new generation of children get to love him all over again.” John Cunliffe also wrote delightful ‘Rosie and Jim’. The stories were made into a a very popular TV series, set on a real canal boat and he appeared in the series too.
I managed to grab a quick word with Kendal’s Mayor, Sylvia Emmott, who was introducing the film. “I’m so proud of the Brewery for hosting this film premiere. It’s lovely to see John Cunliffe returning with Postman Pat and so many people coming along on this sunny day. When we get a star like Stephen Mangan to visit it’s a real treat and we can showcase what a great place Kendal is.”
It was being shown in the Brewery Cinema and we were all given a goodie bag which I was delighted to see had a big bag of toffee popcorn – my favourite cinema treat. After the Mayor had a few words she introduced Stephen Mangan to the audience who said how delighted he was to be in Kendal and to meet John Cunliffe, who was in the audience. Then Postman Pat came on, to great applause, whoops and cheers from the audience.
The film was a bit disappointing for me, but then I am ever so slightly over the target audience age. But I am not sure it knows quite what its audience age is … My son used to love the books and TV series with the cast of loveable characters. Many of them, including Mrs Goggins the postmistress, PC Selby, Major Forbes, the farmer and others appear but so does a wicked new boss, an obnoxious TV Talent Show host called Simon Cowbell, a host of scary ‘Patbot 3000′ robots and terrifying metallic cat called ‘Jess’. Imagine iRobot crossed with Wallace and Gromit’s ‘The Wrong Trousers’ crossed with X-Factor and you get the idea.
The majority of the very young members of the audience seemed rather scared and the parents vaguely distressed that this charming tale has been hijacked by script writers who felt the need to take a simple tale of country folk and give it a 21st century spin. However, I expect children, above toddler age will think it’s great …
As I left the Cinema the image that stayed with me was of John Cunliffe waving goodbye to his most famous creation. Whatever he made of the film, I am sure he enjoyed the premiere and the affection that was shown to him by everyone there.
Oh, and if you are a fan of Stephen Mangan, you can him in Episodes on BBC at the moment 🙂