10:20am Sunday 18th May 2014
By Ellis Butcher
THE 'auld grey town' got a shot of high-definition technicolour yesterday as the curtain went up on Postman Pat: The Movie, at its Kendal premiere.
Dozens of cheering children filled every row of Screen 1 at the Brewery Cinema for an early showing before it opens nationwide next Friday.
Recorded in Soho, animated in Jordan, directed by an American and featuring Ronan Keating as Pat's singing voice, it's a huge leap from over 30 years ago when the idea was first devised in a tiny terraced cottage on Kendal's Greenside by a rookie teacher struggling to come to grips with the rigours of the 1970s classroom.
But judging by the yells, smiles and claps at the end of an unashamedly uplifting movie, Postman Pat's name and his Kendal birthplace, will live on in the hearts of new generations of youngsters.
Watching the film was creator John Cunliffe, a former trainee teacher in Kendal, who explained he came up with the idea after seeing an advert calling for teachers to help the Beeb create educational programmes for children.
This afternoon, Mr Cunliffe, now living in neighbouring Yorkshire, joined Pat and his voice-over Stephen Mangan, to mingle with the crowds and the media in a sun-drenched Brewery garden.
Recalling how it all came about, Mr Cunliffe explained: "Ivor Wood, one of the producers didn’t know the Lake District so he said: ‘let’s drive around with Michael Cole, the other producer, and get lots of photographs'.
“So I took them up Kentmere, Long Sleddale, Grasmere, and even the Post Office yard here in Kendal. It was very cheeky because they just turned up and asked if they could film a postal van but didn’t have any permission – and were told to get out. There was a lot of nervousness back then about (IRA) bombings.
"So we went back up Kentmere and we saw a postman on his rounds and asked if we could film him and he said ‘yes, certainly!’ He was lovely. So if there was a real postman that Pat was based on, it was him; although the outline stories and treatment had been written by then.”
Stephen Mangan, a classically-trained and Bafta-nominated actor, charmed and humoured all he met despite the long drive north to Pat's spiritual home on Saturday.
With his trademark dry humour, he told the Gazette: “I can’t believe how sunny it is! Is this why it's so green?"
Asked how he prepared for the role, the Green Wing star quipped: "What I probably should have done is the Daniel Day Lewis method. I should have come up to Kendal and lived here as a Postman for a year-and-a-half, but I didn’t, I'm afraid.
"What I did was I watched the TV show because I wanted him to sound a bit like the guy in the series, and not upset children or confuse them.”
"I do go a bit Northern in it, although I wouldn’t say it’s an authentic Kendal accent, far from it. But the guy on the telly isn’t either. It’s half him and half me.”
Ian Stephens, managing director for Cumbria Tourism, was in attendance with young daughter Grace. Mr Stephens said: "This will further raise the profile of Kendal to new audiences both in the UK and further afield."
Coun Sheila Emmott, mayor of Kendal, welcomed the audience to the cinema and explained many of the big-hearted characters in the original were based on real people from South Lakeland.
She joked that 'even today, there could be a real life Mrs Goggins waiting in her cottage for 'a satellite-tracked special parcel delivery from Amazon', or 'Grand Theft Auto 5 for the PS4 for her grandchildren!'
For a full report, reviews, interviews and photographs, see Thursday's Westmorland Gazette.
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