Locals of Royston Vasey ...

PENNY WILSON on Hadfield, in a league of its own...
Local shops for local people -
there's nothing for you here

Ah, but that's where you're wrong, as vast numbers of people who are flocking to Hadfield, becoming more famously known as Royston Vasey, are finding.

It is ironic that the local shop in The Leaque of Gentlemen television series, which actively discourages strangers from crossing its threshold (by quite unorthodox means), should actually be encouraging people who are by no means local to come to Hadfield to discover its local shops!

Fans of the programme are making the pilgrimage from all over this country and abroad and having their photographs taken outside shops which have become famous after being used as locations.

One such tourist dashed into Mettricks the butchers asking for some Sellotape so he could tape his nose up to look like Tubbs and Edward. Mettricks obliged and the tourist went home delighted, and with a very strange snap for the family album.

As all devotees will know, Mettrick's shop sign is changed to 'H. Briss & Son' for the show, a shop which sells 'special stuff' of a highly suspect nature. Mettricks themselves also have Special Sausages for sale, and they will not reveal the recipe...

We are assured, however, that their secret ingredient is merely of an alcoholic nature.

Steve Pemberton, one of the four writers of The League, has admitted that "75 or 80% of the characters do have basis in real people, believe it or not." Some of the characters and situations are lifted directly from experiences Steve and his fellow writers and actors Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and writer Jeremy Dyson have actually had.

Tubbs, for example, is based on a real shopkeeper the team came across in Rottingdean, who was terrified when they walked into the shop, and cowered behind the counter. Once you know this, then look around at people you come across every day, you suddenly realise that even the most boring person you can think of could in fact become a larger-than-life character when in their hands.

Gill at The Palatine Pub has no need of writers to make her customers larger than life. As she says herself: "I don't need to pay for entertainment, I've got it all right here."

Strange things happen all the time, thanks to the spontaneity and sense of fun of the locals. There was the time when she had stitches in her head and was all bandaged up, and the next thing she knew everyone in the bar also had their heads in bandages, which turned out to be reams of loo-paper handed out by the bar staff as a joke. Needless to say, this resulted in Gill having stitches in her sides as well as in her head!

The Royston Vasey catch phrase has increased the pub's already friendly and welcoming atmosphere, because if a stranger comes in, they only have to be asked "Are you local?" and after a chat and a laugh, they feel completely at home.

Gill says: "You have to come in and see my characters for yourself. They are unbelievable!"

Geoff Pownall at P.C.F.Electrical Supplies will believe anything of the characters in Hadfield, having once been in the pie shop waiting to be served when a man marched in, went straight up to the counter and said firmly: "A pork pie, please". Then he turned to the other customers and asked: "Am I pushing in?" Such was everyone's amazement at his behaviour that they all shook their heads and said "No". To cap it all, the man then picked up the icing sugar shaker, thinking it was salt, and sprinkled his pie with sugar. When it was pointed out to him, he just said, "Well, it'll save me buying a bun for after."

As they say, 'There's nowt so queer as folk', and it seems quite a lot of them live in Hadfield!

Another funny incident at P.F.C. was when a man jumped out of a Range-Rover, ran into the shop and asked, breathlessly, "Do you sell saddles?"

"Er, no", said the bemused shopkeeper, and directed him across the road to Country Sport.

With the growing popularity of the series, Hadfield residents have found the town swarming with visitors with cameras. One of the most unusual things they want to photograph is the blackboard at The Masons Arms. The words 'Creme Brulee' have been left there ever since the pub was used as the location for the scene with the band of that name.

Linda the landlady must have had some sort of premonition several months ago, since she had already named the delicious burgers on the menu 'Special Burgers', little realising how significant that name was to be.

Florists always pride themselves on the freshness of their flowers, and Sylvia Dutton's family business is no exception. So they were all somewhat flabbergasted when the production team asked if they could supply a whole shop full of dead and dying flowers to dress the florist's shop they were creating for the programme.

For the next couple of weeks Stuart Dutton put aside any old flowers he had, hiding them in the old Nat West Bank next door. When the BBC came to pick them up, they opened the door to the room where he had been saving them and the stench had them reeling!

In spite of that, they were delighted with what they had been able to supply.

Sylvia's shop will supply beautiful flowers, expertly arranged for any occasion, though it is to be hoped there won't be too many occasions when they have to supply a four-foot long Rude Word, as requested by the programme!

Visitors to 'Royston Vasey' will find local souvenirs in the shape of calendars, keyrings, maps and bookmarks at D & D Newsagents. The oddest thing to happen there recently was an invasion by the BBC. "Quite frightening" according to David, the owner.

People in the town are getting used to film crews and interviewers asking questions, and are taking it all in good humour and enjoying the light hearted lift it is bringing to Hadfield.

Denise, whose hairdressing salon Denair has been open for just over twelve months, can attest to the friendliness of the locals even if you don't happen to be local yourself. She was completely new to Hadfield, having lived in Malta for ten years, but has received a really warm welcome and now has a happy and growing clientele.

If you really feel like getting into the spirit of Royston Vasey, perhaps you could have a Pauline style haircut? Whistles unisex hairdressers can oblige with all styles and colours, and you can rely on them to please you with a haircut which will really suit you.

The real 'Royston Vasey', Chubby Brown the comedian (whose name The League of Gentlemen picked for their mythical town as an in-joke) came into Edward's Wine Bar for a drink during filming when he played the Mayor, and the location directors came in on the final day and ordered three bottles of champagne. They were very impressed with the friendly atmosphere.

Mark, Steve, Reece and Jeremy spent quite a long time looking for a place which would match their idea of Royston Vasey. "We wanted somewhere with a good High Street with lots of different possible locations for things," said Mark.

When Hadfield was suggested and the team came up to have a look, they all felt it was exactly right, with its "certain kind of architecture" and "amazing vista - the moors", enthused Jeremy. "We came up and thought - Ooh, it's lovely", said Mark.

Perhaps they will never leave.............

© This feature appears with kind permission of the Tameside Reporter/Glossop Chroniclenewspaper.