Beauty spot stars in retro TV show fan tour

Ian Stuart, who founded a Watching fan group on Facebook and is organising the tour
Ian Stuart, who founded a Watching fan group on Facebook and is organising the tour

Fans of a cult sitcom will visit a borough beauty spot as part of a grand tour of filming locations to mark 30 years since it first hit the screen.

The two-day trip of places featured in 80s and 90s Liverpool-based comedy Watching will include a trip to Pennington Flash in Leigh where a memorable birdwatching-themed episode was shot.

A scene from sitcom Watching filmed at Pennington Flash

A scene from sitcom Watching filmed at Pennington Flash

The tour is the brainchild of fan Ian Stuart who set up the Meols Mackerel group on Facebook (inspired by one of the lead female character’s sayings) to meet other like-minded enthusiasts for the show.

The group has been such a success, with more than 200 people now joined up to share their memories and knowledge, that St Helens-based Ian is now arranging the tour for the end of July.

He is also hoping well-known Atherton actor Dave Dutton, who played cafe owner Oswald and has also been in Coronation Street, will join them at the Flash to commemorate the episode screened in series five.

Ian, 38, said: “Watching was my favourite programme growing up and it’s always been in my mind to find out more about it. Whole families used to watch it and a lot of people remember it fondly.

Watching was my favourite programme growing up and a lot of people remember it fondly

Ian Stuart

“The episode at Pennington Flash is a bit of a classic, and coincidentally it was first aired on my birthday. The two central characters both need a break from their families’ Christmas celebrations and by accident they meet in a hide and go through a lot of reminiscing.”

Watching told the story of the ups and downs in the relationship between Malcolm and Brenda, who initially seem like total opposites in interests, personality and even their heights.

However, despite Malcolm’s marriage to another character the series ended with them eventually realising they should be together and sailing into the sunset down the Bridgewater Canal.

Writer Jim Hitchmough’s deep interest in northern working-class life and the region’s historic waterways led to many local canals and rivers finding their way into the series.

Scene from ITV sitcom Watching filmed at Pennington Flash

Scene from ITV sitcom Watching filmed at Pennington Flash

The sitcom was also quite groundbreaking in that it had one continuous narrative running from season to season.

Ian said: “It’s basically a very humorous love story. He is a shy birdwatcher and she is a very high-spirited Liverpool girl. He rides a motorbike and sidecar, which doesn’t go down well at first, and she has no interest in birdwatching althoguh she eventually comes round to liking the hobby.

“The writer was a merchant seaman and was steeped in local history. The Pennington Flash episode shows what the area looked like in ‘89, because you can see Bickershaw Colliery.”

The tour is scheduled for July 29 and 30. To find out more visit www.facebook.com/meolsmackerel