I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed the excitement of stumbling upon the BBC filming Mapp and Lucia around town. The intrigue and gossip that have prevailed are something I bet Benson himself would have relished – whose house is being used, when and where are they filming, what actors will be there and, most importantly, who’s being paid what? Not only does it provide a striking parallel to the grapevine narratives of Mapp and Lucia, it also suggests that despite how we might like to think things have changed over the best part of the century, people are still people, and people like to gossip!
But with the intrigue came a rare opportunity to be involved in what is surely a landmark production for the BBC, filmed at the very location Benson lived and where he set (or rather transparently adapted) his most popular works. With this meticulous production also came opportunities for local people to be involved, from set construction at Rye Harbour, to prop hands, florists and extras. For those uninitiated in the film business it was an eye-opener, enduring the long days and gruelling schedules from dawn until dusk.
The crew I met were certainly beguiled by the town, but while some locals feel that there was a very “us and them” approach by not having access to all the jollies, there was the very public and epic quiz night hosted by Steve Pemberton at the Queens Head, with cast and crew present and monies raised going to local charities. There have also been notices through doors thanking folk up in town for their help and patience along with news of a donation to Rye Memorial Hospital made by crew and cast (which at the time of writing was “still in the post”).
There is some speculation that a second series is in the running, but I stress this is speculation. Further rumours abound of a special town screening of episode one happening later in the year, with luck to coincide with the opening of the new cinema. And so, as the relative quiet resumes in Rye, one can’t help but wonder what will come next. Perhaps an aroused hustle and bustle of visitors wanting to catch a glimpse of the real Tilling wouldn’t be a bad thing – more footfall is good for business.
While the real Rye stays just under the radar, we can now get back to life on the treasured mount and prepare for what lies in store next: late summer festivals before next season’s (November?) opening of our new cinema and arts centre and, of course, bonfire night, just for starters.
Meanwhile, the BBC’s Great British Drama production of Mapp & Lucia is slated for release sometime over Christmas on BBC1, so we can settle in to watch our beloved Rye on telly in all it’s glory.