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News Post Leader, Thursday, April 5, 2012

A new four-part series of the television drama Vera starring brenda blethyn set to be screened from the end

Showcasing the county through crime drama

THE second series of a detective drama set and filmed in Northumberland and the north east will be screened later this month. Vera, based on the books by former Holywell author Ann Cleeves, who now lives in Whitley Bay, was such a success last year that ITV1 recommissioned this new four-part series. And stars from the show – including David Leon, who plays Sergeant Joe Ashworth – came out in force for the premiere of the first episode of the new series last week. A special screening was held at the Queen’s Hall Arts Centre in Hexham on Thursday of the opening episode of the second series, based on the book Silent Voices. The drama, which stars Brenda Blethyn in the title role as Detective Vera Stanhope, made its debut in May 2011. At the premiere, the author said she was delighted more of her work was being brought to life on the screen. “I thought it was stunning, I really enjoyed it,” she said. “It is different from the book but the spirit of the book still really came across. “The book has a lot more space, so it has more sub-plots, but it is still the same story.” Ann was instrumental in ensuring Vera was filmed in the north east after producers originally wanted to use locations in Yorkshire. “For an author it’s incredible for your work to be turned into a television series, but I made it absolutely clear this was where it had to be set,” she said. “It was the one thing I was really clear about, that the script writers had to visit Northumberland before they started writing, so they had a

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News Post Leader, Thursday, April 5, 2012

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of this month will again portray an array of landmark locations from Northumberland and the north east

A second four-part series of the ITV1 drama Vera begins this month and reporter TEGAN CHAPMAN attended a special screening of the first episode followed by a question and answer session with the author Ann Cleeves and actor David Leon three-day tour. “There is such a richness and a texture to the show because of where it is filmed, from Knotts Flats in Tynemouth to North Blyth, you get a real sense of the heritage and the history of Northumberland.” David Leon added: “It is great that in Northumberland we have areas that are almost untouched, so on the one hand you want to keep them a secret but on the other hand you want to shout about it because you’re proud of it. “Northumberland is so atmospheric. The councils and the people are very supportive, which is very refreshing because it’s not like that in the rest of the country.” Vera was brought to the small screen when a scout picked up a copy of Ann’s first novel Hidden Depths in a charity shop. Ann says although the characters in her head look different to those on screen, she is delighted that Brenda, who was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her role in Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies in 1996 and another for best supporting actress for her part in Little Voice two years later, was picked for the lead role. “I think Vera harks back to the people I knew when I was growing up, the librarian, the matron, people who had authority and people respected them even though they didn’t wear make-up and have shiny hair and wear heels,” said the 56-year-old.

“The wit and the malice is really brought out by Brenda, she’s convinced that she has influenced the latest novel.” The show has now been sold to 21 countries – meaning Northumberland’s countryside and landscape will be promoted throughout the world. Northern Film and Media board member and Royal Television Society awards chair for the north east and border, Graeme Thompson, said: “Drama production contributes more than £8.5m to the north east economy, which is why Northern Film and Media invested £30,000 to bring the pilot of Vera to the region. “Northumberland County Council is a film friendly council and is one of four local councils showing their support for local filming in the county. “Creating more films and television shows in the area can only be a good thing for the region.” Over the series a host of recognisable locations have been used for filming. These include Cresswell, Links Farm and South Beach promenade in Blyth, Mawburn House, Wansbeck Boat Club and Four Rivers Biofuels in Cambois, TT Electronics in Bedlington, Seaton Sluice, Druridge Bay and a host of other locations in North Tyneside and north Northumberland. Coun Neil Bradbury, executive member for leisure at Northumberland County Council, said: “It is a tough economic climate out there and that

The after-screening question and answer session with, left to right, Graeme Thompson, author Ann Cleeves, David Leon, star of the TV show, and Coun Neil Bradbury. emphasises the value of productions in the north east to the economy. “74 productions have been shot in the region in the last year. “There are large direct benefits to getting Northumberland and the north east on our screens on TV and in film. “Vera has had a massive effect already on raising the profile of the north east.

“All kinds of venues and parts of Northumberland have been shown on television. “Not everyone knows where Northumberland is, so the economical benefits of having a hit show on your doorstep are huge. “It can’t be underestimated the value of showcasing Northumberland to 6.6 million people.

“The advertising value if we were to pay for the same exposure would cost around £90m. “We want to showcase our area and get it seen, so long may it continue and here’s to a third series of Vera.” The show will be broadcast on ITV1 from the end of the April. tegan.chapman@northeast-press.co.uk

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