Which Norwich City player features in a new soap opera this weekend?
- Credit: (C) Nick Wright
Parklife, set in a fictional Norwich park, is set to air on BBC Radio Norfolk this Saturday.
A brand new Norwich-based radio soap opera captures the spirit of our times and its creators hope that all the people, so many people will enjoy Parklife.
The pilot episode of Parklife, a new radio drama serial set in a fictional Norwich park will be broadcast on BBC Radio Norfolk on Saturday, November 14 from 6pm.
The 15-minute long episode will feature cameos by former Norwich City footballer Paul McVeigh and BBC presenter Chris Goreham, who appear – typecast, some might say – as a news reader.
Created by Script6, a Norfolk writers’ collective, Parklife is the first ever soap to be set in a park in a year where so many of us have embraced parks like never before.
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Storylines include a burgeoning romance between a new young gardener and a park trainee and the struggles of the family who are trying to keep the park café open.
And to add a twist, watching over everything that happens is the ghost of a young man who helped build the park but died in the flu pandemic following World War One. Timely.
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“It’s loosely based on Eaton Park, that’s what was in our mind at the time,” said showrunner and co-creator Lilie Ferrari, who was an EastEnders writer between 1992 and 2001 and has also written for Holby City and Casualty.
“It’s about people who use and work in a park during Covid-19 so it’s relevant to everyone, especially as we find ourselves back in the position where we can only meet one other person outdoors.
“Parks are so full of inspiration and stories because they are full of people! There’s the families, the skate park users, the runners, the students, the football players, the children, the people who work there and run businesses there…
“We think it’s the first soap that’s set outside but it was an idea that came about before Covid, it’s just so happened that many people have rediscovered parks as a place they can escape to.
“For lots of people, the park is the only open space available to them for fresh air, exercise and play.”
Aylsham-based Lilie usually sneaks her Norwich City Football Club references into her work – there was an episode of Casualty where many characters’ surnames were drawn from the team of the time, such as Fleck, Polston and Akinbiyi – but this time the football player himself appears.
Recorded from his home in West Belfast, Paul McVeigh makes a cameo appearance in Parklife.
“Parks are vital. They’re helping keep everyone sane just now,” said Paul, who joined Norwich City in 2000 and was the club’s top scorer in the 2002-3 season, “they played an important part in my own life growing up in Belfast, in all my years playing football and right now as we all look for ways to get out in the fresh air.
“I do a lot of public speaking in my role as a motivational speaker for businesses, so saying some lines into a microphone isn’t a big stretch, especially as I was playing myself!”
The pilot was recorded in Lilie’s back garden in Aylsham in August.
“Television is struggling to get back on its feet right now, with all the extra constraints involved in filming,” she said.
“The great thing about recording Parklife was that we were able to keep our actors and technicians distanced and out in the open.”
While many of us associate soap operas with television, the first soap opera (unless you count Charles Dickens…) was performed on the radio.
In 1951, BBC Radio and the Ministry of Agriculture created The Archers, an “everyday story of country folk” which encouraged farmers to try new techniques to increase productivity in the years after World War Two.
The series was hugely popular and remains on air today and is thought to be the longest-running soap opera in the world – Coronation Street first broadcast in 1960.
“It’s an opportunity to explore ordinary lives in extraordinary times,’ said director and co-creator Belona Greenwood of Parklife, “where better to tell these stories? Parks are the re-emerging heart of our community.”
Parklife’s pilot was readied for radio by award-winning dramatist Nicholas McInerny, who was commissioned by Script6, but everyone else involved in the project has given their time and expertise for free.
“We would love Parklife to carry on,” said Lilie, “and if there are any producers out there who would like to work with us, we would be delighted. We’ve already storylined the next 10 episodes…’
Parklife will be included as part of Sophie Little’s Upload Show on BBC Radio Norfolk on Saturday 14 November.
Script6 Ltd is a writer’s collective creating regional stories for television, radio and theatre. More information can be found here www.script6.co.uk