Behind the Scenes of Robson Green's New BBC Show with Local Famous Faces
We caught up with Robson Green ahead of his new BBC show...
Robson was born in Hexham but grew up in Dudley, a former mining village. ‘My father was a miner and his father was a miner and I was the first one to not go down a mine, but put on makeup and ponce about in front of a camera instead,’ he laughs. ‘Growing up, I was surrounded by pits so the notion was, after leaving school, that I would go and work underground. My father worked hard enough so that we wouldn’t go without, and so we didn’t have to go down the mines. So, luckily, when I left school I had the opportunity to do other things.’
Robson joined Swan Hunter’s shipyard as a draughtsman, but with any spare time he had he’d go to the cinema or the theatre. ‘Even as a young lad sometimes on my own,’ he adds. ‘I was also part of an amateur dramatics society. Any spare weekends I had, I’d go and perform in local plays written by local writers. I always loved doing that but never thought I’d make a career out of it. While I was performing in one of those amateur productions, there was a casting director watching and he asked me if I’d like to audition for Casualty – and my career kicked off from there.’ From Soldier, Soldier to Waterloo Road and beyond, Robson has been a familiar face on our screen over the years, and he’s now also known and loved for presenting some of our favourite factual shows.
That’s when he’s not starring in music videos, of course. Before he shares what he’s been up to recently, we just have to ask how he got himself involved in Sam Fender’s Howdon Aldi Death Queue music video. ‘Sam loves fishing,’ Robson explains. ‘He and his dad used to go fishing but I didn’t know that Sam’s guilty pleasure growing up was Extreme Fishing with Robson Green. We got in contact when I found out and we were chatting over the phone. I went to a few of his gigs and then I took him fishing. We went to North Shields on the JFK-Two. We caught a few fish and Sam really loved it because his career was really going through the roof at that time and he really needed an escape – a place to switch off and get back to doing something normal. As we were fishing he said “what are you doing tonight?” I said I was going home. I was knackered. He said “will you be in me video?”,’ Robson laughs. ‘We finished the fishing and went to a video shoot. We started about 6pm and finished at 6am the following morning. Howdon Aldi Death Queue is one of my proudest moments. Being in a Sam Fender video is genuinely up there in everything I’ve done in my career. He’s an extraordinary human being and a formidable talent. I love his work.’
That video was released in 2021, but this has been another busy year for Robson. He began 2022 by shooting a new series of Robson and Jim’s Fly Fishing Adventure with his indie production company, Rivers Meet Productions. ‘We visited some of the most idyllic angling destinations that Great Britain has, including the Hebrides, and of course my beloved River Tyne,’ he reflects. ‘Fishing is something that we do that helps us reset and relax. It’s a really life-affirming journey of two kindred spirits doing something that makes them genuinely happy.’ No rest for the wicked, Robson went straight into filming a new series of Grantchester which has just come to an end. While that took over his weekdays, at the weekends he was shooting episodes of Robson Green’s Weekends Away, his new series for the BBC showing the North East in all its glory. ‘It’s been full on, and the travel up and down from London has been full on, but an occupied mind is a happy one,’ says Robson enthusiastically.
Set exclusively in the North East, this new series will see Robson and some of his famous friends celebrate everything that’s great about the region. It’s been commissioned by BBC Daytime and Early Peak, a co-production between North East-based companies Rivers Meet Productions (Robson’s company) and Signpost Productions.
‘The BBC came to the North East with an amount of money for levelling up [£25m over the next five years] and we (for the first time ever) have a commissioning editor in the North East in the guise of Helen Munson,’ says Robson. ‘Helen had in mind a series that really showcased the North East, and celebrated ordinary people doing extraordinary things. But we had to prove the concept would work, prove that we could make it – and most importantly, it needed to be something that would not only entertain people but would also sustain work in the area.
‘The most joyous part of this production for me is that I had the pleasure and privilege of giving people hope, and investing in local people. We’re producing something in the North East with universal themes that can be shown around the world. In this series we suggest to people that sometimes in this hyper-connected world we forget to take a break. We forget to stop and recharge and rest and relax and take our foot off the pedal because we’re always chasing the next job or deadline, and we’ve got brain overload. We’re suggesting that right on your doorstep in the North East you can immerse yourself in a beautiful hidden gem and do something that is really good for the mind, body and soul. Even better, instead of getting there on the major roads (be it the A1, the M1 or the A69), you take the road less travelled.’
Who better to lead the way around the North East than Robson, who now lives in Hexham because that’s where he says he ‘feels at home’. ‘It’s such a cliché but home is where the heart is,’ he says. ’It’s not the house you live in, it’s not the size of your garden and it’s not the town you’re near – it’s a feeling. I’ve been fortunate to travel to many places around the world, but I don’t get the feeling I have here. I can’t put my finger on what that’s down to, but I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness when I’m in the North East. It’s got one thing that very few places in Britain have, and that’s space (especially where I live in Hexham with its idyllic landscape).’
Despite his passion for home, there are still places that Robson admits he hadn’t fully appreciated until it came to filming this series. ‘The North East is a big place – it goes all the way up to the borders of Scotland and down to the borders of Yorkshire and east and west – it’s huge, especially with my beloved Northumberland in the mix,’ he says. ‘I thought I knew everything I needed to know about Northumberland and the North East but I came across some real gems that I’d never seen before. I saw it through friends’ eyes, through families’ eyes and through the eyes of famous faces. We get to talk about their lives and why they love the North East, but we also remind you that taking time away and escaping to do something that’s good for your mental health is really important, because we all lead busy lives no matter what walk of life we’re from.’
Robson is keen to tell us about some of the special guests involved in the show. ‘We have the wonderful Jill Scott,’ he begins. ‘She was just gorgeous; a really likeable, entertaining, funny and bright individual. It was a joy to spend two days with Jill going to places she went to as a child. We have the lovely Tom Brittney, who I work alongside on Grantchester. We have the gorgeous Mark Benton. I never thought of Teesside as a getaway, I just looked at the industry there, but Mark took me to Staithes and Saltburn beach and it was just absolutely beautiful. I’m nearly 60 years old and it was a real eye-opener for me. Sara Davies took me to Middleton-in-Teesdale. I went sailing with the Lost Voice Guy Lee Ridley because he’s always wanted to sail. He was very funny and we talked about how Britain’s Got Talent changed his life.
‘World-famous author LJ Ross! I’ve read most of her books and we went to Holy Island where it all began with her first novel. In a really likeable and entertaining way, she celebrated why the North East is important to her and her writing, but more importantly to her mental health as well. A real highlight for me was footballing legend Les Ferdinand. I spent a few days with Les and took him to my beloved Seahouses and Bamburgh. When he was playing up here, he never saw the beautiful Northumbrian coastline because he was in such a high-pressure bubble.’
Robson hopes this new series will encourage others to make the most of what we have on our doorstep. ‘We know it’s there, but nine times out of 10, we don’t go and visit it,’ he says. ‘We just need to make and take the time to visit these locations come rain, wind, hail, snow or shine.’