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Local Legend Tim Healy on the Sold Out Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Reunion

Local Legend Tim Healy on the Sold Out Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Reunion © Michael Bailey
What's on
April 2024
Reading time 6 Minutes

On 11th May Auf Wiedersehen, Pet fans and cast will flock to O2 City Hall Newcastle to celebrate the TV series' 40th anniversary

Tim Healy tells Living North how much the show and its fans mean to him.

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet first aired in 1983 and introduced viewers to a group of unemployed builders who are brought together when they travel to the BECO Building Site in Düsseldorf for work. The show was an instant success as fans fell in love with three Geordie bricklayers, a Scouse plasterer, a Cockney chippy, a Brummie electrician and a West Country bricklayer. It was so successful that in 2002 it was brought back to our screens, and fans still enjoy rewatching episodes.

The sold-out show Auf Wiedersehen, Pet at 40 (and the additional matinee) have been organised by the Official Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Fan Site. North East comedian Jason Cook will host members of the cast and crew to look back at the show’s legacy, including behind-the-scenes moments and never-before-seen bloopers. In the second part, Jimmy Nail and his band will perform. Fans can also look forward to appearances from special guests (whose identities are being kept under wraps).

Tim says this reunion is going to be a lot of fun. ‘It’s great to get us all back together,’ he adds. ‘It’s a celebration of this remarkable show we were all involved in. There’ll be some funny stories obviously, and things you haven’t heard before. It’ll be great to see everybody, and I can’t wait to have a catch up. We’ve always stayed great friends and I can’t really say there’s ever been another show that’s affected me like that. It was a bit like being in the army, you know, all these guys thrown together in this hut for months on end and we all became great friends – we still are!’

Jimmy Nail © Paul Glass

In fact, Tim says Dennis was the best part he’s ever played, as he takes us back to when it all began. ‘I was a founding member of the Live Theatre company and I’d been working as an actor for 10 years. I was very lucky to have done that to be honest because we had some fantastic writers like C.P. Taylor and Tom Hadaway, I didn’t realise how brilliant they were at the time, I was just a young lad. It was almost like learning to drive in a Rolls Royce. Some of the scripts I had before Auf Wiedersehen, Pet were fantastic, but that was all in the theatre.

‘When Auf Wiedersehen, Pet came along it was so beautifully and brilliantly written by Dick [Clement] and Ian [La Frenais]. I remember when the script first arrived. I started reading it and I just couldn’t put the pages down. This was before I’d met anybody. It was so funny, so real. Then I think we got the right cast together. First of all you’ve got to have brilliant writing, then get the right people to perform the parts. It changed my life really. It allowed me to do all sorts of television afterwards. I worked for 50 years, every year. I’ve never really been out of work, so I’ve been very fortunate. My television career? Well, I owe it to Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.’

There are too many memories for Tim to share (and he wouldn’t want to spoil it for the lucky fans who got tickets) but he speaks fondly of when the series first started. ‘I remember driving down from Newcastle with Jimmy Nail in my 1973 Triumph Spitfire with our bags tied on the back and having no idea what was going to happen to us,’ Tim laughs. ‘I’ll never forget that. The first series was just extraordinary. We just couldn’t wait to say the lines.’

Fans still get in touch with Tim on social media, sharing their love for Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, and with series one and two still available to watch on ITVX, it’s clear how much of an impact it had on viewers when it first aired. ‘I think it was a statement at the time of Thatcher’s Britain and it was a comic look at that. There were thousands of British construction workers working in Germany because the construction industry had collapsed (like the mines and the shipyards). So all these guys were forced to go abroad to try and make a living. I think it rang true to a lot of people at the time.’

Proceeds from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet at 40 will be split equally between two charities – FACT, a North East-based cancer charity helping those suffering from the impact of cancer (which Jimmy Nail is patron of) and The Sunday for Sammy Trust, established to help support creative talent in the performing arts throughout Tyneside. Tim holds Sunday for Sammy close to his heart and is chairman of the Trust. He was close friends with Gateshead-born actor Ronnie (Sammy) Johnson, in whose memory the event and charity were set up. They met at the Live Theatre Company in 1973 and became best friends, and Sammy was cast as Martin Cooper in the second series of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Since 2000 the Sunday for Sammy shows have featured stars from TV, theatre and music including Auf Wiedersehen, Pet's Kevin Whately, Jimmy Nail, Timothy Spall and Christopher Fairbank, along with Denise Welch, Charlie Hardwick and Jill Halfpenny. Local singer L Devine applied to the Sunday for Sammy Trust in 2016 for help to enable her to create demos and travel to auditions, and saxophonist John Waugh (who performs with The 1975 with Tim’s son Matty) received a grant from the Trust which helped him invest in industry standard equipment.

‘We did the first [Sunday for Sammy] show, thinking it was going to be a one-off at the City Hall, and we actually did sketches with the Auf Wiedersehen, Pet characters,’ Tim says. ‘We played these characters on stage and the audience went ballistic, and within two years the BBC commissioned the series without even seeing a script. Sammy Johnson really brought us all back together. It’s an amazing story really. Now we give out grants right across the arts and that’s fantastic because it’s very difficult for working-class people to be able to afford to go to college.

‘For the arts in Newcastle, it’s a great place to be. You’ve got the Live Theatre company and the youth theatre – it’s like a breeding ground for talent. The Alphabetti Theatre too. People from the same background as me, working-class people, can get opportunities. We’re quite lucky in Newcastle when you look at other parts of the country that don’t have the facilities that we have, so it’s not all doom and gloom. I mean it’s fantastic for me to see the Live Theatre today. We started off in a block of flats in Gateshead and didn’t have a penny and couldn’t get a grant, then we got a tiny little rehearsal studio just on the other end of the High Level Bridge before we eventually moved to the Quayside with this fantastic theatre which I’m so proud of, because that’s where I started!’

Tim is equally passionate about O2 City Hall Newcastle, where Sunday for Sammy shows have previously been held and where Auf Wiedersehen, Pet at 40 will be hosted. ‘It’s great because it is the heart of the city,’ says Tim. ‘It’s raw. It’s got a fantastic history if you think about everyone who has played there over the years. Sunday for Sammy went to the arena because of the demand for tickets – there would be a queue around the City Hall! We filled the arena twice on a Sunday which is extraordinary. But to go back to the City Hall [for this reunion] is great. It’s more intimate and I just love being there.’

The demand for tickets for Auf Wiedersehen, Pet at 40 was unsurprisingly high. They were snapped up in a matter of minutes and an extra matinee was announced for the same date, which is also sold out. ‘It’s extraordinary,’ Tim says. ‘I think it sold out in 15 minutes! To be honest with you, I think we could’ve done a week… It’s just trying to get everyone together. Hopefully we’ll raise a few bob for the North East and we’ll have a party and a laugh and no doubt it’ll be a bit emotional as well. We’re all getting “auld”. People ask me sometimes “do you think you’ll ever do another Auf Wiedersehen, Pet?” I say, "well, it’d have to be Pensioners Abroad, I’m afraid!”,’ Tim laughs. ‘That might work.’

Sunday for Sammy at the Arena

One thing’s certain. Tim adores the Auf Wiedersehen, Pet fans and he’s thankful for Lee Barratt and Andy Patrick, the team behind the Official Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Fan Site, who have worked tirelessly to bring fans this unmissable event. ‘The fans have been absolutely brilliant,’ Tim says. ‘They’re really dedicated to the show and it’s thanks to them that they’ve kept the whole thing alive on social media. They’re a lovely bunch of guys. I’m looking forward to seeing them all at the City Hall and having good craic with them.’

For now, Tim is just coming to the end of a global tour with his son Matty and The 1975. ‘When my boy says to me, “Dad, will you be the guest on me tour?” and he puts one of my songs on his album, I mean that’s a great thing for a father,’ says Tim. ‘He asked me if I would come on tour with him and I thought, I’d love that. I mean it’s easy for me, I just sing one song, but we’ve toured North America and Canada, two nights at Madison Square Garden, then Amsterdam. That’s kept me busy! How many rockstars ask their dad to get up on stage? I can’t think of many!’ Tim shows no sign of slowing down so maybe there’s hope for a future Auf Wiedersehen, Pet reunion yet?


Local comedian and LN fave Jason Cook will be hosting the reunion event at the O2 City Hall Newcastle

How did you get involved and what role will you play in the event?
Because I’m on the board of Sunday for Sammy it was a bit of a no-brainer when they asked me to host. It’s going to be quite the show – guests stars, clips, music – I can’t wait.

What are you personally looking forward to from the event?
Reminding Tim of when we first met (I was nine!).

What are some of your favourite moments from the TV series?
I think Oz headbutting Ally Fraser's ‘goon’ is as funny now as it was then.

Why do you think the show remains so popular today?
Because it’s real. Real working class lads telling a real working class story.

Did you expect the tickets to sell out so quickly?
Absolutely, there is so much love for the show that for me it was a given.

Do you think we can ever expect the series to return to our screens?
You never know, show business is a fascinating business. I would hope so.

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