A Small Town Becomes Home to Cult TV
Once upon a time there was a small, inconspicuous northern town at the dead end of a branch railway line. The one main street looked unchanged since the 1950s and with one of the shopfronts proclaiming Brigadoon; the casual visitor could have been forgiven for wondering when the next wake-up call was due.
All was to change when a roving BBC location researcher wandered into town, running out of time to find a small, quiet northern town that could pass as a quirky, isolated, fictional town where visitors were frowned upon and murky secrets dwelt behind every door. One look at the unsuspecting streets of Hadfield1 and with a sigh of relief proclaimed the location had been found. Royston Vasey was born and the TV filming circus duly rolled into town.
Word got around and the residents turned out in force to watch the proceedings as shopfronts were transformed. The old fishmonger's became a veterinary surgery and the empty estate agent found new life as a dating agency. The little handicraft emporium was transformed into a joke shop one day and a video rental shop a week later. For the resident enduring the mundane daily drive home, multiple double takes were in order and wry smiles the reaction to the temporary excitement. Eventually a circus big-top and small funfair were set up nearby and locals were invited along to populate the attraction.
Then, just as suddenly, the trucks packed up and drove away leaving only fragments of Royston Vasey behind them - the big red hearts broken and forgotten in an empty shop window, the remains of Papa Lazarou's circus banner dumped on an unlit bonfire on a piece of waste ground.
The residents shrugged and returned to normality, the temporary thrills a fond memory. They waited for 'their' show to appear on television, for that frisson of fame by association, for the opportunity to see their local pub simultaneously appearing across the road as usual and on the flickering box in the corner of the living room. They wondered how The League of Gentlemen would portray their home, whether the character of Hadfield would still be discernible.
It quickly became apparent that the dark humour and acutely observed characters were destined for cult status. How endurable this status is remains to be seen. Catchphrases caught on and fans began to take the train to the end of the line, making their small pilgrimage to the place they soon hoped they could leave. Locals watched in amazement and began to offer them reasons to stay - at least until they'd been shopping.
At the time of writing, the one main street contains the Café Royston (previously, and still primarily, a bicycle hire shop), a pub serving Royston Vasey beer, a fish-and-chip shop selling portraits of the fictional residents, a butcher making 'special' sausages (the special ingredient is rumoured to be alcohol rather than the cannibalistic content featured in the TV show) and a newsagent offering a variety of souvenirs including 'League'-inspired refrigerator magnets. However, Edward's wine-bar was so named before the BBC rolled into town and has no known connection to the proprietor of the Local Shop.
It remains to be seen how long Hadfield can sustain its role as tourist trap, but for now, the residents will smile indulgently at visiting fans looking for the Local Shop. Fame is fleeting and perhaps in a few more years the town will settle back to its former sleepy isolation. The residents however will remember and tell their unwilling grandchildren lengthy stories about what happened when Hadfield was also known as Royston Vasey.