Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Christine Bleakley: Fond memories of a fantastic comedy

I was looking forward to the Christmas break for several weeks leading up to it.

Flying back from London the Saturday before Christmas filled me with such excitement.

Eating, drinking and being merry were all on the agenda, and I didn't disappoint.

Spending time with my family and friends and simply watching Christmas telly have been the perfect way to unwind.

Speaking of festive frivolities on the box, I managed to catch the last-ever Give My Head Peace episode at the weekend.

The Give My Head Peace team have been providing laughs and top-rated television for more than a decade now.

I must admit I feel very proud to have been part of the series.

My role as second assistant director allowed me to work incredibly closely with the writing trio of Michael McDowell, Damon Quinn and Tim McGarry who, of course, also star in the series as Billy, Cal and Da.

I have stopped traffic in the rain, made tea all day long for the cast, organised call times, pick-up times, liaised with the costume and make-up teams while always thinking ahead to the next day to ensure the production ran as smoothly as possible all in the name of Give My Head Peace.

It was sometimes quite a tough job, but the cast and crew were second to none and made every day worth coming into work for.

It was, therefore, a reflective weekend for all the hundreds of cast and crew who worked on the show over the years as the final episode aired this weekend.

As part of the bumper Friday Give My Head Peace evening, fans saw the 75th episode - aptly named The Last Farewell - sadly bring 12 years of the series to an end.

Also, wedged between two episodes was a documentary about work behind the scenes, the story of the series and how it came to be.

Producers Damon Quinn and Jackie Hamilton asked if I would take part in the documentary and say a few words about my time on the show and my favourite bits, which proved to be a difficult exercise to narrow down.

Having travelled to Spain to film their Christmas special a few years ago, and with countless studio recordings under my belt, it was a tough job picking out the highlights. However, I was gently reminded of one of my first-ever experiences in front of the camera taking place on the Divis set of the Give My Head Peace studio.

Our director, Martin Shardlow, first assistant director Peter Richey and I decided to make our cameo appearances as a bishop, a priest and with me as a nun.

Other experiences included temporarily shutting down Royal Avenue in Belfast while we manoeuvred a decommissioned tank towards the City Hall, re-creating the outside of Uncle Andy's house in the Holylands area of Belfast or trying to gain filming permits allowing Uncle Andy to legally stroll down Times Square in New York as part of another Christmas special.

My memory vault door opened and the various escapades and fond memories flowed back easily.

The last episode marks the end of a comedy era, but the good news for all fans is that the McDowell-Quinn-McGarry trio are set to return - next time hitting the big screen!

Belfast Telegraph

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