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The unofficial Mayor of Emmerdale

Only one man deserves that title and I, as an ‘extra’ and ‘village regular’ on the show, couldn’t resist going along to the talk he gave in Ripon yesterday. Tim Fee began by telling his audience that he’d never done a day’s work in his life. Those of us who already knew about his long career in theatre and television must have looked sceptical, because he hastened to explain that everything he’d done had given him so much pleasure that he didn’t look at it as work. If only everyone could be as lucky as Tim!

Born to a musically gifted family in Blackburn, Lancashire – his parents were both talented pianists and his mother’s best friend was fellow Lancastrian Kathleen Ferrier – he was the youngest of five children. Refusing to learn to play a musical instrument as all his siblings had done, something he has regretted ever since, he was persuaded to take on the part of Hiawatha in a school production and this led to a lifelong love of verse speaking, drama and Shakespeare. However, it was right at the start of his time at Rose Bruford’s drama school in Kent that Tim realised that most actors spend a great deal of their time ‘resting’. Knowing that his parents were in no position to support him in this, he decided to concentrate his efforts back stage. Several years with the London Festival Ballet followed, including tours of the UK and abroad and an invitation to supper with Margot Fonteyn at her flat in Knightsbridge!

In 1973, whilst at the Bradford Alhambra, it was suggested to him by a stage hand that there was ‘more money in telly’ and he should apply for the position of floor manager at Yorkshire Television. He soon found himself in the drama department and on an upward climb through the ranks. Tim retired as line producer of Emmerdale (formerly Emmerdale Farm) in 2009. During his 22 years on the show, he saw it transformed from a sleepy rural production that the ITV executives in London loathed and wanted to scrap to one of the biggest soaps in television.

Tim’s proudest moment came in 2002 during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee tour. Having convinced the powers that be that a tour of the newly created village set in the grounds of Harewood House (owned by Her Majesty’s cousin, Lord Harewood) would be of more interest than anything the YTV studios in Leeds had to offer, he was placed in charge of the whole operation. Arranging such a visit is never simple and Tim had to tour the village with an equerry, organise an inspection by the Royal Protection Force and see the whole set thoroughly searched by police dog handlers. The Buckingham Palace press office, worried that enthusiasm for the Golden Jubilee might be flagging, asked him to come up with something that would ensure front page coverage. Ever resourceful, he decided to have the village post office ‘blown up’ by Emmerdale’s special effects guru Ian Rowling as soon as Her Majesty emerged from the Woolpack. (It is on record that she didn’t turn a hair when this happened a few feet away from where she was standing.)

The Emmerdale gardeners had been working hard and the set was looking at its best on the day, which coincided happily with a ‘village in bloom’ storyline.  Despite earlier worries about whether her Rolls Royce would make it safely over the humped back bridge leading into the village, all went well and the Queen met a wide variety of actors, crew members and television executives. The ‘explosion’ took place on schedule, the rain which had begun as Her Majesty arrived eased off and the sun came out.

Photographs and more details of this very special day can be seen at http://www.emmerdale.net/interv/queen/queen.html

When Tim Fee retired in 2009, he was given a very special accolade, his own gravestone in the village cemetery. Here it is below:

Accolade to Timothy Fee

29 October, 2013 - There are 2 comments on this story

  1. How wonderful indeed to have a job that you don’t think of as work! A really interesting read, Maggie 🙂


    Marion Clarke -

  2. Thank you, Marion. The working life of a humble ‘extra’ can be good fun too, despite the early morning starts.

    Maggie Cobbett -

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