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The Partridge has landed - how two campaigners brought Alpha Papa premiere to Norwich

PUBLISHED: 08:00 09 February 2019

The Alan Partridge film premiere at the Hollywood Cinema. Rob Wilkes and Raf Turnbull celebrate after their Facebook campaign brought the premiere to Norwich. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

The Alan Partridge film premiere at the Hollywood Cinema. Rob Wilkes and Raf Turnbull celebrate after their Facebook campaign brought the premiere to Norwich. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Archant Norfolk

“Anglia Square not Leicester Square.” It was a catchy slogan - but campaigners Rob Wilkes and Raf Turnbull hardly dared to hope it would come true.

The Alan Partridge film premier at the Hollywood Cinema. Picture: SIMON FINLAY.The Alan Partridge film premier at the Hollywood Cinema. Picture: SIMON FINLAY.

All the hard work and enthusiasm finally paid off - and Alan Partridge actually did bring the world premiere of his film Alpha Papa to Norwich.

When he took to the red carpet in Anglia Square in July 2013, it was all down to the efforts of Rob Wilkes and Raf Turnbull.

The Alan Partridge film premiere in Norwich. Picture: SIMON FINLAY.The Alan Partridge film premiere in Norwich. Picture: SIMON FINLAY.

Norfolk’s favourite fictional presenter flew by helicopter to a second premiere at Leicester Square afterwards, but it was Norwich which took the headlines.

Raf said: “It was pretty amazing going to the premiere - we were given access so we could just walk about. Alan talked about how much he loved Norwich and there was a really nice rapport between him and the crowd.”

The Alan Partridge film premiere at the Hollywood Cinema where fans and the press turned out in force to welcome the star of the film. Picture: SIMON FINLAY.The Alan Partridge film premiere at the Hollywood Cinema where fans and the press turned out in force to welcome the star of the film. Picture: SIMON FINLAY.

It was actually Rob’s wife, Donna, who first thought up the idea of trying to get the premiere to Norwich. “It was a thing we joked about really!,” he recalled.

He shared the idea with Raf, a “super-fan” of Alan Partridge, and the pair launched an internet campaign - which quickly gathered momentum.

Rob Wilkes and Raf Turnbull celebrating the news of the Alan Partridge film premiere in Norwich.
 Picture: SIMON FINLAYRob Wilkes and Raf Turnbull celebrating the news of the Alan Partridge film premiere in Norwich. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

After gaining more than 7,000 likes on Facebook, the campaign caught the attention of the film’s distributors, Studio Canal.

“It was 100% fun,” Rob said. “It was really good, because a lot of the ideas, energy and jokes came from people in Norwich, on social media.”

Laura Morrell at the keyboard performing her Alan Partridge song with Invidia Voices Choir outside HMV on Gentlemans Walk, Norwich. Picture: STEVE ADAMSLaura Morrell at the keyboard performing her Alan Partridge song with Invidia Voices Choir outside HMV on Gentlemans Walk, Norwich. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

The team worked tirelessly to spread the message, via Rob’s graphic design agency Creative Giant, and sold T-shirts, raising hundreds of pounds for a local owl sanctuary.

It all worked so well that Raf said many people didn’t actually believe this was a genuine fan campaign. “We saw a lot of people saying, ‘It’s just clever marketing from the people behind the film.’”

A crowd watched Laura Morrell performing her Alan Partridge song with Invidia Voices Choir outside HMV on Gentlemans Walk, Norwich. Picture: STEVE ADAMSA crowd watched Laura Morrell performing her Alan Partridge song with Invidia Voices Choir outside HMV on Gentlemans Walk, Norwich. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

He said that the campaign had all fallen into place. That included the launch of a theme tune, Partridge State of Mind - an adaptation of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind, but celebrating Norwich rather than New York.

Songwriter Laura Morrell performed the song to shoppers in Gentleman’s Walk. Halfway through the song, she was joined by a flashmob choir emerging from the crowd, with a chorus of “Aha!”

The Alan Partridge film premier at the Hollywood Cinema where fans and the press turned out in force to welcome the star of the film who pleased the crowds with his stylish suit and Partridge panache. 
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY.The Alan Partridge film premier at the Hollywood Cinema where fans and the press turned out in force to welcome the star of the film who pleased the crowds with his stylish suit and Partridge panache. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY.

Inevitably, the campaigners did run into a bit of criticism along the way, from people who felt Alan Partridge presented the wrong view of Norfolk.

Raf said: “There were some people who said at the time, do you not realise he’s taking the mick? But most people do realise how good he is for the area - it’s like he has become part of the Norfolk landscape!”

The premiere certainly showed how much love there is for Alan around the city, with thousands of fans from far and wide turning out to welcome him home.

“It was a really hot day and we were on the red carpet in shorts,” said Rob.

Raf recalled: “You could see Steve was blown away when he arrived - he wasn’t expecting what was there waiting for him. When he went to London, because there are film premieres there all the time, he wouldn’t have had that size of crowd.”

At the premiere, Alan, when asked what message he would like to send to the campaigners, said: “I would like to say to them, thank you, you are noble people, you are testament to the power of both the internet and the power of free speech which is something we enjoy in this country and is something we should value and protect and treasure.

“They are great people. We are here. We are here because of them so I salute them. I would salute all of them individually but there isn’t time.”

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