Sunday, 3 August 2014

London's Burning! London's Burning! Fetch the engines! Fetch the engines! (from Bermondsey)

Remember when Vaseline tragically drowned as he, Bayleaf and George dived into Greenland Dock to rescue the submerged driver of a white Transit van?  Or when Sicknote, who lived with wife Jean on Reverdy Road, dealt with armed robbers at Blackwall fire station while dressed as a banana? 

Firefighter Bert 'Sicknote' Quigley played by Richard Walsh (© London's Burning Wiki)
And, who recollects those romantic evenings spent between Zorba and many a love-interest at his Shad Thames apartment near The Circle?  Or when Ethnic, perceived as a traitor by some on the estate where he lived, was killed by a concrete slab dropped from a third-floor balcony?  If yes, then you’ve probably been reliving the ├╝ber-classic TV gold that is London’s Burning, currently being repeated on London Live.
Nick 'Zorba' Georgiadis played by Andrew Kazamia (© Virgin Media)
Produced by London Weekend Television for ITV, London’s Burning ran for 14 seasons from 1988 to 2002, documenting the lives of members of the London Fire Brigade, principally those of Blue Watch at a fictional south London fire station.  Known by many as Bermondsey’s Burning because of its use of the SE1 and SE16 area for much of its location filming, the series provides a fascinating insight into Bermondsey and Rotherhithe during three decades of geographical, political and social transformation.
Blue Watch pictured outside Dockhead fire station (© London's Burning Wiki)
The Dockhead fire station on Wolseley Road, which despite many threats of closure is still in use, was used for the iconic exterior shots, while real firefighters were recruited as extras for the programme.  A special studio was built on neighbouring Jacob Street for mess scenes and other interior filming. 
Dockhead fire station, Wolseley Road, SE1 (location for Blackwall fire station)
Much of the area is unrecognisable now, following the aggressive redevelopment that transformed the homes of the many into the gated communities of the few.  But, in each episode the Bermondsey spirit is evident: from the politically-incorrect names of the firefighters, to the strong sense of camaraderie and community practised among the officers and the public they serve.
Jacob Street SE1 studios
London’s Burning demonstrates that together Bermondsey and Rotherhithe provide the ideal setting for a serial drama: the river, the docks, huge housing estates, countless nooks and crannies, and most importantly, the people.  In fact, a new Bermondsey TV drama scripted and acted by local people would contribute much towards our vibrant local community.  Who knows, London’s Burning season 15 could even save Dockhead fire station for good…
Seasons 1 - 14 available on DVD.  Will there be a new season 15?
So, if you want to remember fondly the untouched, and some would say unspoiled, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe peninsula of the 80s and 90s, tune in to London’s 24hr entertainment channel London Live every Saturday and Sunday between 11.30am  and 1.30pm, for a double-bill of Bermondsey magic.  Oh, and watch carefully – you might catch sight of a street, school or converted warehouse near you.
The Circle on Queen Elizabeth Street SE1 - Shad Thames was used for location filming
 More information:

London Live (watch catch-up episodes)
London’s Burning Wiki

Roland 'Vaseline' Cartwright's death at Greenland Dock SE16
Save Southwark fire station (Facebook)
Save Southwark fire station (Twitter)


1 comment:

  1. I remember it very well, watching as a kid perhaps sparked an interest that led me to give 12 years to Bucks Fire & Rescue. London's Burning was and is a classic in Sunday evening entertainment. It was a real shame that LWT ran it into the ground, it was getting pretty appalling in the last couple of series.

    It was London Live's screenings that have started me watching the Pilot episode and now into series 3.