All press is often good press when it comes to promoting a new cinema release. The new Dad’s Army Film that is scheduled for release in 2016 may well benefit then from the storm brewing between the towns of Thetford and Bridlington. Will the ‘real’ Walmington-on-Sea please step forward.

Bridlington chosen for film location

What is not in dispute is that the popular seaside resort of Bridlington was selected as the preferred location for the new film. What is in dispute though is the right of the East Riding of Yorkshire town to go one step further as a result, as they launched a bid last week to permit themselves to adopt Walmington-on-Sea as their “twin” town.

Bridlington’s current mayor seemed very positive about developments. John Copsey commented on an “upsurge in tourism” and bookings already as a result of the film and to “positive comments” about the ‘twinning’ proposal.

Unhappiness in Thetford

That bold move has caused consternation among the inhabitants of Thetford in Norfolk, with the former mayor, Stuart Wright asserting that their town IS Walmington-on-Sea and has “been since 1968,” when the hugely successful television series began to be filmed there. At the time, Thetford became a home away from home for the cast and crew who effectively moved in during filming for nine years. Such was the show’s appeal that ratings soared to 18 million viewers at one stage.

Clearly there is a tourist issue to be considered among the rhetoric, as Thetford has long been linked with Dad’s Army and thousands of dedicated fans make their pilgrimage to the town’s museum each year. Despite the coast being a good 50 miles or so away as the crow flies, that minor issue has been overlooked in the 40 plus years since the amusing Home Guard volunteers first appeared on our TV screens.

Such has been the warmth of feeling for the hit show Dad’s Army over the years in Thetford that in addition to the dedicated museum, a bronze statue of Captain Mainwaring was commissioned and put on display in 2010.

Sharing the tourism ‘spoils’

Bridlington benefits from actually being on the coast at least and is clearly looking to generate publicity and interest in what the town has to offer off the back of the new film.

Thetford has been attracting fans of the TV show for years in much the same way as Last of the Summer Wine devotees have visited Holmfirth. Bridlington would clearly like to claim their share of the ‘spoils’ in the future once the film has been released.

Tough act to follow

The latest film is due to be in cinemas next February. There are some great former comedy actors for the latest generation to live up to, yet the initial signs seem promising with Toby Jones and Bill Nighy heading up the cast. Whether they can strike up the same chemistry as the originals remains to be seen. Arthur Lowe made Mainwaring come alive and as a second in command, John Le Mesurier displayed refinement and understatement in equal measure.

The inclusion of Catherine Zeta Jones in the latest cast as a reporter should at least add some Hollywood glitz to the final result.

Major blocker to “twinning”

One major blocker has been put in Bridlington’s way though that could scupper any potential “twinning”. The Council of European Municipalities and Regions have stated that all requests for “twin” town status must involve a real place. In the iconic words of Frazer from the TV show, they may well be “doomed” then.