Alan Partridge Alpha Papa: Norwich homecoming for fictional DJ

Partridge on the red carpet Alan Partridge told fans at the Norwich premiere that his new film "could spark a cultural renaissance that is as cultural as the Renaissance"

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With its discount shops and brutalist architecture, Anglia Square is not even Norwich's most glamorous location, let alone the world's.

It's an unlikely venue for the world premiere of a new film, but when that movie is Alan Partridge's big-screen debut Alpha Papa it starts to make sense.

The Hollywood Cinema in Anglia Square was chosen to host the premiere after an online campaign by fans.

Steve Coogan's comedy character was born in King's Lynn but grew up in Norwich and considers the city home.

Legend has it Alan Partridge was based on BBC Radio Norfolk's Wally Webb

And after thousands of fans signed an online petition demanding "Anglia Square, not Leicester Square" for the premiere, producers Studiocanal relented and switched venues.

Guest of honour at the event was none other than Coogan himself, in character as Partridge.

Tungsten-tipped screws

Around the square were specially-commissioned graffiti murals, including one that read "Welcome home Alan".

In a further surreal twist, a gorilla sculpture, designed to be an uncanny likeness of Alan, stood outside the cinema as part of the Go Go Gorillas art trail.

Tongues were firmly in cheeks as about 1,000 people, some in fancy dress, waited outside the cinema for a glimpse of their hero.

Some were dressed as Partridge himself and one woman had dressed as Lynn, his put-upon personal assistant.

Partridge signs T-shirt Steve Coogan appeared in character as Alan Partridge, wearing a blue safari suit
Georgina Bradford in Partridge T-shirt Georgina Bradford travelled from Cambodia and got her T-shirt signed
Fans with sign Other fans had travelled from locations including Derby and High Wycombe
Partridge on the red carpet Partridge met fans and the media during his red carpet walkabout
Alan Partridge mural Anglia Square was decorated by specially-commissioned Alan Partridge murals

Others had fashioned their own zombie outfits from shower curtains and tungsten-tipped screws in homage to a costume created by a very bored Alan in a memorable episode of I'm Alan Partridge.

One carried "Alan's big plate" while two female students held a sign reading "I love you… in a way", a line of dialogue from the show.

Andy O'Neill, 29, from Derby, was holding a sign reading: "We drove 171 miles to meet the legend Partridge."

Start Quote

I've been to Blackpool pier, Brighton pier, Southend pier but Cromer is quite simply the best pier”

End Quote Alan Partridge

"I just find him very funny and liked the fact he was holding this event in Norwich," he said.

"Norwich seems nice. It was definitely worth the journey."

Georgina Bradford, 25, had travelled even further - from Cambodia, where she runs a bar.

"We're all Alan-bonkers. The premiere was one of the big factors for us coming over now," she said.

"Alan's the epitome of the Norfolk gentleman. He's funny, suave, daring - everything you could want in a man.

"Some say Norfolk is Nelson's county, but I say it's Alan's."

Fans in Partridge masks Many fans wore Alan Partridge masks or dressed in costumes inspired by his shows

She was wearing an "Anglia Square, not Leicester Square" T-shirt which she later had signed by Partridge and plans to hang it on the wall of her bar, Monkey Republic, in Sihanoukville.

Genuine A-list celebrities were a little thin on the ground for the premiere. Former Norwich City footballers Iwan Roberts and Craig Fleming were probably the best-known names making their way along the red carpet.

A compere assured fans that "Alan Gordon Partridge" had just clocked off his shift on the Mid Morning Matters show on North Norfolk Digital and would shortly be with them.

As they waited in the hot sun, hits by such Alan-friendly artists as Japan, Van Halen and Pat Benatar blared out over the PA.

'Game-changer'

Abba's Knowing Me, Knowing You - the theme tune for Partridge's doomed TV chat show - got an especially warm response, the crowd joining in the with the "A-ha!" refrain.

When Alan finally did arrive, it was in a silver people-carrier.

Start Quote

This film is my love-letter to Norwich. I love Norwich”

End Quote Alan Partridge

He jumped out, dressed in a baby blue safari suit with pink tie and fawn suede loafers, and waved to the crowd.

Taking the microphone, he addressed the crowd in typically bombastic style, announcing that his new film was a "game-changer".

"It's one that could spark a cultural renaissance that is as cultural as the Renaissance.

"This film is my love-letter to Norwich. I love Norwich."

On his return to Norwich, he said: "It feels like sitting in a warm bath whilst having a cup of cocoa and peanut butter on toast whilst watching Air Crash Investigation on a TV - it feels good."

Asked what Norwich had that London did not, he said: "A lot of flat landscape, the Wash, reclaimed land - these are things that London doesn't have and will never have.

"My favourite location during filming was Cromer pier. I've been to Blackpool pier, Brighton pier, Southend pier but Cromer is quite simply the best pier."

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