Wales

'Gavin and Stacey filmed in my home and changed my life'

Glenda Kenyon in her front two rooms
Image caption Glenda Kenyon owns "Gwen's house", one of the main locations on Gavin and Stacey

When a letter from a TV company scouting for locations in Barry came through Glenda Kenyon's door in 2006, she thought it was a wind-up.

But she phoned to check, and after a few visits the company confirmed they would like to film a new BBC comedy in her home - a terraced house, set on a steep street overlooking the Bristol Channel and the hills of Somerset.

Gavin and Stacey was about to change Glenda's life, after she had spent several years signed off work with chronic and severe depression.

"It was a lonely life - I was going through hell with the depression," she said.

Originally from England, she settled in the seaside town in south Wales and worked for 28 years in a factory assembling fruit machines.

"I used to go to the pub, out for meals, but all that stopped. I never went out; I never had many people to talk to."

Image caption Glenda says she knew exactly what was occurring when Ruth Jones visited with her niece in April

During filming of the first series - which told the story of a couple who fell in love during a whirlwind romance - she was put up in hotels around the Vale of Glamorgan town.

So she was not sure what to expect when she settled into her sofa in her front room to watch the debut episode.

"I kept saying, 'That's my house, that's my ornament'. I really got into it and absolutely loved it."

"Gwen's house", one of the main locations of the show, is really Glenda's house - and as the show became a massive hit, people started to arrive to take photos.

"I started to talk to people, something I'd not done in a long time," she said.

"I still have ups and downs - but it brought me out of this silence I was in."

Image caption Glenda leaves out a frying pan so visitors can pretend to cook one of "Gwen's omelettes"

The house is part of an official Gavin and Stacey tour, and 66-year-old Glenda calculates she has welcomed thousands of visitors.

She no longer has "Gwen's" cream sofa because the seats began to collapse - she thinks because so many people sat on it.

The living room is decorated in Gavin and Stacey memorabilia and photographs of the cast and crew, with thank you cards from guests on the shelves.

Image caption Glenda calculates thousands of fans have signed her visitor book

While she is not a fan of Gwen's signature omelettes, she leaves a frying pan on the kitchen hob which visitors can use as a prop for pictures.

A stack of visitor books have been signed by people from as far afield as Australia and Hawaii.

Glenda was not expecting to see the show's creators again, but Jones suddenly appeared on her doorstep in April this year, accompanied by her young niece, which the writer and actress has since admitted was a ruse.

"Ruth said, 'Hope you don't mind if I bring my niece in - can I sign your book? Can I get your phone number?'"

Image caption Glenda's memorabilia includes this photo of her from over 10 years ago on Barry Island with show creators Ruth Jones and James Corden

"I'd not seen anyone from the show for 10 years. I knew exactly what she was doing, but I never let on," added Glenda.

"Having said that when she was leaving, there was a couple outside who asked me if it was her and I said yes. She smiled, called me a snitch, and got out of the car to have a photo with them."

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption The cast took over Glenda's street in Barry - where Stacey's mother lives - in the summer

Three months later, on a hot and sunny Friday in July, the crew began to dress the street for Christmas.

It was quiet to begin with, but the crowds began to build in the afternoon, possibly because residents in the immediate area were given notice of the filming and someone had posted the dates on a local community Facebook group.

"I don't think they were expecting those crowds," said Glenda, who spent the first day of filming in an upstairs bedroom. "To be honest, I was bored stiff because I had to keep quiet."

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption The filming attracted crowds of excited onlookers

However, she did watch the actors coming and going in the street, and met James Corden, who gave her a hug and showed her pictures of his children "because he was missing them".

Most of the rest of the filming she spent in a hotel, and she does not know any details of the storyline. Like everyone else she will find out on Christmas Day.

"I can't wait. I'm going to be glued to it from 8.30pm."

Image copyright Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Image caption Oh! Look who's back: Ruth Jones returned as Nessa

The Christmas special was completed in the summer, and the tours and visitors have continued.

Glenda said she would be prepared to open up her home again for filming, if required.

"The visitors are fantastic," she said. "I love it - it has changed my life for the better."

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Matthew Horne and Joanna Page will be back on Christmas Day as Gavin and Stacey

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