The resident doctor of the long-running drama series Neighbours, Karl Kennedy AKA Alan Fletcher, first became involved with Neighbours Night around 14 years ago.
“The key to Neighbours Night is that the fans get to meet the stars – at least three cast members go along. Fans can ask questions, have photographs taken and get autographs from the cast. On top of that, there’s a trivia competition with quite a few Neighbours related questions. People can win thousands of dollars worth of prizes; there are lots of tours including trips to the Great Ocean Road, Wilson’s Promontory and Phillip Island to see the penguins,” said Alan.
“Overall, it’s trivia, dancing, singing. We often do some fun stuff with the audience; we get them to act out a scene with us. My band, Waiting Room, started playing at Neighbours Night in 2004; the whole evening was transformed.”
The event itself has become somewhat of an institution in Melbourne and a must-attend experience for the television program’s legion of British fans that are holidaying and working in Australia. Neighbours Night is a testament to the appeal of the show itself, which ran on Network Ten from 1986 until 2010 before moving to Eleven last year. Alan has played the role of Karl Kennedy since 1994.
“I think the secret to success of Neighbours is its light touch; it mixes comedy and drama really well. The audience appreciates that. We always have a healthy balance of comedy,” said Alan.
“The show has a lot of fans in the UK. I’ve toured there with my band eight or nine times. It’s very hard work because we generally tour in winter, with the cold and the snow. But it’s immensely enjoyable, the University students warm to the music and the band. When I’m in Britain, people treat you like you’re part of their family; like they’ve known you all their lives. They are so happy to see you.”
Alan is a major Liverpool football supporter, so that guides his personal travels in England. He loves going to Liverpool, especially if there’s a game on. But it’s Sheffield that will always hold a special place in his heart.
“When my band started touring in the UK our first ever gig was in Sheffield. The venue didn’t bother selling tickets in advance but when we arrived there were 2000 people waiting to get into a venue that only holds around 900 people. It was a smashing successful. Also Sheffield has the most beautiful theatre,” he said.
Away from the band and the show, Alan has travelled all around the world. Late last year he went to Spain and he’d love to return to India; he was overwhelmed by the colour and spectacle.
“I feel blessed to have done that much travel. My wife and I travel all the time. She likes to shop and I like to take photographs. We often go our separate ways during the day and meet up at night,” he said.
“In the show it was Karl’s lifelong wish to go to Machu Picchu. He was supposed to go there with his wife but they broke up so he went alone. He got there and hated the experience so he came home early. He was disappointed not to have the love of his life with him, to share the travel experience.”
The next Neighbours Night is on January 14.