Originally from Leeds in West Yorkshire, Brendan now resides in the altogether more tropical resort of Malaga in Spain. Brendan has always had a love for travel and has worked in many different places around Europe. He as amassed a great knowledge of various places including popular tourist destinations as well as lesser known areas that are off of the beaten track.
In 2005 Brendan found fame in as the tour guide on Channel 4 reality television show Coach Trip, where he serves as the tour-guide, directing the group around the globe and organising activities at every stop to help them become immersed in the culture of each location (with varying success!).
The group of contestants travel around continental Europe, making occasional excursions into North Africa and Western Asia. Along the way they make both friends and enemies, and at voting time they get to vote for the couple they would least like to remain on the coach. It is the job of Brendan to coordinate the vote and hand out either the yellow or the red card.
Despite Brendan’s charming, polite and mild mannered personality, he’s a true Yorkshire man at heart and he’s not afraid to speak his mind and put the contestants back in their place when they step out of line, occasionally even throwing couples off of the show altogether for breaching his rules.
Due to the massive success of Coach Trip, there was a glut of celebrities queuing up to get Brendan treatment, and in 2010 channel 4 commissioned Celebrity Coach Trip. Filming of a second series of Celebrity Coach Trip begins soon and will be aired later in the year.
I spoke to Brendan in his Malaga home and he was happy to answer my questions:
Why do you think Coach Trip has become so successful?
Well I think when we started a lot of us thought that people would love the travel aspect of it, you know, taking people on a coach. And then secondly how they interact with each other, and in the confines of the coach how people are and their little foibles and things of that nature. And then of course when we come to the vote how then they would react to a vote against them. I think a lot of people like the travel aspect but a lot of people like the voting and the intrigue, you know, ‘who’s going to go next?’ or ‘is so-and-so staying on?’ Lately on series six with Hilary and Terry and the boys Timmy and Rob, for five weeks they really game-planned. But the whole of the game plan of Coach Trip is to stay on for as long as you can, and they just played a superb game.
It almost seems unfair sometimes though, doesn’t it?
It does really, yeah, and a lot of people criticised us saying ‘you should change the voting tac-tics’. But really when the newbies arrived, if they’d have really used their heads they could have voted them off. They could have really incurred some damage on the older members, but you see sometimes they’re so full of it that they don’t see that. They miss the opportunity to wound the old ones by giving them a yellow card. Once they’ve got one yellow card they only need one more and they’re off! I can see it happening. But if the newbies got together and really canvassed people, they would inflict damage. But they never do! They never seem to take the opportunity of striking back when they can. It may just be a fine crack or a little window of opportunity, but they never take it. They miss it, and you think ‘why didn’t you do it?’ But of course as I always say, I’m Switzerland, I’m neutral.
Have you had any favourite contestants?
I haven’t really. There are some popular contestants, like I remember Barbara and Peter from the first ever series, they were from Barnsley, and they’d never ever been out of the country. All they’d done was live at home and brought their children up and put them through university, and they’d just never had the opportunity to go abroad. So having that couple on board was really nice because they were lovely and they really appreciated everything that they saw and everything that we did, and even everything that we ate! I remember taking them in Germany to the Ratzkella which is a restaurant below the town hall, and having dumplings and pork, and Barbara thought she was the only one that had eaten dumplings back in Yorkshire. She didn’t realise that they ate dumplings in Germany as well! It’s little things like that. Recently Sam and Charlie, the young ones from series five, they were quite toff-y, they were toffs from London. They were both ‘terribly, frightfully’ and they spoke ‘terribly, frightfully’! Well I’m from Leeds and I call a spade a spade! Because of my job anyway I’ve always had to deal with people from a wide spectrum in society, and they were young lads and they just made me laugh. Some of the stuff they would come out with was ‘terribly frightfully terribly’!
Do you know about all of the places you visit of do you have to do your homework beforehand?
A lot of them, yes, I do. I’ve got a library of notes that I’ve had since…well I daren’t tell you actually! It was 1976 when I first started as a currier. I have this library of notes on places that I’ve been to and tours I’ve done, and some overlap. I mean even now even on Coach Trip I can go back and dig them out. For example we’re going to Rome shortly, and I’ve got loads of notes on Rome. It’s one of my favourite places. So I can just go to my library and pick out the notes that I need for that particular trip. Obviously I don’t know everywhere, like the new places that we went to on series five: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. I’d never been to that area, I’d always worked in Mediterranean regions and the Canaries and Southern Portugal and North Africa and Morocco and places like that, so going up north was completely new for me, and yes I had to research those places.
Is there anywhere that you would like to visit?
I’d love to go to Russia. I’ve been as far as Hungary when the wall was still up, and it was like Checkpoint Charlie and very difficult to get in. I remember it took an hour to get through immigration. It was all Russian controlled and that was the nearest thing I ever got to Russia. I’d also love to go to St Petersburg and see all the big palaces.
Why did you decide to move to Spain when you could be in beautiful Yorkshire?
Well don’t get me wrong, I still have my pilgrimage back to Yorkshire and I’m still fulfilled with my Yorkshire puddings from my dear friends who live there, so I don’t miss out on that! What it was was that a Yorkshire man who was a dear friend of mine wanted to expand his restaurant out here and he needed a backer. I used to live here and had to come back from staying here a long time ago for health reasons, not my health but to look after another dear friend of mine. I’d always wanted to come back to Spain and it was an opportunity to go back and help my friend expand his restaurant and bar and be part of a business so I did it. So now, I don’t know what the weather’s like there in Yorkshire, but I can see the Mediterranean just down the street and it’s literally two minutes from me closing my door to me walking on that beach! There’s palm tree’s swaying and the sun’s out and it’s about 28 degrees!
Well it’s overcast and about 8 degrees here…
Well there you go, there’s the difference, Josh!
You’ve been labelled a ‘British Institution’ by the media here, how does that make you feel?
Actually it makes me feel quite humble really. I never ever thought when I was on that train in Doncaster railway station (the 125 service from London!) that they’d ring me and say they’d like me to e the currier onboard their tour bus. I’d been for the interview down in London and coming back up I thought ‘oh my goodness, what have I got myself into now with these television people!’ Obviously we’re very pragmatic us Yorkshire folks, we don’t suffer fools gladly! But yes, it’s amazing. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone back to England and landed at an airport and stood in that immigration room with all those queues, and the first time I came back after series three of Coach Trip I made one of the ladies smile! Having that power over an immigration officer is quite something! You watch, if you’re ever in a queue they NEVER smile!
They’ve usually got a face like a slapped arse!
You said it! I’m glad you said it!
You’ve got Celebrity Coach Trip coming up, what are the plans for that?
Well we’ve done one we’re now starting on two. I fly out on Thursday, I’m flying up to Nice on the Côte d’Azur in France, and we start our tour there. I don’t know who there’s going to be because the thing is when we start filming on Saturday morning, they’ll film me like they did last time in Prague actually stood by the side of the coach with Paul the driver waiting for these people to come out. But because I live in Spain and speak Spanish, I have a Spanish television. I don’t have any British television, I don’t have the BBC on every day, I don’t have Sky Sports or Sky News because I feel as if I’m integrating in society if I have the Spanish news on, so therefore I don’t know half of the people! I don’t know who they are! I might recognise them if they are big celebrities, but sometimes I just don’t recognise them because I don’t watch British telly. I mean if I’ve got a series that’s made in England I’ve got a button I can press where I can get the actual original language. So the BBC did that big series about the Tudors, and of course Catherine of Aragon was Spanish so they sold it to a Spanish network, and I was able to watch that in English which was lovely! But the Spanish loved it because obviously Catherine of Aragon was a Spanish queen in her own right. She was queen of England and Henry VIII’s first ever wife, and of course when she died the viewing figures were fantastic!
What are your plans for the future?
I think I’ll just carry on. If they want more Coach Trip, I’ll do them. And I’ll carry on living here! I mean yes of course I miss Yorkshire and Scarborough in particular because I do love Scarborough, and cricket and walking on the south bay ad I’ve got a lot of dear friends that live in Scarborough. But you never know I might get a little pied-à-terre as well over there and commute!
Thank you very much.
You’ve very welcome, Josh.