Why cult Aussie kids TV show ‘Round the Twist’ may never have happened without Birmingham

If you grew up watching Kids’ TV in the late 80s and early 90s, the lyrics “have you ever, ever felt like this?” will feel reassuringly familiar. You’re singing it right now, aren’t you?

Round the Twist and its bizarrely brilliant tales of an Aussie family living in a haunted lighthouse was a staple of the CBBC Broomcupboard.

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Its two original series were followed by two more in 2000 and 2001. And they’re all back on Netflix now, if you want to reacquaint yourself with the classic theme tune.

Or you can watch our attempt at some refreshed titles for 2017 (we got some strange looks while we were going round the twist!).

We all loved it because it was so wonderfully weird, and unlike anything we’d seen before, or probably since.

But if you’re reading this from the West Midlands, there’s another reason to love it, too.

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The real lighthouse much of the show was centred around was almost entirely designed and made in Brum, barring the concrete walls, and shipped 12,000 miles to Australia, just south-west of Melbourne, in the 1890s.

How do we know? Well, on our six month, round-the-world trip, a visit to the “Round the Twist Light House” (or Split Point as it’s actually known) was up there with Neighbours’ Ramsay Street (or Pin Oak Court to the locals) and Home & Away’s Summer Bay (or Palm Beach in real life) on our must-visit-for-nostalgia’s-sake list.

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Daily tours are now offered around Split Point, as much for Round The Twist fans as maritime enthusiasts.  But the Brummie Bombshell took us by surprise.

It shouldn’t have done, of course. There was a time, especially around the turn of the nineteenth century, when Birmingham made pretty much everything.

But stood there, 12,000 miles from home, with our guide informing us that “pretty much all of what you see inside the lighthouse was made in Birmingham, England’ still gave us a fuzzy feeling inside.

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Split Point Lighthouse was built in 1891 to help prevent a spate of shipwrecks along the south-east Australian coastline.

Chance Brothers of Spon Lane, Smethwick, were commissioned to produce most of the internal glass and ironwork of the lighthouse.

At the time, Chance Brothers were glassmaking pioneers, moulding glass for 90 percent of the world’s reflective lighthouses during the firm’s heydey.

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But manufacturing ended in the Midlands in 1981, and the huge derelict glassworks has loomed over the M5 motorway ever since, although there are now plans to save the crumbling factory in tribute to the pioneering work done there.

They glazed the Crystal Palace for the 1851 Great Exhibition, and the Houses of Parliament. They were the only firm capable of making the opal glass for the four faces of Big Ben. They even made the White House’s ornamental windows. These guys were the real deal.

GALLERY: See the factory & its other famous pioneering work here

Like those most famous of commissions, all of the Chance Brothers’ work on Split Point remains today.

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The 34 metre tall sparkling white cylinder still shines gloriously in the Australian sun, its bright red top visible for miles along what’s known as the Great Ocean Road.

The 132 wrought iron stairs to the top remain intact and the original lens is still in use (although the new LED lights are a bit more high-tech these days).

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So if you end up downloading the old Round the Twist episodes (there are 51 of them, and unlike so many old children’s shows, is actually still brilliant), Brummies and Yam Yams the world over can take an extra little bit of pleasure in the exploits of Pete, Linda and Bronson getting up to no good, knowing their tomfoolery might not have been possible without the West Midlands….

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