AS any Brit who has upped sticks for sunny Spain knows, Costa del Sol expats are a weird and wonderful bunch who are never short of interesting tales.
And some of those colourful personalities have already been spilling the beans in the new season of Channel 5’s Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun.
In episode one, aired on January 10, we met pensioners Jo and Jan who run a dog rescue centre, and Welsh couple Ben and Kate who hope to fund their new lifestyle with just €30,000 between them.
Over the coming weeks a marketing guru turned salsa teacher, a call centre entrepreneur now pulling pints and a retired copper turned market organiser, are others set to give us a peek into the drama of their daily lives on the Costa.
The popular fly-on-the-wall series follows the lives of Brits who have decided to swap the rainy UK for a ‘cheap as chips’ lifestyle in the sun.
Filmed for the last three years in Benidorm, Channel 5 decided to ditch Alicante and set its sights on Andalucia for season four.
Series producer Bob Brear tells the Olive Press the show is ‘a celebration of what it’s like to be a British expat in Spain’ and hopes to inspire others to make the move abroad.
“Instead of other shows which have sneered at places like Benidorm, we want it to have an aspirational feel,” adds the 44-year-old from Bury in Manchester.
At first it was difficult to get expats on board who were not familiar with the show, Brear admits, as many were dubious they would be made a mockery on TV.
But he insists: “We’re not doing it to take the mick, we just want to tell their stories. Everything said in the commentary are things we would say to these people in person.
“We think it’s a brave thing to do – up sticks and start a new life in Spain having no idea whether it’ll work out. We want viewers to watch it and think, maybe I could do that too!”
The producer, who has worked on popular shows such as Come Dine With Me, The Class of ‘92 and Antiques Road Trip, admits that filming on the Costa del Sol was ‘completely different’ to Benidorm, which was more about ‘cheap thrills’.
He says it offered a greater variety of stories due to the more ‘affluent’ crowds that the Costa attracts, showcasing everything from estate agents, to animal charity workers to a businessman selling a 70K vintage boat in Marbella.
“The Costa has everything from your euro pints to expensive cocktails in Banus. It gave us a lot more scope to show different types of stories because there’s everyone from the working class to the rich,” adds Bob, who has a holiday home in Benalmadena.
The original idea for the show was born after managing director Sarah Murch discovered how thriving the caravan communities were in Benidorm, with some 6,000 expats living in static vehicle parks.
And the team found that there are an abundance of similar parks on the Costa too, with the first four episodes shot in an Antequera-based caravan community, Saydo Park.
It boasts around 150 static homes on the plot, with British expats making up some 80%. But Bob admits that they needed more than just caravans to keep viewers entertained.
So this week we’ll meet the ‘Cat Lady of the Costa del Sol’, Kelly Dooley, who feeds more than 100 street cats in Benalmadena and takes the strays to the vets to be neutered.
But the vet bills have piled up – she owed €2,000 at one point – so Kelly comes up with a plan to raise some cash with a flea market.
Londoner Kelly tells the Olive Press it was ‘lovely’ to be contacted and get some support after eight years of helping the neighbourhood ferrals, some of which she keeps in her home.
“The experience was nothing like I had encountered before – it was amazing. Although at first I was shy and uncomfortable.
“But I was just so happy for the opportunity – I was constantly thinking about the poor Spanish cats throughout the filming and how much help they need. That is what really pushed me to go on television,” she adds.
In episode four, we’ll see the challenges West-Midlander Vincent Neale encounters while pursuing his dream of opening not one but two bars in the sun.
But one is not even open yet, and Vincent has already had enough. While he thinks he has bought a working bar complete with all fixtures and fittings, it turns out he has only purchased the lease to the building, and he’s haemorrhaging cash to get it kitted out and ready.
He tells us it was a ‘brilliant experience’ but opening Groo-V in Benavista and Tipples near Torremolinos was no walk in the park.
“I wouldn’t say there were a few disasters, there were many – but it all makes for good TV!” adds the expat.
“I got a message from Bob the other day thanking me for being one of the main contributors of the show… So, I’m not sure if I should be excited or go into hiding!”
We’ll also meet Margaret Finch as she organises a Magical Mystery coach tour, snake-hunting pest controller Graham Salt and Nicole and Aaron, a young couple travelling the world putting on fitness bootcamps from a campervan.
Good news for expats, Bob says there’s plans to film future series on the Costa. But what exactly does it take to be chosen for the show?
“People with big characters, who like to talk and are full of life,” says the producer.
“But above all, someone with an interesting story to tell.”
Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun continues on Thursday on Channel 5 at 8pm UK time.