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UK Travel Channel Takes Trip to Lowell

UK Travel visits Lowell/Sun photo by Bob Whitaker
A UK Travel Channel video crew visited Lowell on Thursday in Kerouac Park. From left are UK Travel Channel's Ian Hart, Kerouac expert Paul Marion, Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau President Deb Belanger, director Justin Hawkes and host Julian Hanton.

Lowell Sun
By Marie Donovan

LOWELL -- When the UK Travel Channel runs the Lowell segment of its new "American Times" series that was filmed here Thursday, people in 118 countries will hear the show's three-man crew wax about breakfast at the Owl Diner. 

"They had the best pancakes I've had in America so far," filmmaker Ian Hart said. 

Hart and his colleagues, Director Justin Hawkes and show host Julian Hanton, dined at the Owl at the suggestion of their companion for the day, Lowell police officer/ movie star Mickey O'Keefe, whose wife, Donna, is a waitress there. 

"It was a lot of fun," said O'Keefe, who can now add a small-screen credit to his appearance as himself in The Fighter, which Hawkes said was the primary draw for the crew. 

"I loved the movie," Hawkes said. 

The three filmmakers, who have a UK production company called The Inn, are originally from New Zealand, said Hart, who said hanging out with O'Keefe was "pretty cool." 

They've visited Texas, Louisiana, California, New York and Tennessee. 

"We came here from Boston. We're going to Salem tomorrow," Hart said. 

In addition to eating at the Owl Diner and visiting Ramalho's gym, where scenes from The Fighter were filmed, the crew stopped at the Jack Kerouac Commemorative Park and planned to visit the Whistler House, City Hall and The Babylon restaurant for dinner. 

"Jack Kerouac was the ultimate traveler," so including the park, which features monuments of Kerouac's famous writings made sense for a travel show, said UMass Lowell's Kerouac expert Paul Marion, whom the crew filmed at the park. 

The crew will also feature the Red Sox, a Boston comedy club, MIT's graduation and Cape Cod, where they'll explore "the whole Kennedy thing," Hawkes said. 

They'll also stop in Gloucester before they wrap up the Massachusetts portion of their trip. 

"We're going to go out on a boat and follow lobsters in the sea to their final resting point in Hanton's mouth," Hawkes added. 

Hanton said he found Lowell's history "really quite nice." 

"Going to the gym where they shot parts of The Fighter was pretty amazing. It was quite cool," he said. 

The Lowell segment is a big win for the city's efforts to promote itself as a tourism destination, said Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau President Deb Belanger, who accompanied the film crew throughout the day. 

"Anytime we get TV coverage it's definitely a win for the city. That goes to show Lowell really does have a presence in the international marketplace," Belanger said.