Shropshire Star

Hotel plays host to emotional reunion TV show

If you had the chance to connect with someone who played a significant role in your life, would you seize it?

Alex Jones, inset, presents Reunion Hotel, filmed at Iscoyd Park

Presenter Alex Jones and her team are giving people the unique opportunity to make this happen in a new BBC Two series which promises to provide laughter, tears and emotion. And it has all been filmed at the picturesque Iscoyd Park, near Whitchurch.

The stories explored at the Reunion Hotel include a young woman who is given the chance to meet the man who saved her life after she fell on to the London Underground tracks, a man who is reunited with his long-lost brother after discovering he had a secret sibling and a 1960s girl band who reconnect with their favourite boy band 50 years on.

Participants check in to seek forgiveness while others wish to say thank you or get the answers they have longed to know.

“I think it’s reaffirming in terms of humanity and how kind people are and actually we do live in a lovely world, there are nice people out there,” says Jones.

“It wasn’t always sad tears, they were sometimes happy.”

The One Show presenter, 46, admits she did feel a great deal of responsibility as she helped the individuals share their stories and guided them into the reunion.

“These are life-changing moments for a lot of people being reunited,” she explains.

"But lots of the stories, they were very serious, some were very happy, but the range I think is what is incredible about the series, every story is very unexpected and something you’ve never heard before.

“Yes, there are adoption stories and there are programmes that do that very well but it feels like it’s very different because you get that side-by-side with something that you’ve never imagined.”

Amid the current challenges many people face, the presenter also feels this programme offers a welcome relief.

“I think it is really important for people to have escapism, something that feels like a warm hug, just interesting stories, good people, and it takes you away from all the things that we’re constantly bombarded with on a daily basis. I think it’s the right time to have a programme like this.”

In recent years, Jones has spoken about her own personal experiences of having a miscarriage, in the 10-part series Making Babies, and the issues that can come with having a baby at an older age.

The mother of three believes her open nature has been beneficial in this latest project as she thinks it is important that those who are sharing their personal stories feel like they know her.

“They put such trust (in us), they come in and share everything, sometimes things that are really difficult.

“I think that there has to be an exchange. They have to know me so that they know who the person is that they are confiding in and I don’t shy away from it, I am quite an open book.

“I think sharing stuff makes you more empathetic, and it makes you more human. Very often people tend to put people who are on telly up on a pedestal but I don’t think people do with me because there’s the exchange.”

She adds that this new series and Making Babies are the two projects she is most proud of, as she feels they uncover important stories, ones that she feels are more interesting than film and TV stars.

“I’m super lucky in my everyday job and get to talk to film stars and television stars and all the rest of it but what’s always interesting for me is real people’s stories.

“These people, of course, are incredible and they’re super talented, but often the people who we met at the hotel were much nicer and they’ve got a more interesting story to tell.

“And I think this series really showcases how amazing people from all walks of life can be, when you put them all together in one hotel like we do it really creates something really special.”

The manner in which the show was filmed was also carefully considered, as opposed to having a large team directing the action, a rig without a cameraman was used to allow for more authentic conversations.

Jones feels this enabled people to open up much more quickly and created a warmer atmosphere as the individuals could relax and be less self-conscious about feeling filmed.

However, the stakes are as high as live television - if not more so - as the team does not get a second take to capture these once-in-a-lifetime moments.

The TV presenter says her years of live TV did help her think on her feet but she also just approached it as if she was in a room with two friends or relatives to help ease the strain.

“You can only do what feels right in the moment, you’re reading the room as you’re going and reacting and that’s why it’s nearly like a live programme in a sense because you can’t go back and redo anything.

“You do what you think is best really and hope that that’s right. But we’ve got our counsellors and our adoption specialist when it gets really heavy, and if I feel like we need to get a professional in here they’re on hand, so we’re well buffered.”

The first episode of Reunion Hotel airs on BBC Two and BBC One Wales at 8pm on Thursday, April 6.

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