Who would have thought a pre-match pint at The Colliery Tavern would lead to international stardom?
Peter Farrer’s love of Sunderland AFC was forged on the terraces of Roker Park after his dad took him to his first match when he was eight-years-old. It was a rite of passage that would lead to a lifelong relationship with his home club, one filled with euphoric highs and crushing lows.
Now the peaks and troughs of being a Sunderland fan has put Peter on the global stage in Netflix documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die in which the 62-year-old taxi driver features prominently.
Like any other match day, Peter was enjoying a pint with his mates in The Colliery Tavern in October 2017 when producers from Fulwell 73 came in asking if any fans would like to chat on camera about the club.
The Hendon grandad’s down-to-earth charisma and unwavering support for his club shone through and he ended up becoming one of the central figures in the hugely-popular first series of the docu-series which has been watched around the world.
“Someone said I’m big in LA now, imagine me in Hollywood?!” joked Peter over a cuppa at Roker End Cafe in Sheepfolds ahead of a shift with Station Taxis.
Recalling his first interview with Fulwell 73, whose founders are themselves SAFC fans, Peter said: “We’d never even heard of the show and didn’t know what would come of it. But they took my number and rang me to ask if they could interview me on camera again. It grew from there and for the first series they would film me in the taxi, in the pub or at home.
“I’m not shy and you can’t embarrass me, so I felt fine about speaking on camera. I just say what I’m feeling, none of it is scripted. I really like the team too, they’re really lovely people and we have a good laugh.”
Since series one was released on Netflix, Peter has been discussed on Talk Sport and 5Live, praised in Sports Illustrated, regularly gets recognised when he’s taxiing around the city and was even spotted by a Met Police officer among the crowds at Wembley last month.
A former maintenance manager for Sunderland Housing Group who has been a taxi driver for 11 years, Peter, who lives with wife Marie, 65, says he’s proud to be part of a series which celebrates his home turf.
“People don’t realise what a great place Sunderland is, and now people from all over the world have seen us,” he said. “People can be negative, but there’s no where in Sunderland you wouldn’t get out of your car. People talk about big cities like Newcastle, Leeds and Liverpool, but there are places there I wouldn’t even stop my taxi.
“It’s not like that here and I feel we should shout about Sunderland more and blow our own trumpet. I’m proud to be part of a show that does that.”
The cameras have been rolling this season too for series two of the docu-series and Peter, who is dad to Peter, 37, and Mark, 34, will once again feature, with the team filming him almost weekly.
“They’ve had me doing some weird and wonderful things this series,” he said. “They’ve filmed me having my hair cut, buying fish down the fish quay and sat me with Joyce (the stadium chef from the first series) at Wembley so they could film our reactions.
“They just ring me up and ask if they can film me at locations. I’ve never said no, but I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to.”
While the first series focused on SAFC’s successive relegation in a demoralising campaign, the second series is set to be more upbeat as the Black Cats look to win promotion under a new ownership which has breathed fresh life into the club.
“I think they’ve had even more access this season,” he said. “The new owners are much more transparent and the people of Sunderland need that, we’re nosy, we want to know what’s going on. I think the new owners have bought into Sunderland and Sunderland has bought into them.
“Being a Sunderland fan is an addiction, they’re not the easiest of clubs to support. What’s great about Sunderland ‘Til I Die though is that it’s not about a big club like Juventus.”
And of the club’s chances of promotion?
“I can’t predict the football results, if I could I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I think we have a good chance of promotion, but a month to go and we still don’t know the outcome. It’s never easy with Sunderland, but it’s certainly never dull.”
•Read more about Fulwell 73’s passion for Sunderland here.