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Yorkshire in the Spotlight

30/06/2023 Mickle Hill, General, Case Study, Blog

All eyes were on Pickering this month as King Charles III paid a visit to the picturesque Yorkshire market town on Monday 12th June. The King was welcomed back to North Yorkshire to mark the 50th anniversary of the North York Moors Railway, fittingly arriving on the Royal train pulled by the Flying Scotsman locomotive - now celebrating its centenary.

His majesty was greeted by enthusiastic well-wishers on his walkabout as he sampled local produce in Pickering town centre and visited St Peter and St Paul’s Church with its stunning medieval wall paintings dating from 1450. To the delight of the crowds, both local and national news outlets were there to capture the King’s visit on camera.

However, this is not the first time that Yorkshire has attracted the great and the good. The picturesque surroundings of the North Yorkshire Moors, breath-taking historic towns and cities such as York, along with grand stately homes such as Castle Howard and Shibden Hall have long been appealing settings for television and film productions alike.

Not only is Yorkshire a more cost-effective location for a producer’s budget than London, the traditional UK centre of film, but the variety of landscapes and diverse array of architecture make for an extremely adaptable set. Yorkshire has been capable of transporting viewers from the cobbled streets of 1920s Birmingham, in BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders (2013-2022), to the troubled modern-day Calder Valley region in the award-winning Happy Valley (2014-2023), filmed within just a few miles of each other.

Yorkshire’s plentiful selection of stunning stately homes have been a popular choice to serve as the backdrop for glamourous period dramas. Castle Howard, just outside of York, has starred in both the first series of Netflix’s smash-hit romantic drama Bridgerton (2020) as Clyvedon Castle, the Duke of Hasting’s country home, and in the original and remake of Brideshead Revisited (1981 and 2008) based on Evelyn Waugh’s iconic novel. These successful, high profile productions have helped to catapult Castle Howard into the public eye, boosting local tourism by making it a must-see location for period piece fans.

Similarly, the striking historic buildings of York have featured in renowned productions. Back in late 2020, York locals were starstruck to see BAFTA award-winning actress Suranne Jones in full period costume next to the York Minster whilst filming the second series of Gentleman Jack (2021). Both series of the BBC production were also filmed partially on location at Shibden Hall, the real-life home of subject Anne Lister, located just outside of Halifax. Writer, Director, Producer and Yorkshire lass, Sally Wainwright, has developed a penchant for filming her work in her home region, being the showrunner behind BBC hit series such as Last Tango in Halifax (2012-2020) and Happy Valley.

Halifax’s Piece Hall (built in 1779 and which now houses a series of independent shops and businesses) is another popular Yorkshire filming location. The Georgian courtyard perfectly captures a summer golden hour sunset, giving its lighting a magical quality that has lured location scouts from high-end productions such as Secret Invasion (2023), Gentleman Jack and upcoming release, A Gentleman in Moscow (2023). The local film office of Calderdale council admits it now receives around 20 production requests a year for this impressive set - and a healthy bit of compensation for the trouble.

Regional screen agency Screen Yorkshire offers generous production funding to projects who opt to abscond from the south of England to shoot in the Yorkshire area. Estimated to support 12,000 jobs and with a staggering turnover of £1 billion a year, Screen Yorkshire contributes enormously to local economies and employment rates, with the company’s crewing service pairing Yorkshire film crew professionals with productions seeking local talent. According to the British Film Institute, the increase in production company investment outside of the capital has brought a £143.9 million boost to the economy of Yorkshire and Humber, plus 2204 new full-time jobs to the region as of 2019 - making Yorkshire the UK production hotspot to watch.

Yorkshire locals admit it’s delightfully strange to see some of Hollywood’s biggest stars such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Harrison Ford and Samuel L. Jackson wandering round seemingly unassuming Yorkshire towns like Pickering and Halifax. Summer 2023 release Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) has been recently filming in Yorkshire, using North York Moors Railway trains and stations to shoot some of the key action sequences. This heritage railway is no stranger to the big screen, having previously had one of its locomotives star as The Hogwarts Express in the classic Harry Potter films. In the first film of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), you can clearly see Yorkshire’s Goathland station serving as the magical Hogsmeade platform. With the authentic period feel of the classic steam trains and stunning landscapes provided by the heritage railway route stretching from Pickering to Whitby, it is easy to transport viewers to a different place or time, accounting for the continued popularity of the railway onscreen.

It is safe to say that Hollywood is enamoured with the beauty, history and timeless atmosphere that Yorkshire provides, both in real life and onscreen. In turn, the pride felt at Hollywood coming to call, combined with patronage of local businesses, cafés and guesthouses causing the Yorkshire economy to bloom, guarantees vast film production crews and their A-list stars a warm northern welcome. Keep your eyes peeled for Pickering at the cinema this summer, action fans, as Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One (2023) shot scenes of the latest instalment in the charming market town. Agent Ethan Hunt was apparently very popular with the locals after touching down in his helicopter!

Evidently, Yorkshire is becoming a centre of the British film industry in its own right thanks to the mutually beneficial relationship between production crews and local industry, businesses and people. We eagerly await to see the next blockbuster hit to come out of ‘God’s Own Country’.  

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