TV and movie producers flock to Cumbrian locations

The Westmorland Gazette: Jessica Brown-Findlay starred in scenes from Jamaica Inn, partly filmed in Kirkby Lonsdale Jessica Brown-Findlay starred in scenes from Jamaica Inn, partly filmed in Kirkby Lonsdale

THIS month ITV announced that it had given the green light to a thriller series set in the Lake District telling the true story of a couple who turn their remote guest house into a safe house.

Described by ITV as an atmospheric thriller, ‘Safe House’ is the latest in a long line of films and TV shows to feature our countryside as its backdrop.

Although miles away from the flashing lights of Tinseltown, the county has been prized by Hollywood directors for years as a blockbuster setting for films including ‘Miss Potter’, ‘King Arthur’ and ‘Snow White and the Huntsman.’

But it is the silver screen which has led to an influx of lights and cameras in South Lakeland in recent months, with Kirkby Lonsdale capturing nationwide audiences in BBC 1’s prime-time Easter drama ‘Jamaica Inn’.

Directed by BAFTA-winning director Phillipa Lowthrope, the adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel saw the town transformed into a 19th century Cornish village for two weeks in October, with locals invited to be extras.

The town in the novel is Launceston, Cornwall, but Kirkby Lonsdale was chosen for filming because producers said it was the best example they could find of a confined space in a town centre featuring period architecture.

Robin Sadler, chair of Kirkby Lonsdale’s Chamber of Trade, said: “There’s no doubt it has been a great talking point and it has got the town’s name noticed in a wider circle.

“It’s hard to say whether it has made much difference in tills in the town centre yet but we’re hoping it will go on through the year.

“Summer’s coming up and I’m sure anyone interested in the programme coming to this area will want to see where it was filmed.”

And just one day after the third and final part of ‘Jamaica Inn’ aired, the first episode of a completely contrasting show, filmed in another South Lakeland town, screened on Sky Living.

Set in Kendal and starring comedian Chris Addison (‘The Thick of It’, ‘Mock the Week’), Jo Joyner (‘Eastenders’), sitcom ‘Trying Again’ saw cast and crew filming on location in and around the Auld Grey Town for 10 days.

So what is it about the area which sees film and TV crews flock here?

According to Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, the primary appeal is the scenery, which includes ‘both the natural and built environment’.

But he said the organisation has also spent years making sure the county is a ‘film friendly area’.

“We make sure that we are friendly and willing to help film companies, although as an area we are already fortunate in many ways,” he said.

“We’re blessed in the fact that it’s relatively unpopulated and there are fewer contact points in terms of permissions.

“With the National Trust and the Lake District National Park Authority you can find stunning backdrops without the complexity of multiple landowners.

“It’s a relatively small world up here in terms of culture and heritage so we’ll usually know where to go and who to talk to to get things moving."

Mr Stephens added: “What we are seeing in recent years is a massive boom in film and TV productions overall – we have over 1,000 TV channels these days so we’re feeding a large beast.”

It was impossible to measure exacttly how much these screen appearances brought extra visitors to the area, but there were direct and indirect benefits.

“The film crews themselves will spend money in the local economy, stay in hotels and some will pay fees to landowners.

“More indirectly it’s showcasing our fantastic natural landscapes, villages and historic buildings and anything that improves the awareness of the county is a good advert for it.”

Cumbria Tourism works with a number of media partners to attract film and TV crews to the county.

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