The Dapper Side – Lights, Camera, Action

Ever since the 1960s heydays of Blackpool’s Big Night Out the town has been a Mecca for the entertainment industry which has flocked here to film. And it’s not only live performance shows such as the Big Night Out brand, The Royal Variety Show and Strictly Come Dancing that the television industry bods seem to enjoy capturing in Blackpool.
Our unique and vibrant town has inspired directors and producers alike into thinking that Blackpool is the perfect setting for their scripts.

In 2004 we saw the often dark but very bizarre musical drama Blackpool, starring David Tennant and David Morrissey, which created a much seedier appearance of Blackpool then we locals were familiar with.

The storyline worked perfectly against some of the town’s most iconic buildings. Sadly, the beautiful and prominent Lucky Star arcade which heavily featured is all but gone. Its frontage full of pizzazz and energy has slowly disappeared as the site was transformed into a chain pub.Lucky Starr Brendan Bunting

Along with dark dramas we have seen the world of soap descend on the resort: Hollyoaks, Eastenders and resort favourite Coronation Street. The latter  has enjoyed a rich history with the town, with iconic storylines.  Who could forget the emotional episode of Hayley’s last holiday, the Duckworth’s comedy moments, or the infamous sceene in which evil Alan Bradley was knocked down by a tram. Incidentally, that episode will be 25 years old next month.Safe House Brendan Bunting2

Soaps and dramas aside, the resort has welcomed the highbrow too, from the likes of The Culture Show and Sunday Politics to Question Time. There have also been several music videos filmed here, acts such as Johnny Marr, Robbie Williams, The Killers and Simply Red.  The movie world has also found an attraction with the resort with Harry Hill’s recent blockbuster filming here, as well as the 1995 cult classic, Funny Bones.

One thing we must avoid when the cameras roll into town is the kind of filming which shows Blackpool in a poor light.  Take the infamous 999: What’s Your Emergency, a stark reminder of some of the town’s depressing social issues, but not a great canvas to sell or represent the town.  Since then lessons have been learned with both the gaudy Geordie Shore and benefit claimant-bashing Skint being denied access by the town’s powers that be.

This doesn’t mean that the town can’t welcome documentary type programmes. Take the wonderful, and often overlooked, Blackpool Lights on Channel 5 which aired late last year. It was a heart-warming look at some of the town’s real characters but due to poor scheduling if you weren’t a night owl you may never have had the chance to see this gem.

This week, a new ITV drama called Safe-House was filming in the town and thanks to a social media heads up I was able to spend hours watching a staggering 50 plus takes of an explosive scene featuring former Emmerdale and Cutting It star Jason Merrells and current Waterloo Road and former Brookside actress Nicola Stephenson.

Safe House Brendan BuntingIt was an unusual set as it wasn’t closed off to the general public. Of course we couldn’t walk on camera, but I did find myself standing next to leading actors and film crew whilst I was captivated by the methods and processes that go into creating a drama.

The evening got me thinking that our town has the potential to become a much expanded and broader destination for the television industry. More dramas, more lighthearted documentaries, more culture, entertainment and heritage shows, any type of positive filming that can sell Blackpool worldwide.

So why not? We not only have beautiful sea views but bags of quirkiness.  Where else could “Gas lighters, five for a pound” become embedded in a BAFTA nominated script?
Who needs Pinewood when we have Claremont?

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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