Thursday, 9 July 2015

From Spinning Wool to Spinning Tales – Calderdale reinvents itself as a hotbed for film and TV production

Calderdale in Yorkshire has been well known as the centre of wool manufacture and spinning mills, since the 15th century with high numbers of water-powered mills meandering along the valleys of the Calder River. In the 19th century the area took a central role in the Industrial Revolution with steam powered mills expanding rapidly into its easily accessible villages. So it comes as no surprise that the entrepreneurial textile towns in West Yorkshire have been able to reinvent themselves in recent years as a pretty gritty backdrop for some of TV’s most attention grabbing fictional shows.

Much of this new found fame is thanks to Yorkshire-born writer Sally Wainwright whose affiliation with Halifax and the Calderdale towns she grew up amongst has seen their meteoric rise in popularity. Wainwright epitomises the creative, straight-talking, fun and inventive nature of Yorkshire folk, which comes through in spades in her work.

Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley are two shows by Sally Wainwright that have been realised by Manchester-based Red Production Company.  It has been well documented that much of series one of romantic comedy drama Last Tango in Halifax was actually filmed in Lancashire and that Wainwright requested more scenes of series two to be filmed in Halifax town, to improve its authenticity.

As well as filming in Halifax’s precinct areas and local cafes, the production team chose Jacobean manor Holdsworth House, three miles from Halifax town centre, as the setting for several Last Tango escapades, including the finale scene when lead characters Alan and Celia tied the knot.

Wainwright’s powerful storytelling went on to astound viewers in Happy Valley. Set in Hebden Bridge in Calderdale, the increasingly dramatic twists and turns of the spine-tingling plot were nail biting and the script undoubtedly helped bag another BAFTA and the 2015 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards and a British Screenwriter’s Award.

With some of Wainwright’s feats - including Scott and Bailey and Coronation Street - surely confirming her as one of Britain’s best screenwriters, her work, along with the efforts of regional agency Screen Yorkshire and Creative England, has placed Calderdale as one of the most popular places for film companies to use in the North.  Kindle Entertainment recently chose Halifax as the production base for creating Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler’s children’s TV show Hank Zipzer. Interestingly, production firms cite the availability of excellent local crew, good motorway and airport networks and quality hotel accessibility as several reasons for them choosing Calderdale.

Creating series two of Happy Valley has brought Sally Wainwright back to Calderdale recently and you can see her in ‘Conversation with British actors George Costigan and Judy Holt’ at the Square Chapel in Halifax on Wednesday 30th September 2015. The event is sold out but you can win two tickets and overnight stay with breakfast and pre-theatre dinner for two courtesy of four star hotel Holdsworth House Hotel & Restaurant in Halifax (shortlisted for Large Hotel of the Year at the Welcome to Yorkshire awards). Plus you’ll get a box set of Last Tango in Halifax courtesy of Square Chapel.

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