I’ve been a fan of Peaky Blinders since the first series hit BBC 2 back in 2013. Bradford picked up a couple of scenes back then including Undercliffe Cemetery and some short scenes on the canal at Shipley. I remember thinking it would be great to get more scenes made in Bradford in future.
Fast forward through another couple of seasons and the show has become a world wide phenomenon, especially since it screened on Netflix. The series now has cult status and there’s talk of Peaky Blinders themed weddings, a whole fashion craze for peaked caps and long overcoats and even Peaky Blinders gin. Which I have tasted and can vouch for!!
Season 4 which aired in UK in the winter of 2017 was the best season yet in my opinion and a good chunk of it was filmed here in Bradford – the world’s first UNESCO City of Film.
It was on an earlier production (king Charles 111) which was filming in City Hall where I met Miglet Crighton and Michael Campbell, location managers for Peaky Blinders and we got along brilliantly from the word go. Both are professional, likeable and realistic in their approach to what can be a demanding job.
The job of location manager carries a significant amount of responsibility. Sourcing relevant locations which fit the script is one thing. Working out if its possible to bring the whole circus to town (which a high end TV drama does), is something else.
Miglet was already familiar with City Hall from working with me on King Charles 111 and had been intrigued by the Victorian cells in the basement. She arranged for Michael to come and spend the day with me to look at a long list of other potential locations.
Peaky Blinders season 4 begins in December 1925 so I showed Michael some of the best location gems Bradford has to offer which fit the period, including Bradford’s stunning Grade 1 listed, City Hall, the conservation area in Bradford known as ‘Little Germany’, the Midland Hotel, the Bradford Club and other places and spaces. I’m pleased to say Michael was hugely impressed by the heritage locations in the City which in his words ‘just keeps giving.’
The next step was to get the director and the art director up to Bradford to look at the short list, City Hall and Little Germany in particular.
The old warehouse in Little Germany looked like this when I showed Peaky Blinders around……
But by the time it had been given the Peaky Blinders treatment……well – check the transformation out here
So once the Director, Art Director, Director of Photographer and the Producer are happy with the location choices the detailed work of making them fit for filming begins and that’s when the little army are drafted in. All the highly skilled technicians who literally work their magic with a lot of smoke and mirrors (believe me, a lot of smoke in Peaky’s case) are then brought in for the technical recce and negotiations begin between the various teams of creatives and technicians as to what is possible and as importantly what is affordable and in some cases what is legal (health and safety wise).
Here is the crew on one of a number of technical recces to Bradford and of course the all important curry for lunch.
When my task began, in late August 2017, it was a simple one. I was to collect information on any film and television productions that had filmed in Bradford in the last few years (the last entry on the original Bradford Film Heritage app timeline was Bill, in 2015), and insert it into the app, finally bringing it up-to-date.
The first sign this task was to grow into much more came when I suggested I collate the same information for some of the older entries, many of which were included in the timeline but had no page of their own to give app users any idea about the production or its connection to Bradford.
This proved more difficult and time-consuming than I had initially expected. When an area has as long and as rich a filmic past as the Bradford district, it is only so long before one begins stumbling into the world of obscure and long-forgotten BBC dramas from the sixties…
This research made up the bulk of my work, in particular trying to find reliable information as to the locations of productions filmed before the advent of the Bradford Film Office (or trying to locate the sites of long-demolished buildings from a small collection of old photographs…) When this was done (or, I should say, mostly done, as previously unknown productions continued to come to light throughout the entire process), I was happy to know that soon my hard work would pay off, with the new content soon to be added to the app to create a more complete picture of Bradford’s’ Film Heritage to all future app users.
…It was never going to be that simple.
When came to put info on app, it became clear that something much more radical needed to happen. It turned out the original version of the app was made using technology that had since become out-of-date, making it near impossible to update, and was certainly too complicated to be used by a non-coder, which was vital if it was to be kept up-to-date in the future.
So we began the process of giving the site a full overhaul, including re-assessing the functionality of the app, what we wanted it to do, and how it should look. The map was created from scratch, combining the two separate Bradford District and city centre maps and allowing each location description to include links to the productions filmed there. Three new tours were added, in addition to the updated Heritage Tour, and the entire site was rebuilt with a new, more modern look.
To anyone reading this, I hope you enjoy the revamped Bradford Film Heritage site, and I also hope, to prove none of my work on it has been in vain, that you read every last entry on the timeline. Yes, even 1968’s BBC series Resurrection, so well-loved that we literally couldn’t find a single image of it on the entire internet. Even that one.