THE world of film and television is a multi-million pound industry — and Bolton is cashing in by playing a starring role in many big productions. Saiqa Chaudhari reports.

HARDLY a month seems to go by without film crews moving into Bolton town centre and stars of TV and film — Sarah Parish and Robert Carlyle for example — being spotted in and around the borough.

And Bolton’s reputation as a go-to filming location is proving hugely lucrative for council coffers, which have dramatically shrunk during austerity.

In just four months the council has made £106,550 through production companies choosing to film in Bolton.

Only recently Hollywood star Robert Carlyle was in Bolton for a major new Sky drama, in which he plays the lead in the six-part series Cobra.

Netflix’s new thriller, The Stranger starring Richard Armitage, is being filmed in the town centre and Bolton was chosen for hit drama Bancroft.

The stunning architecture of Le Mans Crescent formed the backdrop to the hit detective series— in which Bolton was gloriously showcased in the opening credits.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “In the last two years alone, we have facilitated dozens of filming requests from some of the biggest names in TV production including Netflix, the BBC and ITV.

“As a council, we work hard to accommodate as many requests as possible whether it is a short shoot or a long-term contract lasting several months.

“We provide a number of supporting services to film crews and rent out council-owned buildings as filming locations, all of which generates additional income for the council.

“On top of this, filming brings a wide range of benefits to our town including a boost for local traders and the opportunity to reach a global audience by having Bolton feature on primetime TV.

“Bolton has a growing reputation as a filming destination, and this has contributed significantly to the local economy.”

To producers, the council sells the borough as a 'film friendly authority' and is able to provide 'great' locations to suit all types of productions.

And Bolton’s iconic architecture and stunning countryside has been featured in programmes such as Peaky Blinders and Last Tango in Halifax — with the striking buildings on Le Mans being used as the police station in Bancroft.

Phil Collinson, producer of the first series of Bancroft, has told how he deliberately chose the town as the location for the four-part series because it has the same feel and look of international cities.

The series was one of ITV’s best-performing dramas of 2017 with a series average audience of 6.7 million and a 25.1 per cent share of the available audience.

Credits opened with a dramatic aerial shot of Le Mans Crescent and the town hall clock, with filming taking place inside and outside the historic buildings.

Mr Collinson said: “We didn’t want this to feel like every other police show you watch. We looked at film noir and some American influences. And so we went to Bolton very deliberately. Bolton has an incredible Victorian crescent, town hall and civic centre. It really feels like Paris or New York around there with the old cobbled streets and big sandstone buildings.

“Then once you get inside there are long marble corridors and great big open spaces.

“The CID office is a large old room with pillars in it. Lots of old, dark wood. We tried to make it feel like the present inhabiting locations with lots of history bearing down on them.

“So this modern world is crashing together with the past. A sense the past is around you all the time. A happy by-product of that was we got really handsome locations. The whole things feels special. Steeped in history.

“The locations are a big star of this show and really important to the atmosphere of the whole thing.”

Scenes for the second series of Bancroft were also filmed in and around Bolton.

Recently the town starred in Years and Years.

A spokesman for RED Production said: "RED Production Company are proud of their Northern roots, basing themselves in Manchester and filming in and around the North.

"For over twenty years RED have filmed several dramas in the area, including the recent Years and Years and current productions Traces and The Stranger.  Bolton has a great feel of a large town without being too big like a city centre. 

"It is also very film friendly and always so accommodating to our crews across all our shows."

The architecture has provided the backdrop to BBC’s Peaky Blinders starring Hollywood stars Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy.

The area was chosen because it resembled a London street.

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke also visited Bolton Market for the filming of Spike Island while Life on Mars was filmed on location in Great Lever.

Shameless and Last Tango in Halifax have also been filmed in Bolton.

One of the most well known is that of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, which was filmed at St Gregory’s Social Club in Church Street, Farnworth — near to the comic’s birthplace.

And just down the road, Bolton School is also capitalising from the film industry.

The money made out of the “school set” goes to fund places for bright children who may otherwise not be able to attend.

Adele Hughes, who coordinates the hiring out of school premises, said: “We do seem to be on a good streak at the moment. The word about Bolton School being a great location for filming seems to have filtered out to various film companies and their location managers.

""Production Companies come back to us as the school has so much to offer with its wonderful buildings and extensive grounds, they tell us we are easy to deal with and we also have lots of experience dealing with the logistical aspects of filming."
“All the money that we make – along with revenues from hiring out our premises and services for weddings – is ploughed back into the school’s bursary fund which enables many pupils to study for free here.”

The school’s credits include a recent Last Tango in Halifax as the school where Sarah Lancashire is headmistress, the school of choice for James Nesbitt’s son in Cold Feet, a series co-produced by former pupil Deanne Cunningham.

In recent years, the school has also featured in Bancroft and Our Girl with Michelle Keegan.

Location shoots have so far taken place in the Great Halls, heads’ studies, on the sports fields, on the corridors, in the classrooms and laboratories, in the Arts Centre, in the Oxbridge-like quadrangles, on the headmaster’s lawn, in the sports Hall, the sixth form centre and on the memorial staircase.