Last Tango in Halifax . . . and its Shakespearean roots

Last Tango in Halifax dinner and discussion evening at Holdsworth House Hotel, Holmfield. From the left, writer Sally Wainwright, Holdsworth House owner Gail Moss, Last Tango star Anne Reid and series producer Karen Lewis.
Last Tango in Halifax dinner and discussion evening at Holdsworth House Hotel, Holmfield. From the left, writer Sally Wainwright, Holdsworth House owner Gail Moss, Last Tango star Anne Reid and series producer Karen Lewis.
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A fascinating insight into the runaway success of Last Tango in Halifax was relayed to an appreciative audience by writer Sally Wainwright, producer Karen Lewis and leading actress Anne Reid.

They were the guests for the “Dinner with the Stars” held at Holdsworth House Hotel, Holmfield, Halifax, which raised more than £1,000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Celia (ANNE REID), Alan (DEREK JACOBI) - Photographer: Jennifer Robertson

Celia (ANNE REID), Alan (DEREK JACOBI) - Photographer: Jennifer Robertson

The prime-time drama is now into its second series and is being shown on BBC 1 at 9 pm every Tuesday through to Christmas Eve.

It stars Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid who were childhood sweethearts who found love again late in life.

Their story was inspired by Sally’s mother’s second marriage and Sally added complex family members for dramatic effect.

Most of the locations featured are now in Calderdale, but that wasn’t the case in the first series and Sally, who grew up in Calderdale, explained why.

When filming first started she intended calling the show “Antony and Cleopatra” but the BBC weren’t too keen believing the Shakespearean link might hit audience figures.

A new name was sought and Sally’s husband came up with Last Tango in Halifax which has put the town on the map in the UK and further afield.

The production company Red is based in Manchester and key locations which have puzzled locals were revealed.

The farmhouse which features weekly is at Norden, Rochdale, and the hospital car park is actually an academy school car park in the Manchester area while the city’s royal infirmary is used as the interior of the hospital.

But, Calderdale and its beautiful countryside now take centre stage when that is possible since the name change.

And, Bafta winning Sally said her roots are increasingly important in her writing - her next series Happy Valley, a police drama, due to be screened in April will be based entirely in Calderdale.

“The older I get the more I set things around here,” she said.

“I have just ended up writing things based around here, it’s not a conscious decision, I just think going back as a writer you find something rich.”

Sally also said she realised the impact Last Tango was having when the media started “making such a fuss” about the central characters being an older couple.

She said such characters helped writers.

“With years and years of experience they have had larger lives and it’s nice to write for people like that,” she said.

Anne Reid told the diners she was enjoying her role which was the best she has ever had in her long career.

“I feel the luckiest person in the world to have got the part - there is not much going around at my age!” she said.

“It’s just the best job and we are such a happy company.”

Holdsworth House features in the second series in episodes four, five and six, after 62 crew spent four days at the luxury four-star hotel.