CALDERDALE’S dramatic valleys, historical landmarks and cobbled towns are proving to be in high demand by film and television makers, producing some of the most popular drama in the UK and for overseas audiences.
And the boost to the local economy has not gone unnoticed, “with tourism worth a massive £344 million in Calderdale – £96 million more than in 2010,” says Calderdale Council’s chief executive Robin Tuddenham.
The latest smash hit to be filmed featuring stunning scenery and unique historical landmarks such as The Piece Hall and Shibden Hall, is the new BBC drama series Gentleman Jack, made in partnership with HBO, the makers of Game of Thrones.
More than five million people tuned in, making it the most successful programme launch for the BBC so far in 2019, plus there has been a big impact in America, where it premiered in April.
Robin Tuddenham, Calderdale Council’s chief executive, said: “We’re already seeing the economic impacts. Both day visits and overnight stays have grown. More and more people are coming to Calderdale from abroad, with a recent increase in visits to Shibden Hall and the surrounding areas since Gentleman Jack aired.
“We are delighted to be known as a key destination for filming, at an exciting time when Channel 4 is relocating to Leeds, which will benefit the whole region.”
Written and directed by Sally Wainwright, Gentleman Jack stars Suranne Jones, who plays 19th century Halifax landowner and open lesbian Anne Lister.
Ms Wainwright, who was raised in Sowerby Bridge and also penned Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, said: “There’s a real depth to the landscape – it’s so dramatic and awe-inspiring.
“Now I see Calderdale - Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Ripponden, Sowerby Bridge and Elland - as really beautiful.
“When I was growing up it felt to me as though Halifax were a cultural backwater. I felt that I lived in the middle of nowhere. Everything I was interested in – theatre and television – was happening in London but now I think culture and art are no longer the domain of posh southern people, they’re everybody’s domain now. Culture is a lot less snobby than it was.”
The 400-year-old Fleece Inn, at Elland is reputedly England’s most haunted pub, and was used to film scenes in Gentleman Jack, after producers transformed it back to 1832.
Christine Watson, who runs the pub, said: "It has all been very exciting. We have had a few people coming in to see where filming took place. They filmed for 12 hours to make the five minutes that was used in episode one.
“We feel it is already having an impact. Calderdale is definitely the Hollywood of the North, or maybe we should say Callywood.”
Chris Hordley, of Screen Yorkshire, which supports Yorkshire’s global reputation for film, said: “Calderdale is simply dramatic, making it a great place to film, with a range of amazing locations and we are blessed with these historical landmarks.
“All of this gives a natural boost for the local economy.”
Mr Hordley, who worked on Gentleman Jack, said it was not unusual for residents to see a film crew and famous faces at work: “It is a boom time for the film industry in Yorkshire and with Channel 4’s move to Leeds things can only get better.”
Small businesses are also making the most of it, with Hebden Bridge Cruises, taking visitors from world-wide on their canal boat trips.
Owner Mary Keaney said: “We have tourists from all over, especially America and Canada. I’ve had emails from France and Australia asking about cruises.”
Mr Tuddenham, Calderdale Council’s chief executive, added: “Calderdale is taking its place on the national and international map as a destination for culture, arts and heritage.
“Never has there been such a level of ambition. Our borough is lifting its aspirations, making Calderdale a truly great place to live and ensuring we respond effectively to the huge growth in visitors.”