On The Road

Lights, Camera... Yorkshire!

As All Creatures Great and Small becomes Channel 5's biggest ever hit, Yorkshire's film and TV futures looks unstoppable.

SEPTEMBER 26th, 2020

© Channel 5


orkshire is renowned for its rolling dales, gothic, moody moorland and quintessential Britishness. For centuries, the county has attracted all plethora of tourists to enjoy and bask in its splendour and seemingly endless opportunities to explore. Yet in recent years, Yorkshire has quickly revived itself as a formidable and addictive location for film and TV; inspiring and charming filmmakers and audiences all around the world.

With the release and subsequent success of Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small, Yorkshire is witnessing a new influx of interest – one which is set to do wonders for the county dubbed “God’s own Country”.

Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot and Rachel Shenton as Helen Alderson - © Channel 5

Already well into the first series of the new hit show, Welcome to Yorkshire’s website traffic has seen a monumental 75% increase year on year, with particular interest focusing of pages dedicated to the Yorkshire Dales. A 90% rise in views were recorded from between September 1st to 16th compared to the same period last year, and the quaint and picturesque village of Grassington – which seconds as the village of Darrowby in All Creatures Great and Small – saw an astounding 187% increase in interest after the first episode aired.

The statistics paint a positive picture for the county, which generates £9 billion in tourism and employs around 225,000 people in the hospitality and tourism industry. James Mason, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, described the influx of curiosity in the area by the film and TV production industry as, “colossal” and stated that “It’s no surprise that after seeing Yorkshire on screen, people then want to experience its beauty and drama first hand, which is a real positive for tourism businesses and also and incentive to encourage people to not only choose Yorkshire as a place to visit, but to live, work and study.”

Those sentiments were also shared by the cast and crew, with a spokesperson for the Bafta winning Playground Entertainment – who produces the series – telling The Rumble Online: “Fair to say everyone fell in love with the area.”

The success of the Channel 5 show, based on the acclaimed books by Alf Wright (James Herriot), have been attributed to the wholesome tone it encapsulates against a COVID-19 world which can, at times, feel overwhelming. Ian Ashton, Managing Director of The World Of James Herriot in Thirsk, said: “This is just the kind of boost we all need right now with so much doom and gloom about, a great wholesome show that can be enjoyed by the whole family.”

Grassington in Yorkshire was used as the location for the village of Darrowby - © AP

Furthermore, filming across the length and breadth of Yorkshire, All Creatures Great and Small has wowed fans with its rustic charm and sweeping landscapes. Shooting took place on the Bolton Abbey Estate, Ripon Racecourse and throughout multiple locations across The Dales, though it wasn’t just viewers taken by the beauty of Yorkshire.

Nicholas Ralph who plays the iconic James Herriot in the series discovered a newfound love of the area, saying: “I had never been to The Dales. All I knew about it was what Herriot (Alf Wight) had written in the books so I knew how beautiful it was.

“I am from the Highlands of Scotland which is picturesque and lovely and so I thought The Dales must be lovely, but it’s very nice at home too. But then when I got on the train and I was travelling through The Dales, much like James was, your eyes are glued to the window because it is like a painting. It is beautiful and some of these locations we were lucky enough to shoot in, you could literally shoot in 360 degrees. Every time we would get dropped off at a new location we would look around and think how incredible it was.”

Continued success is expected for the Channel 5 hit, which is set to air in the USA next year, and already growing interest is radiating from across the pond. The shows unstoppable popularity will likely see an astronomical surge in tourism to Yorkshire in 2021, as soon as the current pandemic enables any easing in travel restrictions.

Although All Creatures Great and Small is enjoying universal triumph – it already has become Channel 5’s biggest success – Yorkshire has a long and established history with film and TV. Gentleman Jack, Victoria and Downton Abbey have all used the county as a backdrop in recent years. Harry Potter used the village of Goathland as Hogsmeade in The Philosopher’s Stone, as well as the long-running drama series Heartbeat, which ended in 2010. The iconic The Railway Children filmed in and around Keighley, and the global smash-hit Peaky Blinders shot most of their first series in the county.

International hit, Peaky Blinders was filmed across Yorkshire - © BBC

So what keeps bringing Hollywood to Yorkshire’s doorstep? According to Bafta, personality. “We’ve seen a huge increase in demand for the area from filmmakers across the globe,” says a spokesperson. “That is mainly due to the personability of Yorkshire – it is as vital a character as the casts who shoot there. Also, it’s as British as you can get – a detail which American’s love – it’s untouched, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful, it’s a rare gem for the film industry and we’re delighted filmmakers are focusing once again on the area.”

That focus is believed to have been sparked by the Tour de France in 2014, which began in the City of Leeds. With the cycling race broadcast across the world, Yorkshire was projected onto the global stage like never before, and filmmakers took notice of the county’s stunning and diverse magnificence. Yet, there are other initiatives which continue to brings productions to the county.

Screen Yorkshire has invested financial support in projects across film, TV, games and digital industries to make Yorkshire one of the most sought-after destinations for production in the UK. One of their first investments was the iconic and critically-acclaimed film, This is England, which won a Bafta. To date, they have brought over 40 productions to Yorkshire and the Humber, and thanks to their investments, in 2017, Yorkshire’s screen industries grew faster than anywhere else in the UK, including London.

This growth is continuing with more and more projects looking to locate to Yorkshire in the future, as well as expanding the areas prominence within the production industry. The new headquarters for Channel 4 are expected to open later this year in Leeds City Centre, and the growing use of Church Fenton Yorkshire Studios continues to magnify Yorkshire’s capacity for large scale productions.

Whatever the future holds for the county’s relationship with film and TV, it certainly looks bright and prosperous. With increased interest and reliance on Yorkshire’s beauty, charm and dependability, All Creatures Great and Small continues to entice audiences and filmmakers to discover just how magic ‘god’s own country’ truly is.

You can learn more about Yorkshire's film and TV history and locations here.

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