A history of Manchester’s filming locations

7 January, 2022

Screen and Film School Manchester are proud that our city has a long and rich history as a filmmaking backdrop. The city has served as the location for top-notch film sets since before World War II and has an eclectic history of continuing to do so throughout the 20th century, right up to the present day.

Now, more than ever, productions are choosing our northern powerhouse home as their temporary filming location. It’s easy to see why, as the diverse locations around the Greater Manchester area range from ultra-modern offices and city centre side streets to historic houses and parks.

Not only that, but it is also a little-known fact that the city offers a wide range of popular location doubles for modern and period London and New York shoots. In that vein, the city has played host to a wide selection of productions, some of which include Darkest Hour, Snatch, Tolkien, Victor Frankenstein, Curfew, Captain America, Genius, and Official Secrets.

For those who want to dig deeper into this history, we’ve pulled together just some of Manchester’s touchstone filming locations, all of which have been used for films and television series throughout recent years. As our current students will know, all of these places are just a stone’s throw away from our Spinningfields HQ.

O2 Ritz, Whitworth Street West

We’re kicking off this list with something quintessential to Manchester: in the iconic 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, Tony Wilson pops into  the O2 Ritz, which is  close to the famous Haçienda club, a venue which epitomises the period in which the film was set.

Castlefield Basin, Bridgewater Canal Tow Path

It’s almost time to say goodbye to the world-famous Shelby family. There is still time for one last chauffeur-driven ride with them though. The people behind Peaky Blinders transformed Castlefield into the Chinese Market which features sporadically throughout the gritty television series. Although the hit show is set in Birmingham – close to our very own Film School in Digbeth – in previous years they have set up the Garrison Tavern right here in Manchester too.

Manchester Town Hall, Albert Square

Manchester town hall doubles as the Houses of Parliament in Tolkien, a 2019 biopic of the great English writer. The locations offered the perfect period back drop to showcase the talents of lead actors Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins. Also shot here was sci-fi horror Victor Frankenstein, and although the production company was American, Manchester helped to provide the feeling of a real 19th century England.

The Peveril of the Peak Pub, Great Bridgewater Street

Although predominantly a London-based affair, a 2017 television spin-off of Guy Ritchie’s brilliant gangster comedy Snatch exploited the striking original features of the  Peveril  and was a key location for shooting the series, with the green-tiled exterior and traditional public house feel helping to create an atmosphere of authenticity. Stars including Dougray Scott, Luke Pasqualino and Rupert Grint all made Manchester their home whilst shooting.

Canal Street

Years and Years, a six-part, hard-hitting drama was filmed along this pedestrianised area of the city, which runs along the west side of the Rochdale Canal, and is lined with LGBTQ+ bars and restaurants. Moreover, the show was created and written by Russell T Davies, a friend of the Film School, having previously served as a Masterclass guest for Screen and Film School Brighton.

Northern Lawn Tennis Club, West Didsbury

The new Netflix smash-hit by Harlon Coben, Stay Close, is nicely placed to get everyone binge-watching it following its worldwide debut on New Year’s Eve. Manchester and the northwest feature prominently in all the action. In the opening episode viewers can see a very prominent scene set in West Didsbury’s Northern Lawn Tennis Club. We are delighted that the screen writer and executive producer for Stay Close, Danny Brocklehurst, is set to be a Masterclass guest of Screen and Film School Manchester this month. Vipers Club, which is featured frequently in the show, is actually Impossible Bar, which Screen and Film School Manchester used as one of the venues to welcome our 2021 students.

The Midland Hotel, Peter Street

Back to something quintessentially Mancunian here, and the long-running, much-loved comedy Cold Feet. The Edwardian Baroque architecture and grand marble interior of The Midland Hotel appeared in series 7 of the show. The scenes shot here featured actress Fay Ripley walking through the lobby of this impressive hotel.

The Star and Garter Pub, Manchester Piccadilly

On the theme of Danny Brocklehurst, another one of his creations is Brassic, and series 3 is being filmed here currently. One of the main locations is the Star and Garter Pub, one of the city’s most iconic watering holes, which is opposite Manchester Piccadilly train station.

Deansgate, City Centre

Our location list finishes with something current and also close to the Film School: Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love was filmed in 2021 for a 2022 release, and the production was on Deansgate, which runs perpendicular to our campus on New Quay Street. Deansgate is a main road through Manchester City Centre and it is the longest road in the city centre. Watch out for Dolly Alderton’s memoir adaptation on the BBC this year.

The whirlwind film tour of our bustling, brilliant northern city comes to a close. There are endless past productions which have made Greater Manchester their temporary home, so much so that there are too many to name. How did our selection resonate with you? We didn’t even get around to mentioning Coronation Street…

 


 

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