Lights . . . camera . . . action . . . MP Mark Pritchard is topping the bill of a new blockbuster campaign to turn Shropshire into the Hollywood of the United Kingdom.
The Wrekin MP has requested a Commons debate, saying he believed the Government should be promoting the county as a jewel in the movie-making crown.
“Absolution, Atonement, The Pickwick Papers, A Christmas Carol and Clockwise were all films made in Shropshire,” he told MPs. “Could we have a debate on making Shropshire the pre-eminent and premier, if you’ll forgive the pun, film location in England for British film-makers, American film-makers, international film-makers? That would be good for Shropshire businesses and for tourism.
“We have a beautiful rural landscape, historical places and points of heritage, and I want Shropshire to play its part in the UK film industry and the promotion of the UK.”
His views are echoed by up and coming director Jon Stanford, of Church Preen, who returned to his roots last year for his debut film, romantic drama Long Forgotten Fields, starring Game of Thrones actor Simon Armstrong.
He said: “The support we had from local people was fantastic. Whenever we’ve asked people for their help, there was a real can-do attitude.”
Several big box-office successes have been shot in Shropshire, involving stars such as Keira Knightley, Gillian Anderson, Hugh Grant, John Cleese, Jennifer Jones and David Niven.
One of the first big productions was the 1949 drama Gone To Earth with Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Jones. It filmed in the shadow of Ludlow Castle and around Much Wenlock, while sets were built inside a hangar at RAF Shawbury.
David Niven filmed Disney adventure Candleshoe on the Severn Valley Railway in 1976, one of many movies shot on the Bridgnorth line. Others include Robert Powell in The Thirty-Nine Steps, Sherlock Holmes film A Game of Shadows, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Hugh Grant also shot 1995 comedy The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain at the railway’s Hampton Loade station and the village of Llanrhaeadr, near Oswestry.
And do you remember when three red telephone boxes mysteriously appeared outside the Raven Hotel in Much Wenlock, then vanished? That was in 1985, when John Cleese came to town to film scenes for his crackpot comedy Clockwise.
The truth was out there in 2007 . . . alongside X Files star Gillian Anderson who took cover in the Wyre Forest, near Cleobury Mortimer, with Danny Dyer for thriller Straightheads, which also used Mawley Hall.
The most recent high-profile movie to base itself in Shropshire was Oscar-winning drama Atonement, where Stokesay Court near Craven Arms played host to Keira Knightley and James McAvoy.
Commons Leader Andrew Lansley gave a cautious response yesterday, saying: “Forgive me if I wasn’t as knowledgeable in relation to the relationship of the film industry to Shropshire as I should have been. That is very interesting.”
By Carl Jones