Is Framlingham the New Hollywood? Comedy filmed in town wins BAFTA while homegrown stars continue to soar
PUBLISHED: 14:13 12 May 2015 | UPDATED: 14:13 12 May 2015
Hollywood may be the home of entertainment in the US but Suffolk can now claim to be Britain’s cultural capital.
This weekend the BBC’s latest hit comedy The Detectorists, which is set and filmed in the heart of Suffolk, picked up the prestigious BAFTA award for Scripted Comedy.
Written by and starring Mackenzie Crook, the BBC 4 show follows the fortunes of a group of metal detectorists in the fictional town of Danebury as they search for the new Sutton Hoo. Failing that, a hoard of gold coins or a Saxon bracelet would do.
The series was filmed in locations across mid-Suffolk and featured not only writer and star MacKenzie Crook by award-winning actor Toby Jones as his mate Lance, Lucy Benjamin as his ex-wife and Rachel Stirling as Crook’s long-suffering girlfriend Becky.
The series has been re-commissioned and is expected to return to BBC 4 later this year.
But, the success of The Detectorists isn’t the only thing to put Suffolk at the heart of British culture.
It can’t be overlooked that Framlingham’s Ed Sheeran is currently the biggest pop star on the planet right now.
The Thomas Mills-educated singer songwriter has had two number one albums and a clutch of best-selling singles as well as being buried under an avalanche of industry awards like The BRITS, BBC Music Awards and Grammys. His headlining tours across Britain, Europe and the USA have been sold out and during 2013 he was also the opening act for friend and fellow music giant Taylor Swift.
There must be something in the water in Framlingham which engenders talent, hard work and success because fellow resident, opera soprano and former Framlingham College student, Laura Wright has had a dazzling last five years producing three chart-topping albums, becoming English Rugby’s official anthem singer and graduating with a first-class degree from The Royal Academy of Music.
She was also asked to perform for the Queen on numerous occasions during the Golden Jubilee celebrations and was invited to record the official Commonwealth anth-em Stronger As One.
Last weekend she also took part in the official VE Day celebration in London singing at A Party to Remember in Horse Guards Parade and last year performed for the British Legion on the D-Day beaches.
The Detectorists is not Suffolk’s only contemporary brush with the film and television industry. The blockbuster Fast and Furious 7 and the John Cusack espionage thriller The Numbers Station were both shot at Bentwaters Airfield. There’s also talk of a new series of Lovejoy being shot in the county in the near future.
Suffolk even has its very own Oscar winner in Matt Kirkby. Matt who has recently moved to Shottisham carried off the Best Short Film Oscar this year for his film The Phone Call which starred Jim Broadbent and Mike Leigh favourite Sally Hawkins. The pair, who have both been nominated for Oscars themselves, signed up to star in the short film based on the quality of Matt’s script.
The 20-minute film is about a volunteer who works for a helpline call centre in London.
Matt is now looking to develop other films from his Suffolk home
Film Suffolk, a co-operative agency set up to help film professionals living in the county, is currently preparing a film With Love From... Suffolk which combines 10 short films which will be woven into an overarching narrative and will be written, produced, directed and shot in Suffolk.
It will feature Suffolk actors and technicians and will act as a calling card for both Suffolk talent and locations.
Filming in Suffolk is nothing new as Elveden Hall, near Bury St Edmunds, was a major location for Angelina Jolie’s two Lara Croft: Tomb Raider films in 2001 and 2003 while the same location was used for the Masked Ball scene in Stanley Kurbrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Music for the film was provided by Suffolk composer and former Bury St Edmunds schoolgirl Jocelyn Pook who has also provided soundtracks to Al Pacino’s Merchant of Venice and the European arthouse hit Room in Rome as well as the Olivier-winning play King Charles III.
Suffolk also boasts West End talent in the form of Ruthie Henshall who is currently starring in the musical Billy Eliott at the Victoria Palace and last week featured in an all-star performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at The Royal Albert Hall while Stowmarket-born Kerry Ellis has just finished a run as Grizabella in Cats at The London Palladium and has just picked up the What’s On Stage award for Best Take-Over Role for her return to Wicked as the green-faced witch Elphaba.
Britain may well have talent scattered across the country but Suffolk certainly has talent concentrated in the county.