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Bristol backdrop to several festive programmes this Christmas


Bristol backdrop to several festive programmes this Christmas

Three major TV dramas that filmed in Bristol with support from the city’s Film Office are set to premiere this festive season.

Upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special The Church on Ruby Road (BBC One), Arthurian legend The Winter King (ITVX) and thriller TrueLove (Channel 4) are among the shows filmed in Bristol to look out for in your Christmas and New Year TV listings.

Laura Aviles, Head of Film, Bristol City Council:

“As we near the end of a year that has been challenging for many that work behind the scenes in film and TV production, it’s fantastic to see three major titles filmed in Bristol landing on screen this festive season. Whether it was The Fifteenth Doctor Ncuti Gatwa and his new companion Millie Gibson causing a stir on the streets of Clifton, the beautiful Blaise Castle Estate hosting the medieval village of Avalon for The Winter King, or our city locations providing the backdrop for life-or-death drama TrueLove.”

Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road. Bristolian fans of The Doctor may still be buzzing from watching Bristol provide the backdrop for action scenes in 60th Anniversary special The Giggle earlier this month. Hot on the heels of that explosive episode comes the 2023 Christmas special, The Church on Ruby Road, which was also filmed extensively in the city last year with support from Bristol Film Office.

As the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) takes over the TARDIS for his first epic adventure he will be joined by Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) making her debut as the Doctor’s companion. Joining the cast are Davina McCall playing herself alongside Michelle Greenidge as Ruby’s mum Carla, Angela Wynter as Ruby’s grandmother Cherry and Anita Dobson as Mrs Flood. Filming took place in Clifton earlier this year when the iconic TARDIS was stationed on the corner of Frederick Place and Wetherell Place.

These streets and nearby Bruton Place and Park Place were dressed to double as a festive Notting Hill setting.

Christmas decorations adorned the pavements and railings, and street signs for ‘Minto Road’ and ‘Forebridge Street’ in ‘W11, the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’ were added to street corners. A Routemaster bus, London bus stops and black cabs were also part of the set dressing, as well as bins and post boxes marked as belonging to the London Borough.

In The Church on Ruby Road, the Doctor comes face-to-face with the mythical and mysterious goblins as his life collides with Ruby Sunday. Little is known about Ruby as she was abandoned on Christmas Eve as a baby. Now living with her mum, Carla and grandmother Cherry, her world is about to be turned upside down when she encounters the Doctor and the two set off on their first adventure together. 5.55 pm, Christmas Day, BBC One & BBC iPlayer.

The Winter King Episodes 1-5 stream on ITVX from Thursday 21st December; episodes 6-10 will be added on Wednesday 27th December.  And go behind the scenes with Journey to the Winter King, streaming from 21 December.

A bold and revisionist take on the well-loved Arthurian Legends, The Winter King was filmed across Wales and the South West of England last year. Bristol Film Office assisted the production team to build the highly significant location of ‘Avalon’ at Blaise Castle Estate near Henbury last year. A large section of the Echo Gate area of parkland on the Grade II listed Estate was transformed into a medieval village set, comprising a large central tower and authentic period thatched dwellings constructed from wood, wattle and daub.

Set building and site preparations began at Blaise Castle Estate in August 2022, with filming taking place there between September and December. Bristol Film Office also assisted The Winter King’s production team to film in Redcliffe Caves in October 2022.

The ten-part drama follows Arthur Pendragon, played by Iain De Caestecker as he evolves from outcast to legendary warrior and leader. Set in the 5th century long before Britain was united, The Winter King explores a land of warring factions and tribes when the world was brutal and lives were often fleeting. Other cast includes Stuart Campbell as Derfel, Ellie James as Nimue, Eddie Marsan as Uther, High King of Dumnonia, Nathaniel Martello-White as Merlin, Daniel Ings as Owain, Valene Kane as Morgan, Simon Merrells as Gundleus, King of rival kingdom Siluria.

Truelove is Channel 4’s thriller with a twist, with production for the six-part drama based at The Bottle Yard Studios whilst filming took place on location in Bristol and the South West region.

Bristol Film Office assisted with filming at locations across the city, including Redland (Woodstock Road), Clifton (Richmond Hill Avenue, Berkeley Square, Alma Vale Road, Brandon Hill Park, garage premises on Wetherell Place), Westbury on Trym (Canford Park and Crematorium) and Blaise Castle Estate in Henbury. Locations in the surrounding regions included Clevedon Pier, Burnham on Sea, Berrow and Brean in Somerset.

Lindsay Duncan stars as Phil, an ex-police chief enjoying a comfortable if boring retirement, and Clarke Peters is Ken, a divorcee and ex-special forces vet who feels similarly at sea. Phil and Ken were teenage sweethearts and despite life having moved on, they have never quite managed to forget each other. Their fellow friends are played by Sue Johnston (The Royle Family) as Marion, Karl Johnson (Mum) as Tom, Peter Egan (Downton Abbey) as David. This gang of old friends make a drunken pact: rather than let each other suffer a slow and dreadful decline, they will step in and engineer a dignified death. In short, they will help each other die when the time is right. Because that, they all agree, is a sign of Truelove. But what starts out as a fanciful idea soon morphs into a shocking reality.

Kiran Sonia Sawar (Murdered by My Father) plays Ayesha, a young police officer who senses there is more to these friends than meets the eye. Further cast also includes Phil Davis (Trying) as Nigel and Fiona Button (The Split) as Kate. With a core cast in their 70s, Truelove breaks the rules for older characters on screen, flipping ageist tropes on their head in a series which promises thrilling twists and turns, irreverent humour and passionate romance. Truelove 9 pm, Wednesday 3rd January, Channel 4.

Laura Aviles, Head of Film, Bristol City Council:

“These shows illustrate the vital role that Bristol plays as a filming destination for primetime UK television. Now that the US writers and actors strikes are behind us, the industry is looking ahead to a busier 2024 where production activity is expected to return to the high levels seen previously. We look forward to supporting many more major productions at The Bottle Yard Studios and Bristol Film Office.”

Tipping Point Lucky Stars Festive Special. Ben Shephard hosts a special seasonal edition of Tipping Point: Lucky Stars, the quiz in which three celebrities take on a magnificent machine in the hope of winning £20,000 for charity. Comedian Julian Clary, the legendary actress Stephanie Beacham and reality TV favourite Jamie Laing, all eager to land their charities a Christmas gift to remember. Tipping Point and Tipping Point Lucky Stars is filmed at The Bottle Yard Studios. 5.45pm, 26th December, ITVX/ITV1/STV

In this festive special of Antiques Roadshow: At Christmas Fiona Bruce and the roadshow team look back on some of the most memorable, intriguing and moving stories to have appeared in recent years to find out: ‘what happened next?’ The episode will include a segment filmed in Bristol Museum’s ceramics gallery about the ‘Topeing Jack’ Plaque, which first featured on the Antiques Roadshow in March 2022 when it was identified by expert Marc Allum as an item of ‘national importance’ and an extremely valuable piece of English Delft dating back to the second half of the 18th Century. Amber Turner (Curator, Applied Arts, Bristol Culture) will discuss the significance of the terracotta plaque, which features the musical notation and lyrics of a Henry Purcell ‘catch’. Found in a pub in Stokes Croft, Bristol, it is now on loan to the Museum. 7pm, Christmas Eve, BBC One & BBC iPlayer

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