If you would’ve told me my two worlds – the deeply invested in a 7pm soap side of me and the supposed adult who likes to post my thoughts, feelings, and adventures online side of me – would have collided during my blogger journey, I’d have looked at you with nothing but bemusement perched upon my face. But it seems nothing is impossible as a fair few weeks back now my dream event was advertised alongside many other people informing me of my idealisation (which I had to laugh about). Of course I jumped on the opportunity as quickly as possible and was kindly invited along to step in to a tour of the behind the scenes action whilst secretly trying my best to not expose myself to a bunch of people who definitely don’t dedicate their evenings and entire life to this programme (says the person who shamelessly kept shouting out the answers to the questions asked, ahem.)
You’ll probably be well aware of my love for Emmerdale by now so you could say I was a little excited to get an insight into the storylines; the stunts, the characters and all the extras that make the show what it is – especially straight after the week of special episodes that absolutely blew my mind and connected me even further into the pool of fictional drama. It’s not just the fact it’s a local pride I’ve admired since I was a little un, it’s the personal impact it’s had on my life this year. It’s a mad concept to think I wouldn’t know my now best of friends without this soul-stirring soap and I wouldn’t have had so many happy times that are only just beginning, so to spend my time exploring the depths of the exclusive event with just a fraction of them made it even more memorable.
The tour allowed us to get up, close and personal with each of the various stages as they were on display to manifest their individual input into creating a final masterpiece. It really did make me realise just how much hard work, effort and graft must go into the entire production for just one single half an hour episode. It made me appreciate it, too – because whilst we’re sat relaxing on the sofa at home being entertained by the delivered structure of the scenes; the actors, the directors, the producers, the writers and the rest of the dedicated team are probably on their way home after another busy day of performing the ongoing portrayal and professionalism that keeps us gripped.
The First Stage – introduction, storyboards, costume department and dressing room:
To start the expedition (after me, Hannah, Char and Katie had a quick catch up and geared up our giddiness in the cafeteria beforehand) we were taken as a group to a darkened room and a cinematic screen ready to gain a summarised view of the best of Emmerdale over the years. Of course we were already well aware of the spectacle showcasing and the stories that have lead on to many praises, awards, and the eventual recognition they deserve – but it didn’t stop us low key squealing over our favourites. After the short video, we then headed next door to receive an intuition on how the storylines are planned out. It was interesting to have a clear view on how the ideas are proposed via storyboard briefing, doodling of the characters and their positions, and even miniature scales of the incidents ahead. It made things a lot more realistic to mind. Moving forward we then moved to the costume department where recognisable outfits such as wedding dresses and suits were paraded, along with an entire collection of wacky colours, designs, and accessories each linking to the distinctive personas. It isn’t all easy and good to go, though as each and every piece has to be prepared before worn – whether that be muddied, rained on, made baggier and scruffier or prim and proper. Not in the slightest bit surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to identify whose was whose!
Following on from costumes we were lead to the dressing room where not only were we informed of how much precious time and precise power goes in to the appearance of the soap-stars, we were also let in to a few secrets. I wasn’t even remotely shocked to hear the boys take longer to get glam than the girls. I could almost hear the loud mutters of the chattering cast as they admire themselves and over indulge in luxuries, especially when their interactive faces appeared in the mirror.
The Second Stage – the signs and the props:
Transporting down a corridor filled with shelves upon shelves of iconic items that bring back a recall of nostalgia and define the representation of a character and their many layers definitely added to the fun of the game. We were able to get a proper feel on how the objects are used and what they’re really made of (of course the hazardous objects, the lethal bricks and the presented food were made out of pure foam) but we also found Emmerdale tend to hold on to the irreplaceable history of materials, such as a photo of the late Shirley Stelfox and Valerie Pollard‘s charity box.
Another selection amongst the rest were a number of sign posts created specifically for Emmerdale village and their imaginary town centre – Hotten. Our tour guide told us she’s had people swear it’s a real place in Yorkshire in which I had to giggle because if you’re anything like me, a Leeds reside, you’ll recognise the locations as they film in supposed courts, hospitals, shops and outdoor settings. Walking down this part you’ll also be enlightened of a small fact that they still film at the old building in a studio almost next door for all the medical and police scenes (I mean I already knew this but it doesn’t harm to pretend you had no idea and certainly haven’t caught the coach driving up the road to drop the cast off.)
The Third Stage – the sets, lighting and editing:
I wouldn’t be lying if I said this was the highlight of the experience for me. Not only were we stood in front of and visualising a preview of the interior sets that grace our screen every week day (which look way more widespread in person) but we were also given the chance to have all hands on deck and put our skills to test; adjusting the positioning of lighting, camera angles, and even getting to record our own message on the sofa of Smithy Cottage, all using modern technology. It was eye opening to the audience who only see the perfected composition on television, especially being let in on all the hidden antics such as gathering at the top of the stairs because there isn’t actually an upstairs and Samantha Giles (Bernice) taking a peak at her script as she goes to pick up a brush in the salon, just as the shot changes. You truly do feel as though you’re part of the package in those five minutes of scouting.
If there’s one room I was glad exists, it was the legendary Dingle house; the dysfunctional family with members all over the country that you can’t help but adore despite their many illegal crimes, mishaps, punch ups, integrated relationships, and bad luck, because really they all have a soft side and nobody messes with a Dingle. It was just as pictured on screen; sporadically messy and mismatched, well lived in, an authentic farm house with ornaments that have told a story over the years and even knitted blankets handmade by the public – of which they were eventually bombarded with and had to stop asking for! I wanted to jump in there and pour myself a drink with the stove on listening to the pigs grunting in the back yard, but I was soon brought back to reality. It’s not real, Bridie.
The Fourth Stage – the village and the stunts:
If you weren’t to know, the actual village is based in the country, on the classic Harewood Estate that screams out aesthetic nature but of course we were inside so only a downsized replica of the constructed houses and workplaces were spread across the miniature street. Although the imitation didn’t compete with the actual surroundings, the backdrop of blue skies and fields along with the stonework and exact details had a similar effect – and it didn’t stop everyone from posing outside the signature Emmerdale welcoming sign.
As we strolled through we were then greeted by another room filled with features that enforce those special effects that amplify the intensity of a scenario. We were able to sit in front of a huge wind machine and experience the craziness of the unpredictable and purposely dramatised weather, along with watching another short video explaining why the weather makes all the difference to how a clip is played out and how it’s crucial to match the weather with the predicament. This was then followed on by the high class stunts that Emmerdale are famous for, the ones that are still honoured and discussed with adrenaline years down the line for e.g. the underwater Woolpack siege, the helicopter crash, and more recently the multi pile up car crash. These are the ones that take the most developing but which get the pulse racing and that was proved right after the end of another back stage video unravelled by the man himself, Duncan Foster, the scaled helicopter beside us blew up and scared us half to death (here’s your pre-warning).
The Fifth Stage – The Woolpack and the shop:
Saving the best last, the tour was ended where all Emmerdale residents end up after a busy day of over the top tragedy – the pub. It was honestly quite surreal being inside the famous Woolpack and sat in places some of my most idolised characters have intertwined and made their mark but enjoyable at that. The dingy, cosy feel is very much present and as we sat beside the bar nibbling on the totally Yorkshire themed refreshments given out (beef and turkey Yorkshire pudding, bangers and mash, and fish and chips, anybody?) I felt right at home. We even had a photo opportunity to take on the role of landlady and pull a pint of our own, and just as we couldn’t embarrass ourselves any further we decided to reenact moody Aaron Dingle slumped at the bar to which Danny Miller actually went ahead and acknowledged over on Twitter. Yes, this really is my life. Oh dear.
I didn’t want to leave the premises but eventually all good things must come to an end and it couldn’t have finished at a better place than David’s shop linked in with the gift shop with a massive range of merchandise made for any Emmerdale fanatic. I told myself I wouldn’t spend unnecessary money but this is me you’re talking about. I ended up buying the snuggest fleece you have ever known along with some shortbread and a postcard and then I was given some more treats in the goody bag so generously gifted to us.
Thank you so much to Nikki for organising the event, I had such a blast and wish I could do it all over again (in fact, I’ll definitely be booking another trip sometime soon). It’s well worth the visit and with Christmas coming up – it would make the ideal present for your avid Emmerdale fan like moi. For tickets and more information on the attraction visit: http://www.emmerdalestudioexperience.co.uk/.
Apologies for the majorly long post straight after an unintentional blogging break. I’ve been struggling with balancing my pain with my workload lately and although I was eager to blog and get writing, I’ve been stopped in my tracks more than once. Hopefully this will be me getting back on track, now. Hope you all have a lovely weekend and happy Friday!