NEW LEASE OF LIFE FOR FORMER COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL
The site of the former Tudhoe Grange School, which closed in July 2012 to join with Spennymoor School as joint founders of Whitworth Park School and Sixth Form College, will find a new lease of life thanks to a new series of prime-time BBC police drama Inspector George Gently. The series, which stars Martin Shaw, Lee Ingleby and Simon Hubbard, is based on characters created by Alan Hunter. The TV series based on those stories, produced by Company Pictures for BBC One, relocated the detectives from Norfolk to Northumberland and Durham. Series five ended on a cliffhanger, with the fate of the leading characters uncertain, but in September 2012 Peter Flannery, lead writer on the series confirmed that a new series of four, ninety minute episodes had been commissioned. For the last few months cast and crew have been based in their new home at Tudhoe Grange School’s former lower school site on Durham Road, which has not only become the police station from which the leading characters work, but also provides offices and a production base for the company. Filming at region-wide locations took place from March until early June, and the series, which has a regular audited viewing figure of about seven million, will air in autumn this year.
Publicist Deborah Goodman, said: “Period-wise the school really works for us. It has a great frontage to put our sixties police cars out front and the interior is great. We can make the police station sets work and have enough room for the production team to have its offices there. It has made a huge difference to the series to film it where it is supposed to be set, in and around Northumberland.”
To suit the series the entrance to the building has been altered dramatically: the familiar double doors now boast the legend ‘North East Constabulary’ etched into the glass pane above them, with the words ‘POLICE STATION’ engraved in the stone portico; a blue police lamp shines at the side, and an iconic red telephone box is sited below that, with parking spaces assigned to leading characters, and a number of period vehicles have been spotted, parked outside the building.
Agnes Armstrong, chair of governors at Whitworth Park, and a board member of Spennymoor Community Learning Trust has welcomed the new use. She said “The long term future of the site remains to be decided but we’re very pleased it is being put to good use in the interim. To have people in the building is good for security and it will generate an income that will go into school funds for the education and welfare of our children.”
Neil Foster, Durham County Council member for Tudhoe, and cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, added: “It is good to have this production based in County Durham. In the past, several firms from cars to catering have benefited, and while in the area the crew will spend locally. It also provides a bit of excitement for the area, people will enjoy seeing their town and old school on the television and there may be opportunities to get involved in crowd scenes.”
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