The Role of Manchester in the Film Industry

Manchester has gone from strength to strength over the last few years and the Northern powerhouse shows no signs of slowing down. The creative industry in Britain managed to overcome the financial crisis and prevail, growing ahead of almost every other economic sector. While this growth has been significant nationwide, Manchester has emerged as a hub for Northern creativity and even though creative funding is still focussed predominantly on London there are a number of ways in which Manchester has distinguished itself and excelled, especially in the Film industry.


Manchester has a long history with cinema. While the British film industry was hindered by the break out of the first World War enabling America to take the cinematic reins people in Britain were still eager to create movies. The majority of films were created in London and while these films did incorporate Northern talents such as George Formby from Wigan it remained a dream of Manchester creatives to start a proper film studio in the nation’s second city.


The Second World War resulted in the creation of comedies that were designed to boost morale and lift spirits of wartime communities, and once again Northern talents played a key role such as Lancashire comic Frank Randle. However, building a Manchester studio remained the dream of many, a dream that was only fully realised in 1947 with the creation of the Dickenson Road studio in Rusholme.


The studio was built within an old Wesleyan Church and gained the nickname Jollywood. This studio led to the creation of the first Manchester made feature film called Cup-Tie Honeymoon in 1948. Rusholme created many films similar to this for years to come, and while the films may have been slated by critics, audiences loved them and frequently led to these Mancunian films outperforming Hollywood films around the North West.


Manchester’s love of film has only grown since then and it is gradually becoming an increasingly important place for British cinema year on year. Films such as 24 Hour Party People, East is East, Looking For Eric, and The Stone Roses: Made of Stone all find their roots in Greater Manchester and have driven focus toward aspects of the creative culture that Manchester is home to. It has become a foundation for the continued legacy of British realism that pioneers such as Ken Loach and Mike Leigh brought into the mainstream field of British creativity.


While the creation of fascinating tales and dramatic narratives is one key trait of Manchester’s role in the film industry Manchester has also become a vital location for numerous international films. The streets of Greater Manchester have seen consistently increasing requests to film as each year passes. The large Victorian and Edwardian homes found in South Manchester have been used for multiple productions while streets in Manchester city centre have also attracted film crews due to their similarity to the old streets of New York that would now be impossible to film on.


Films such as Captain America: The First Avenger have used Manchester streets to build a believable world for their characters and the audiences that flock to marvel at these spectacles. Manchester provides a fantastic environment for cinematic sequences, and with the presence of Media City more Manchester streets are likely to appear on both the small and big screen. Manchester has also gained extensive popularity as a filming location due to its reputation as being easy to work with, in part due to the council being happy to close roads and make alterations to its streets in order to encourage creativity, but it also houses an eclectic range of people who are predominantly pleased about the exciting things the film industry can bring to a growing and thriving city.
The creative industry across Britain is expected to keep growing and with British talent dominating the Oscars and other international awards there is no doubt about the skills houses across the nation. However, the drive of the North is unstoppable in its current state and as more young people move in to Manchester this creative buzz is unlikely to subside. With fantastic locations, incredible talent, and a captivating Northern soul Manchester could become the source of some of the best films of all time.


Image credit: Pete Birkinshaw on Flickr.