Ackley Bridge follows the personal and professional trials and tribulations of pupils and staff at the Ackley Bridge College, a new merger school, which seeks to integrate two divided communities of white and Asian pupils in a fictional northern mill town. Produced by London-based The Forge, the primetime drama series has just completed its second season on Channel 4.
At the heart of the action is the school and the community that surrounds it. This sense of place meant finding the right location was essential for the team at The Forge and Screen Yorkshire became an important partner in helping them find the right spot.
Having worked with the business on National Treasure, The Forge once again turned to Screen Yorkshire for advice to help them find a suitable location and school premises that would be free for the next few years to allow the filming of several series. They were impressed by the encyclopaedic knowledge of the team and the range of options made available to them. The location scouting cemented in the minds of the producers that Yorkshire was the region they needed to be in. After careful consideration, the team gravitated towards Halifax in West Yorkshire, as it spoke to everything they were looking for visually: a hardy town on the edge of amazing countryside with an impressive backdrop of Yorkshire hills. Halifax also offered excellent infrastructure with good access to major cities like Leeds and Manchester.
Screen Yorkshire’s connections within the area also helped the production team build relationships and trust with local residents, which was essential for a successful long-running show tackling sensitive cultural issues.
As well as providing location advice, The Forge has continued to seek guidance from Screen Yorkshire, particularly when it comes to access to local film crews, who are some of the most experienced and talented in the country. Meanwhile, access to The Yorkshire Content Fund has been pivotal for The Forge, especially as the show’s first season success saw the episode run for the series double from six to 12.
It is arguably Ackley Bridge’s combination of authenticity and tough storylines shot through with humour that has made the show one of Channel 4’s most successful home-grown dramas in recent years, reaching 5.5 million viewers over the first series.