Letter - Wakefield is the best kept secret in Yorkshire

What a marvellous experience to see St John’s North and the square used by the BBC for a high profile drama production.

Wakefield - the best kept secret in Yorkshire - is out!

This area has, of course, been used before for “A Touch of Frost”, “Brides in the Bath” and “The New Statesmen” but never quite like this for “Jonathan Strange”. I hope this helps renew pride in our city heritage.

The attention to detail was phenomenal; any street furniture that was too clean was ‘grimed up’. Even the lamps on the horse-drawn carriages had real candles flickering away.

The shots were supposed to be during autumn and the melancholy atmosphere was captured perfectly. Imagine a street theatre but done to perfection. The costumes too were amazing; so authentic.

I always remember the film “Battle of Britain” made in 1968. The producers went to enormous trouble to replicate the summer of 1940 with RAF and Luftwaffe aeroplanes. Yet small, but significant things can spoil the effect. A very 1960s external light outside Susannah Yorke’s (playing a Wren) house, for example. it sounds trivial but it isn’t.

I recently watched the Ken Russell film “Mahler” (1974) about the great Austrian composer. Russell went to great lengths with the costumes but the film was let down by some atrociously lay location shooting.

The Lake District is beautiful but it looks nothing like Austria. I can only assume the movie was very low budget. Scenes with 1950s British Railways engines and carriages ruined the effect entirely. There was even a final scene with Mahler and his wife in period costume in front of a 1960s/70s blue BR Southern region commuter train. Hardly Austria in 1904 or whenever.

I have to give it to the BBC - things have improved since those days. During the latest St John’s location shooting, doors of houses were temporarily replaced to ensure authenticity; apparently front doors of the Napoleonic period did not have letter boxes!

That is attention to detail!

John Roberts

St John’s Court