Busiest year for television filming in Falkirk

Celebrity road trip...Anita Manning filmed at Kinneil House and Estate and Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway for an episode of Antiques Road Trip which will be screened in the new year. She is pictured with SRPS business development director Amanda Kilburn during a break in filming.
Celebrity road trip...Anita Manning filmed at Kinneil House and Estate and Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway for an episode of Antiques Road Trip which will be screened in the new year. She is pictured with SRPS business development director Amanda Kilburn during a break in filming.

Falkirk is home to a wealth of historic charms, in addition to major tourist attractions.

And it appears television film crews are now cottoning on to that fact.

Following the film-makers...Geoff with the team from Imperium Europaeum who filmed at the Falkirk Wheel, Rough Castle and Watling Lodge. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Following the film-makers...Geoff with the team from Imperium Europaeum who filmed at the Falkirk Wheel, Rough Castle and Watling Lodge. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

For the last six months have seen an upsurge in filming at some of our greatest treasures.

On hand to witness the crews at work and, indeed, star in some of the shows was Geoff Bailey, Falkirk Community Trust’s heritage engagement officer.

He is delighted that 2018 proved to be the busiest year on record for filming in the Falkirk Council area.

Geoff said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase all that the area has to offer.

Star attraction...filming for Antiques Road Trip took place at James Watt's Cottage on the grounds of Kinneil Estate. The Friends of Kinneil are gearing up to celebrate the inventor's life and work in 2019, 200 years since Watt's death in 1819 as as well the 250th anniversary of the cottage. Events will be staged at Kinneil but planning is still in the early stages.

Star attraction...filming for Antiques Road Trip took place at James Watt's Cottage on the grounds of Kinneil Estate. The Friends of Kinneil are gearing up to celebrate the inventor's life and work in 2019, 200 years since Watt's death in 1819 as as well the 250th anniversary of the cottage. Events will be staged at Kinneil but planning is still in the early stages.

“This year was our busiest year by far in terms of filming – we’ve had four crews at different locations.

“That certainly doesn’t happen every year.”

As the keeper of the archives at Callendar House, Geoff is often the first point of contact for production companies.

Having been in post since 1984, he’s also an expert on our heritage so is often called upon to appear in front of the cameras – which is a unique learning experience too.

Filming in the shadow of Clackmannanshire Bridge for Britain at Low Tide, which will feature Higgins Neuk in an episode focusing on the Forth estuary. The show will be screened in the new year.

Filming in the shadow of Clackmannanshire Bridge for Britain at Low Tide, which will feature Higgins Neuk in an episode focusing on the Forth estuary. The show will be screened in the new year.

He explained: “You have to repeat yourself a lot as they want to film every scene from 20 different angles!

“They shoot you from the back, front, side and then you and the presenter together.

“It’s quite an intense operation and you have to try to remember what you said each time.”

But Geoff is becoming an old hand at it now, thanks to three projects this year.

The first was Antiques Road Trip, filming with Anita Manning in the grounds of Kinneil House on July 27 – a shoot that almost didn’t take place.

Geoff said: “When they first contacted me, they were interested in filming at Callendar House but they discovered it had recently been filmed so they weren’t quite so keen.

“However, I asked if they would be interested in Kinneil House instead and when they discovered James Watt’s story, they decided it would be ideal.

“I was doing a dig in the walled garden that day anyway, looking for the remains of the earlier house.

“We actually found a ditch under the garden which cuts through the Roman road.

“Filming took place about 30 yards away from the dig and at James Watt’s Cottage.

“It was a very professional shoot with a team of four, including a drone pilot, along with antiques expert Anita Manning, who was very nice.

“I had to explain what a separate condenser was on film several times, though, which was quite a challenge!

“They arrived at 10am and were gone by noon.

“The final shot is of me waving Anita off on a steam train at Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway – it tied in nicely with Watt’s engine.”

The Antiques Road Trip programme featuring Bo’ness, as well as the Helix in Falkirk, will be screened in the new year.

It will be perfect timing as James Watt’s Cottage will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2019 and it is the bicentenary of the inventor’s death in 1819.

Kinneil Estate is home to the cottage where Watt created his greatest invention, the separate condenser chamber for the steam engine – with a little help from Dr John Roebuck, co-founder of Carron Iron Works.

John, who lived in Kinneil House from 1764 to 1794, invested in Watt’s invention and invited him to build a workshop on the grounds of Kinneil Estate.

Granted a patent in January 1769, the separate condenser went on to become Watt’s most famous invention.

Now viewed as one of the most important discoveries in technological history, visitors from all over the globe descend on Bo’ness every year to see where he developed and tested it.

And Anita Manning will share his story with Antiques Road Trip viewers next year, when the nation celebrates his life and work.

While you won’t have to wait to see the German-filmed Imperium Europaeum, you will have to catch it online rather than on a national network.

The show features photographer Alfred Seiland, an Austrian who has been chasing traces of the Roman Empire in the 21st century for 10 years.

Geoff said: “They were filming on Hadrian’s Wall and someone told them about the Antonine Wall and gave them my name.

“We agreed to meet at the Falkirk Wheel, before heading to Watling Lodge and up to Rough Castle.

“Of course, when they saw the Wheel they wanted to film that too. Luckily, it was around 9am so we were able to get the required permission immediately.

“The show’s premise sees the photographer taking a picture of a monument.

“I was on hand to explain what they were looking at.”

The segment is featured in the Hadrian’s Wall episode of Imperium Europaeum, already screened in France and Germany. However, it can also be viewed on the website www.arte.tv/en/ for the next three weeks.

The last two film crews focused on Higgins Neuk, the site of James IV’s dockyard.

Britain’s Historic Towns, presented by Alice Roberts, was filmed there on July 24 and Britain at Low Tide on September 28. Both will be screened next year.

As well as information about the site, Geoff was able to provide the Britain at Low Tide team with unique pictures too.

He explained: “One of the episodes will feature the Forth estuary. We persuaded them to cover the story of the ferry at Higgins Neuk and its link with the Falkirk Trysts.

“But I discovered they would also be showing the X-Craft (midget submarines) at Aberlady Bay.

“I mentioned we had photos of them as they passed through the Forth and Clyde Canal in 1952, before heading to Aberlady to be used as RAF targets. So some of those images are likely to be featured too.”

While delighted by the spotlight such shows shine on the area, Geoff is still not used to seeing himself on screen, particularly not when it’s shown larger than life.

He added: “We did a DVD on the making of the replica of the Bridgeness Tablet and I was invited to the Hippodrome in Bo’ness to view it.

“I had to endure seeing myself on this huge screen for about three minutes.

“My mum loved it and my family call me a film star but it’s odd seeing yourself on screen!”