Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cardiff in the Frame

It's strange to see the streets where you live and work appearing on TV, but it's a regular occurrence now that so many cult series are being filmed around the Cardiff area. It's become quite normal to run into film crews and to find buildings that you know well appearing on the small screen. I've had aliens landing in the middle of the night, yards from my bedroom windows, and murder being done in the docks behind the house. Not to mention the zombies on the roof of the place where I work.

Anyone who doesn't know about Dr Who and Torchwood will be puzzled by all that. Fans will understand what I'm talking about. For anyone who follows the series, the picture above will be very familiar.

Cardiff is a city of contrasts. It rose to prominence in the late 1880s and 1890s purely through the export of coal. Most of the city's magnificent public buildings date from that time. Now the coal trade is over and the docks have a new life as Cardiff Bay - setting for trendy shops and restaurants, the new Welsh Parliament and the spectacular Millennium Centre, opened in 2004, home to the Welsh National Opera. That's it above. and on the left.

Fans of Dr Who and Torchwood will recognise the site of the Rift, which is meant to run through Cardiff, as well as the site of the Torchwood bunker.
And below is the 'Water Tower' Fountain - the invisible lift that gives entrance to the Torchwood hub. Such is its fame that it is guaranteed to have at least six different people taking photographs of it at any given time.
I remember when the water was turned on for the first time for a test run- it was a very hot day in high summer and I was working across the street. We couldn't understand how it appeared to be raining, just over this one patch of Roald Dhal Plas.
The other modern building in the area houses the Senedd - the Welsh parliament, opened in 2006.

Alongside the Senedd is the beautiful Pierhead Building - built in 1897 as the HQ of the Cardiff Railway Company. French-Gothic Renaissance style, apparently, and constructed of brick and terracotta. That's on the left below.
Both of these buildings appear regularly in background shots in Dr Who and Torchwood. If you're trying to place them, The Senedd was featured particularly in The Lazarus Experiment, the Pierhead in Last of the Time Lords.

The building on the right is an example of the Victorian architecture of the area that used to be the docks. It's going to be in the third series of Torchwood, which is currently filming. I know this, because I came round the corner one morning on the way to work and almost fell over the film crew. I don't know what it's meant to be in the series, but there were a lot of heavily armed actors running around and looking menacing.
Away from the Bay much of Cardiff shows up it's Victorian heritage in ironwork and glass and Portland stone.
The Museum, built in 1907, houses a famous collection of Impressionist paintings, and the restaurant is good for food sourced from Welsh ingredients. Oh - and it was also the location for filming The Lazarus Experiment and Random Shoes, which included the museum's dinosaur in the shots.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the city is the network of Victorian arcades which cris-cross the shopping areas, glass roofed and lined with small specialist shops.
The Market, dating from 1891 is in a similar style. (And you might recognise it from The Doctor episode Small Worlds.)
That's the Title Magic whistle stop tour of Cardiff.
Old, new, and on a TV near you.


Trish Milburn said...

This would be so much fun to see the film crews there working. One of my life goals is to have some little part in a TV show or movie.

Lexie O'Neill said...

How interesting--we've not been able to travel out of the US for awhile...I miss it!

Evonne Wareham said...

Maybe when they film one of your novels they'll offer you a walk on part. :)

Lexie - you're going to have to make a long term plan for a research trip.

Evonne Wareham said...

By the way, I see some of the text got squished. That's what comes of leaving Blogger to load it for you all by itself.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Evonne, thanks so much for the tour. No wonder, with those buildings, that TV series are made there. If I got to do film, one of my own stories, those would be great buildings to include.

Edie said...

Looks gorgeous. I've never watched Dr. Who shows, but I'd love to see the city.