This obsession with locations could be bigger business

I find the Observer’s Tiddler the most subversive media product around. Out it drops onto the mat from the great wodge of inflated supplements week after week saying ’read me, I’m small, different and not going to take all day’.

I find the Observer’s Tiddler the most subversive media product

around. Out it drops onto the mat from the great wodge of inflated

supplements week after week saying ’read me, I’m small, different and

not going to take all day’.



The other Sunday it devoted its slender resources to a GCSE-style essay

- listing the reasons why it is smart not to go away on holiday -

splendidly oblivious to the travel section of the main paper, which

groans with adverts tempting readers to jet around the world.



I caught myself thinking Tiddler-style thoughts as I watched the English

Patient sweep the Oscars last week. Already Tunisia has leapt into

action with the message: you’ve watched the film, now come and see the

dunes.



In fact any country with a decent stretch of desert within reach of a

nice bit of coast will assuredly see a pick up in tourism. Last year

Braveheart gave a boost of sorts to the Scottish tourism industry,

despite the fact that the film was largely made in Ireland and featured

a lot of rain, bare bottoms and fierce natives daubed in woad.



This link between the media and tourism is not new but the public’s

willingness and ability to travel in pursuit of a suggestive celluloid

or fictional dream is certainly growing and so are the number of TV

holiday shows, however different or real they claim to be. The sure fire

way for a tourist board to raise visitor numbers is to woo a film or TV

company to its area. In fact, the British Film Commission and its

regional offshoots now exist in large measure to fix welcoming locations

and, as Lottery money starts cascading into film production later this

year, whole tracts of the country will become sets.



Even homespun TV plays its part. The ITV detective drama Wycliffe, a

pretty standard product filmed entirely in Cornwall and completely

lacking the Mel Gibson factor, was credited last month with ’awakening

people to the county’s attractions’: visitors were up by 11 per cent.

But the desire to see the spot where something is regularly filmed is

actually causing productions to retreat to secure locations. Mass market

TV drama is becoming remarkably obsessed with real estate and dedicated

open-air sets which can hold the public at bay.



It is why Yorkshire TV wants its own village for Emmerdale on Earl

Harewood’s estate: the capital outlay more than compensates for

uninterrupted production.



London’s Burning is based in a studio posing as an industrial

warehouse.



So, should we take the Tiddler line and stay at home? Well, the

suggestive power of the media is so great that it just won’t happen. I’m

not convinced anyway that media fame destroys a place. Provence survived

and so will Tunisia. But British TV is passing up a great opportunity:

companies should build replica visitor sets. The time for a Soap Land

experience has truly arrived.



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