Between Christmas and New Year I had a few days off that me and my family spent it in Cardiff, visiting various Heritage sites, including a few sites of a different type of heritage tourism.
Our first afternoon we embarked on the first part of our alternative Heritage tourism trail, we went to visit some location in Cardiff Bay used for filming Dr Who and Torchwood! Me and my aunt are massive Whovians and since we organised the holiday with the main aim of going to the Dr Who Experience, now located in the Bay, we dragged the rest of the family with us to indulge our geekyness!
Walking around the day it was easily recognisable from many different Who episodes, and especially from Torchwood, whose base was located beneath the water tower so the spent a lot of time filming the near-by locations. But even if you weren’t familiar with the series there are many other signs around that will clue you in to the fact that the area is known for something other than the views and restaurants. The least subtle of which being Ianto’s shrine, located next to the ‘trade entrance’ to Torchwood. The character was killed off (heartbreakingly) in the last but one series of the show, broadcast in 2009 and it is a testament to the power of the show that the shrine now has an official plaque and still stands today. We found a map of the filming location on a fan made site here: http://www.doctorwholocations.net/ but there are also paid walking and bus tours available to book onto.
There are hundreds of locations in and around Cardiff that the BBC have used in their programs. One of the evenings of our holiday we went for dinner in Eddie’s Diner, an American style diner used in ‘The Impossible Astronaut ’ episode of Dr Who. When we went in talking to the people who worked there it seemed they were used to people visiting their diner thanks to the program, I bet it has been a brilliant boost for their business!
Alongside the retro American memorabilia featuring Marylyn and Elvis were a couple of photos showing the diner in use on the program, subtly blending in. The big give-away that you weren’t just in a novelty American diner was when opening the door through to the toilets you find this:
The Dr Who Experience re-located from London to Cardiff permanently in early 2012 and adds another huge highlight to those on the Dr Who trail in the City. The Experience was amazing! I definitely recommend it to any Whovian. The press around the experience was huge for something of this genre, building on the ever-increasing popularity of Dr Who and similar Sci-Fi shows. Dr Who has always been something of an attraction to its fans, with an exhibition of props similar to what is now at the end of the experience being located in Llangollen for many years, and many other temporary exhibits. I remember visiting it as a child long after Who was cancelled, and before there were talks of it ever returning. After Who returned, before the Experience opened, there was an exhibition at Land’s End I visited a couple of years ago. Since its return Dr Who has only increased in popularity, and that popularity is something that heritage sites associated with the show should be using!
With any TV show as popular as Dr Who there are going to be money spinning opportunities to go along side it, and I would argue that these are a new form of Heritage. The Trust has already seen this as a new marketing strategy, promoting properties by what period dramas they have been used in (and countless Who episodes too!). They still advertise that The Duchess was filmed at Kedleston Hall, and held an exhibition of props and costume there shortly after the film’s release. This is heritage for a different audience, and something that people are beginning to realise has a lot of potential!
Whilst watching TV over Christmas I noticed the new TV adverts the BBC are running; showing all those fantastic programs and promoting that they are filmed in Wales!! Now I think it needs some co-operation between local councils, the BBC and those places used as locations, to really push this different form of heritage, to get a succinct offer and promote all elements, working together to benefit from the increase in this different type of heritage tourism.
It needs more than a mention on a web page, and should be being pulled together by those who will benefit, not just dedicated fan sites. There is money to be made from this, and I think it’s a really exciting opportunity for a different collaboration on a much larger scale. This could be just what the Heritage Industry needs, a new branch to bring increased income when the other branches are struggling in the current climate! The Heritage industry needs to be reaching out to all possible audiences , and attract new people who wouldn’t find themselves visiting more traditional heritage sites, to thrive at the moment. As I have seen from the popularity of Downton Abbey and what that has done for the industry ( and what people expect from visiting properties now) the power of TV is amazing for boosting interest and peaking interest in different loactions.
Well that’s the way I see it anyway, maybe I’m just talking total rubbish because it is something that could bring two things I love together, but creating these types of connections is something I will bear in mind for my future in the industry.