History in the making for town as TV cameras roll
When the next series of a popular CBBC show airs in 2017, there will a range of familiar locations in the episodes.
In what is believed to be a first for Morpeth, the town has been chosen as the base for a television programme that is watched by people across the UK. Filming for series five of The Dumping Ground started in March and it will run to September.
The crew has transformed some of the buildings in the old fire station at Loansdean into the set for Ashdene Ridge – a fictional children’s care home that includes a mix of ages and personalities.
It has been relocated from the Jesmond area of Newcastle.
Although other parts of Northumberland and the North East are being used as well, many parts of Morpeth have been and will be included in the outdoor filming schedule.
The Dumping Ground is the nickname for Ashdene Ridge and the show is part of the Tracy Beaker franchise. Its target audience is six to 12, with the core audience 10 to 12.
Executive producer Jonathan Phillips said: “The ethos of the programme is that the characters come together and resolve their problems or issues at the end of the episode.
“Ultimately, it’s a show about kids in care trying to get along together in a house. It tackles some gritty storylines, but there are also elements of comedy in each episode.
“We’ve been all over the shop in Morpeth, including by the river and in the town centre, and we’ve been to a nearby petting zoo (Whitehouse Farm Centre).
“It’s great to be able to showcase Morpeth on the screen. It has a good mix of locations for filming.
“The children have licensed chaperones and they are very well looked after. They receive tutoring and there are rules as to how long they can be in filming. There’s a family atmosphere between the cast and the older children who have grown up on the show are very protective of the younger children when they join the cast.
“We try to reflect what life is like in a care home as much as we can, bearing in mind our audience.”
Mike Milligan, played by Connor Byrne, is the head care worker at Ashdene Ridge and he has appeared in each series of The Dumping Ground and some of the Tracy Beaker series.
Connor describes Mike’s character as a ‘lovable eejit’ who works to keep the peace and bring the children together.
He added: “I’m really enjoying filming in Morpeth. I cycle in from Longhirst and everything is close by in the town centre.
“It’s a lovely place for shooting scenes and the people are great. One Wednesday evening, me and the person I was with heard the bells ringing near the town hall and we decided to pop in and meet the group who were ringing them (Morpeth Clock Tower Bellringers).
“They were all lovely and allowed us to watch them ringing for about 45 minutes.
“The writing is quality and the money spent on the show is another reason why it is so popular.
“The kids arrive with little television experience, but we teach them and by the time they become senior cast members, they have more television experience than a lot of adult actors.”
The main set includes a garden area and it now boasts a brightly coloured mural, which was the result of a viewers’ competition.
A newcomer to the cast in series five is Connor Lawson, from County Durham.
He plays Alex and says although the character has had a rough upbringing, he gets involved in helping others and ‘you see a glimmer of hope that deep down he is a good person’.
Connor also said: “It’s totally different from the adverts I’ve done in the past and I really enjoy working with the cast and crew.
“I was a big fan of the Tracy Beaker shows, so to be involved in a programme based on something I loved watching is a bit surreal.”
The number of episodes will increase from 20 in series four (it has already been filmed and the second half will be screened from September) to 24 in series five. This means there will be more specials (hour-long episodes). The first episode of series five is set to be screened in January next year.