Tetbury braces for TV drama boost
By Simon Hacker | 29th August 2023
As if being the home town of HRH King Charles weren't enough, Tetbury is now celebrating another publicity coup with a decision to make the Cotswold town the backdrop for what's being tipped as a huge new TV drama.
Back in March, an all-star cast for the eight-part adaptation of Jilly Cooper's 'bonkbuster' Rivals was announced for the Disney+ TV version, with news that it would feature Doctor Who's David Tennant, Poldark actor Aidan Turner, Inbetweeners star Emily Atak and EastEnders bad-boy Danny Dyer.
Broadcast for the drama, which is being produced by Happy Prince as part of ITV Studios, is expected, according to industry sources, later this year or early 2024.
Set in "Rutshire", Rivals' plot features the town of Cotchester, for which location scouts found the perfect real-life double in Tetbury.
The drama, which delves into the dog-eat-dog world of independent television in 1986 follows the story of Rupert Campbell-Black, played by Alex Hassall, and his rivalry with Tony Baddingham (David Tennant) and charts how a longstanding rivalry comes to a head.
Cooper, who lives in nearby Bisley and has a direct role in directing the series, said the Hassell, whose CV includes The Tragedy of Macbeth and The Boys was perect in the role of Campbell-Black as a "dangerously charismatic" and "dashing ex-Olympian, Tory MP and incorrigible rake", while Tennant portrays his rival, a "single-mindedly ambitious and egotistical Rutshire neighbour Lord Tony Baddingham".
Filming in and around Tetbury began in March and local businesses had to accommodate for access impact on the town, with six sessions from the crew in all. A roadside sign in the town states the crew has now made the final 'wrap' and thanks the town for its patience.
Art-Tiques, which is based in Church Street and employs six people, has been trading in the town as importers of Central Asian antiques and carpets for 50 years. The presence of the production unit, the business told Punchline, had caused headaches for some businesses in the town.
Gulliver Bristow, co-owner said: "It was difficult because there was no notice given and all the car parks were shut off to normal visitors, with the road from the Snooty Fox pub down to the main car park also out of bounds for access."
Transforming Tetbury road signs into 'Cotchester' signs was also reported by local press as leaving some visitors in confusion, while many businesses in the town's main Long Street had their signage removed and replaced by fictitious 1980s displays.
He added: "We have no doubt that when this finally goes out for broadcast, it will be a benefit for Tetbury; it is easy to see this is Tetbury despite the film transformation, and it will cause a new level of curiosity about our town, but there were some ruffled business brows as the film crews came and went. We were lucky because we often trade via appoinment consultations, but some traders were unable to get people in to their shops.
As a key moment for external location filming, the town's Long Street Co-Operative Society store was transformed into an eighties independent grocery store.
Alan Spall, manager, told Punchline: "We were fortunate because whenever filming went live we only had to stop trading during those moments. It was all very exciting though we didn't get lucky in our request for selfies with some of the big names."
Longer-term benefit from the dislocation to the town's trade during filming would pay off, he added: "I think there's going to be a lot of new interest in Tetbury from viewers."
The anticipation is echoed by the series' joint executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins.
Mr Treadwell Collins said: "Jilly's iconic novels' razor-sharp observations on class, sex, love and what it means to be British resonate even more today than when Jilly wrote them in the 1980s. I'm so excited to bring Rivals to the screen, entertain fans of the beloved Cooperverse and introduce a whole new generation to the sweeping love stories, social satire and biting wit of Rutshire."
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