The programme prepared by the TEA for last Wednesday (6 May 2015) looked particularly appealing – a visit to The Shard, followed by back stage at the London Palladium and lastly, the Warner Bros Studio Tour for the Making of Harry Potter films. Added to the fact that it was conveniently scheduled for the day before the blooloopLIVE London 2015, attending this was a no-brainer.
By Marie Fisher, Sales & Marketing Director at Adrian Fisher Design Ltd.
The morning started at The Shard; our first visit to this landmark building. If you haven’t been up to see the view, then I strongly recommend it. The weather was cloudy and changeable, but it didn’t diminish the experience and we could see for miles. London really did look like a miniature town with the trains snaking along tracks so small you could pick them up between finger and thumb, the Thames was looking a tad muddy, buzzing with activity, and I noticed a cyclist riding along one of the streets below looking remarkably like a ladybird in his red helmet and shirt.
The ‘visitor experience’ was excellent with helpful and competent staff, fast lifts and great facilities. It was a good venue for gathering together our group of TEA members (around 50), especially as some of us had been delayed reaching the venue at the appointed time.
Our next visit was to the London Palladium Theatre which is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and his Really Useful Theatre Company. We travelled there on board the Historic London TEA bus, a 1960s London double-decker bus with the old pull–cord bell system. The seats upstairs gave the best views of so many iconic London streets and buildings as we inched our way across the city.
Arriving at the London Palladium we discovered that the new Beyond Bollywood musical was in its first day of set up. The entire cast were familiarising, so backstage was not a place to be. Instead we were shown around front of house and given a fascinating presentation on the history of this and other London theatres, by Mark Fox, Operations Manager.
Insights into seeing the business model for theatrical productions was a revelation and seemed high risk in comparison to risk at location-based attractions. Before we left, we tucked into a buffet lunch and then climbed back on to our historic London TEA bus for the journey through the north of London to Watford/ Leavesden, where Warner Bros studios are located. The drive allowed more opportunity for catching up with friends and colleagues as we travelled at a speed that would be considered slow by today’s standards. Once we passed ‘Gateway to London’ services on the M1 (formerly known as Scratchwood – a name I have always thought was more like the name of a prison or a nuclear power station) we knew we were close to our destination.
At Warner Bros Studios we were treated as a regular group visit, with no special treatment just because we were in the industry – at least I think that was the case. We were immediately impressed by the warmth of the welcome and the slickness of being shepherded into the PreShow area. What followed was an enjoyable, informative and well presented video on multiple screens telling the story of the origin and unfolding of the Harry Potter films.
Afterwards, we were given a rendezvous time to gather at the halfway point and so were ‘cut loose’ starting in the Great Hall to explore at our own speed, take as many photos as we wanted and use our token for a glass of Butter Beer. The entire visit was filled with awesome sets, candid explanations of how effects were achieved, some of which were shown on video screens, with excerpts from the films. There was much to see and learn, and all in an engaging and enjoyable way.
The most recent addition, the Hogwarts Express, lived up to expectation, and the photo opportunity with the trolley piled high with suitcases halfway through the wall on Platform Nine and Three Quarters was a must, as was riding a broomstick for a game of Quiddich. Our visit concluded back in the Great Hall, where we first began, for a drinks and canapés reception and then we boarded our Historical London TEA bus and returned to London, being dropped at Kings Cross station.
The Making of Harry Potter is a very popular attraction and, having visited, I completely understand why. The presentation and delivery of the entire experience was excellent. There were lots of friendly and enthusiastic staff, all eager to help and the passion, craftsmanship in artifacts, props, costumes, models, use of technology etc was stunning. Thousands of people had been involved with this project with huge affection over years leaving an atmosphere, despite the size of the place, of that of a close family. In fact every person who had worked on the project had a dedicated magic wand with their name hand-painted on the box in the Magic Wand shop, where they were stacked floor to ceiling.
Overall, the day was a great success filled with interesting experiences shared with fellow enthusiasts all of whom are passionate about our industry and keen to take it forward to even greater heights of entertainment. It was a memorable day and I’m very glad we took advantage of the opportunity to attend.
Well done TEA committee, and roll on the next SATE Academy Day!