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Bank Top turns into Belfast 1971
HIGH DRAMA Terraced streets in Blackburn have been turned into Belfast at the heights of The Troubles in a dramatic transformation
The streets of Blackburn were transformed into 1970s Belfast as a film crew came to town to shoot a new movie.
Youngsters from the town are set to get their moment in the spotlight in the new film, titled ‘71’, now being filmed in Bank Top area.
Seven local children, aged between two and 11, have been enlisted by the crew as extras.
Backed by Studio Canal UK and Film Four, the film follows a young British army recruit separated from his platoon trying to navigate his way through conflict-ridden Belfast.
Altogether 20 up-and-coming British actors, including E4’s Skins star Jack O’Connell, 150 supporting artists and 75 film crew have descended on Stansfeld and Coleridge Streets to film explosive and nail-biting scenes.
Kady-Lee Hulme, two, who lives in Stansfeld Street, will be filmed playing with Mason James, two, from Hamilton Street as the fictional army begin to search a neighbouring house.
Kady-Lee’s mother Danielle Hulme, 22, said: “I’m very proud that she’s been picked. It’s really good that they’re actively involving the community.
“She’s loving the experience so far and I hope it encourages her to try get involved in more films when she’s older.”
Mason’s mum Rachel Maher, 23 from Hamilton Street said: “The casting directors saw Mason when he was playing in the street. They picked him because of his red hair which is more common amongst Irish children. He’s a bit shy but I think he’s enjoying dressing up and being involved.
“It’s all very exciting and we’ll all be sad to see them pack up and leave.”
Yesterday residents gathered to watch the crew film a scene in which the army arrive in a Republican neighbourhood to search for a group of political dissidents.
And later in the week it will turn violent when a full scale riot breaks out as the community come together in opposition to the troops.
Mel Kurzen, 26, who lives in Hancock Street, said: “It’s exciting. It’s putting us on the map at last. The crew have been lovely and really helpful.”
Suzanne Baxter, 38, who works in Wignalls in Hancock Street, said: “I’ve loved seeing the smoke from the set and period dress. It’s nice to see something different. It’s certainly going to be an interesting week.” Deborah Holden, 51, said: “It might be noisy but I love it. I never thought we’d see a film crew in our neighbourhood. It’s great to see how a film is made. It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone who lives nearby and is interested in media.”
The film crew have had just a few weeks to make the fronts of the houses look like 1970s Belfast by using plastic coverings, replacing signs and windows.
They have even created tunnels through the ground floor walls of a soon to be demolished row of houses on Hardman Street to mimick the tactics used by IRA members to escape capture from the armed forces.
The location work brought an unexpected boost for charity shops in Blackburn as crew stopped off to buy clothes for some of the scenes.
After filming finishes the crew will move back to Liverpool before starting editing the footage in time for release early next year.
Angus Lamont, one of the producers, said: “We chose the area because it has the same type of terrace housing as was common in Belfast. Nothing like this exists in Northern Ireland now. “ Robin Gutch, also a producer, said: “Everyone here has been very accommodating.
“If a place gets known to be friendly to film crews then it could encourage others to use it in the future which would be good for the local economy.”
The film is set for a general release in cinema’s once completed.
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