It’s hard to believe that Emmerdale, or Emmerdale Farm if you’re as old as me and can remember that far back, has been on our screens for 46 years. In that time we’ve had plane crashes, floods, storms, murders and more Dingles than you can shake a stick at.
But there are still so many unanswered questions in the nation’s favourite Yorkshire village. For instance, who wore the same hat for 15 years? Whose pinny is mounted on the wall in pride of place? Who hides her script in the kitchen drawers for those moments of blankness?
In the interests of investigative journalism, Northern Soul visited the Emmerdale Studio Experience in Leeds to seek out answers and have a grand day out.
First off, there’s this: the tour is a brilliantly immersive experience where you can walk in the footsteps of your favourite characters from Jack Sugden or Kim Tate to Cain Dingle and Ashley Thomas. While I’ll admit to being more of a Corrie aficionado (I know, wrong side of the Pennines), after this experience I’m considering rethinking my allegiance. The tour was far more interactive than its Coronation Street counterpart that took Manchester by storm in 2014. Both experiences come from the stable of Continuum Attractions who are brilliant at designing and executing attractions like this.
As for this tour, the most fascinating element was the wealth of backstage information. The excellent guide took us through the process of writing an episode for Emmerdale and the logistics of handling such a huge cast, as well as the creativity it takes to get them on screen.
We also saw how stunts are put together, from the flooded cellar of The Woolpack which was filmed in the iconic Pinewood studios (home to James Bond and Star Wars no less) to the recent helicopter crash which put a serious dampener on wedding celebrations. It really is the most dangerous village in Britain.
There’s more, including a visit to the make-up room and the low-down on the incredible length of time that actors have to sit in those chairs to become their alter egos. The wardrobe department is next, which has a ton of costumes to nose at from Edna’s hat to Aaron’s hoodie, and there’s a smashing editing suite experience where eager visitors can have a go at cutting from one camera to another (word to the wise: it’s not as easy as you think).
In terms of sets, there aren’t tons. You get to sit in Rhona’s lounge and act out your own scene. And, of course, the Dingles’ front room is there complete with an exclusive scene filmed by Sam and Lisa – who knows what she’s hidden around the set? Bernice’s Beauty Salon is marvellous, not least because visitors control the lights to set different moods from morning sunrise to low-lighting for those secret assignations.
The finale is The Woolpack where you can stand in the footsteps of Amos, Alan and Chastity and pull an imaginary pint for the camera.
And that’s it. The tour would have benefited from the café or Home Farm, or even reproduced sets from yesteryear; an old-timer like me would have enjoyed Annie Sugden’s kitchen where, if truth be told, she spent 30 years ruling her family with an apron and a wooden spoon.
Nevertheless, the gift shop is cleverly situated through the doors of David’s Village Shop and there you can treat yourself to all manner of Emmerdale essentials including your very own Robron mug.
Where the tour maybe suffers is with the absence of the outdoors: the outside set isn’t included in this attraction and you have to book (and pay) for a second tour which is a few miles up the road and only open when not in use. Having said that, the Studio Tour handles this in the best way possible by including an incredibly realistic model of our favourite village (which you can walk through), perfect for that Gulliver photo opportunity.
These are minor gripes, though. All in all, this is a great day out and an absolute must for all Emmerdale fans. If you want to make your visit even more special, keep an eye out for personal appearances: the next one is Chrissie White (Louise Marwood) on April 28, 2018.