‘We will fight them on the beaches’– St Annes beach to be precise!

Filming of a new BBC drama taking place on St Annes beach
Filming of a new BBC drama taking place on St Annes beach
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At this time of year, the beach bordering St Annes and Blackpool are usually all but deserted.

Certainly on weekdays, any walker or pet owner who might take to the sands could practically guarantee to have vast swathes to themselves.

Filming of a new BBC drama taking place on St Annes beach

Filming of a new BBC drama taking place on St Annes beach

But not this week, as a filming unit consisting of hundreds of actors, extras, creative and technical staff came to town to shoot footage for the forthcoming BBC TV series World On Fire.

St Annes beach in February 2019 is playing the part of Dunkirk sands in the summer of 1940 for the wartime drama which is due to be broadcast in the autumn.

The seven-part series stars Sean Bean and Oscar winner Helen Hunt, but neither was required for the St Annes scenes.

Leading actor on set locally was rising star Jonah Hauer-King, who plays a Manchester lad called Harry involved in the historic evacuation of Dunkirk, which was a key incident of the early years of the war.

Chris Clough, series producer of World On Fire, being filmed on St Annes beach

Chris Clough, series producer of World On Fire, being filmed on St Annes beach

He was joined by some 300 actors, many of them extras, replicating battle scenes on the sands which required a vast haul of props, including nine boats, scores of trucks, rifles, rubber replica rifles and even a spitfire and an anti-aircraft gun!

After the crew, on behalf of production company Mammoth Screen, began arriving last Saturday, filming has taken place throughout this week – and series producer Chris Clough is pleased at how it has gone.

“When we arrived last weekend and the wind was howling, we wondered if we might have problems but the weather has been kind and it has gone well,” he said.

Filming for the epic series has already taken place in Manchester, where Sean Bean’s scenes have largely been shot; Prague, which has doubled for Warsaw, Berlin and Paris, and also in Paris itself.

St Annes was identified some months ago as a prime contender to “play the role”of Dunkirk and Chris was full of praise for the setting and appreciation for the welcome from Fylde folk.

“We’re delighted,” he said. “The beach here is very similar to that in Dunkirk in terms of tidal reach and other geographical features.

“It has firm sand for us to take on the vehicles and the (North Beach) car park for us to set up the support facilities, plus the dunes which provide a great backdrop.

“The Dunkirk evacuation happened in May and June so considering how different the conditions can be in February, it has been a very successful week.

“Everyone has been really helpful and the local hotels and restaurants have been great.”

Fylde Council’s tourism and leisure committee chairman Coun Cheryl Little is delighted the local sands were chosen for the filming – and is hopeful it will provide a boost for local tourism once the scenes are screened.

She said: “It will be wonderful to see our local beach on the TV and I’m sure it will help it be an even greater attraction that it already is.

“Just look at the effect of TV shows such as Game of Thrones and Vera – fans are eager to go along and see the locations which were used as settings and it’s great to think that could be the case with this programme.”

World On Fire is described as “an adrenalised, emotionally gripping and resonant drama following the first year of the Second World War” told through the intertwining fates of ordinary people drawn from Britain, Poland, France, Germany and the USA as they grapple with the effect of the war on their 
everyday lives.

It’s written by Peter Bowker, whose previous credits include the BBC drama Blackpool, which starred David Tennant and David Morrissey.

Damien Timmer, Mammoth Screen’s managing director, said: “From the siege of Warsaw, to Dunkirk, the fall of Paris and the Battle of Britain, here is an epic story told on a human scale, with a truly international cast.”

Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama, added: “Pete’s writing gives us a perspective on those early days of the Second World War we have never seen before. Spanning four nations, the canvas for the drama is vast.”