It’s taken BBC viewers on a whistle-stop tour of the stunning scenery surrounding our wonderful town.
But did you know Scarlett’s Driving School was the first TV series to be filmed inside Middlesbrough Town Hall?
North East native Scarlett Moffatt made the Grade II-listed building her base for the show, which is currently entertaining audiences on BBC One every Monday.
“The reason the show was filmed here is because Scarlett and the producers wanted to show off our amazing area,” said Town Hall manager Kesia Bruce, who was instrumental in bringing production company Frieda.TV to film the series in Middlesbrough.
“It feels like the worst parts of our town and region are often the first to be portrayed in the national media and on TV.
“But Scarlett’s Driving School proves to a national audience how fantastic our town is, and that we’re so close to the coast and beautiful countryside.”
Scarlett used the renovated Old Fire Station inside the Town Hall as the show’s ‘learner’s lounge’, while the building’s stunning Gothic architecture was on display in its central courtyard.
Kesia continued: “The courtyard and the outside of the building is shown loads on screen – I think if you live in Middlesbrough, you might just take it for granted but our Town Hall is such an imposing and interesting piece of architecture that’s really shown off with the drone footage used in the series.
“We might just walk past it, but I think it’s brilliant that people from around the country will have been able to see what we’ve got to offer.
“If you know the old fire station well, you wouldn’t believe that it was the same place you see in the show as the set dressing designed and implemented by the production team transformed the space.
“Before the town hall was refurbished (in 2018, with £7.7m of Heritage Lottery Funding) you might have only come here for a show, but we’ve got the fire station, the old courtroom and the carriageway back in use now and they’re in use nearly every day.”
The production crew visited between May and June, before returning in September for driving tests and results – so how did town hall staff manage to accommodate them while running a busy schedule of shows and events?
“We’re used to being busy!” laughed Kesia.
“But our staff are fantastic, so it was no trouble at all. We did have some big events – there was a tight turnaround for cleaning and resetting after Enter Shikari played the main hall while the crew were here.
“We also had the Animex festival which Teesside University hosts, and there were thousands of people in and out during the event.
“Luckily, it’s an old building – the walls are thick and when you close the doors, it does shut out most of the noise.”
And staff working on the show loved their adopted home town.
Scarlett Moffatt and the cast of Scarlett’s Driving School in the courtyard at Middlesbrough Town Hall
“The crew were from all over the country and they all loved Middlesbrough,” continued Kesia.
“Scarlett is so down-to-earth, and just like the person you see on TV. I think she enjoyed being close to home, and the hospitality all of the crew received in Middlesbrough was fantastic.
“It’s a bit of a cliché, but when you’re all working together you become a bit of a family and I know a lot of the production crew stayed in local hotels, went out in town and visited local restaurants and really treated Middlesbrough like home while they were filming.
“They filmed so much footage as well – I can’t believe they’ve managed to condense them into 30 minute episodes!”
Now that the town hall – and our amazing town – has become a star of the small screen, is anything else lined up?
“I know that Frieda.TV has been recommending Middlesbrough as a place to come and film, and we’ve had discussions about other projects coming to the town hall,” said Kesia.
“They stumbled across us as the base for Scarlett’s Driving School – I think they just found the website, and when they got in touch and came to scout the area they were really impressed.
“The North East is really emerging as a place to film for TV and I hope this is just the start.”
Scarlett’s Driving School is available to watch on BBC One at 8.30pm every Monday, and to stream online at BBC iPlayer.