The House of Commons

 

 

The fact Granada Studios Tour was (and still is) a genuine TV filming studio led to a few interesting attractions, where the thinking was we've got these sets we've used for filming, how can we turn it in to an attraction.
The one I remember best is the House of Commons, where a set had been made in 1986 for a political drama called First Among Equals., The set turned out to be a good investment as they made money renting the set out. The chances are if you see any political drama or satire it was filmed here.
How was this turned into a show for the public then? It started with everyone being led in, and sitting either on the government side or the opposition side. Someone dressed as an official would come out and give a brief intro about the sets origins and to set up the crowd interaction elements, encouraging people to cheer their own side and "Rhubarb, Rhubarb" the opposing side. The speaker of the house would then come out to officially start things. It started out freestyle, where any visitors could put their hand up and suggest a government policy, either seriously, or more likely a made up ridiculous policy, there's a satirical joke there somewhere. Eventually a couple of plants in the audience would be selected and start to play out a pre scripted comedy sketch.
I remember enjoying this when young, thanks to the sheer lunacy of the situation. As part of my research I did find some scripts in an old guide book, and even as an adult there was some good funny satire. Sadly the show closed when the park closed to the public at the end of 1998. The set was brought by an independent producer when it was removed from Granada Manchester in 2002. It was still used for a number of political satires and dramas, most famously the 2011 film The Iron Lady. In 2013 it was sold on e-bay (no that's not a joke, I found the old listing and took a screen grab you can see by clicking the picture on the right) due to a lack of space at it's new home Wimbledon studios it was located at.
I'll be interested to see what happens to the set in the future. It has always been interesting to think when I see a political drama or satire set in the House of Commons that it was most probably filmed in a set that I've sat in.