Pop Culture in the Peak District

...film tourism in the Peak

Those three words alone – The Peak District – conjure images of vast expanses of green and pleasant land, of majestic stately homes and of log-fired country pubs. You would be forgiven for not making the leap from Peak District to pop culture.

Its landscapes have for centuries been an inspiration to artists, poets and writers. The works of legendary authors such as Jane Austen, Wordsworth, Charlotte Bronte, DH Lawrence and many more are inextricably linked to the Peak.

Peak Idol

So what’s all this modern pop culture talk?

Well, in recent years Chatsworth has branched out as something of a part-time gig venue. Elton John set the ball rolling back in 2000 when he famously played in the pouring rain. The Rocket Man opened the floodgates, and in the years following bona-fide superstars such as Luciano Pavarotti, Will Young and Meatloaf performed open-air gigs on the grounds of the UK’s favourite stately home.

Set Jetting

Figures released by tourism bodies including VisitBritain tell us settings for film and TV productions enjoy huge boosts as film fans look to retrace the steps of their heroes. Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, used in the Harry Potter films, saw a 120% rise in visitors, with an estimated £10m worth of added tourism to the region. The strongest pull is from locations set at stately homes, historic and religious sites, and rural or village landscapes. Film tourism is an increasingly lucrative market.

And as a film location, The Peak District, and Chatsworth in particular, is forging itself a fine reputation. In 2005, the critically-acclaimed Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, was filmed at a number of locations in the area, with Chatsworth acting as Mr Darcy’s home.

The BBC’s lavish production of Jane Eyre followed a year later, filmed entirely on location in the Peak, and young Ms Knightley found herself back at Chatsworth in 2008 for the Academy Award and BAFTA- winning The Duchess

Later the same year The Other Boleyn Girl had scenes filmed in Castleton, North Lees Hall, Dovedale and Haddon Hall. And this year, Sir Ridley Scott’s epic interpretation of Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe no less, also found its way round several locations in the Peak.

But while the stately homes of Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and others lend themselves perfectly to reinterpretations of classic literature, it’s not all about period productions.

Matlock Bloodbath

Highly-acclaimed British director Shane Meadows, often described as the new Ken Loach or Mike Leigh, brought his stunning thriller Dead Man’s Shoes to Matlock and the surrounding area in 2004, with the film’s gripping climax played out on the grounds of Riber Castle.

So there you have it. A visit to the Peak District gets you even more than you bargained for - a place where you can follow in the footsteps of the stars.

Sean Cummins

July 2010

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015