Everyone’s heard of the Oscars and BAFTAs, but you don’t have to hotfoot it to Hollywood or London to celebrate the best in movie-making. Oh no, because right on your doorstep, Leicester-based Midlands Movies Awards recognise the talent of our homegrown filmmakers.

The awards run across 16 categories, and Leicestershire can be proud of its starring role in the nominations, with local filmmakers Joey Lever, Georgie Cubin, Matt Holt and Rob Gurney up for gongs. Lockdown restrictions may have delayed the awards, but the judging panel, headed by ‘This Is England’ writer/director Shane Meadows, now have their work cut out for them choosing the winners from more than 130 entries, with the honours dished out later in the summer.

And the winner is…

To find out who’s going to be the next big thing in films, visit www.midlandsmovies.com where editor Michael Sales will announce the winners when they are presented in September. The website also features reviews of the latest releases, and keeps cinephiles up to date with news about local events.

As well as its talented filmmakers, Leicestershire can also take pride in its own on-screen appearances, with scenes filmed at some of our best-loved visitor attractions.

King of the castle

With a history dating back to the 11th century, Belvoir Castle, with its fairy-tale turrets and towers is one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in the UK. It’s no wonder then that it’s been the location of choice for numerous films and TV productions, most recently starring as Windsor Castle in three series of Netflix sensation The Crown.

Its movie career however, started long before that. In the 1980 film Little Lord Fauntleroy, a poor boy inherits his grandfather’s estate – the grandfather is played by legendary actor Sir Alec Guinness and the estate none other than Belvoir Castle. Its crenelated towers appeared in Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985, and its kitchen had a role in 1999 horror remake The Haunting. This starred Catherine Zeta-Jones, who sang and danced her way through musical The Pajama Game at Leicester Haymarket Theatre before stardom beckoned.

Belvoir took on the guise of Buckingham Palace in 1990s comedy King Ralph, and again in The Young Victoria (2010). Multi-million-dollar blockbuster The Da Vinci Code turned Belvoir into the Pope’s summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, and it was one of the main settings for Victoria & Abdul, starring Dame Judy Dench.  Queen Victoria herself visited Belvoir Castle during her reign, and visitors can see the bed she slept in as well as costumes featured in the movie.

On track to be a hit

Australian drama Oranges and Sunshine used the University of Leicester as a filming location, and Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl as James Hunt and Niki Lauda, was partly filmed at Donington Park. Abbey Park has also made it into the movies, featuring alongside Bollywood star Mahima Chaudhry in the thriller Pusher.

Another great destination for tourists and filmmakers alike is Loughborough’s Great Central Railway (which can be seen in the main image), whose first claim to fame is as the only place in the world where steam engines still pass side by side. Its second is as a unique filming location for movies including The Hours, starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, spy thriller Enigma, Shadowlands, with Anthony Hopkins, and Stan & Ollie. The incomparable comics are played to perfection by Steve Coogan and John C Reilly, and crews working on Coogan’s latest film, The Lost King, about the discovery of Richard III in a Leicester car park, have been spotted around town. 

From Jurassic Park to Python

Of course, many famous names hail from Leicestershire, or started their careers here. Whether you know him as the Oscar-winning director of Gandhi, Jurassic Park’s dinosaur-cloning businessman John Hammond, Lord Attenborough or simply Dickie, Richard Attenborough trod the boards for the first time on the stage of The Little Theatre in 1937.

Equally famous is his brother, David, a renowned wildlife film-maker, who in the 1960s as controller of BBC Two, was instrumental in the first-ever colour TV broadcasts. Now in his mid-90s, he remains a hugely respected broadcaster and environmental champion.

Leicester fans of Monty Python’s Flying Circus can proudly claim Graham Chapman as one of their own, and it was none other than David Attenborough who commissioned the cult sketch show back in 1969.

Right up your street

Turn on the ITV News at Ten and Leicester’s Julie Etchingham could be filling you in on the stories of the day, while soap fans can thank TV critic and broadcaster Tina Baker, from Coalville, for all the gossip.

The soaps themselves can count Leicestershire actors amongst their casts, with Roy Cropper, aka David Neilson, and Carla Connor, played by Alison King, getting more than their fair share of gripping storylines in Coronation Street. The late Betty Driver appeared in the soap for 42 years and her photo still hangs in the Rovers Return.

Dramatic yarns

Starting her career in the sci-fi series Blake’s 7, Josette Simon can often be seen on TV, in films and on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Parminder Nagra made her first theatrical appearances at her school, Soar Valley College. She went on to star in box-office smash Bend It Like Beckham and US medical drama ER.

Critically acclaimed actor Stephen Graham has been on our TV screens loads lately, gripping the nation in BBC dramas Line of Duty and Time, as well as featuring in epic movies with some of the biggest names in showbiz. Okay, so he was born in Merseyside but the star of Shane Meadows’ This Is England now lives in Ibstock. In this Leicestershire village, his career has been honoured by an artist known as the ‘Syston Knitting Banksy’, who has immortalised him in a woollen creation sat atop a letter box – move over Oscar!





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