Bristol boosts role as top location for hard-hitting TV drama as another city-filmed series is screened

Powerful new TV series Kiri started on Channel 4 this week after filming in Bristol last year – the latest in a run of hard-hitting dramas that are helping the city earn a reputation as high-calibre television production centre.

Written by Bristol-born BAFTA-winner Jack Thorne (National Treasure) and starring BAFTA and RTS award-winning actress Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax), the four-part drama examines the abduction of a young black girl, named Kiri, who is soon-to-be-adopted by her white foster family, and the trail of lies, blame, guilt and notoriety that follows.

Described as “compelling”, it stars Sarah Lancashire as Miriam, an experienced, no-nonsense social worker who loves and believes in her job. 

But she has a maverick and instinctive approach to protecting the children in her care. Miriam arranges for Kiri to have an unsupervised visit with her biological grandparents.

Pictured: Sarah Lancashire as Miriam in Kiri (image courtesy Channel 4)

When Kiri disappears during the visit, the fingers of suspicion and blame from the police, the press, and even her colleagues, point firmly at Miriam. As the media spotlight around the story intensifies, Miriam, as well as both sets of families, are forced to ask the toughest questions, not just of themselves, but of each other.

Tobi (Lucian Msamati – Taboo, Luther), Kiri’s birth grandfather, finds both his race and dysfunctional relationship with his son, the prime suspect in Kiri’s disappearance, put under the microscope. Meanwhile Alice (Lia Williams – The Missing, The Crown), Kiri’s fiercely articulate white foster mother, watches as her family starts to crumble under the pressure of very public grief.

Kiri filmed for two weeks last August in locations across Bristol, including the Gloucester Road area, St Andrews Park, The Downs, the Cumberland Basin area near Spike Island, Napier Road and the Bear Pit. Driving shots feature Muller Road, Filton Avenue and St James Barton Roundabout.

Bristol Film Office worked closely with the production team to negotiate special permissions for drone filming above the city while also facilitating recces, arranging vehicle access, road closures, bollard removal and tree cutting. 

Pictured: Kiri filming on Leopold Street, Bristol (image courtesy of Bristol Film Office)

Speaking about her experience of filming in and around Gloucester Road, Sarah Lancashire said: “We filmed all of the exteriors there. It’s Miriam’s patch. It’s fantastic, vibrant, really colourful, really edgy, completely non-conformist, which is very much who she is. They sort of complement one another… it was a really good place to film.” 

Location Manager Jason Keatley said the Film Office had been “incredibly accommodating” in helping achieve the production team’s goals at some tricky locations.

“When facing particular issues regarding the flying of drones in certain locations, thankfully they came up with solutions to keep all parties happy. I look forward to returning to Bristol on future projects, a city that is genuinely film friendly with excellent location support,” he said.

Bristol Film Office manager Natalie Moore said Bristol had become an ideal urban backdrop for hard-hitting drama with Kiri’s shoot following a number of other filmed-in-Bristol dramas in a similar genre including Broadchurch, Three Girls and Thirteen.

“This particular shoot involved a large amount of drone shooting, which is steadily rising in popularity in TV production,” she said. “Making this possible required a great deal of liaison with park authorities and other partners to arrange special permissions, given the new drone regulations and bylaws introduced last year.

“I’m pleased to say we were able to help the production realise their ambitions to film above green spaces like St Andrews Park and The Downs, whilst helping to ensure normal activity like summer grass cutting didn’t affect continuity.

“We were also able to link the production with private properties like Hamilton House, so that drones could be flown above the Gloucester Road area. The result is some really stunning on-screen footage of Bristol from the skies, which I think will really complement and accentuates Kiri’s compelling storyline.”

Drone filming is becoming more widespread in TV and film production in Bristol, and the Film Office now issues official Filming with Drones Guidance for productions looking to use UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).

New city regulations introduced last year now allow the flying of drones in designated areas in three Bristol parks – Hengrove Park in South Bristol), Dundridge fields near Hanham and Blaise Castle Estate, near Henbury.

Other sites require special permissions that can be negotiated and arranged by the Film Office. Model aircraft must weigh 7kg or less without fuel, and operator of the aircraft must be a member of the British Model Flying Association and have public liability insurance.

Other upcoming productions recently filmed in Bristol include Mike Newell’s feature The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society starring Lily James and Glen Powell, due for release in April, and Jon S. Baird’s feature Stan & Ollie starring John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as Laurel and Hardy.

The second episode of Kiri is on Channel 4 next Wednesday at 9pm.

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