For tourism’s sake! Don’t film gritty Channel 4 drama in Hackney

Why Ronan Bennett's new drama isn't quite as authentic as he might like...

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There’s a lot of things one might associate with the inner-city London Borough of Hackney – but tourism probably isn’t one of them. 

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However, with the Olympics on the way, it seems reputation management is high on the list of priorities at the local government’s HQ.

Indeed, when writer Ronan Bennett approached the authority for permission to film his gritty new Channel 4 drama, Top Boy, in the area, he was met with a rather bemusing answer…  

“We had a surreal meeting with Hackney Council… we went in and they said we don’t think this will be good for tourism in Hackney,” explained Bennett, speaking at this morning’s Channel 4 season launch.  

“They said they didn’t think it would be good for tourism at the Olympics.  So in the end they said we couldn’t film on council estates in Hackney or the schools.”

Therefore, although the rendition of inner-city drug-taking is set in and around Hackney (and much of the drama shot on public streets there), Bennett and his director, Yann Demange, were forced to shoot council estate scenes and school scenes in other parts of London. 

Clearly still a little peeved by the decision, Bennett, a Hackney resident himself, added: “In my darker moments I did think about possibly inventing a scene with two married Midwest tourists walking past.”

Well, with London 2012 around the corner, it’s surely only a matter of time before the delights of Lower Clapton make it into the Berlitz guide.  

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Top Boy, which contains a cast of no less than 68 speaking parts – most of whom are first-time actors – will screen in four parts this autumn on Channel 4.