How is Back in Time for the Weekend filmed?

As the Ashby Hawkins family prepare to enter the swinging sixties, we find out how the time-travelling series was made...

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Back in Time for the Weekend sees one suburban family give up gadgets, smart phones and all the trappings of modern life for one summer to embark on a spot of time travel instead.

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The Ashby Hawkins family head back to 1950 to find out what free leisure time looked like for the generations who came before us. You know, before weekends were reserved for Netflix marathons and the like. 

The six-part series sees the family’s home totally transformed to reflect the realities of each new era, from the 50s to the modern day. And, as Steph, Rob, Daisy and Seth prepare to enter the swinging sixties, we’ve caught up with producer Nancy Bornat to find out just how each decade was put together… 

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What were the practicalities of redecorating the house for each new era – how long did it take and where did the family go? 

Every era we completely redecorated their house, even putting in extra walls, doors, garden fences and a shed. Our art department repainted, wallpapered, carpeted and re-furnished their house, often in just three days, whilst the family were living in a rented house nearby. The family moved out of their house before filming began for the 50s and before every decade, only saw the changes as they stepped through the door on the first day of filming for each episode.

How all-encompassing was each transformation? 

We turned off their Wifi and took away their smartphones, tablets and computers during each decade, so that their historical experience wasn’t just limited to when we were filming. We even made sure that all books and magazines were correct for the era, so that outside of filming hours, the family’s entertainment was decade specific as well.

Where was everything sourced from?

We had an incredible team of art directors and assistants who sourced furnishings, decorations, ornaments and many of our working appliances from a variety of places: specialist prop hire companies; online sites such as eBay; or from individuals. The production team also sourced some other key items, hiring period cars, period televisions and hifi equipment.

Were all the items authentic? 

We were careful to source authentic items for the series, for instance, our televisions are all from the decades in which they feature. We sourced period lawnmowers, hoovers, Walkmans, stereos and even games and toys so that the family’s experience in each decade would be as rich and realistic as possible.

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Even the clothes?

We had someone who sourced all the costumes, buying and hiring period specific items and before every decade the family would go for a fitting and also be shown how to do their hair and make-up by our hair and makeup artist. As three members of the Ashby Hawkins family wear glasses, we also had their prescriptions fitted to period glasses, which really completed the authentic look for each era.

What was the hardest item to get hold of?

The piano was a tricky item to source. Not because old pianos are hard to find, but because although we needed a working piano, which looked right it also needed to be one that wasn’t too special or precious. As viewers will see, the piano – which we bought – did suffer rather from its authentic 60s experience.

Were you worried about damaging borrowed artefacts? 

No, it was important that the family lived with everything in their house, in every decade treating it as if it was their own. They spent a week eating from the plates from each decade and sitting on the sofa and chairs from each decade.

Which decade was the toughest?

The 50s was perhaps the biggest shock, as it was such a change from their 21st century lives and because it was hard work for many of them. For each of them there were particular periods or surprises. All of them had expectations about leaving modern technology behind, but in fact there were some real surprises: they realised they gained freedom without their smartphones, whilst at the same time that technology like washing machines and fridges have given us leisure time that we now take for granted.

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Back in Time for the Weekend continues on Tuesdays at 8:00pm on BBC2