Thanet attracts more than 70 film and photo shoots in just one year

Filming of The Tunnel in 2017

Thanet’s title as a film and fashion shoot hotspot has grown over the last decade – and more than 70 productions chose the isle as a location, shooting for a total of 111 days, in the last financial year.

The filming boom is aided by Thanet council’s dedicated film officer Sharon Kelley, who works closely with the Kent Film Office (KCC) to liaise with production companies.

Based on the size of the crews and the length of time they stayed in the area it is estimated that the benefit to the local economy is in excess of £304,000, just for 2018-19.

Productions on the isle are wide-ranging and include photoshoots for magazines, music videos for a whole range of musicians, television dramas, comedy programmes, short films and feature films.

These have included films Lady in the Van with Dame Maggie Smith and King of Thieves with Sir Michael Caine as well as TV series Eastenders, Top Boy and The Tunnel.

In the last couple of years music videos have included Emile Sande at Botany Bay, Shawn Mendes at Palm Bay, and Rick Astley at Westbrook Bay.

Sharon said: “It is not unusual to be asked to sign a non-disclosure request prior to receiving the details of the production – this is especially true when dealing with feature films with ‘big name’ stars. No two productions are the same and we get asked for all sorts of help from parking for vans to finding animals that will eat a musician’s grass dress!

“As the council’s Film Office, we try to balance the needs of the production companies along with the needs of residents and visitors. We try to keep the big productions out of the main town centres during the height of summer to avoid disrupting our tourism trade or limiting the number of vehicle movements to as few as possible.

“It’s encouraging to note however, when we have been out and about monitoring the productions, residents and visitors are mainly pleased to see filming in their local area.

“Thanet appeals to location managers for a number of reasons: beautiful sandy coastline, white chalk cliffs, picturesque harbours, seaside towns, Victorian streets and interesting film friendly shops and businesses – all within easy reach of London which is where many of the big production companies are based. To be able to assist the various location managers you need to have a good knowledge of the area including the different bays, knowing about the tide times, finding suitable parking areas, and talking to local businesses to keep them in the loop.

“Another part of the job is to make contact with businesses in and around Thanet to find out if they are interested in being involved and if they have the capacity to work with film or photo-shoots when asked.”

Popular locations are Botany Bay, Walpole Bay and Margate Main Sands.

Film hub hotspot at Walpole Bay Hotel

Walpole Bay Hotel boss Jane Bishop is no stranger to hosting film crews.

Last month Sadie Frost, son Raff Law, Libertines member Carl Barat, Vikings actor Jack McEvoy and writer/musician Johnny Cooke were at the hotel to shoot a film short. The film script for Running Man took inspiration from the hotel.

Sadie Frost is producer for the film being shot at the Walpole Bay Hotel

The prior month Paloma Faith had a fashion shoot at the venue, House of Fraser also filmed at the site, with Jane – or rather her magnificently Bee-hived hair – taking a role in the shoot.

This year alone there have been five music video productions, 12 fashion shoots, vlogs plus advert and film crews using the Fifth Avenue hotel. Channel 4 filmed its recent interview with Libertines frontman Pete Doherty there, rap and Top Boy star Kano booked out the dining room while filming for the series last year and presenter Louis Theroux was spotted enjoying a stay last December.

Paloma Faith outside the Walpole Bay Hotel Photo by Daren Carter

Jane said: “It has been amazing. Margate is being discovered and we (the hotel) have become an iconic location for photo and film shoots. Once they come to us they then go on to discover all the other things Margate, and Thanet, has to offer, like the Shell Grotto.

“And there is Arlington House which, from a photographic point of view, sets a whole new scene, Vogue Italia used it.

“The hotel is already booked out for the gay pride weekend just with people who came here from London for various shoots. It is brilliant for us and of course then they spend at other businesses too when they go out exploring,”

But Jane also says Thanet cannot sit on its laurels and expect filming alone to revive the economy.

She said: “.These small businesses that spring up from people moving here are brilliant but they are not providing jobs for our kids and grandkids, and the property prices are being pushed up, so we also need to focus on that.”


Michael Caine Photo Frank Leppard

Dame Maggie Smith – Lady in the Van (2015)

Sir Michael Caine – King of Thieves (2018)

Iwan Rheon – Hurricane (2018)

Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd – Juliet, Naked (2018)

Mark Stanley, Anna Friel – Sulphur and White (release 2019)

Recent TV series

Top Boy

ITV – Mr Selfridge (2018)

Netflix – Top Boy – Series 3 (Autumn 2019)

Sky Atlantic – The Tunnel – Series 1, 2 and 3 (2013, 2016 & 2017)

ITV – Edge of Heaven

BBC 1 – Eastenders

Sky Arts – Landscape Artist of the Year (2018)

Sky/Sky Italy – Devils (To be announced 2019)

Channel 4 – George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and Old House New Home (2018)

Channel 4 – Humans 2 (2016)

Music videos include

Rick Astley’s music video Photo Lynze Hillier-Pett

Shawn Mendes – There’s nothing holdin’ me back (2017)

Kooks – Pamela (2018)

Rick Astley – Try (2018)

Emile Sande – Hurts (2016)

Bat for Lashes – All your gold (2012)

There have also been a host of adverts.