Kudos and the BBC spent around 15 weeks filming series 8 of the drama series Hustle, with the majority of the filming taking place in and around Birmingham. I spent around the same amount of time trying to find them, this is the story of my quest.
As a huge fan of the BBC series Hustle I was thrilled that they had chosen to film series 6 & 7 of the show in my home city of Birmingham in 2009 and 2010 respectively. I was extremely slow on the uptake though and I didn’t actually see any of the filming on location, so when I heard that they were back in Birmingham to film series 8 in 2011 I was determined to catch some of the action, especially as the BBC, Kudos and show creator Tony Jordan had announced that this would be the final ever outing for the show.
During series 6 & 7 I had set up a Facebook fan page to specifically identify the Birmingham locations that had stood in for the capital city and fellow fans joined up to help. I’d discovered during this time that Twitter could also be a great source of information and a few careful searches following the airing of an episode assisted in identifying some of the more tricky locations.
In July 2011, armed with a pre-set Twitter search (‘Birmingham Filming Hustle’) and the Facebook fan page (Hustle – Birmingham Filming) I set about my mission to find as many filming locations as possible, what follows is an extract, written in diary format, of my search during last Summer and the unexpected surprises that it delivered.
5th July 2011
Excited to read the following Tweet from Adrian Lester (@AdrianLester) “Hello to new followers. Not tweeted for a bit. Am in Birmingham scouting locations for Ep 2 of Hustle which I start directing in 2 weeks.”
So I was now on standby, just 2 weeks to wait, how exciting. Working in Brindleyplace in central Birmingham I was confident that I was well located to try to find them. Further clues were not forthcoming, until…
17th July 2011
Adrian Lester Tweeted, “Start shooting 2moro, my first day? directing myself, for 4hrs, stuck in a car boot, gagged, with my hands tied behind my back.” Sent Adrian a reply Tweet wishing him good luck with his challenge and hoped that Birmingham gave them a warm welcome. Surprised but pleased to get a simple reply from Adrian. “Cheers” it said. It was only one simple word, but we’d exchanged tweets.
Damn, tough start to TV directing, especially when gagged. I was slightly disappointed though as the fact that the main star was locked in a boot all day didn’t give me much confidence that I might find the shooting location. I decided that I should start taking my camera to work everyday, just in case I stumbled across any filming.
18th July 2011
Took the camera into work, just in case. No news on Twitter. No sightings or clues as I walked from New Street station across to Brindleyplace. I checked Twitter at lunchtime, still no news. I wasn’t too disappointed, I had expected they would be hidden away so at 5pm I headed off home hoping that as the weeks went on I’d get my chance. I checked Twitter when I got home and at 7pm I spotted this Tweet from @SparkyBRMB
“Walk out of work onto a tv set! Think they’re filming hustle! At Edmunds restaurant!”
Edmunds restaurant is in the block next to my office. Had I turned left, or even simply glanced left, as I left work instead of heading off right towards the station I would have seen the lights, the cameras….THE ACTION. I was gutted. Maybe this would be my only chance of the summer to see a live shoot and I’d messed it up on day one. What a muppet!
21st July 2011
Filming then seemed to move out of the city centre as various Tweets spotted the crew in Kings Norton, Stirchley and Edgbaston. Peter Polycarpou (@polywallydoodle) one of the guest stars in what I now know to be Episode 2 Tweeted, “Hustle continues today and tomorrow. Destroying a fake Picasso which was great fun and scrapping with Martin Kemp yesterday. Showdown Fri.” I sent a quick reply asking if it had gone well and cheekily asked where they were filming. I got a response, “Birmingham is fab and as always I have a great time up here. We were out filming somewhere near Edgbaston. Lovely jubbly thanks.”
25th July 2011
Plenty of filming location spotters on Twitter posted sightings in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. The lorries and vans needed for the equipment caused minor traffic chaos in Warstone Lane as seen in Black Cab driver, Adam B’s (@Adam_M_B) picture (right) that he posted on Twitter. Having finally discovered a location within walking distance of work, I took a lunchtime hike up Frederick Street and into the heart of the Jewellery Quarter only to find that they were loading the vans having completed filming at that location. I’d missed out again. Dejected, I walked back to work.
26th – 28th July
Twitter user Tim Pennington (@timbalion) posts a number of updates reporting that filming has moved to Raddison Blu, Birmingham. The cast and crew were spotted on the upper floor of the high rise building, where they shot a couple of days in the grifters penthouse apartment. Tim’s final update on 28th July stated, “Hustle have left the Raddison Blu Birmingham 😦 managed to see the main stars leaving as I walked in!”
Unusually I was getting a lift home as my wife had dropped off my son at a practice studio in the Jewellery Quarter. She had spotted a load of trucks parked in Frederick Street on the drive across to Brindleyplace so we decided to stop off on the way back to see if we could catch a glimpse of the filming. Behind Lois Jewellers, near the famous Jewellery Quarter clock, there was a film crew gathered around a bright red Audi car. Initially there was no sign of any of the stars of the show so we chatted to security and the crew drivers, both were very friendly and were surprisingly open with the information they were prepared to share with us. Eventually the stars arrived on set and I set to work with my camera.
There was no sign of Robert Vaughn (Albert Stroller) but to see four of the five main cast members in one evening was a real bonus. We stood and watched the proceedings for around an hour, trying not to get in the way or make too much noise, which was quite difficult when laughing and joking with the crew drivers and we were told to be quiet once or twice by a chap with a radio.
As Matt Di Angelo and Adrian Lester made their way to a waiting car I got Matt’s attention and asked him if he would mind having a picture with my wife, Deb. He was more than happy to oblige and this made my wife’s evening. Unfortunately by the time the picture had been taken Adrian Lester had already crossed the road and was opening the door of the car. I shouted to attract his attention but he climbed into the back seat, was quickly joined by Matt and they were gone. We watched the set up of the next scene, that was to feature Kelly Adams and guest star Paterson Joseph, for a few more minutes before we finally had to leave for the evening. I was unsure if Adrian Lester had heard me or not. Did he just ignore me? I couldn’t decide. My wife now also had the bug and was now on a mission to get an Adrian Lester photo before filming completed towards the end of October, especially after she mentioned him in a tongue in cheek Tweet “Just been watching the filming of Hustle in Birmingham. Shame @AdrianLester didn’t stop for a photo – but at least Matt Di Angelo did :)”. Adrian replied, “@deb1709 ah, that was you! I was running off home. Next time I promise.”
By now there were a number of Tweeters in and around the Jewellery Quarter who were regularly posting sightings. @MadAlix14 posted “#Hustle spotting today? Try Northwood Street 🙂“. I looked up Northwood Street which, it turns out, is not far from St Paul’s Square. Another location within reach during a lunchtime walk. There were a number of lorries and trucks outside a factory but no outside filming going on. It was a closed set. I hung around for as long as I could, but there was nothing to see here.
Another great lead when @Twitknitting (Lindsay Smith) posted on Twitter “Crew back set dressing office above William Hill for Hustle in the JQ – have a bird’s eye view from Big Peg (hmm should be working).”
These suspended parking signs were to become my marker for identifying city centre locations. I looked out for them on my way home and on my way to work most days as they were the best clue you could have (well, until BBC’s Line of Duty also started filming in the city, when they also became a red herring – more of that later).
More indoor filming this time though so nothing to see other than lots of supporting artists, dressed in grey polo shirts, drinking tea outside the William Hill bookmakers on Frederick Street. It’s now obvious that they will appear in episode one which airs on Friday 13th January 2012.
Had a good chat to a member of the crew and to security again, who explained that they had guest star Paterson Joseph and 25 supporting artists on set today but none of the main cast were due to make an appearance. I mentioned my Facebook Location page and explained I was trying to make my series 8 spotting a little easier by being ahead of the game. I was amazed when they said they had seen it.
8th – 10th August
The summer riots had taken over the news bulletins and thankfully the Hustle cast and crew had been shipped out to a barn near Rugby for a couple of days filming. Adrian Lester spent the evenings tweeting updates on the Birmingham city centre situation from the safety of his high rise vantage point above the New Street area.
After returning from my summer holiday, I got straight back on the Hustle trail and discovered the identity of a new guest actor. A picture of John Barrowman and Robert Vaughn taken during a break in filming was posted to Twitpic by @SophHughes.
I’d been careful not to reveal too much on Twitter myself, making sure that I was certain they had finished filming in a location before I revealed it to the Twitter world. Despite this I was now starting to get asked if I knew where they were filming on a regular basis and I had gained anumber of Twitter followers with a similar interest in the show. We had started a network.
A message posted by Chrissie Slot on the Facebook page asked “If anyone knows/finds out where abouts they’ll be filming on tuesday 6th September please let me know, I live in southampton and i’m travelling all the way up to Birmingham to try and see them!! “. Although I had no idea, I made a mental note as I would clearly try to help if I could.
Spotted the some cast coming out of the former Bell Edison Telephone Building on Newhall Street in Birmingham at lunchtime. Adrian Lester, Robert Glenister and Robert Vaughn were all driven away in the same car for what I can only imagine was a well earned lunch break
Chrissie posted another message “Where are they filming today? “. Again I’d no idea, but it seemed she was making the trip to Birmingham anyway. I had to help if I could, us Hustle fans need to stick together, right?
Received a number of tweets from Chrissie, who had arrived in Birmingham with her Mom, which I only saw at lunchtime when I went on a location hunt. If I could just point her in the right direction then I would have done my good deed for the day. I walked from Brindleyplace over to Northwood Street. No sign of action. I walked back in to St Paul’s Square, still nothing doing. No suspended parking signs, nothing. I decided to walk back to work via Colmore Row so headed off down Ludgate Hill as I crossed Water Street I happened to glance down towards Livery Street. Bingo! I fired off a quick tweet to Chrissie and told her to ask for Livery Street/Water Street and she may just be lucky. She was.
I was really pleased to have been able to help, even though I knew my wife would now be even more determined to get that elusive photograph with Adrian. I simply had to help make this happen too or she would never forgive me. The pressure was now most definitely on.
I received thank you messages from Chrissie and her Mom, and both claimed that my timely tweet had saved their day as without it they would never have met Adrian. Adrian also found out I’d helped Chrissie find him and when I explained how far she had travelled, he contacted Chrissie on Twitter and promised “Right, next time, you see a scene.” My small good deed for the day had led to a much bigger and better one from Adrian Lester, I felt really good and was so glad I’d been able to help, if not a little jealous, but I was pleased for Chrissie (honestly).
By now I’d also been contacted by an American fan of the show called Kelli Bosko who Tweets under the name of @hustlefans. Kelli had invited me to help moderate a new fan forum she had set up and I had agreed to lend a hand. The show was bringing together fans from across the globe and it was great to be able to be their eyes and ears on the filming progress in Birmingham, but the best was yet to come.
Having already sent a Tweet to Adrian Lester reminding him of his promise (see 28th July) to my wife, Deb, and with a day off planned just before her birthday I sent the following tweet, “@AdrianLester Still ok to call by LOC Fri? Think I have it sussed but don’t want to intrude or be a pain. It would make her birthday special.” True to his word, he replied, “@Sparks68 yes please swing by. Your wife is in for a surprise…”
I was in confident mood. I’d seen loads of suspended parking bays in Edmund Street and along Newhall Street. I knew where they would be, I was sure. We both had the following day off work, so we were all set. I kept the surprise part a secret, even though I didn’t know what it was, otherwise it wouldn’t be a surprise now would it.
We parked the car at he station and got the train into Birmingham, after all I knew where they were so no need to pay extra for parking when you had season tickets. Walking from Snow Hill to towards Newhall Street I started to wonder what the surprise could be. I’d no idea, I was intrigued and curious. As we neared Newhall Street I started to work out how I would let Adrian know we were there, and as we turned the corner I realised I’d wasted my time.
What greeted us were rows and rows of suspended parking bays, all empty.
No trucks. No vans. No cables. No cameras. No crew and almost certainly no cast. 😦
I couldn’t work it out. I knew they sometimes used a few locations per day, but to have so many bays suspended and no sign of the production crew at all was odd. We checked Edmund Street, same story.
We went for a coffee to gather our thoughts, we checked Twitter. Nothing. Not a mention from anyone.
We consoled ourselves at the nearby and excellent Home Of Metal exhibition at the Birmingham Art Gallery. To be fair, the exhibition was great but it wasn’t the day we had planned. I checked Twitter again.Still nothing.
I got a quick Hustle fix by quizzing the guy at the gallery security desk about the previous weeks shooting of Hustle in the upper floor galleries. He didn’t see much as they were kept out of the way but he did confirm that Matt Di Angelo and Kelly Adams had both been on set during the filming. Quick fix over, I checked Twitter in desperation, for a whiff of the slightest clue. Finally a glimmer of hope appeared on my mobile screen.
Kerrang Radio DJ Kate Lawler had Tweeted to say that the Hustle cast were using her flat as a Green Room. As a listener to Kate’s show Deb knew that she jogged in a park in Edgbaston, they must be out of the city. I’d got it so, so wrong. We decided to head back and get the car and drive into Edgbaston, after all it shouldn’t be that difficult to spot all those trucks, should it? As we walked back to the station and past the suspended bays we spotted a camera crew on Newhall Street. It seems that the BBC Line Of Duty production crew had found themselves a new location on this particular day.
Driving into Edgbaston we were clueless. We had absolutely no idea where to look or even where to start looking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I thought, I’d already tweeted Adrian to say we were struggling, to which he’d replied “@Sparks68 ah. Bit Lost“, so I tweeted one more time “@AdrianLester Now in car, birthday surprise slipping away I think 😦“. Just when we were thinking we should give up and admit defeat, I checked Twitter one more time. I had a new follower AND a new direct message. It started “Knowing you’ll keep this to yourself….”
We parked the car and walked back up the road to where a large number of trucks and vans were parked. We could see Adrian Lester and Robert Glenister in the grounds of a nearby church. I approached one of the crew and asked if he could pass a message to Adrian, he replied, “Are you Mark?” and got straight on his radio. Next thing I know, Adrian Lester is extending a friendly hand I shake it firmly and thank him for his time and for agreeing to meet us. Adrian said a quick hello to Deb and explained he was needed back on set but when they next had a break he’d be back with a surprise. Again, true to his word, he came back over about 10 minutes later bringing the surprise with him, in the form of Doctor Who and Torchwood actor John Barrowman. Turning to Deb, “Now you wanted a photo“, he said…
I too got pictures with both Adrian and John and we both also got a photo with Robert Glenister, who despite looking stern and moody on set, was a real gentleman and surprisingly very pleasant. He explained that his serious look and steely stares on set are because he is concentrating so much on remembering his lines. After a short meet and greet session on the streets of Edgbaston the cast were needed back on set so we thanked them all once more for their time and they were back into character. Adrian Lester was so down to earth and, well normal, he was a really friendly and genuine man and even though he was still clearly working he seemed happy to spend a few minutes chatting about the show and he also mentioned that he was inviting Chrissie, the fan from Southampton, to a location in London next week for a meeting on set. He even thanked me again for helping Chrissie find him a few weeks earlier, he really is one of the nicest men I’ve met and he had made my wife’s birthday a very special one. I am forever in his debt.
Deb sent Adrian and John a Tweet thanking them for their time and Adrian replied with a birthday greeting, “@deb1709 you are very welcome. Have a great day tomorrow.”
19th – 23rd September
Hustle production and filming took a week away from Birmingham and relocated to London for some iconic landmark and location shots for the new series. It was here that a new Twitter contact, @JayMarkCollins took some of my advice on how to find the filming locations and managed to meet some of the cast too. Chrissie also caught up with the cast thanks again to Adrian Lester and grabbed a picture with Kelly Adams and Adrian on the Millennium Bridge across the Thames.
Though the filming had moved south for the week, I was still getting a buzz seeing other fans of the show meeting the stars and to think that some of the meetings were partly down to my personal involvement and interactions with others made me feel really good.
Back to Birmingham for the final month of filming and a few tweets placed the action in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter and St Paul’s Square. On Thursday 29th I went for my usual lunchtime stroll and discovered that the Northwood Street location was being used again. Since my first visit I’d discovered that this was the set for Eddie’s Bar and this time I’d gone prepared. I’d taken a number of old playing cards and a black sharpie in the hope that I could get some signed. If I succeeded I would be able to offer some of the cards as prizes on the Facebook page or the Forum.
I gave the cards to some of the crew who were enjoying the unusually warm weather for the end of September and asked if they could see if they could get them signed. The suspended parking signs indicated that they would be back here the following day, so I suggested I could stop by on Friday to collect them. At that the cast came out for lunch and climbed into the waiting cars. I caught Adrian’s attention, who was sharing a car with Matt Di Angelo and Rob Jarvis. I explained about that cards and they said to get the crew to leave them in the green room and they would get them signed. Once again it was a very pleasant and friendly encounter.
I returned on Friday and spoke to a few crew members, who were again catching some unexpected rays outside the factory unit. They headed off inside and returned with a number of playing cards signed by Adrian Lester, Robert Glenister, Robert Vaughn and Kelly Adams. I’m not sure why Matt Di Angelo or Rob Jarvis hadn’t signed any but I was really grateful for what I had. I’m not really sure how the following happened but as I stood chatting to the helpful crew members I suddenly found myself being offered a tour of the bar set. I would not be allowed to take pictures, but if I waited until the cast had gone to lunch someone would show me around.
My Eddie’s Bar Experience
As soon as the cast had gone to lunch I was shown into a large factory unit. The vast void was filled with wooden slatted walls and the outside space was filled with visual and audio equipment. cables and what I can only describe as junk. Outside the entrance to the bar itself was a fake brick wall and then before I could pinch myself I was standing in the bar itself. It was a lot smaller than it appears on screen but it was instantly recognisable as the Eddie’s bar we all know and love. Rows of lit wine glasses hung from the ceiling, the bar was stocked with bottles of all shapes and sizes and the walls were covered in framed photos. One particular photo caught my eye, and it was of former Liverpool legend Ian Rush. On the bar itself were half a dozen half empty champagne flutes and an open black briefcase, filled with bundles of £50 notes. They had clearly had a successful day. The exceptionally warm weather had turned the enclosed space into a virtual sauna and the large fans that were running now that filming had stopped were doing little to cool things down.
My brief tour concluded with a walk through the prop store, where a pinned to the wall was a portrait picture of Mickey with the word CHEAT across his chest (as seen in Series 7 Episode 3), then into the creative heart of the prop and costume department. Finally I was ushered through the green room, where a few chocolate bars had survived the morning, and then back into the bar for one final look around. I stood behind the bar, trying to take in where I was, it was like a dream come true. Honouring my word to not a take any photos I thanked those responsible for the tour and headed back off to work. On the way back I called Deb, “You are not going to believe this….” I started.
I’d been contacted through the Facebook page by Stephan Daniel from Germany who wanted to check a production office address in Birmingham. Stephan wanted to send off some photos to Kudos to see if the cast would sign them. I provided Stephan with the latest address that I had managed to find as the one he had seemed to be out of date. Stephan has been a regular contributor to the Facebook page since and by the 31st October he confirmed that the address I’d provided had delivered him around half a dozen cast signed photos, including his prize cast picture (right). Again I had been only too pleased to help a fellow fan and Stephan seemed really pleased with his successes.
Unusually the cast and crew were booked in for a weekend filming at the Custard Factory in Digbeth. The filming took place up on the roof, you can see a shot from these scenes in the new Unique BBC Drama trailer that is currently airing. There were rumours around the set, that were later confirmed by a report in The Sun newspaper, that Jaime Murray was on set and a few tweets I saw at the time had suggested this was true.
I’d hung around the filming so often by now that some of the crew now knew my name and would acknowledge me if I passed by in the street. With only a few weeks left, and because of how co-operative and helpful everyone had been, I wanted to give the cast and crew a small token of appreciation for putting up with me hanging around for the duration of their time in Birmingham. I’d found out that they would be spending the morning filming in Brindleyplace again, which seemed to be the ideal opportunity to drop off some gifts. I delivered some chocolates for the crew on the way into work and returned at lunchtime to wait for Adrian Lester to arrive for his scenes so that I could hand over some chocolates for the cast.
While I was waiting some large black cars arrived and some mob type characters climbed out, closely followed by Jaime Murray. While I waited for Adrian I watched the action and grabbed a quick picture from a scene rehearsal. Jaime changed her coat and shoes for the actual scene.
Adrian arrived and one of the crew let him know I was waiting with a gift. He strode over the Brindleyplace cobbles and once again, for what turned out to be the final time shook me warmly by the hand and accepted my gift on behalf of the cast. We chatted for 5-10 minutes about the plot of the final episode, the end of the show and the some of the final scenes in Eddie’s bar that they had filmed a few weeks before. Yet again, Adrian seemed quite happy to chat and even asked me if I minded taking a picture of him and another fan that had asked if he could have a photo. I know I keep saying it but he really is a genuine nice guy.
I Adrian him for his patience and help over the past few weeks I thanked him for bringing us some great television of the past few years and I hoped that the final series would send the show out on a real high and then with a final shake of the hand we bid each other farewell.
When I missed that first days filming at Edmunds all those weeks ago I could never of imagined that I would have seen so many filming locations and got to meet or see all the stars of my favourite TV drama, but it had all worked out just fine, but there was still one final unexpected chapter to come that would end up surpassing everything that had gone before.
I had the day off today and managed to find the location in the city centre. The crew drivers were talking to me and Deb about there being 50 extras for a scene that afternoon and suggested I should try to get in on the action. I didn’t like to ask and if I was honest thought I would be wasting my time, but I didn’t realise that the two drivers, Paul & Chris, had plans to do so on my behalf.
Initially the answer seemed to be ‘No’ on health & safety and insurance grounds, as if I’d been injured on set I would not be covered. So I stood and watched a number of rehearsal runs of the scene and then the unbelievable happened. The Assistant Director called me over and asked if I wanted to join in on the take. I didn’t need asking twice, I handed my camera to Deb and I was off. He asked if I knew what to do, I said ‘Yes’ (I really had no idea!). I quickly asked the other extras and they briefly explained.
I won’t detail the whole scene as it may spoil the episode for you, but I ran around a lot and I grappled with some fairly big hoodlums along with the 50 other extras. We shot the scene three times so that different camera angles could be captured. I was totally knackered at the end, but I was buzzing. It was the ultimate fans dream and I had just lived it.
I thanked all that helped make it happen and I left set with a huge broad smile on my face. I still quite can’t believe it happened to be honest, but it did and I am eternally grateful to the guys that set it up, a real dream come true and on the final ever episode of the final series of my favourite TV drama show. I just hope after all that I don’t end up on the cutting room floor.
As long as there aren’t any further TV schedule changes the final episode airs on Friday 17th February 2012. I’ll be sad to see it end, but at the same time I can’t wait to see the six episodes of the new series, especially the final one, and from what I’ve seen they will do the fans proud and go out on a real high.
I’ve enjoyed following the filming schedule so much that it has inspired me to research other shows, past and present, that have used the streets and buildings of Birmingham to create TV shows and movies over the years. So with Hustle as the catalyst I am now planning a Birmingham TV & Film Locations walking tour towards the end of March 2012, that hopefully will make it onto the ‘Still Walking’ and ‘Flatpack Festival’ programmes. There are still a few details to iron out but as soon as I get the final green light, I’ll share the details on Twitter. Thanks for reading.