Sunday mornings for me typically mean telling myself I’ll get up in five more minutes to go to the gym, then scrolling Instagram for another hour and resigning myself to ‘starting again on Monday’. It is the day of rest after all. Sunday afternoons look a lot like a scene from Man Vs Food. We head round to my parents’ house for a roast dinner that is always piled high with enough crispy, golden roasties to sink a small cruise liner. You bet I eat them all and then curl up on the couch with a cuppa and a few Caramel Digestives just in case there is any fear I might waste away overnight.
Last Sunday, however, was a very different story; last Sunday I bounced up out of bed, had a reasonably early breakfast and had boxed off more than 20,000 steps before the clock struck 3pm. Why, I hear you ask, did my weekend take such an active turn? Well I had a date in the diary with Gary Lunt from Reel Tours who took me and my sidekick on a walking tour of Liverpool’s most famous filming locations. Meeting point: the Playhouse Theatre at 11.50am sharp.
Hands shaken and comments about the chilly whether exchanged, Gary kick started proceedings with a little disclaimer: to only ever cross at the green man. It’s nice to know safety comes first on the city’s only walking film tour as you will be skipping across some of Liverpool’s busiest streets and congested junctions. Gary then transitioned seamlessly into all things cinema by asking us to name our favourite films – a Reel Tours tradition, so I’m told. Gary and I discovered a mutual adoration for Hitchcock and his infamous Rear Window so we were off to a sterling start.
Described as a ‘cinematic adventure through the streets of Liverpool’, Reel Tours came to be earlier this year after Gary saw a gaping gap in the market. Liverpool is now the most filmed-in city in Britain outside of London now after all. It has been recognised as a valuable filming location since the early 20th Century but has since gained international traction with some of Hollywood’s biggest smash hits choosing Liverpool as their backdrop. It’s not only the glitz and glamour of the mainstream box office you’ll learn about here though. If you’re familiar with the British independent film scene or have a passion for the more gritty side of cinema then there’s plenty for you to geek out on too.
As there were only two of us on the tour with Gary, we were able to enjoy a laid back and colloquial experience. However Reel Tours is also available to groups of any size (within reason of course) so if you’re a party of 20 or more looking to learn a bit about Liverpool’s love affair with the silver screen, simply get in touch via the website and that can be arranged. Kids are also more than welcome to join the party but do be aware that tours typically last around 2.5 hours (more like 3 if you ask as many questions as we did) without any breaks or toilet stops.
As I said, the walking tour starts at the Playhouse Theatre on Willliamson Square (which is a rich tapestry of filmic history in itself), winding through the city centre before ending – almost full circle – at the stunning St George’s Hall steps. Each stop along the way is yet another celebration of how Liverpool has been represented on screens for generations, covering popular hot spots like the Cavern Club to more inconspicuous hidden gems like an old bank building on Water Street where Eddie Redmayne shot Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
We covered everything from the superstars who have shot hours’ worth of footage in the Mersey Tunnel for just 42 seconds worth of scene, to the first moving images of Liverpool ever captured on film in 1985 when the tracking shot is believed to have been born. In fact, I really don’t know how one mere mortal holds such a wealth of knowledge and facts in his head but with a film degree from LJMU and a regular hosting spot at FACT’s Discover Tuesday film event, you’d expect no less I guess.
So if you want to find out how Liverpool shaped Gotham City, why Samuel L Jackson comes back to visit so much and why the Town Hall narrowly missed a starring role in one of cinema’s most famous balcony scenes, head to www.reeltours.co.uk. Tours are held on scheduled dates and require tickets (£15) but I’ve got a feeling they’re going to get really popular, really fast so act fast people.