Friday, 27 March 2015

The #PrimeMinister Becomes A #London Walks Guide! A Guest Blog From @iangrieve of @Channel4 Film #Coalition

A guest blog post from actor and London Walker Ian Grieve who stars as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in tomorrow night's Channel 4 drama Coalition. Here he guides us through some of the locations used in the filming…

Ian in Downing Street

It is a message I keep on my phone to this day.

You are needed in Downing Street the day after tomorrow.

How many people have a message like that? When I read it I can pretend that I am one of a whole host of glamorous characters, fantasizing to an extent that would make Walter Mitty withdraw from the room with a terminal case of actuality.

No matter which adventurous character I use as an avatar in my dreams, none of them resembles our former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

It is a very sobering thing to be told you would be good casting for Gordon Brown. I had still managed to exist under the illusion that I could play Heathcliffe in the next remake of Wuthering Heights.

But for a few weeks last year, and in the eyes of the nation when they watch Coalition on Channel 4 at 9pm on Saturday night, I AM Gordon Brown.

I turned up at Downing Street well before the appointed hour. And as I drank my coffee and looked around trying to not look like some sort of suspicious Scottish lingerer, I considered the small area of London, within which so much is contained. Last time I was in this part of London I was with London Walks and they told me all about Wellington’s nose on Admiralty Arch – yes it’s there, spend an afternoon looking for it – hours of fun for the family. (Or better yet, join a London Walk!)

I had no idea how many of the buildings our film would actually utilize in the immediate area. Within a week I would be running about around the corner with Mark Gatiss (who plays Peter Mandelson), stealthily exiting the Ministry of Defence and diving into a waiting blue Jaguar. Except we had to pretend we were doing that because we weren’t actually allowed to step onto MOD territory or they would have shot us. Or tazered us at the very least. I'm happy to suffer for my art, but I draw the line at tazering.

There were two particularly remarkable locations in Coalition. At the Treasury we filmed in the rotunda, one of two places where all three party leaders met in the run-up to the forming of our current coalition government. An incredible place, not usually open to the public and a privilege to visit. The marks I had to stand on to find my position for the camera were red, Mark Dexter as David Cameron had blue marks and Nick Clegg's (Bertie Carvel) marks were yellow. Nice touch.

(The Treasury featured on an earlier D.C blog post as part of our Cartoon and Comic Book Tour of London.) 

Mark Dexter (David Cameron), Bertie Carvel (Nick Clegg) and your correspondent Ian Grieve (Gordon Brown)

Then of course there is Downing Street. It is one of the highlights of my career to have had the chance to be filmed making a speech outside Downing Street, in front of that famous door…

Except it wasn't THAT famous door.

But who cares – it LOOKS like I’m outside Downing Street. It seems to be a well known industry fact that if you want to film outside the prime minister's house then you need to go to John Adam Street WC2 just off The Strand. It's used as a Number 10 double all the time.

Yes we did go to Downing Street on that first day (see pic at the top of this post). It is an amazing place. The first thing that struck me after we made it through security was that Downing Street is exactly like the houses The Beatles walk into in the film Help! It doesn’t matter which door you walk through it is all one big interconnected building. If you want to know what it’s like inside the door at Number 10, then watch the beginning of the film Love Actually when Hugh Grant drives up outside in his blue Jag and walks in the front door – all one shot – and definitely the actual location. Now how did they wangle that?

It's quite a week for me. On Saturday night I get to be the Prime Minister. And today I'm being an honorary London Walks guide, leading you on a tour of the filming locations for Coaliton.

If you want to know more about the intriguing and truly magical stories that are the fabric of London then you know where to go – join a London Walk. I do. Every time I am in London.

Daily Constitutional Editor Adam adds…

Thanks Ian! We're all looking forward to the film. Coalition is on Channel 4 at 9pm on Saturday 28th March. Visit the Channel 4 website HERE.

Here's the trailer…

To whet the appetite for all things political, why not catch up with out London Walks Podcast on Political London featuring a piece by House of Commons insider, award-winning Blue Badge Guide and Daily Constitutional Associate Editor Kim Dewdney…

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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