Netflix Stay Close: The locations enjoying a tourism boom as fans clamour to visit – Manchester Evening News
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“So much good could come of this. The whole region could benefit”
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As news rolled in this week that Netflix's hit new thriller Stay Close is the number one most-watched show in 70 countries across the world, one of its stars made a rather telling comment.
Richard Armitage, who plays Stay Close photographer Ray Levine, tweeted in response to the show hitting the top of the charts: "Blackpool is about to become the No.1 tourist destination for '22".
The Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire filmed drama has become the most-talked about new show on the streaming service – and with so many very visible locations used in the thriller, it's having a very real impact here in the north west as Richard so rightly points out.
READ MORE:Netflix Stay Close ending and mysteries explained – and will there be a series 2?
Thousands of people have been flocking to the looming Dream sculpture that is a central part of the serial killer drama, while the question " Where is Vipers and can I go?" has had fans of the show desperate to plan a night out to the vibrant nightclub that is at the heart of the series.
Meanwhile sweeping views of Blackpool used as the main setting of the show have seen a surge of enquiries to the seaside town's tourist office and attractions, just as show star Armitage predicted.
But can a TV show really have that much of an impact on visitor numbers?
Well, the proof has certainly been in the pudding over in St Helen's, where visitor numbers at The Dream statue at Sutton Manor have surged beyond anything residents there have seen before.
Councillors in the parish of Bold are now hoping the "Netflix effect" of the hit show can actually help in their longstanding aims to get a full visitor centre and facilities set up next to the statue.
Indeed parish councillor Chris Hughes says the spotlight from the Netflix show could benefit "the whole region".
He said: "It's a fantastic opportunity, we've been trying to push for improvements for a number of years really, we hope these almost dreams can soon become a reality.
"So much good could come of this, there's an awful lot we can do. The whole region could benefit."
Naturally, in Blackpool, they're more than prepared and excited to welcome a visitor boom that the show could well provide.
A VisitBlackpool spokesperson said: “We are delighted to be playing an integral part in what is turning out to be one of the must-watch TV series of the past few weeks.
“Using Blackpool as a backdrop for so much of the filming has created a fabulous advertisement for the resort and particularly for the promenade, beaches and attractions.
“Given the enormous popularity of the series, we have no doubt it will result in additional business from those who want to see the Stay Close locations at first hand.”
The series is based on American novelist Harlan Coben's best-selling thriller – and in the book the action was set in Atlantic City, New Jersey. But both Harlan, and producers, could see that Blackpool could become an intriguing match.
Indeed, Harlan said that Blackpool was the British switch he was most happy with to "enrich" the story, along with The Dream head with doubles for giant elephant sculpture Lucy in Atlantic City.
He said: "In the book it was Atlantic City, New Jersey, so we looked for a place in the UK that was sort of close to giving us those things and I think Blackpool does.
"It’s got the seedier side, the rundown side. And yet there is a fun energy and a colour there. Life is lived there. The Dream Head is a great substitute for the giant elephant, Lucy, in the book that you can go inside outside of Atlantic City. That’s the fun, finding the new sets, finding the new areas we can work in."
The tourist hotspot is well and truly geared up for an influx of visitors aiming to live the Stay Close dream (although hopefully not with the conclusion of a police chase down the promenade and beach like for poor Ray!).
The seaside resort has a wealth of accommodation options, from budget B&Bs to boutique hotels and holiday parks for visitors.
And it's ever popular with families thanks to the number of museums, play parks, amusement arcades and attractions like SeaLife, Madame Tussauds, The Pier and Blackpoool Tower itself.
The Pleasure Beach which dominates the south end of the seafront is used to being the focus of filming, having hosted everything from Coronation Street to The Killers music video (when director Tim Burton apparently became a massive fan).
Ok, so you can't visit the "exterior" of the Vipers nightclub, as that was all filmed at the derelict Shorrocks Hill development in Formby.
But the swanky interior is well and truly open for business – it was all set inside Impossible, one of Manchester's hottest night-time spots on Peter Street.
They've been having a "busier than usual January" and bosses say there has indeed been a Netflix effect for bookings in the Theatre Impossible space, the subterranean club.
A spokeswoman said: "We have had a few enquiries come through asking to book the space, the filming in Manchester, Blackpool and Morecambe has certainly shown a positive influx for the cities and towns surrounding.
"It is most certainly a highlight seeing our venue on Netflix which is a recognised brand globally."
Theatre Impossible, the nightclub space, is open every Friday and Saturday night from 10pm to late.
The looming 20m-high head of a woman is open to the public and can be visited daily at its lofty position just off the M62 between Manchester and Liverpool at St Helen's.
Currently, there's only a small amount of parking at the King George V playing fields in Sutton Manor, which has led to visitors parking on the busy B-road Jubits Lane instead or at the nearby Clock Face country park.
You can find out more about visiting the statue here.
The stunning coastline and beaches of Formby and Morecambe Bay were used throughout the drama, and the seaside towns have long been known as popular destinations for day trips and summer holidays in the north west.
Locations manager Mark O'Hanlon waxed lyrical about the Iris sea coastal towns saying: "You have Southport, Formby and Morecambe, all within striking distance of Manchester.
"Formby has all these lovely, vast beaches so we utilised some of those areas. They gave us big sky and sand dunes and alpine trees that look fantastic."
Morecambe was used as the location for Lorraine's flat – that for viewers who have watched the whole series will know has a dramatic part in the finale.
The location was used as locations manager Mark O'Hanlan had filmed The Bay there and knew how amazing it can be.
He said ahead of the launch of the show: " Part of me will always love Morecambe. We had a couple of good years there. It’s magical. There is so much happening there now since they put the new dual carriageway in. It’s brought a new lease of life to the town. The bay itself has the best sunsets and sunrises."
One of the more unusual locations used in the drama came in episode 6 – when Kayleigh is held hostage by the seriously sinister Barbie and Ken killers.
She is taken into a very eerie woodland retreat before her mum Megan comes to the rescue.
The setting for this moment is a an original Canadian log cabin based inside the historic Knowsley Estate in Merseyside.
Potato Pie House, as it is called, is on the private estate which is owned by the Earl and Countess of Derby so is not open to the public daily, but it can be booked to use as part of away days and events on the 2,000 acre estate.
The estate has become a popular venue for weddings and functions – and has hosted plenty of film crews over the years including the famous Corrie wedding where Eva and Maria ended up having a scrap in the fountain at the main hall.
Similarly, Arley Hall in Cheshire is a privately-owned historic estate owned by Lord and Lady Ashbrook that is popular for private events and weddings.
It became the glorious setting for the wedding of Dave and Megan right at the end of Stay Close.
It's also famously the home of Peaky Blinders' anti-hero Tommy Shelby so is well worth a visit for TV fans.
Weddings can be booked here, and the stunning gardens are open daily from 10am to 4pm.
The hall itself also opens to the public on select days through the year, which you find on their website here.
The lovely Victorian mansions of Didsbury feature heavily in the show, and the leafy lanes of the Greater Manchester suburb.
Private residential homes were used for the main characters of Megan and her family and also the home of Sarah Green which was on Spath Road.
These were private homes so cannot be visit, but Didsbury itself is a charming village with plenty of bars, restaurants and parks that visitors can enjoy.
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