I'm frequently told that I'm too old to be quite so taken with Harry Potter, but what people forget is that it's actually my generation - the now twenty somethings - that grew up with these books. To a lot of us, they punctuate our entire childhoods. When I learnt they were opening up a studio tour, a chance to see the real sets and the real costumes, I was overjoyed. Being there was something else. Here I'll share some of my pictures with you, and in true Harry Potter style, I'll break them up into a few posts. But a warning: these posts are incredibly picture heavy and all kinds of Potter-dorkish, so skip along if that's not your thing. Otherwise, let's start.
I guess you never think about it when you watch a film: where the sets go after they wrap, how long they took to make, the true scale of them. When you start to work out the man hours it takes to create these scenes, the settings in which all the action is placed, it seems such a terrible shame for it to sit flat packed into boxes in some warehouse afterwards. Especially Harry Potter, because these sets are the embodiment of a million dreams and a billion imaginations.
We start at the entrance to the great hall, the same place Harry stood before being led in to be sorted. The scale is really breathtaking, the huge doors a suitable point to build the anticipation. They open, and you glimpse those long benches, the stone floor (it's real stone, by the way) and the owl emblazoned podium set in front of the backdrop of beautiful stain glass windows. The people flooded in, the communal gasps rippling through the space. There's really so much to see. This first room passed in blur for me, I was just too excited, but it's the detail I remember: the Hogwarts emblem in and on the fireplace, the etchings in the table, the markings on the walls.
You shuffle through to the next space, which is a huge area filled with just about everything Potter related you could think of off the top of your head. Amongst them are several of the smaller scale sets. The boys dormitory was the first I geared straight for. The beds are relatively tiny: they were built for the boys when they were ten years old, so by the time the last films were being shot, the actors had to curl into a ball to fit in them. But, again, the little details are there. Each boy's trunk is tucked under their bed, their pajamas hung with their cloaks and posters celebrating their favourite Quidditch teams plastered on the walls.
The Gryffindor Commonroom was next, a surprisingly snug room, but homely. Even examining each and every corner of it, you would assume that a group of kids were due back any minute to collapse into the old battered sofas and arm chairs. Even down to the mug of hot chocolate and box of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans on the side table and the piles of books dotted here, there and everywhere. The Invisibility Cloak was there too, real fabric on one side and green-screen-ready cloth on the other.
Dumbledore's Office was a set I was particularly looking forward to seeing; a room, even set within a world of magic, that holds a certain mystique. The guarding Phoenix was there at the entrance, before you were surrounded with books, astronomy paraphernalia of all kinds and portraits of headmasters in that infamous triple tiered office. And who could forget the sorting hat, the Pensieve and all those jars of memories? Unfortunately, you could only peer at what lay in the top tiers from the entrance or through the little window at the back but just standing in that space is breath taking. It was everything I thought it would be and more.
Last but not least for part one is the Potions Class. Each of the many bottles that lined the walls were filled and individually labelled with care, such detail attested to things that were merely glimpsed in the films. There were notes in the text books, rings from bottles on the tables and steam rising from the cauldrons. It was dark and moody, but completely beautiful in a way that is unique to Harry Potter. This room surprised me by being one of favourites, the light leaking through the small windows was stunning, and I loved every inch.
More soon ...