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Behind The Scenes Of The Woolpack Revamp

We sat down with Gillian Slight, Head of Design, to talk us through the process of revamping The Woolpack...

When you found out that the Woolpack was being blown up, were you excited to be able to give it a revamp?

Yes, It’s about 9 years since the pub was last decorated, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to give the Woolpack a new look. The pubs in all the soaps are iconic & are the hub of the community, so the opportunity to revamp this set in particular is always challenging but rewarding.

Was it important to keep the ‘Woolpack feel or did you want to make it look much different?

We knew that we had to re-use the original Woolpack set as it would have been costly & unsustainable to build a new one from scratch. We also didn’t have the time which meant that the old layout had to stay mostly the same. Having said that, we knew that we could radically change the look & feel with the use of new colours, fabrics, furnishings & materials,  whilst maintaining some familiarity for the viewers.  

Talk to us about the different stages involved when doing a project like this, how long does the process take?

From the start, I knew that I wanted to create a warm & welcoming feel that was traditional, but with a  contemporary country twist. In order to convey my intentions to Jane, our Producer,  I created a mood board with photographs, visuals, fabric samples & a colours palette. Fortunately, Jane was happy with the plans & felt that the tone & atmosphere were right for the Woolpack & Emmerdale.  For me, the mood board is a crucial part of the design process, giving a clear direction for myself & the team. After this, drawings had to be produced & orders placed for the elements that had to be outsourced such as stained glass windows, Leather upholstered seating, sign writing, soft furnishing, tiles, light fittings etc.  Next, I gathered the small dressing & artwork,  which was sourced from a number of local antique shops & artists, a time consuming, but enjoyable part of the process. In the last 3 or 4 weeks, all the separate elements start to arrive & the set begins to take shape. With huge effort from all the teams, Painters, Carpenters, props, electricians, the set was ready to shoot on after several months of planning.  

Did you have any guidance when planning or did you have free rein?

Once I knew that Jane was happy with my initial ideas, I was then free to design & dress the set in order to achieve the look I was after. The only requirement that Jane was adamant about from the start, was the lowered section of the bar, which makes it more accessible for people using wheelchairs.   

What kind of challenges does a project like this pose?

One of the main challenges with any set is to design it so it is practical for cameras, sound & lighting to shoot in. The Woolpack is no exception to this, in fact it’s one of the hardest to accommodate those aspects because it is a multi functional, communal set that is often the venue for scripted weddings, funerals, birthdays & a host of other occasions, requiring lots of special dressing & numbers of actors all at once. Making sure parts of the set & dressing don’t hinder sound, lighting & cameras from covering these demanding scenes, means we have to work very closely with those departments during the preparation period. Shiny  surfaces on bar tops & glassware for instance, can create unwelcome reflections of lights, cameras & sound booms, which all have to be managed by dialogue & compromise between the Design departments & the other disciplines. 

What is your favourite part of the set?

Generally, I’m happy with the colours & textures which have created the cosy feel I was after. The deep buttoned tan leather seating & soft green velvet have added a feeling of quality & comfort that I'm satisfied with. The new addition of hinged glazed screens have created some more intimate spaces where more private scenes can be staged. They have also been successful in providing foreground interest in some shots, which break up the space in a more visually interesting way.

Tell us about the props and finer details, do you design all of menus and beer cans?

Our in-house graphic team have redesigned the Woolpack signage, incorporating the greens & golds of the pub decor. The new signage retains a traditional country feel, whilst looking fresh & modern & works perfectly on menus, beer matts, signage & garden parasols.  

They have also designed fantastic new, modern branding for our fictitious Emmerdale brewery, Ephraim Monk. These designs have been made into bottle labels, cans & beer matts advertising IPA’s & Lagers with names like Magistrates Swig, Love Yorkshire & Black Whole of the North, honestly, they wouldn't look out of place in any trendy pub or bar.  

Logo of Emmerdale
itv |

Weekday evenings