If you are an Eastenders fan I’m sure you will have been glued to the show on Friday night, to see the second attempt by Billy and Honey to get married. It was also a good example of one of the other ways that churches are raising money for repairs, as rather than being a Church in Walford – like many of the locations on the show that aren’t permanent sets on the back-lot at the studio – it is actually a Church in Watford. In this case it is the Church my parents attend, St Andrews, one of a number that have been used by the show over the years.
The last appearance of the building in the programme was a while back, when it was the location for Dot and Jim’s wedding, and also used for the christening of Louise, daughter of Lisa and Phil. The more recent church events have been held at another local Church, however the BBC came back to St Andrews for the recent programmes. This time you also got to see a bit more of the Church, including a nice shot looking down the length of the aisle, and also use was made of part of their vestry that has a nice rose window. There were also a couple of external shots too.
Having the BBC has it’s benefits too. The local crematorium apparently now has a nice set of artificial flowers thanks to regular visits from Eastenders. However it also has it’s hassles. St Andrews church hall is actually in the former north aisle of the Church – the door of which was hidden behind a curtain on the programme on Friday night. However during term time there is a nursery school that uses the hall, and of course they are not allowed to be around when Eastenders take over the building. Luckily for this batch of filming, the school could make alternative arrangements. There is also the disruption to places used for filming. For example it wasn’t until Friday that Mum discovered why she hadn’t been able to find anything in the vestry recently!!!
Having said that, for Churches struggling with limited finances, it is a great way to earn a little extra income, and also makes use of a building that will be largely unused during much of the week. Although current policy in St Albans Diocese require that all scripts are approved by the Archdeacon. This is partly because the scripts for programmes like Eastenders have previously had to be corrected to accurately reflect Church practice (for the Christening episode the crew turned up with the writers having written their own baptism service – on that occasion the Archdeacon was on site and asked that they used the proper service instead), however the full approval policy came in following an incident at another Church in the Diocese where the building was booked by a film company, and it later transpired that they were using the building to make a porn film…
Incidentally, if you saw the programme on Friday, you’ll have seen that the wedding itself didn’t actually take place, so there should be a return visit to St Andrews in the not to distant future.