Friday, May 1, 2009

Hollywood knights!

Blenheim Palace has been transformed into a Hollywood film set as Fox commenced filming here yesterday for their new blockbuster - "Gulliver's Travels" - for release Summer 2010. A huge basketball court has appeared inside The Great Court which is totally confusing and mystifying our visitors - especially those from overseas - but we hope that the buzz and excitement caused by the huge film crew plus lots of very famous "faces" wandering around will help to mitigate any concern from visitors that their visit has been affected. Was that the "Big Yin" over there; did I hear someone say "Am I bovvered?"; is that a "Young Victoria"?; sounds like "King Fu Panda" is in the Great Court??? It is always a fine balance - there is no doubt that it is very instrusive but it also a glimpse into a fascinating world that is rarely seen and the revenue from their time here plus the profile gained around the launch of the film next summer are both big positives. With over a £1m to be spent on the Blenheim Dam restoration this summer, we need revenue opportunities like this despite the inconvenience that may arise. Heather Carter (our unflappable Head of Operations) is doing a fantastic job to balance our customer service delivery alongside the operational challenges - and her team are responding magnificently. Fox are with us for another couple of weeks so this is just the start - but we will work very hard to satisfy everybody wherever possible.

Having achieved a successful Easter weekend, we are again heading into a bank holiday weekend and (thank goodness!) the weather forecast is reasonably positive. We are hosting the "Knights of Royal England" here for three days of spectacular jousting tournaments on the South Lawn. A really great family event with two jousting displays each day (at 12.30pm and at 3.00pm) and two falconry shows beforehand at 12.00noon and 2.30pm each day. The South Front of Blenheim Palace sits as a magnificent backdrop for the jousting and hopefully everyone will have a fun time - armies of young soldiers - "Soldiers of the King" - are created and swords + shields are seen in abundance. Not a time to turn your back on the young army as you tend to get prodded!

Slightly bizarrely, we are being used by the BBC Politics Show on Sunday for their live regional broadcast - and they have requested to be positioned right by the jousting arena! So as they cut to the regions "live" at 12.30pm, the mounted knights will be entering the arena to a blast of noise - maybe this means that politics can move to the "tilting arena" and MP's can in future battle it out through a jousting tournament - best man or woman wins! Makes the voting system much easier!

The past week has seen the usual mix of diversity - on Monday we had a catch up on the forthcoming Triathlon (6 + 7 June) with IMG (the organisers) and numbers are at record levels with over 5000 people entered - including our intrepid FD whose training regime (and damaged thumb) causes us growing concern! On Tuesday I chaired an Oxfordshire Economic Partnership Tourism Task Group meeting with excellent representation from across the county - interesting times as we look to harmonise the tourism assets across the city, districts and county. Watch this space for more news as there does appear to be a unified determination to take this forward into a new workable structure that must be good for everyone connected with tourism.

Best wishes to all for an excellent and relaxing bank holiday weekend - hopefully watching the jousting at Blenheim Palace under clear blue sky!


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