How Rylstone WI hit the big screen

Mirren and Walters keep date with Calendar Girls

Original Calendar Girls Angela Baker, left, and Tricia Stewart enjoy a joke with director Nigel Cole during the filming of the movie on location in the Yorkshire Dales

The original Calendar Girls of Rylstone Women's Institute

First published in News

Calendar Girls (2003)

Made by Harborough Pictures and distributed by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures – and subsequently adapted for the stage – the film was a big hit.

A kind of female sequel to The Full Monty (written by Keighley’s Oscar-winning Simon Beaufoy), Calendar Girls tells the story of how 11 members of North Yorkshire’s Rylstone District Women’s Institute, aged between 46 and 66, bared all – almost – for a charity calendar and raised £650,000 for Leukaemia Research.

However, five of the women refused to agree to the movie because they wanted the film to be written by Victoria Wood.

The film that eventually got made stars, among others, Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Annette Crosbie, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, John Fortune, John Alderton and Graham Crowden.

The film was directed by Nigel Cole and was partly shot at Kettlewell, Skipton and Ilkley in July, 2002. On June 23, the eve of the shoot, production staff and six of the cast met at Burnsall’s Devonshire Hotel.

The Water Babies (1979) Lionel Jeffries, who earlier in the decade directed The Railway Children in and around Haworth, returned to West Yorkshire in 1976 to direct the adaptation of Charles Kingsley’s novel he co-wrote with Michael Robson.

While waiting for a break in the weather, he said: "My father was born in Bradford and my grandparents also came from here. Yorkshire has always been lucky for me. People tell me I am almost paranoic about the Victorian period. In those days there was warmth within the family, security with strong discipline. I dislike the modern era intensely,"

In spite of overcast, rainy and cold weather, filming took place at Denton Hall, Ilkley, and Bolton Abbey, between October and December of that year. The film wasn’t released until 1979. The delay was due to the time it took the animators at Film Polksi in Warsaw to do their work – almost a year.

The cast included Huddersfield’s triple Oscar-nominated actor James Mason, Bernard Cribbins, Billie Whitelaw (Samuel Beckett’s favourite actress), the husky-voiced Joan Greenwood (Kind Hearts And Coronets) and David Tomlinson.

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