BOLTON is fast becoming a Mecca for film crews looking for interesting locations to shoot major movies and television dramas.

Filming on a new BBC drama began in Bolton yesterday, starring John Simm and Oscar and Bafta award-winner Jim Broadbent.

Three-part drama Exile will be broadcast on BBC One next year.

It is not the first time Simm, widely recognised as one of Britain’s top stars, has filmed in the town.

Scenes from the hit BBC drama Life On Mars were shot in Bolton and Simm said he was looking forward to starting work on the new drama, created by Paul Abbott and written by Danny Brocklehurst, who both worked on the critically acclaimed comedy drama Shameless.

Simm said: “Danny’s written a great script, it’s a wonderful cast, and I can’t wait to start work.”

Earlier this year filming on movie Rafta Rafta took place in Bolton.

The film, due out next year, is based on the play All In Good Time, by Bolton playwright Bill Naughton.

It was adapted by Salfordborn Ayub Khan-Din, who also penned the smash hit film East Is East.

Filming for Exile started early yesterday morning in Churchgate at the fictional newspaper, the Lancashire Evening News, at the former Saks hairdressers.

The crew later moved up to the Bowling Green pub in Eskrick Street, Halliwell.

Filming has also been taking place at other locations across the North West including Manchester and Oldham.

Scenes are due to be shot at the Town Hall next week, including in the Mayor’s Parlour and the Hall of Remembrance.

More filming will take place on the Town Hall steps in January.

Exile is a psychological thriller that tells the story of journalist Tom, played by Simm, who returns to his hometown to be reacquainted with his father, Broadbent.

Cllr Ismail Ibrahim, Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Development and Regeneration, said: “It will be really exciting to see Bolton and its buildings, such as our historic town hall, feature in a major BBC drama. John Simm has visited us before when Life on Mars was filmed here and we’re very happy to welcome him back.

“Bolton has gained a great reputation for being a film friendly town and this is largely down to the team who facilitate filming requests.

“They have built up good contacts with location managers and this has really helped us to attract productions here.”