Written by Lori Balton on Jan 9, 2023. Posted in Contributors

UK Fam: Edinburgh, Glasgow, London with The Radisson Hotel Group

Bohmenian author Henry Miller said, ”One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Though we travelled to new places, more to the point, we made new friends, learning new interpretations of place through our shared experiences. As one hopes, the journey was as key as our destinations. Your fam tour correspondent was fortunate enough to sojourn the UK courtesy of travel specialists, the Radisson Hotel Group and United Airlines.



Our first Michelin-starred dinner in Edinburgh was a treat—an unintentional gathering of strong women from fields still largely dominated by men. I joined Executive Producers Diana Pokorny and Jane Bartelme; Supervising Location Manager, Robin Citrin; Location Consultant and Producer, Becky Brake; Sr. Director of Physical Production for Focus Features, Debbie Kim; Clara Le, Commercial Director of The Location Guide; and our host, Bridgette Thelen, Director of US-International Sales, Radisson Hotels.


The following day we were joined by:  Producer Felicia Dewall; VP of Physical Production/Universal Features Entertainment Group, James Lin; Rob Ortiz, SVP of Television Production, Paramount; Location Manager Leann Emmert; Ray Foley, Strategic Account Manager for Disney Studio Productions Worldwide; Journalist Caitlin White; Producer and Scout, Kent Matsuoka; Kayvan Mashayekh Founder, Producers Without Borders; Andrea Robertson, United Airlines Managing Director – West Division; and Melanie Harrison, Key Account Manager UK&I - Entertainment & Sports, Radisson Hotels.


Our initial home base was the Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh City Centre, located on historic Royal Mile. In the heart of Old Town, offering easy access to Edinburgh Castle (where we were treated to a phenomenal holiday light show with intricate graphics recounting Scottish history), St. Giles Cathedral (where Her Majesty the Queen laid to rest), ancient kirks (churches) and catacombs, quaint cobbled courtyards, closes (alleys), wynds (narrow lanes between houses), and labyrinthine stairs and bridges that grew as the medieval city expanded.  We explored Calton Hill, a prominent vantage points, with neoclassical monuments and sweeping city views, built on an extinct volcano. Robin Citrin commented that the well preserved architecture was a visual delight, adding, “to discover that so many of these properties are film friendly, was a location manager's dream.”



Our group of hungry travellers was treated to a traditional dinner in the Radisson’s Great Scots Hall featuring a bagpiper who played, sang, and recited poetry.  Aye, ’tis a wee lovely lilt in tha’ bonnie Scottish brogue!

Contrasting the tangle of medieval passages, we set out for New Town (built in stages between 1767 and 1850)—a wonder of symmetrical urban planning.  Among its striking Georgian architecture is the Signet Library, home to the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet, dating back to the 15th century. This body of prestigious lawyers produced royal manuscripts with the King of Scotland’s seal or signet. New Town, along with Old Town, and the West End form a preserved UNESCO World Heritage site.


Just southeast of the city centre is a ruined medieval castle from the late 14th century.  Despite falling into disrepair in the 18th century, it remains one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Scotland.  The castle keep (or central tower house) is surrounded by a 15th-century courtyard wall with defensive features, which is in turn protected by an outer courtyard and another wall.  Featured in “the Outlaw King,” Craigmillar Castle was a group favorite. Edinburgh based producer and Location Manager, Lewis Wardrop, effortlessly guided us through Scotland.  We stopped in Leith for a classic, delicious lunch of fish and chips and a visit to FirstStage Studios—some of the tallest sound stages we have seen.



A countryside jaunt took us from the historic capital to Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, on the River Clyde in the western Scottish lowlands.  Our first stop was the haunting Victorian Necropolis, a 37-acre cemetery with a garden of towering monuments of every architectural style.  To one side spreads the industrial port city, stacks spewing plumes of smoke into the dull grey air; to the other, the Bridge of Sighs, over which many a funeral procession passed from the hallowed Glasgow Cathedral. Begun in 1136, It’s the only medieval cathedral to have survived the Protestant Reformation of 1560 virtually intact.


Glasgow’s predominant Victorian architecture dates back to the 19th century.  We marveled at Glasgow University’s cloisters and the City Chambers.  Glasgow is notable for the Arts & Crafts movement, as well as art nouveau, embodied by architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. From the Radisson Blu Glasgow, we wandered streets that could readily double many cities from New York to London.  We moved to the Radisson Red Glasgow, a boutique hotel overlooking Sir Norman Foster’s looming Hydro Event Center and the Clyde Auditorium aka “the armadillo.”  Innovation continues westward, with the Glasgow Science Center and Zaha Hadid’s striking Riverside Museum.



Luss, on the western shore of Loch Lomand in the Trossachs National Park was easily accessible from Glasgow. Dating back to the 18th century, the charming village once housed workers from a nearby quarry.  From ivy shrouded medieval monuments in the parish churchyard to Scotland’s national animal—the mythical unicorn—lurking in the woods, Luss was magical.  Loch Lomand, considered the boundary between the central Scottish lowlands and the highlands left us yearning for time to explore more of the countryside…alas, the Isle of Skye shall have to wait.

Interspersed throughout the trip we met with gracious and able local filmmakers and liaisons from Screen Scotland, which drives the Scottish entertainment industry.  Losing the light early provided ample time to socialize, and explore a variety of Christmas fairs.  Additionally, we were able to explore the Victorian National Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh—where I learned Robert Lewis Stevenson’s ancestors built lighthouses—and the Spanish Baroque Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow, where we walked in on an awesome organ recital, and saw a great Mackintosh design exhibit.


In London the team was split between the Radisson Collection The May Fair and Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire Hotel, both centrally located.  The Edwardian’s Bloomsbury Street Kitchen served one of the more memorable meals we shared in London.  The May Fair’s proximity to Green Park, the Palace, and Piccadilly shops was a plus.


We all agreed on the best part of London. “FOCUS was a great place to connect,” says Debbie Kim. “I was able to meet with different production service companies and vendors, meeting key contacts at Harbottle, Sustainable Film, Czech Film Commission, BCD, and many others.”  Everyone was jazzed to be part of a growing global community, with incentives and networking front and center.  Diana Pokorny “found it exciting to have so many countries represented under one roof.”


I was honored to sit on a panel with colleagues Becky Brake, and Leanne Emmert. Production Executive at Studio Babelsberg/Berlin, location pro Markus Bensch, nicely summed it up:  “Where many other location managers would have talked about logistics, the number of roads or railway lines they  built, the size of their marquees or the airfields they repurposed to park the unit, you talked about humans and humanity, about decency and respect.  Thank you for that. This is what we do, this is what stays and this is why we love the job … I am confident your talk engrained those ideas of respect and humanity in some people listening.”   And in thinking back on this journey, I think we all agree, it was the people we met along the way, our fellow travellers—the connectivity—that made this trip memorable.

Our travels culminated with the third annual Makers & Shakers Awards. Partnering with Radisson Hotels, the innovative award show and champagne receptions were at the BAFTA’s.  We were delighted to cheer our host, as Bridgette Thelen presented one of many coveted awards.


We had an unusually long travel day from Scotland to London, with several curve balls along the way.  But nothing phased the Radisson/United team.  As Leann Emmert commented, “There’s nothing like being in the travel trenches with people (bomb threats, delayed trains, delayed luggage, missed trains, winter vomit bugs, etc) to bring people closer! “  James Lin’s “favorite part of the trip was sharing the experience of discovery and exploration with like-minded individuals with a similar passion for film making and the process to get there.”


Bridgette Thelen, always interested increased brand awareness and education felt the trip strengthened Radisson’s relationship with the Film & TV industry.


“On day one we were a group of 17 strangers. Experiencing first hand the power that travel has to both connect and teach is truly remarkable.” United Partner, Andrea Robertson was equally enthusiastic, “We gained a better understanding of what is important to our customers in the Entertainment space related to logistics and location selection. The networking opportunity and sharing of knowledge and experiences across industries was invaluable.”


Jane Bartelme, with her distinctive laugh, had the final word, “True adventure is always a bit fraught.  That is what makes a good story!”


See more photos: @wideworldlocatons


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