Bristol locations including the historic ship MV Balmoral played an important role in the making of major new drama Black Cake, which is now available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.

An adaptation of Charmaine Wilkerson’s best-selling novel of the same name, Black Cake is a family drama wrapped in a murder mystery with a diverse cast of characters and a global setting.  The story spans decades and continents, taking place in Jamaica, Italy, Scotland, England, and Southern California.  Much of the filming for the eight-episode series took place in Wales where the production was based, and its makers headed to nearby Bristol to source locations for two important settings.

 Bristol Film Office worked closely with the production team and Council departments to close a section of Princes Wharf for five days in September 2022, in preparation for a night’s filming on the Harbourside outside MShed. The Wharf was transformed into Jamaica’s Port Royal Harbour in the 1970’s, with MV Balmoral taking centre stage on the docks, playing the part of a Windrush vessel departing Jamaica to ferry passengers to England.  Lighting equipment was lifted onto the MShed roof with the help of the Cranes team, to illuminate the set.

Ben Mangham, Black Cake’s Supervising Location Manager, said: “Bristol Film Office and the Balmoral team led by Rob Skuse immediately understood the brief and were invaluable in bringing Port Royal Harbour to Princes Wharf Bristol. Although the fabulous MV Balmoral is not quite an Atlantic crossing Windrush vessel of the time, it is a beautiful period-correct ship with a hugely experienced (mostly volunteer) team less than one hour from our studio.  The Dock with its impressive cargo cranes of yesteryear (operational still) and the sleek lines of MV Balmoral combined wonderfully with the design team’s Jamaican dock set dressing - for a brief moment, a small part of Bristol docks was transformed into a busy embarkation point for islanders starting their journey to Britain. The Balmoral Trust are becoming experts in film production with quite an impressive list of credits to date. It was a pleasure to work with Rob and his team and we are pleased that our donation will help keep MV Balmoral doing what she does best - educating the children of today and reminding us all of a time when travel was stylish, elegant and fun.”   

Laura Aviles, Head of Film, Bristol City Council says: “Bristol’s preserved quayside is consistently popular with film and TV productions seeking period dockside settings, with its unique combination of working cranes, steam railway, transit shed and, of course, the superb 1940’s MV Balmoral."

Other film settings that Princes Wharf and MV Balmoral have provided the backdrop for include Ireland’s Cobh Harbour in Stan & Ollie (2018), Weymouth Docks in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) and Jersey’s St Helier Harbour in Another Mother’s Son (2017).

Black Cake is available now on Disney+ in the UK. 

Source: Bristol Film Office press release

Photo credit: Lee Henderson

Read more about MV Balmoral and MShed, both Shipshape Network South West projects.

Black Cake filming Zone South West