'The Great British Baking Show': How They Filmed the Show During Lockdown

The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake Off) is back for Season 11 on Netflix, and it seems to be business as usual in the tent. The show contestants are all baking in the same place, no one is wearing masks, and there does not appear to be social distancing between the contestants, judges and hosts.

This is because the show, which airs on Channel 4 in the U.K., followed its own set of safety guidelines which meant the show would look the same as ever on screen—even if the action behind the scenes was very different.

The biggest change that eagle-eyed Baking Show fans may notice is a change in location for the baking tent. The last few seasons have all taken place in Welford Park, Berkshire, but this year's edition of the competition takes place in the grounds of the Down Hall Hotel in Essex.

This move is central to how The Great British Baking Show managed to film during the coronavirus pandemic. While most reality shows are filmed back to back, with all the contestants staying together in a hotel close to the set, the Baking Show had always filmed on weekends, with contestants going home in between episodes to practice their bakes and go back to their day jobs.

great british baking show 2020
'The Great British Baking Show' contestants lived together in a "biosphere" during the coronavirus pandemic. Channel 4

This year, however, the show created what Channel 4's deputy director of programmes Kelly Webb-Lamb called a "biosphere" with the contestants living together in the hotel alongside the crew and a skeleton staff in the hotel. Per the Guardian, the show has 130 crew members, all of whom lived together for the six weeks it took to film the show. Crew were also tested three times before filming commenced and isolated for nine days before entering the "biosphere".

However the experience still seems very different from other reality shows, which see contestants isolated from their families. The contestants were asked if they wanted to live with partners in the hotel, as well as children and even pets.

In a Telegraph interview, Baking Show executive producer Richard McKerrow said: "We drew up this whopping list of protocols in conjunction with our medics and health & safety officers. It's quite a piece of work - not as big as the Bible but not far off. Everyone had to quarantine for nine days, have two COVID tests and have food delivered to their doors.

"They had a deep-cleaned rental car delivered to their house five days in advance, then travelled to the bio-bubble without stopping on the way. They stayed in their room for 24 hours while a third COVID test was done. Only then were they in and sealed off."

Filming took place when there was a notable flour shortage in the U.K., but the show ordered in bulk and sent contestants packages to their houses before the show began so they could practice their bakes. Then at the hotel, 12 kitchens were created in the hotel car park so contestants could practice in between filming.

Despite such efforts, the show did have a brush with the virus after someone on crew showed symptoms – though their test came back negative, meaning filming could continue.

This all meant that the show could air without any major differences – and meant that judge Paul Hollywood could go on giving "Hollywood handshakes".

The Great British Baking Show Season 11 airs on Fridays on Netflix.

'The Great British Baking Show': How They Filmed the Show During Lockdown | Culture