A run-down building in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter has been turned into a 1950s police station for a BBC1 drama.
And to step inside is to take a trip back in time, as men with Brylcreemed quiffs and Teddy Boy jackets walk past.
Uniformed officers bustle through the cramped, old-fashioned offices – and at the top of a steep flight of stairs is a sign saying ‘down to cells’.
WPC 56 focuses on the character of Gina Dawson, the first policewoman to work at the fictional Brinford Police Station, the headquarters of the Midlands Constabulary.
Played by 23-year-old Coventry actress Jennie Jacques, Dawson is a trailblazer.
Hardly any women were employed as police officers in 1956 – and they were expected to leave the force when they married.
Other filming locations for the drama have included the Black Country Living Museum, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham Town Hall, Victoria Law Courts, the Electric Cinema and Dudley Zoo.
The man behind WPC 56 is Will Trotter, the head of drama at BBC Birmingham and the series’ executive producer, who described it as “Call the Midwife meets The Killing”.
He explained: “I was having a conversation with the BBC daytime controller, who had commissioned a series about how policing had changed through the decades.
“He was talking about doing a remake of Dixon of Dock Green.
“But I’d seen a script by Dominique Moloney about a WPC in 1950s Birmingham and that seemed an interesting take on the period.
“We look at sexism and bullying in the workplace as well as murder, rape and child abuse.
“I wanted it to be a proper crime serial – a lot happens over the five episodes, including a murder.
“It’s a daytime drama, shown every afternoon for a week, so we have to get the tone right.
“I don’t want it to be too dark and grim, but I want our crimes to be as real as possible. I’d say it’s grittier than Heartbeat, but there’s a lot of humour in WPC 56 as well.
“I’m hoping for a Sunday teatime repeat, as it has that nostalgic feel people like.
“The 1950s are a fascinating period, full of gangs, teenagers and Teddy Boys. Things came into fashion that we take for granted now, like taking foreign holidays.”
The show features a cast of 50 speaking characters and a crew of 60, many of whom have also worked on Doctors in Birmingham.
The cast includes Birmingham-born John Light, as Chief Inspector Roger Nelson, who is hiding a dark secret which could get him arrested, and Cannock actor Chris Overton as PC Eddie Coulson.
Lead actress Jacques said: “The script for WPC 56 really grabbed me. What Gina does is very unusual and not really socially acceptable.
“After training for two years, she’s excited to work on cases but she’s just expected to make the tea for the men and do their typing. Her office is literally a broom cupboard.
“To be the only woman in a man’s world is very daunting and she has to prove herself.
“You would have thought that, with the progress women made at work during the war, they would be doing well in the 1950s.
“But it seems the Government clamped down on that and promoted the idea of the perfect housewife. A woman’s place was at home, cooking and cleaning.
“Gina is quite similar to me, so I found her easy to play, to be honest.
“I’m quite blunt like her, and if I don’t agree with something I will speak up.
“I’m an independent, hard-working woman but if it hadn’t been for girls like Gina, I might not be sat here now.”
WPC56 will be aired on BBC1 at 2.15pm starting from Monday 18th March.