Forget about romcoms – we want shop docs

London's Liberty department store follows Claridge's in allowing television cameras in

They are the institutions that make up the fabric of British society, for the gilded few at least. And now their inner secrets are being exposed in a new genre of "posh docs" that have sent broadcasters scrambling to find the next victim.

The historic London department store Liberty will be the latest to star in its own three-part series, which starts tomorrow night on Channel 4. It follows the BBC2 hit Inside Claridge's, which aired last December.

Industry executives promise that more are on the way, with luxury hotels, other upmarket retailers and high-end restaurants all on the radar. Magnus Temple, chief executive of The Garden, the company behind Inside Claridge's, said there was a "proliferation of posh-world docs. Everyone inside the industry is talking about this trend".

Not that broadcasters are being exclusive. Nick Mistry, who oversees documentary output at Channel 4, said there was an "equal fascination" with the other side of the coin: poverty, citing its popular Skint strand. "We're an extremely divided nation, between wealth and affluence, and poverty and hardship," he said. "Both those extremes are drawing audiences in because we're all trying to work out what kind of society we are."

Sheldon Lazarus, creative director of Rize USA, which is making Liberty of London, called the Claridge's show a "game-changer" because it "showed there was an audience for real stories as opposed to stories that are helped along by reality TV". It also showed businesses that "if handled carefully, there's nothing necessarily to be scared of in terms of allowing the cameras in".

Technology has played a major part in all this. As cameras have shrunk, they have become less obtrusive, which helps those being filmed to forget their every move is being recorded. However, the series that changed observational documentaries for major institutions was BBC2's The House, which exposed the mismanagement of the Royal Opera House in 1996.

Liberty of London, which was rushed out to be among the first of the latest wave of documentaries, is likely to make stars out of some of the store's longer-serving members of staff, notably Shukla, 70, who has worked there for 40 years. Mr Lazarus scotched any suggestion that Liberty's executives would get to vet any of the footage first. "Absolutely not. It has to be impartial or you'd let the viewers down," he said.

Emma Willis, the BBC's head of commissioning documentaries, said that the appeal of shows such as Inside Claridge's, which peaked at 4.8 million viewers, lay in telling "compelling human stores while offering fresh perspectives, warts and all, on subjects that matter to contemporary Britain and open a window into a world we don't normally get to see".

Early next year, the BBC will "go inside" institutions as varied as the Salvation Army and Greater Manchester Police's new public protection division, which investigates sexual crimes. Mr Lazarus said production companies were not limiting their targets to the UK, adding that two famous American department store chains, Macy's and Neiman Marcus, were on his wish list. Elsewhere, India's Taj Hotel in Mumbai, scene of deadly terrorist attacks in 2008, is believed to have let the cameras in.

Liberty, meanwhile, is likely to see a rise in customer numbers in the crucial pre-Christmas period – and didn't need to spend £7m on an advert to do it.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test