'I went to Harry Potter World alone, and all I got was this lousy broomstick'

22-year-old adult James Ashford recently visited Harry Potter World on his own. This is his sorry tale

Like music, the Internet and big hair, Harry Potter has been a defining part of my existence for as long as I care to remember.

My earliest Potter memory is of sitting on a tiny caravan bed, next to my sister, as my dad read the name of book one, chapter one: "The Boy Who Lived". My initial reaction was an eight-year-old's equivalent of "you’ve got to be f****** kidding me", but by chapter two, I was hooked.

The years since then have seen the arrival of another six fantastic books, eight alright films and one dreadful themed club night at my student union. I have grown up alongside Harry. When he finally got off with the recently widowed Cho Chang, my feelings were of recognition and solidarity as she began to cry hysterically.

The world and people of the Harry Potter series were real to me. When I was seventeen, I was lucky enough to meet Ron in the VIP area of V Festival in Chelmsford. In a generation defining moment for comedy, I shouted "Ron Weasley" at a small ginger guy, which was all very funny, until it turned out that it actually was Ron Weasley. It was obvious that I wasn’t the only one who had enjoyed a drink that night, as Ron kept insisting we called him "Rupert".

When I moved to London, one of the first things I did was book tickets to the Harry Potter studio tour. Sadly, my intended tour partner dropped out at the last minute by cunningly getting hospitalised with food poisoning. Despite my enormous popularity, neither of my other two friends were available. I decided to go it alone.

I made it onto the train and sat down at a table with three women in their mid-30s. They too were on the way to Harry Potter World. I wondered briefly whether to ask them if I could join their group, but decided the social stigma attached to walking around the studio tour alone was probably less severe than the stigma attached to trying to talk to a stranger in London.

After a tube, train, shuttle bus and nine-mile queue, I made it through the doors of the tour and was greeted by a short film and some "banter" from Harry, Ron and Hermione, before the screen lifted up to reveal the doors of the Great Hall. An enthusiastic Australian woman pointed out a few details, such as the fact that (spoiler alert) the ceiling was not actually enchanted to look like the night sky, but was really just a lightning rig.

The rest of the tour was a free-for-all. Sets, costumes and props lined the walls, alongside the occasional screen showing interviews with the directors and producers. It is an impressive place, and fascinating for anyone interested in film, even when dismissing the Harry Potter elements. After meandering round for a bit, peeking into the Gryffindor common room and Weasley’s kitchen, there was the opportunity to have a photo taken in one of eight green screen booths.

There was a television outside each booth, showing a live action image of the person inside flying along on their broom. Seven out of eight screens showed a child, laughing away whilst their parents cheered them on. The eighth screen showed me, pretending to have fun, so that the woman taking the photos would hate me slightly less than she so obviously did.

After tiring myself out on the broom, I handed in my cloak and went outside for a pint of Butterbeer and a magical cigarette. Sadly, Butterbeer only came in very small plastic cups. Somewhat surprisingly however, it was absolutely delicious.

After wetting my whistle on Privet Drive, I went through a big area focusing on image manipulation and design, featuring a moving model of Buckbeak. After this came the most striking part of the tour, the concept art. Most of it was fantastic and almost all was "never seen before". As impressive as the sets had been, the art was most interesting in showing the creative process and the imagination behind what is shown on screen.

By the time I arrived at the 50” model of Hogwarts and 16,000 individually painted wand boxes, I was starting to feel the loneliness. A cursory look around the gift shop revealed a house jumper to cost £75. For that price, I could have gone around the tour another two times and still had enough left over to just about afford a packet of crisps from the refreshments van.

If you dream of seeing Harry’s world, the chances are that you don’t really want to see a set designer’s interpretation, but your own. The studio tours are great for what they are, but what they are is a glimpse behind the scenes of a film set, not the wizarding world.

The truth is, if you didn’t get a letter through your door on your eleventh birthday, the closest you can really get to experiencing the magic is to lose yourself in the seven books. It’s not easy being a muggle.

Follow James on Twitter here

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living