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Mark Bourdillon
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Great British Bake Off contestants created 'bubble' in a hotel for six weeks to record this year's series

The annual baking competition returned to TV screens last night.

GREAT BRITISH BAKE Off contestants lived together for six weeks in a British hotel to allow this year’s edition of the Channel 4 show to make it to air.

Judges and crew members were also required to isolate in the hotel to create a bubble that would allow the show to go ahead despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The annual baking competition returned last night, with 12 new contestants joined by judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith as well as hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas.

Contestants were asked to make Battenberg cakes using marzipan, six miniature pineapple upside-down cakes and 3D cake busts of their favourite celebrities.

But given the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions in the UK, measuring out ingredients and pre-heating ovens weren’t the only preparation required for this year’s show.

On Sunday, Kelly Webb-Lamb, Channel 4’s deputy director of programmes told The Observer that producers had to isolate the entire cast and crew in a hotel in Essex in order to ensure the show could return for 2020.

All 130 people on site were also tested three times each before filming began over the summer, while competitors were asked if they could relocate with partners, children, and even their pets to allow filming to take place over a six-week period.

In contrast, previous series saw competitors return to the tent over the 12 weekends when the competition took place. 

“It was a good atmosphere on set,” Smith told The Observer.

“People had been staying in their homes, the majority of them loved it… it was an opportunity to be normal. We had fun. It was a long time but it had a special atmosphere to it this year.”

The production is an example of what’s required to allow staples of the TV calendar to return to screens. 

Fair City recently returned to RTÉ with social distancing measures in place, with the broadcaster saying it would continue “to implement its working safely on site protocols” developed in line with HSE guidelines and government Covid-19 recommendations.

The show’s executive producer Brigie deCourcy said health and safety systems were a priority in order to “protect the health and well-being of our actors, writers, directors and crew”.

In some cases, a return isn’t possible at all while the pandemic is ongoing.

In June, RTÉ announced that the 2021 series of Dancing With The Stars has been cancelled due to the pandemic.

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