My head is spinning with excitement at visiting The Magical World of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden as we join a short queue outside a huge sound stage and marvel at three larger than life towering chess pieces. We’re shown inside, through the foyer and straight into the exhibition area.

The tour begins with a simple quote by JK Rowling written in chrome against a blue wall: “No story lives unless somebody wants to listen.” Writers are redundant without their readers and as Ms Rowling was writing her fantastical story about a wizard boy in an Edinburgh café back in the 1990s, she could never have imagined the scale her narrative would take.

After numerous rejections her manuscript was finally accepted by an agent then published by Bloomsbury UK. It would of course lead to global ‘Pottermania’ and become the fastest-selling book series ever. This would be followed by an eight-part film series, the highest grossing of all time.

We slowly walk past ‘the cupboard under the stairs’ set where Harry’s story begins. We learn that number 4 Privet Drive was actually located in Bracknell before being recreated in the studio at a later date. We then step though some doors and into a lobby area. Several walls are furnished with oak and gilt framed paintings, just like the portraits that hang on the moving staircases at Hogwarts.

Each portrait contains a short clip of an actor in character or of a Warner Bros. ‘interactor’ explaining what we’re about to see, or even of David Heyman, the producer of all of the films, explaining how he read the book cover to cover in one evening, unable to put it down. Listening to and learning about the unfolding of events from different points of view of this crazy creative Harry Potter project is entertaining and insightful.

The hosts then direct us to be seated in front of a huge screen in an auditorium. We’re transported by the haunting chimes of the Harry Potter theme tune and swept along by nostalgic footage about the making of the films from 2001 to 2011; we see how the film sets had become home for the leading actors, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, throughout that entire decade.

We learn about how the films were brought to life in detail and about the huge teams of creative individuals all working together to deliver the magic of each of the eight Harry Potter films.

After the film, I feel a sense of anticipation and can’t wait to get into the Great Hall. The cinema screen lifts and we’re invited forward as the double doors open out onto the Hogwarts banqueting hall. Amazing! It feels grand and stately. The low benches and rows of tables are all set with silver plates, goblets and cutlery and I imagine Harry, Hermione and Ron, all smiles, tucking in and enjoying their very first Hogwarts feast.

I walk slowly down the middle, mesmerised. Children around me are half-crazed with excitement, bumping into each other and I can hear many foreign languages being spoken as their parents share in their wonderment.

I’m transported straight back to those early scenes of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in which lit candles are magically suspended over the pupils’ heads and the hall is bathed in the warm light of burning flames from hanging braziers. Behind the tables, long colourful banners depicting the crests of each house, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Hufflepuff, hang alongside mannequins clothed in school uniforms.

An American interactor with a loud voice is telling us all about various features, like how the floor is authentic and details about each house uniform, but I am distracted by a tall mannequin of Professor Dumbledore fitted in full costume on centre stage before an elaborately designed golden lectern. At its centre is a huge owl, his wings powerfully outstretched and perched upon a large emerald stone with a snake slithering down the central column. Behind him, an elaborate candelabra stands against a backdrop of Gothic lancet windows.

It feels like this imaginary place has been lifted right out of the cinema screen. I can’t believe that I’m right here on set. I have truly arrived at Hogwarts. It has come to life for me and it feels so real!

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city