Well, we have hung onto the wreckage and have made it through another week. I still get requests from authors and magazine writers, which keeps my mind alive. The latest two are from a chap writing a book on the Flash Gordon movie and a writer for a Star Wars magazine as both movies were shot at Elstree Studios. It scares me how long ago these films were made but I am always happy to help if I can.

I have just looked at the proposed plans for the new Sky Studios they hope to build in Borehamwood. This would be a massive studio and will contain more sound stage space than all the six studios that have previously existed in Borehamwood over the past 100 years combined together. There will be two 25,000 square feet stages, one 30,000sq ft stage and nine 20,000 square feet stages. Some of the buildings will be the height of a seven-storey office and it will have 1,200 car parking spaces. It will cost a fortune but to a company like Sky it is just peanuts compared to their production budgets.

It has yet to go through planning and if successful the actual building so I guess at least two years before it opens. Interesting times ahead.

Back in 1996 we gained control from Brent Walker of Elstree Studios and then started the huge task of refurbishing, rebuilding and getting it back into the market, but they are tales for another day. One immediate problem was that we had inherited a huge number of 35mm cans of film material with no paperwork. I volunteered to spend several weekends identifying all the cans and to get them back to their owners. First I got in some post-production pals to tell me what material I could scrap. Then I climbed around the shelves listing the titles on each can. Believe me, I could not physically do that today so it was a good time. Then I researched which film company owned what and wrote to them asking them to remove their material. Some said just junk it and others collected their cans, albeit reluctantly. A highlight was finding the music masters of the film Quadrophenia, which the owners had presumed lost but rushed down to reclaim. Did they even buy me a drink?

However, I was rewarded with two star encounters. It was a warm summer and Shirley Bassey was rehearsing with a full orchestra on a sound stage opposite with the doors open, so I was serenaded by that lovely lady. On another weekend Tom Jones arrived to rehearse something and when he spotted me he said 'where is the nearest toilet?' After nature had taken its course we had a chat about his days at ATV in Borehamwood in the 1960s where his television shows launched him to international stardom. It is lovely to see him on The Voice still going strong.

So you see, volunteering for a messy and time-consuming task can have its perks, especially if it happens in a film studio. At the same time it was nice to preserve rather than take the easy route and destroy our heritage. Until next time, take care.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios