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The Last Big Party Held at Elstree Studios UK News

Well, I’ve been hanging on to the wreckage for another week, so welcome to my weekly ramblings. A lovely lady came to see me last week and said she wanted to say hello but was afraid to approach me. I may be well known – whatever that means – but I hate celebrity culture. I’m just a council house kid who has met many famous people over several decades. So if you see me going out come say hello and if you like press a five in my hand cause I’m not proud.

I never understand why the BBC and other TV makers pay so-called celebrities to take part in various quizzes that raise money for charity. Usually, their honorarium outweighs anything they’ve earned for their charity. They should be grateful for the exposure and do it for nothing or donate their honorarium to their charity.

It’s wonderful to see my old Elstree studios getting a makeover in addition to two new giant sound stages and ancillary buildings. Apparently £220,000 is earmarked for the necessary exterior refurbishment of the Maxwell Building. The building was opened in 1985 by Princess Anne, and I helped organize the event. The princess asked to meet real studio employees rather than the usual dignitaries, which I had a bit of a problem with as the local mayors were expecting to be invited. We agreed to a brief meeting in the lobby of the building to check that box. The building was named after John Maxwell, who had established Elstree Studios in the 1920s. I suspect no one knows now.

After Princess Anne left we had a party on one of the sound stages which was later demolished to make way for Tesco. There was a standing street set that had been built for a TV commercial and the Studio agreed to pay for its demolition if they let us use it as a background. I suspect it was the last such party ever held at Elstree Studios, as no one knew what was in store for us. We had a free bar, several bands to play background and dance music, and stalls serving food representing cuisines from around the world. I sat at a table with Trevor Howard and Michael Winner but unfortunately the influence of alcohol means that I have no other memory. For some reason we had a photographer there, but no video footage. All these years later, I suspect I may be the last man standing who remembers this occasion.

Speaking of footage I’ve never seen, when we took over and re-opened Elstree studios in 1996, a group of students asked if we could let them shoot a short called I Think Shiva’s dance, which was a film about the First World War. They were smart in getting well-known names to help out for free. I was interviewed and came to watch the filming on the backlot. I remember having a drink with Ken Branagh at the bar and chatting with legendary Oscar-winning cameraman Jack Cardiff. There was also a well-known tennis player, Pat Cash, and Paul McGann, an actor who played Dr Who in a movie.

I remember Jack standing on the infamous backlot mound and he couldn’t resist taking control of the students’ camera. After all, he had started at Elstree in the 1930s and although he was very old, celluloid never left his blood. Until we meet again, take care.

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

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This notice was published: 2022-03-23 21:11:04

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