Sky studios should be named after Hitchcock and Spielberg

I cannot believe I recently had to switch on my central heating in June and was unable to sit in my garden. Since I retired 12 years ago I love sitting outdoors, being visited by my local bees and birds and enjoying seeing the plants in full bloom. A long way from my once hectic lifestyle, but I enjoy it.

I never thought I would live to see Borehamwood regain its title the Hollywood of England, coined by visitor Charlie Chaplin in the 1930s, but it is happening. The new massive Sky Studios is now being built just yards away from the great old MGM Studios. There are also possible plans for another giant studio to be built beside it.

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For me it is wonderful to see two new giant sound stages and ancillary buildings being constructed at my beloved Elstree Studios. All credit to the managing director Roger Morris and the chairman of the board Morris Bright for making the studio such a success in recent years. I think the new stages should be named after Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg, who both filmed at Elstree. They could also name a toilet or something after me for my past efforts, although perhaps not.

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I am planning to write another book about our local film studios. My first was published several years ago as a fund raiser for our local Museum. Entitled Elstree Confidential, it was to be honest an ego trip about 50 years of my memories. I am more proud of my second book, MGM British Studios (Hollywood In Hertfordshire), which is a fundraiser for the voluntary group Elstree Screen Heritage, of which I am Chairman. Luckily it has gone into reprint so I think I did justice to the subject and it is available at their webpage.

My next venture is going to be a photo-driven book on the first 50 years of Elstree Studios from 1926 to 1976, using previously unpublished photos behind the scenes, on set and portraits plus 1930s magazine articles and studio plans over the decades. Then in 2026 I can write a book on the second 50 years to celebrate the centenary of Elstree Studios, assuming I am still alive. That is more of a problem due to copyright problems and costs of photos I would want to use. It can be a nightmare, especially when certain film companies make it very difficult and others want to charge, say, £900 for each photo! Rather silly when you are helping to celebrate their productions and the market is limited anyway.

Back in 1988 when I was employed as a programme consultant for a two-part BBC television tribute entitled Elstree, Britain’s Hollywood we called a halt to the story in 1970. That was to avoid the prohibitive cost of film clips from Star Wars, etc, which were about £2,000 a minute as documentaries have very low budgets. I have never been paid for appearing in a number of television documentaries as I understand the problem. I did one for an American channel about Simon Cowell and the crew told me they had just interviewed a famous pop singer who required a plush hotel suite and champagne for an interview that took an hour. I got a Toby Carvery meal, but Simon did thank me for taking part. That is showbiz.

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

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