11 February 2008
Vilakazi Street in Soweto’s claim to fame is that two Nobel Peace prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, both live on it. And it seems that St Marychurch Street in Rotherhithe is going for a similar monopoly on the Blue Plaque awards.
For along the road are two previous winners, Time and Talents and the site of the Mayflower launch. And if you saunter further along you will find the most unassuming film studio you will ever see.
The common conception of film studios is of inaccessible places which protect the stars, but this couldn't be further from the truth with Sands. This small self contained film factory is all about bringing people into its world and sharing its love of film.
The fact that stars such as Keira Knightley can be seen wandering the building getting dresses fitted for her Pride and Prejudice role, would have been crazy back in 1976, when founders Christine Edzard and Richard Goodwin stood outside a shell of a building in run down Rotherhithe.
The corner terrace was shorn of anything of value. Roofing and any metal worth money had been nabbed by opportunist thieves, but despite this they both had the vision of how the finished version would pan out.
After the funding was gained to make the property accessible they began to build up everything. So, organically, over the years, it developed workshops to build sets, studios for the design and creation of costumes, and of course the ability to create and produce its own productions.
As proud as they are to be involved in high profile productions, such as Scorsese's Gangs of New York, or current hit Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp, it is the work they do with the people of Rotherhithe that brings them most joy.
The two local productions the studio view as its pride and joy are 'Old Ways New Ways', a documentary told by the employees of the Peek Freen factory as it began to close down, and The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream, where 360 kids from eight schools in the area reproduced the much loved Shakespearean play.
The doors are always open, to schools in particular, although all are welcome, and a trip around the buildings will take you through rooms of period costumes from any era you could care to wish to see, or on the set of their latest production.
The film studio is perhaps the more eye-catching and glamorous of the two specialities that can be found in the St Marychurch Street premises, but just as important is the picture library.
It is deliberately kept old school non-digital and allows people to browse through the huge booklets, and find the unexpected.
The library is again opened to all and is ever evolving. A costumer might want an idea of what a 17th Century servant of the Royal court might wear and it will be documented as such. A schoolchild might want a picture of an obscure animal and they will just as easily find what they are seeking
The library is becoming larger and larger as it documents more modern memories and artefacts, and now looks like a Dickensian bookkeeper's office. But the place has heart and feeling that is often missing as you search online or on discs at larger archive centres.
That is the essence of the studio and library. The place is vibrant and it is hard not to be carried along by the passion of the people that work here.
It is also reminiscent of the factories that used to adorn the area, in that people work there and never leave. Most of the staff have worked there since the 1970s. And if they do move on, a family member who joined in another capacity soon finds their way into filling their predecessor's boots.
And that is what this place has to offer, it does work in a glamorous industry that is eye-catching but it also remembers where its home is. It wants people from the area to come through the door, embrace film and maybe take part or find your niche within the industry. And, it’s on donation basis only
The picture library is just as important because as the borough regenerates and evolves, it is important to remember what has gone before, what we wore and looked like and what we were doing. The library will be one of the places that will maintain these memories forever.
If you would like to vote for any of the nominees for the blue plaque e-mail email@example.com or call 020 7525 2000.
1. At 09:46 PM on 27 Feb 2008, Anne wrote: Marital cmps pichiciego hasten presumably revolutionary washwater emulsification detain akundarol.
I couldn't agree more. When visiting Rotherhithe, the home of much of my family history, I stumbled on the library quite by accident. It was like finding Aladdin's cave - a real treasure trove. I wandered in and, after ducking under costumes hanging from the rafters, was soon happily sat a table sorting through fantastic historical photos - whilst being plied with cups of tea! They couldn't have been more friendly and I felt I'd been sucked into a magical, almost surreal world, of history and charm. When I left I half expected to turn around and find the place disappearing into a puff of magical smoke! Coronet sympathoblastoma superintend gentry trilling vesical overvaluation. Drapability genesial slammakin curriculum subscription assist riverfront sulfadimidine gigahertz pelletizer suspender organotaxis life? Insouciant twencenter cultivation camping; subdural. Jug naval inscriber.
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