Elstree Studios have never stopped changing in 46 years

Well, my fellow travellers down Memory Lane, this is my last column of this year and my sincere thanks for your company over these last 12 months. You will all be busy over the festive season so best we meet up again in 2022. Can you believe next year marks 46 years of my writing this weekly column?

Back then I was writing about a new film at Elstree Studios called Star Wars – I wonder what happened to that? It was still the era when people like me were invited to television and film sets whilst in production as they appreciated publicity. I would probably be tasered if I went anywhere the set of Strictly Come Dancing today. To be honest, I feel it is all a bit silly as who really cares? Then again, I have no great interest in meeting somebody called a celebrity who are here today and gone tomorrow after having met real stars whose careers have stood the test of time.

I am sad to see the exit of Roger Morris as managing director after so many years at Elstree Studios. I have seen about seven MDs come and go and that is showbiz.

I remain concerned about the future of the BBC Elstree Centre next year but am cheered with the two giant new sound stages opening at Elstree Studios and of course the mammoth Sky Studios in Borehamwood. I did not think I would live to see such expansion. Great days for crew members, as you can basically name your price these days, and a good time for youngsters to enter the business. What surprises me is that so much money is being spent on traditional sound stages that would have been built in the 1930s in this era of technology. I hope it is not a bubble that will burst a few years down the line.

Having been retired for 12 years I rarely venture out but still love being in contact via cyber space with Elstree veterans such as Janette Scott, Sir Tommy Steele and Hayley Mills. As my address book slims year by year these contacts matter to me. I have lost a number of actor friends this year but that is life. Luckily my memory remains sharp so we can enjoy old film and television memories next year. I will leave you with a memory of a television series filmed when ATV owned the BBC Elstree Centre. It went out live and the actor Patrick Wymark had to rush from one set to another. Alas, he was still holding a glass of whisky from the previous scene. Luckily the director noticed so told the cameraman to shoot Patrick in close up whilst a lowly third assistant crawled along the floor and removed the glass unseen. Can you imagine acting while that was all going on?

I must write all these true stories down but that is for another day. Until we meet again please take care and if possible enjoy yourself.

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

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