South & East England and Midlands

This section covers Black Hangar Studios, Cardington Studios, Home of Production (HOP) Studios, October Studios, Raynham Hangar Studios, Bentwaters Parks, Rebellion Studios, Digbeth Loc. Studios, BBC Digbeth, Ashford International Studios, Brooklands Studios, Dunsfold Park, Medina Studios Isle of Wight, Ikon Film Studios Norfolk and Wroughton Studios

 

 

Black Hangar Studios – Hampshire   (2012 – present)

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Located on Lasham airfield, a few miles from Basingstoke, this facility opened in May 2012.  It basically consists of a large hangar – 32,000 sq ft in fact – containing the UK’s largest permanent green screen.  There are also associated buildings containing production offices, wardrobe, make-up, screening room and 12,000 sq ft of workshop space.  Its USP is that it also has an outdoor elevated water tank of 5,000 sq ft with an optical shooting panel in the side.  This usefully has a 180 degree natural skyline. 

The business also owns nearby land that can be used as a backlot with natural countryside all round and a complete Boeing 737 airliner for filming interiors.

Productions using these facilities include The Garden for ITV, Breaking The Bank starring Kelsey Grammer, Born To Be Blue, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, Dark tide, Kill Your Friends, Star Wars: Rogue One, 24: Live Another Day, Ra One, Peter & Wendy and North Water.  Several music videos and commercials have also been made here.

In February 2022 it was announced that Alec Baldwin would be filming hijack thriller 97 Minutes at these studios.

 

Lasham airfield was constructed in 1942.  Initially used by the Army Cooperation Command, it became an RAF Fighter Command base from mid 1943.  Hurricanes, Spitfires and Typhoons were located here.  Later in 1943 it was taken over by the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force and Mosquitos and B-25 Mitchells were based here.  The RAF left Lasham in 1948.

Since 1950 Lasham has been a centre for gliding.  It is now the home of the largest British gliding club, with over 200 airframes based here.  On some days over 100 gliders can be seen in the sky surrounding the airfield.

Despite gliding being the main activity at Lasham, the main runway is capable of handling large passenger jets and an aircraft maintenance company is also based here. One assumes that arrivals and departures of these aeroplanes through skies teeming with unpowered gliders must give all those involved an extra frisson of excitement.

 

 

 

 

Cardington Studios – Bedfordshire   (filming use from around 2004 – present.)

Steve Sharpe took this terrific photo on 22nd October 2022 and was kind enough to send it to me.  Note all the film-related vehicles parked up.

 

 

About 30 miles north of Watford, situated in the flat landscape of Bedfordshire, can be found two of the most striking buildings in the UK.  They can be seen for miles around – and no wonder.  They are truly colossal.  Originally constructed to house giant airships, they have had a long history of decline and renovation.  No. 1 Shed (on the left if you are facing the main doors) was the first – constructed in 1915.  Around 1928 it was enlarged to over 800 feet long and the other ‘shed’ was moved here from its previous location at Royal Naval Air Station Pulham in Norfolk.  The Cardington sheds were the home of the massive airships R-100 and R-101.

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The R-100 moored at Cardington with the visiting Graf Zeppelin beyond

Tragically, R-101 crashed in October 1930 and all work here ceased.  R-100 was left in its hangar for a year after which it was scrapped.  From 1936 the sheds were used to construct and store barrage balloons.  In 1943 they were taken over by the RAF’s meteorological research department.  From 1971 they became a fire research establishment and then in 1990 a building research establishment.  The sheer size of these structures enabled buildings to be constructed within them and subjected to damage from fire, explosion and whatever else they could think of.

 

 

Around 2004 Hangar 2 was rented by a film company and then followed a succession of movies that took advantage of this enormous, enclosed space to build massive sets.  Features included The White Diamond (2004), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012).  A huge set of Gotham City was built for the first of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy that consisted of several roads and many buildings, enabling street scenes to be filmed at day or night with full control of the lighting (and weather).  This set remained in situ until all three films were complete.

More recent features have included Pan, Rogue One, Fantastic Beasts, The Mercy, Dumbo and The Return of Skywalker.  TV productions have also made use of these exceptional facilities including It’s Not Rocket Science, Airmageddon, Speed With Guy Martin, Man v Robot and Revolution.  Reality TV series Scared of the Dark was recorded here and transmitted on Channel 4 in April 2023.  Also in 2023, a few games including ‘Red light/Green light’ for Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge were filmed here.  This involved 456 players – the area of play was 100 metres x 40 metres.  (The rest of the show was filmed at the Garden Studios.)

For some years Hangar 2 was owned by Ronan Willson’s company ELP, who also run Millennium Studios – about 12 miles away on the other side of Bedford.  It was and still is is marketed as Cardington Studios.  The exterior was renovated and ELP carried out considerable work to the interior, including installing a very impressive lighting grid.  They also created workshop and office areas.  The motorised truss rig extends over most of the space.  ‘Normal’ working height is 76 feet but it can be raised to an extraordinary 120 feet!  The main shooting space is nominally divided into 4 ‘stages’ for rental purposes but stages 1-3 are also available as one open area.   There are also back lot areas and plenty of parking.  As well as film and TV work, Cardington is used for rock stadium tour rehearsals and photo shoots.

In 2022 Ronan Willson sold the studio to MBS – the American company that now runs several studios in the UK and worldwide.

 

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The interior of Hangar 2. The truss rig is seen here at its ‘low’ setting of ‘only’ 76 feet.  Bear in mind that many film stages have grids of only 20 – 30 feet!

 

 

 

 

 

Home of Production Studios (HOP) – Bedfordshire   (from 2025?)

 

How the studios might look upon completion.

In April 2022 a press release announced proposals for some new film studios in Bedfordshire.  According to Broadcast magazine, they are spearheaded by Katya Baker of Quartermaster Entertainment.  You may recall that Quartermaster have been proposing a number of studio projects in recent years, none of which sadly have come to fruition.  These have included studios in Purfleet, Here East in the Olympic Park and at Birmingham City University.  The Quartermaster Website was taken down in 2021 and information about those projects is very difficult to find now.  However, this scheme does look promising and is is a joint venture with Verb – a subsidiary of investment firm Cathexis – which focuses on targeted investment in technical real estate.

The plan has been supported by Sweco (Structures, Civil and MEP), McFarlane + Associates (Landscape), Lichfields (Planning), RSK Wilding (Environmental) and DLP (Transport/Highways).  The land has already been purchased, and financing is already in place for the plan.  Scott Brownrigg are the architects.  They are also designing and building Shinfield Studios.

 

The USP of the project is that the studios will focus on supporting the well-being of all the people who work at the facilities, creating an attractive environment and offering support facilities such as childcare, a medical centre and faith rooms.  Home Of Production hopes to change the experience for crew, allowing them to stay onsite in self-contained suites and take advantage of permanent bars, restaurants and cafes, a gym and a hospitality suite.

The 143 acre site is located near Stewartby, Bedfordshire – about 7 miles from Cardington Studios.  It is a former clay mineral quarry, decommissioned in 2008.  Much of it is currently under water.  The proposal is to construct four separate 430,500 sq ft production units on a 70-acre platform, four metres above the water level.  Two large bodies of water at each end will form lakes which will attract wildlife and create a pleasant environment.  Because the pit is below the surrounding countryside, large sound stages will not dominate the landscape which is relatively flat around this area.  Sustainability and the environment are high on the agenda.  Obviously, a studio of this size will generate many jobs for the surrounding towns and villages and will add to the UK’s stock of high-quality film and high-end TV drama facilities.

 

The master plan
The construction phases. Yellow first, then brown, then orange. The blank areas have yet to be finalised, despite the image above, also on the HoP website.

 

The proposals include 22 sound stages with supporting workshops and offices.  An interesting feature is storage provision for sets, enabling TV dramas to keep scenery on site between shooting different series.  There is also a backlot.  The facilities are arranged in clusters, enabling up to 4 major productions to be shooting simultaneously.

 

An on-line presentation was made in May 2022, and then another in July which explained the proposals.  Planning was submitted in October 2022.  According to the HOP Bedfordshire website, construction was intended to commence early in 2023, with operations starting early in 2024.  In fact it appears that public consultations were held in April and May 2023.  These were followed by more in June and July.  So there appears to have been a delay in obtaining planning permission but at last the good news came in November 2023 when Central Bedfordshire Council approved the plans.  One assumes that work will commence early in 2024 so perhaps some of the facilities will be available by the end of 2025.

Phase one is itself split into 3 sub-phases.  After that the HOP website states that the details of the subsequent phases will be determined by the demands of the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October Studios – Norfolk   (2018 – present)

 

In March 2015, October Films applied for permission to turn the old Jaguar Simulator Building at the former RAF Coltishall into a facility to support TV drama.  They took out a 5 year lease to assist them in their filming of a new factual crime drama: Serial Killer – Angel of Decay.  The facilities clearly proved to be useful and in May 2018 they marketed the building more widely as October Studios, hoping to attract work from other production companies – in particular UK companies working for US networks.

The buildings include several shooting spaces – some of which have standing sets, including a full scale replica of the Oval Office.  There are a wide supply of American props, costumes and vehicles available.  The enterprise is being run separately from October Films itself.  The old airbase is now known as Scottow Enterprise Park and is to be found about 10 miles north of Norwich.

 

RAF Coltishall entered service as a fighter base in May 1940 equipped with Hurricanes.  Douglas Bader was based here.  It later became home to night fighters and the Royal Navy operated Fleet Air Arm aircraft, patrolling over the North Sea.

After the war a variety of aircraft were located here including Mosquitos, Javelins and Lightnings.  From 1974 Coltishall became the home of the RAF’s Jaguar fleet – an Anglo-French tactical ground attack aircraft.  Aircraft from here flew in the 1991 Gulf War, then in operations over the Balcans in 1995 and finally the 2003 war in Iraq.  No Jaguars were lost in action.  Until the closure of the base, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was also based here.

In November 2006 the base closed, following the decision to retire the Jaguar squadrons.  Coltishall was sold to Norfolk County Council for £4m.  It is now a very busy enterprise park, utilising the old RAF hangars and other buildings.  A prison has also been built on one corner of the site. 

Most of the grass area either side of the main runway is occupied by a solar farm.  Its panels can generate an impressive 50 MW of electricity.  This is expected to raise more than £10m income over 25 years for Norfolk County Council.  NB – on 30th June 2018, solar power produced 27.8% of the UK’s electricity, making it the largest source of power above gas, nuclear and wind.  Fancy that.

 

 

 

 

Raynham Hangar Studios  – Norfolk (from 2019)

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RAF West Raynham was an airbase not far from Fakenham in Norfolk.  Built just before WWII it was initially equipped with the Bristol Blenheim light bomber but later in the war, Mosquitos were based here – one of the most successful fighter-bombers of the period.  Following the war it was a fighter base, with Meteors, then Venoms and Javelins.  In 1964 a multinational squadron flew the predecessor to the Harrier here.  This was the Hawker P1127 Kestrel.  The success of these trials led to the purchase of Harriers for the RAF.

Between 1972 and 1976 Canberra high altitude bombers were based here in target towing and electronic warfare roles.  These were the last operational aircraft.

From 1975 – 1991 West Raynham was the home of 85 Squadron, operating Bloodhound medium range surface to air missiles and a unit operating Rapier short range anti-aircraft missiles was also based here between 1983 and 1991.  The base was closed in 1994.  The site was allowed to fall into disrepair until 2005, when it was at last sold by the MoD.

The runway and taxiways have been turned into a 50 MW solar energy farm, similar to RAF Coltishall.  There are many buildings on the site – these include the 4 main hangars, operations blocks, the control tower and 170 houses.  Initially a developer purchased the site in 2006 but resold it in 2007.  The new owners have upgraded the original houses and constructed many more.  Many of the original buildings now form a business park.

 

In 2017, one of the hangars at West Raynham was used as a base for Joanna Hogg’s film The SouvenirThe Souvenir Part 2  was also filmed here in the summer of 2019.  In December of that year the site was acquired by a new private owner who plans to create a properly equipped studio attracting features and high end TV drama.

They paid £5m which will enable the existing facilities to be upgraded and a number of other supporting buildings to be constructed – including workshops, production offices, wardrobe facilities etc.  The work is expected to take 3 years, beginning in 2020 and a number of support companies have already agreed to be based here. 

In the meantime they are offering the main hangar, which at 45,000 sq ft is a very useful size indeed, plus the old 5,000 sq ft gym.  The hangar also has a number of rooms off it that can be used as sets or workshops/stores.

A pilot for a BBC Entertainment show was filmed here in 2019.  Previous uses of the site have included BBC drama Over Here in 1996, a Channel 4 documentary on the contribution of Polish fighter pilots in WWII in 2009 – and in 2010,  Most Haunted  carried out an investigation in various locations on the base.

In 2021 Raynham Hangar became the base for Michael Winterbottom’s drama This England (aka This Sceptred Isle).  There are 6 episodes in the series, which dramatises the chaotic scenes in Boris Johnson’s government at the start of the Covid 19 Pandemic.  Kenneth Branagh plays the Prime Minister, in make-up that uncannily resembles the man himself.  The show aired in the autumn of 2022 on Sky Atlantic and Now TV.

 

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A schematic view of Raynham Hangar Studios following the planned improvements.  The hangar in the foreground is the one at the top of the photo above.

 

 

 

 

Bentwaters Parks – Suffolk   (from 2019)

RAF Bentwaters was an airbase near the village of Rendlesham, east of Ipswich. It was built towards the end of the war and became operational in April 1944, with Mustang fighters being based here.  After the war the RAF flew Meteor jet fighters.  In 1951 the airfield was transferred to the USAF in the form of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, who had several squadrons based here.  From 1978-1993 the aircraft were A-10 Thunderbolt II tank busters.  RAF Bentwaters is very close to RAF Woodbridge – the two were known as the ‘twin bases.’  Following the fall of the Soviet Union these were two of the many airbases that were deemed to be no longer necessary for the defence of Europe.

 

RAF Bentwaters was incidentally where a notorious UFO incident took place in nearby Rendlesham Forest in December 1980, when several officers and airmen claimed to have seen craft of unknown origin over two nights.  On the first night a glowing object was observed in the woods and is said to have left marks on the ground.  This incident is sometimes referred to as ‘The British Roswell’ – the main differences here being that no wreckage was left but it was seen by credible witnesses.  Those wishing to explain away this sighting suggest that the airmen saw bright stars and a meteor shower or the light from Orford Ness lighthouse which is several miles away, and mistook them for what was described as a triangular shaped craft, glowing brightly, which rose from the ground as they approached and rapidly sped off into the night.  It’s easy to see how the two could be confused by trained military personnel. 

Later, most of the men involved said they had been mistaken and saw nothing unusual but had been confused by the lighthouse.  However, Lieutenant Colonel Halt and Sgt Jim Penniston stuck by their stories.

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None of which is is of any relevance to this website, except that it does all form part of the history of this airfield, which is having a brand new film stage constructed here.

The site is now known as Bentwaters Parks and is family owned.  They are offering the airfield and its historic buildings as film and TV locations as well as a working farm.  There are many buildings large and small that can be used for filming.  Productions that have used the site include Space Cadets, Top Gear, Fast & Furious 6, The Numbers Station and The Grand Tour.

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In November 2017 planning permission was granted to construct a 32,000 sq ft sound stage with a grid height of an impressive 60ft. This was due to open in 2019. The plan was to turn a section of the airfield into a dedicated studio area, with associated workshops, offices, wardrobe/make-up and a back lot.  In January 2023, the Bentwaters Parks website still unfortunately said ‘Coming Soon’ but I checked again in November and there was no mention of the proposed stage.  Ah well.  Maybe one day.

 

 

 

 

Rebellion Studios – Didcot, Oxfordshire   (from 2019)

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In December 2018, video game and comic book publisher Rebellion announced that they had purchased a large former print works near Didcot, 20 minutes’ drive from Oxford.  Since 2019 they have also been marketing some of their facilities as film studios.  At first, they stated that they had 6 stages, totalling 220,000 sq ft.  Fortuitously, these had been soundproofed by the previous owner to reduce the noise of the printing presses.  The stages were given interesting names – Atrium, Boulevard, Capitol, Delta, Exhibitor and Falcon.

Currently (March 2023) they are marketing one large stage of 23,500 sq ft and say that they also have two stages at 10,000 sq ft each and several at around 4,000 sq ft.  They also say that they have 10,000 sq ft of workshop space and 12,000 sq ft of production office space.

The facilities became available for hire in 2019.  The first production was Rebellion’s own  School’s Out Forever.  According to the owners, the main stage has hosted ‘various TV series, multiple genres of feature film and video game shoots involving motion capture and or virtual production, and extensive commercials shoots.  Productions as diverse at the high-end – like Spielberg and Hanks’ Masters of the Air – used the studio, followed by lower-budget indie werewolf movie The Experiment.’  Richard Hammond’s series Crazy Contraptions was also filmed here.

Mo-cap company AudioMotion Studios is based in these studios.  They regularly partner with Warner Bros., Disney and other companies for performance capture here, where the capture volume is Europe’s largest.

Costume company Flame, with their huge collection, including an enormous military uniform catalogue, is also located at the studio.

 

Rebellion’s main ‘Capitol’  stage
 

 

In August 2021 planning permission was approved to demolish a former printing building and construct 2 purpose-built sound stages next to their existing facilities.   In an interview in The Knowledge in March 2023, the owners of the studios said that the new sound stages will be built depending on future demand.

 

The proposed new stages

 

 

 

 

 

Digbeth Loc. Studios – Birmingham   (in use from 2022.  Officially launched in 2023.)

 

The image that was released in March 2023 indicating the main studio site with its converted warehouses.  Intriguingly, at the top is a very large building with Digbeth Loc Studios proudly displayed on its side.  Looking on Googlemaps in March ’23, this is currently a Birmingham City Council waste depot but it is due to move from that site soon.  The large brick building top right is The Bond – now the HQ for several media companies.
thanks to Time+Space Co.

 

In October 2018 Steven Knight, creator of Peaky Blinders, announced that he had been working on a plan to build a studio centre in Birmingham for the previous three years.  The location was originally to be near Birmingham Airport but it later shifted to a city-centre site in Digbeth, just a 2-minute walk from the Curzon Street HS2 station.  Steven pointed out that when HS2 eventually begins operating, Birmingham will only be 45 minutes from London.

This new facility was originally due to be called Mercian Studios and was planned to consist of six sound stages, intended primarily for film and TV drama but one was going to be aimed at ‘shiny floor’ TV shows and would include audience handling facilities.  The sizes were not confirmed but five would be ‘large’ and the sixth ‘more compact.’

 

Of course, like many schemes, Covid knocked the original proposal sideways and all went quiet for two or three years.  Then in February 2022 came the long-awaited announcement that work was about to begin.

The studios in Fazeley Street have now been named Digbeth Loc. Studios and are part of a major regeneration scheme around Warwick Bar.  Some progress actually began in late 2021, when work commenced on converting the Grade II listed Junction Works building – a purpose-built canal office from the late 18th century – into a high-quality arts venue showcasing local artists in a building owned by Homes England and leased back to Grand Union, a local artists collective.

 

The site, as seen on Googlemaps in 2022.  The old banana warehouse at the top of the site will become the MasterChef studio.  The cluster of warehouses on the right will become 3 stages.
A plan of the proposed studios.  The FMC building and Minerva works are being converted into film stages.

 

The big news in February ’22 was that the BBC’s MasterChef series made by Shine TV, and all its spin-offs, would be moving here from its long-term base at 3 Mills Studios in East London in 2024.  A six-year deal has been signed.   An old banana warehouse will become the main studio for MasterChef, with a new building attached to it, containing a production office, meeting room, critics’ dining room, crew dining, a home economics area and a prep kitchen.

 

Steven Knight also announced that his Peaky Blinders feature film would be made here in the new studios.  He said that it would begin principal photography in late 2023.  In fact, in March 2024 it was announced that filming at these studios would begin the following September.  Steven also mentioned that he was creating an historical series for Netflix about the Guinness family, which, one assumes will use these studios.

He revealed that ‘new TV and film studios will accompany re-purposed existing buildings which will preserve the spirit and character of an area blessed with stunning Victorian architecture’.  There will be three stages converted from old warehouses plus workshops, offices and other facilities.  There is no sign so far of the large, shiny-floor TV studio mentioned in early reports but apparently, Steven is still hoping to add this facility in due course.

Although the studios were not expected to be available until 2023,  This Town (previously named Two Tone) – a 6-part drama series – began filming at the beginning of November 2022.  Made by Kudos, it was written by Steven Knight and covers the rise of the well-known distinctive music genre in the early ’80s.  The series took 4 months to film and was broadcast on BBC1 in March 2024.

 

The interior of 15,000 sq ft stage 1 at the official launch of the studios.  It would appear that quite a bit of work will be needed to turn this into a sound stage.
photo thanks to Birmingham Live and Nick Wilkinson.

 

In March 2023 the studios were officially launched.  It became clear that these studios are now a joint venture between Steven Knight and business partner Time+Space chief executive Piers Read.   Time+Space are the company associated with Twickenham Film Studios, the redevelopment of the Littlewoods factory in Liverpool and some new film studios in Ashford, Kent.

The press release stated that work would now commence on converting the old industrial premises into sound stages.  The revamp was expected to be completed by July, with productions arriving from October thanks to a £1.3 million investment from Birmingham City Council which has been working with landowner Homes England along with support from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).   Training and accessibility to the studios is seen as very important.  Local people will be prioritised and the plan is that 20 per cent of the intake of the students who are learning the skills and craft of filmmaking will be educated for free and their fees will be paid for by Kudos.

Interestingly, Steven Knight mentioned a forthcoming project involving a dramatisation of a Dickens novel, which will involve building a Victorian street set.  This is likely to remain as a permanent location facility.  

He also reportedly said “This is just the start, there will be phase two and phase three, though I can’t say exactly where those will be yet but they will be nearby and come hot on the heels of this.”  The publicity image released to the press in March 2023 shows a very large building in the background, currently used by the city council’s waste department, with Digbeth Loc Studios painted on the side.  Is this one of the sites he was referring to?  Googlemaps reveals a 36,000 sq ft industrial unit and a few smaller ones surrounding a huge lorry park with around 100 trucks and vans parked up.   Quite an undertaking to move all this to another location – but it appears that this is exactly what is planned.  According to local press reports, a new depot is being constructed in another part of the city.  The Montague Street site seen in the publicity image was sold to affordable housing body Homes England in March 2020.  I’m guessing that housing will be constructed on the lorry park and the 36,000 sq ft unit will become part of Digbeth Loc. Studios.

 In January 2024 set construction company 4Wood became the first set specialists to move into these studios.

 

A few metres away down Fazeley St, an £18m ‘Creative Content Hub’ called The Bond opened in March 2023.  All3Media companies North One, Optomen Television and Manor Production Services are now based here.  They make shows such as Fifth Gear, The Gadget Show and The Great British Menu.  Incidentally, The Great British Menu is made in a purpose-built studio in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  It has been in the regular schedules since 2006.

 

 

 

 

BBC Digbeth  (from 2026)

In July 2022 the BBC announced that in 2026 it would be moving from its current Birmingham HQ at The Mailbox to a converted Typhoo factory in Digbeth, close to the new Digbeth Loc studios.  They have been at The Mailbox since 2004, having moved there from Pebble Mill.  600 staff will transfer to the new broadcast HQ.  Newsbeat and The Asian Network will be based in the building.  It will contain a local news/sport studio.  Plans on the local council’s website indicate a long, narrow area on the second floor with a height of 5m that is described as a ‘technical area pop-up’.  This may be the closest they get to having an actual TV studio within the building.  I’ll bet many local people wish the excellent multicamera TV studio at Pebble Mill still existed.

 

 

 

 

Ashford International Studios – Kent  (from 2025?)

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ashford schematic 450p

 

Ashford in Kent is only about half an hour from London, via the HS1 channel tunnel rail link.  Quinn Estates submitted a planning application for an impressive new development here in October 2019.  The former Newtown Railway Works – some Victorian engine sheds that have been derelict for many years – are to be turned into apartments with a large hotel alongside.  More interestingly, they also plan to construct 4 film stages totalling 80,000 sq ft.

The developers have formed a partnership with The Creative District Improvement Company (TCDI Co), along with their sister company The Time + Space Company.  These are the people who acquired Twickenham Studios and Littlewoods Studios early in 2020.  This company, led by Piers Read and Jeremy Rainbird – familiar figures to many in the industry – have stated on their website that they plan to invest £500m in a network of film/TV drama studios across the UK. 

 

In March 2020, TCDI Co announced that they would be investing £250m in this scheme.  As well as the four stages, it will include 80,000 sq ft of ancillary production space, 50,000 sq ft of storage and 30,000 sq ft of media village.  This will contain a new film school called the Future Media Centre, in partnership with University of Kent and other nearby universities. 

Planning permission for the scheme was granted on 22nd April 2020 by Ashford Council, in their first ever ‘virtual’ meeting during the Coronavirus lockdown.  The studios were set to open in 2022 but in May 2021 there were press reports of delays, due to the Coronavirus pandemic and some issues with funding.  It transpired that the large hotel which was an important feature of the project might not be included after all.

Fortunately, in October 2021 the budget was given a boost of £14.7m from the government’s ‘levelling up’ fund.  This enabled the scheme to proceed.  However, a delay of at least a year was announced.  Enabling works have been carried out but news came in November 2022 that construction of the stages would not commence until summer 2023. 

Curiously, the press announced in January 2023 that £14.7m had been allocated to this project from the government’s ‘levelling up’ fund.  You may notice that this report was identical to the one made 15 months before in October 2021.  I’ve no idea what’s going on here – have you?  The only difference in the information I could find was that the eventual operator of the studios was ‘yet to be announced.’  Make of that what you will.

 

In April 2023 the Ashford council website carried this news:

Cabinet agreed that a loan facility of £50m be made available to the Ashford International Development Company (AIDC) for the construction of the studios and workshop space, subject to the completion of the due diligence process and to the granting of planning permission satisfactory to the film studio operator. It was agreed that this loan facility will either be repaid on completion of the works from the sale proceeds or through a lease to an operator on a long-term basis.  Cabinet also agreed to financially support the AIDC to proceed with the redesign of the studio facility up to the value of £30,000 in order to submit a revised planning application. Plus it agreed to allocate up to £100,000 to carry out the due diligence required to finalise the transaction.

 

So it looks as though the studios are to be redesigned.  I have not managed to find news of a revised planning application – do let me know if this has indeed been submitted and passed.  When this happens, we should expect the construction and fitting out to take about 18 months, judging by other similar schemes.  So sadly it seems unlikely that these studios will be available until late 2025 at the earliest.

 

 

 

 

Brooklands Studios – Surrey  (from 2020)

I could write a 10,000-word history of Brooklands and still only touch on all its many stories.  It began as Europe’s first motor racing track in 1906.  Parts of the original banked circuit still remain.  It was also where some of the first aircraft in the world flew.  A V Roe’s experimental trials took place here in 1907.  Aircraft manufacturers Sopwith, Hawker, Vickers and BAC had their factories here and their aircraft flew from the runway that was located in the middle of the racetrack.  Famous WWII aircraft assembled here included the Hurricane fighter and the Wellington bomber.

After the war, the factories produced the Viscount, the Vanguard and the BAC-111.  The beautiful long-range airliner the VC-10 was also manufactured here.  Perhaps the most iconic aircraft associated with Brooklands is Concorde.  The factories here built a significant part of each aircraft and one of them is here on display.  I can thoroughly recommend a day out at Brooklands – especially the Concorde Experience, which includes a ‘flight’ in the aircraft and a visit to the actual simulator used to train the pilots.

 

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The Brooklands Studios site plan as shown on their website

 

Brooklands Studios opened in May 2020 offering a TV studio with supporting facilities.  Studio 1 is 46 x 36ft. (1,656 sq ft).  It has a gallery with video, media server, sound and lighting equipment available and has a 3-sided green screen.  It is marketed as a VR studio as well as being suitable for conventional sets.  There is a box-section truss rig over the whole shooting area. Studio 2 is 32 x 20ft and opened in March 2021.

The studios are described as being suitable for live TV streaming, filming, photography, webinars, music videos and product launches.  This looks to be a very well equipped and useful facility.

 

 

 

 

Dunsfold Park – Cranleigh, Surrey (from 2002)

Dunsfold Aerodrome was built in 1942 for the Royal Canadian Airforce who initially flew Tomahawks and Mustangs from here.  From 1944 the RAF took over the base and they flew Spitfires, Typhoons and Tempests.  After the war the airfield was purchased by Skyways Ltd.  In 1950 the Hawker Aircraft Company moved in and developed the Hunter jet fighter here.  In 1960 the prototype for the Harrier – the P1127 – was flight tested at Dunsfold.  The RAF’s Harriers and Royal Navy’s Sea Harriers were later built here, as were the RAF’s Hawk trainers.  When the order book for aircraft was closed around 2000, British Aerospace (which had taken over Hawker Siddeley) left the base.

 

dunsfold 450p

 

In 2002 the airfield was sold to The Rutland Group, who renamed it Dunsfold Park.  Later that year the BBC’s Top Gear began a long residency when they took over one of the hangars to use as a studio and turned some of the taxiways into their well-known test track.

An area of the airfield is now marketed as a filming facility and offers 4 buildings to be used as shooting spaces.  These stages are 11,000 sq ft, 8,300 sq ft, 4,300 sq ft and 3,300 sq ft.  There are also workshops, prop storage, office space, green rooms etc available as well as plenty of open area for building exterior sets.

A valuable resource at Dunsfold is the availability of no less than 3 Boeing 747s for filming use.

Productions that have filmed here include Casino Royale, Red 2, Rush, World War Z, The Theory of Everything, Primeval and the comedy Come Fly With Me.

 

 

 

Medina Studios – Isle of Wight (from 2024?)

image thanks to Medina Studios

In November 2022 Medina Studios announced that they were to purchase land owned by the Isle of Wight council on the bank of the Medina River in East Cowes and would be constructing new film studios there.  The scheme was recommended at a council cabinet meeting so is likely to go ahead.  The facility will have four sound stages totalling 70,000 sq ft plus workshops, production offices etc.   The island is ideal for location shooting with many period houses and beautiful beaches and countryside nearby, and having the studios here will enable productions to have bad weather cover for interiors.  If construction begins in 2023 it is possible they may be available by the end of 2024.

 

 

 

Ikon Film Studios – Norfolk  (from 2024?)

 

the proposed new studios

 

In June 2023 a planning application was made by Roger Gawn, a businessman based in Norfolk, to construct some new film studios.  These are to be sited on Tatterset Business Park.  The proposals are for 2 stages at 10,000 sq ft followed by a further 3 at 20,000 sq ft.  There will also be 36,000 sq ft of workshops.  The stages will be provided by Stage 50.  This company can construct stages in about 4 months so these studios could be up and running within a relatively short space of time, once permission is granted.  There will also be costume and make-up facilities for each stage, as well as production offices, a concession and amenity building and the possibility of a film school which the studios hope to run in partnership with the University of East Anglia, Norwich University of the Arts and Norfolk Screen.

 

 

 

 

Wroughton Studios – near Swindon, north Wiltshire (from 2024)

image thanks to Wroughton Studios

RAF Wroughton was an aircraft maintenance base between the late 1930s and the 1970s.  The site is now known as The Science and Innovation Park.  It was sold to the British Museum in 1979 and most of its hangars have been used since to store all kinds of objects from early hovercraft to MRI scanners.  Hangar 3, however, was for a while used as a distribution warehouse.  In April 2021, Dignus Films announced a proposal to use this hangar as a filming stage.  They formed a partnership with the British Museum, who own the building, and created a company called Wroughton Studios.  Planning permission was approved by Swindon Council and essential repairs were carried out to the fabric of the building.  The stage is 301 x 154 ft (48,000 sq ft).  A very useful space!

Things moved forward in February 2024 when planning permission was also passed to construct a 2-storey production office building and 8,250 sq ft workshop next to the hangar.  These are of a pre-fab rapid-build construction.  According to the Base Camp website (the company managing bookings) the back lot is open for bookings now and the stage and other facilities will be available from spring 2024.  They say that they have access to 200 acres of back lot space as well as runways, roads and hardstanding.  They also say there will be a phase 2, creating additional production space.  It looks as though this means taking over another hangar.

The airfield was used between 2016 and 2019 as the test track for Amazon Prime’s The Grand Tour, with the previous cast of the BBC’s Top Gear.

The back lot area
image thanks to Wroughton Studios