Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Keeping Rosy

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

This slightly blurry photo of Maxine Peake and Chriisse Bottomley doesn’t immediately bellow ‘Greenwich’. It was taken outside a pop-up cinema in Manchester for starters. But Keeping Rosy has Greenwich connections a-go-go. Its writer, Mike Oughton, lives in Royal Hill and it will be released just down the hill at the Picturehouse on Thursday. It was filmed in the Isle of Dogs, some of it looking out over Greenwich so it’s worthy of Phantom approval.

Mike’s very excited about it – it’s his first film – and I’ll be going to see it at some point (not Thursday, sadly, Mike…) If you’d like to know more about it here’s the official website….

I know, I know, this should be in Parish News (which I AM slowly updating) but hey – my blog, my rules…

Greenwich Cablevision and Stan Lee

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Keith Russell, Mark Smith, Graeme McAlpine and Martin Lee

First it was the missing T-Rex tapes, now it’s one of the world’s greatest comic-artists. It seems that Greenwich Cablevision was absolutely groundbreaking in practically every respect – except in archiving its own work.

Greenwich Cablevision (when I wrote about this I hadn’t heard of it before so my words are rubbish but the comments are great…)was the first pay-TV channel, back in the 1970s – a time when you could choose between BBC1, BBC2 ITV and, er, that’s it. It seems to have featured just about everyone from Hale & Pace to Georgie Fame.

I’ve had an intriguing email from Rob who’s researching a reference book about the history and publications issued by the British division of Marvel Comics. Whilst delving about, he was raking about in a Stan Lee archive in the States and found in one of the many storage boxes a videotape marked ‘Roundhouse 1975′. Although parts of the archive have been accessed by US researchers for other Marvel projects no one had touched the British stuff. He says:

It turns out that Stan Lee’s first visit to the Roundhouse in October 1975 was captured on video by the team from Greenwich Cablevision. They’d previously interviewed Alan Murray (who headed up the art studio at High Holborn where the comics were assembled) when Neil Tennant (yes, THAT Neil Tennant!) had declined their invitation to appear on their ‘Fridaynite’ programme. It was Alan who then later suggested that they film Stan’s appearance at the Roundhouse as a memento for Stan (who thought it might come in handy for a future documentary, although as he kept it all these years it seems unlikely that it was ever shown Stateside).

The event saw Stan appear alongside Ted Polhemus from the ICA (where an exhibition had preceded this event), Ray Wergan from Transworld UK Ltd. (where Marvel had their offices) and US guest artist Herb Trimpe.

Rob is presently trying to arrange a transfer of the tape onto DVD, but it’s not going to be cheap as it’s taken them almost a year to find a machine over there that it can be played on. 20th and 21st century history is being lost not, as in previous years, because no one bothered to record it but because no one can keep up with the formats. Celluloid is corroding (or burning), shellac snapping, vinyl scratching, tape stretching, analogue dating, floppy discs rusting three-inch floppies corrupting – and everything else being simply unplayable because the players don’t exist any more.

The pictures on today’s post were sent to Rob by Alan – pictures that Peter Danpure took of the team – Keith Russell, Mark Smith, Graeme McAlpine and Martin Lee, though sadly Stan himself isn’t in them. Rob would love to talk with the chaps from the crew – or anyone who was part of the recordings.

I would be interested to know if anything at all was saved from the great years of Greenwich Cablevision. Judging from my postbag, people loved – and still love – its short, firework-burst of energy back in the dark days.


Monday, February 4th, 2013

Wanna save yourself thirty quid? Watch Mike’s video, taken a couple of hours after I was up the Shard, when there was actual sun and actual view beyond a mile or so.

He videoed the whole experience – from the queue (it will be interesting to see if people are still queueing in a couple of months – certainly they do for the Empire State building – but is the Shard our Empire State? I suspect not…) through the annoying compulsory photo (just walk straight through if you don’t want yours taken, don’t let them bully you. Do they really charge £50 for a print?) to the lifts, to the view, to the top floor…

Gerald’s Home Movies

Friday, January 4th, 2013

It’s been some time since we had a peek into Gerald Dodd’s wonderful photo album from the 1960s, when he was a porter at Dreadnought Hospital and carried his camera everywhere he went.

Today, though, I want to look at something a little different – another pride-and-joy of Gerald’s, his movie camera. Gerald dickered with Super 8 throughout his time at the hospital and though it’s a bit fuzzy by today’s standards, I still find these tiny, fleeting slices of ordinary life fascinating.

We’ll start with our old friend Harry Glassblower:

Harry’s also in this one, as are Gerald’s knees at one point, and Gerald himself, if you don’t blink…

I wonder if anyone has stood at the gates of the Old Royal Naval College and just taken film of the traffic since Gerald did. It was very ordinary for him – but for us, who haven’t seen an open-backed Routemaster for years around Greenwich’s one-way system, it’s a little glimpse into the past. The couple of seconds footage of Blackheath show that some things don’t change, of course…

This is one of my favourites – a little of Docklands, a little of the river, Dreadnought, the area around – and some views from the roof of the Nurses Home (now Devonport House…)

Finally a film of two halves – the first half being the view from Devonport House again, including some spooky shots of the Cutty Sark and St Alfege, and then, from 1.33, shots of Gerald, Harry and his mates messing around – with Gerald’s bike, with a bottle, with a car, with each other. I love it.

Thank you Gerald – and thanks too, to your son-in-law who digitised them. It’s a joy to see these films.

Filming Again At ORNC

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Anyone know which BBC drama’s being filmed at the ORNC this evening? One horse-drawn carriage and a few cold-looking Victorians…

Big Oak Timbers From Little Acorns Grow

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Okay, so I VERY rarely stray out of the confines of Greenwich, but when I do it’s because it’s something that I think is truly magical, truly worthwhile and truly brilliant. And today’s post ticks all those boxes as far as I’m concerned. And it’s not THAT far away…

Readers with memories better than mine may remember the post about the Sands Cinema Club, a free screening club run by Olivier Stockman, the film producer/director/guru for whom celluloid runs in his very veins (an odd image, but stay with me…)

Olivier is obsessed by film. He loves it, and the more obscure the better. You only have to go along to his Tuesday evening institution, sink into the tatty collection of armchairs and watch him thread up the projector (or, more often these days, stick a DVD in the tray) to see that.

But this wonderful little club is only a sideshoot of what Olivier Stockman does, a little personal hobby. His REAL work is the Sands Film Studios, the daintiest, cutest and funkiest little production house you’ll ever see. He rescued the Victorian Grice’s Granary warehouse in Rotherhithe – a mere stroll up the Thames Path or a quick trip on the 188 – back in the 1970s when the area was a wasteland of – well, not very much, really, and turned it into a proper, working film studio with sound stages, workshops, the lot.

And over the years it’s made some pretty fabulous productions – from Little Dorrit to Bright Star, and its famous costume studios, also on-site have clothed blockbusters such as The Duchess, Atonement, Marie Antoinette, Young Victoria and, er, Burke and Hare (I didn’t say they were all good…) This year will see Bel Ami and Anonymous as productions Sands has had a South London hand in.

The other brilliant thing the place has is a giant picture library, with millions of fantastic images, from costume to local history, all open and free to the public. If you go there, you can often see the costumiers at work, embroidering a natty waistocoat or sewing beads on a ball gown, all under the fabulous low-slung original oak beams.

This place doesn’t just feel magic, it IS magic.

So – why am I writing about it today?

Because for every dream there’s someone who wants to turn it into a nightmare. And Olivier is experiencing the classic cauchemar. The owner of the building has decided he can make more hard cash out of kicking out the studio and redeveloping the lot as luxury flats.

This, however, is NOT a call to arms to sign a petition or picket the evil developer. Olivier has come up with a solution that might just work and the Svengali in me is really rather excited about it.

This is not a failing business that has to be propped up. Sands has plenty of work, it just doesn’t hold the darn freehold. So Olivier is creating his own version of community shares – not a giant stock-market thing, just a simple way of getting people to help him buy the building’s freehold, become part of the movie business – and actually get return on their investment.

He’s keen not to go to giant investors who might be only too happy to put up the cash – and then dictate corner-cuts that would ultimately ruin his unique place in the market. He’s not using a broker and would prefer lots of small investors. The returns look pretty impressive. Vanessa Redgrave is already sold and is one of a growing number of local people sinking a small amount of cash into a local, flourishing and – let’s face it – romantic – business.

It’s all being done properly, administered by HMRC and because this is just the sort of thing the government wants to do – encourage investment in small businesses – there are a number of rather attractive tax breaks – not least a 30% tax credit.

I’m not the best Phantom to explain all the heavy financial details  so at this point I’m going to  give you some links. I am probably the world’s worst financial advisor – but I love this idea with a passion. An independent view of the project is available here

To arrange a visit or receive the share offer document, contact Olivier Stockman on 020 72312209 or email him at

The studio will be open for potential investors to look around this Saturday 30th July. More info on the website

The Hobbyist

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Off-topic-ish, I know – but I have to tell you about the short that comes with District 9 at the Picturehouse just now.

The Hobbyist had me chuckling all the way through its couple of minutes. Given how grim D9 is, maybe they should show it afterwards, too, to cheer everyone up.

But that’s what I love about the Picturehouse – bringing back the concept of the short as part of an evening’s movie entertainment.

I’m still really impressed with the way the Picturehouse goes that extra hundred miles in comparison to the Odeon and the O2 (and it’s cheaper than the other two local venues too – Seamus (oops sorry Seamus) was telling me that for under-16s it’s £5.50 compared with the Odeon’s £8.50. For the rest of us, Monday night is cheap night at the Picturehouse – £6.50 a ticket or, if a fiver if you’re a member (you are a member, aren’t you..? Unless you are a dedicated film-hater, Picturehouse membership is one of those things you HAVE to have if you live in Greenwich. You save money almost the moment you join…)

Next Greenwich-filmed movie coming up is Dorian Gray, which has ‘average’ reviews, but hey. Sean sent me the trailer, which is littered with Greenwich bits and bobs – and a badly-disguised yellow box.