For new residents of Borehamwood and for readers elsewhere I guess most of you know of course about Elstree Studios, founded in 1926, and the BBC Elstree Centre, originally founded as the Neptune Film Company in 1914, that are situated off the main high street. In particular many people visit Elstree Studios to watch the recordings of television shows like Strictly Come Dancing, Big Brother and The Chase to name a few. That may help to explain why the high street, known as Shenley Road, is now the eating experience capital of Hertfordshire. Personally I seldom eat out because I am tight and am capable of cooking myself a great meal for a fiver but that is just me. Mind you if I am invited out for a free meal then I am your man.

The spin-off business to our community is important, so long may both studios flourish. Alas, four of the other studios that existed in Elstree and Borehamwood over the years have bitten the dust.

The second oldest, the Gate Studios, opened in 1928 and was located in Station Road opposite the railway station. Bad timing in that the following year the talkies really took hold so it had to be sound proofed. Alas, that was only partially successful so when the old steam trains came along a young member of the film crew would be stationed on the studio roof and ring an alarm to halt filming.

I guess the most famous film shot there was Odette, a true life wartime drama starring Anna Neagle and Trevor Howard, and in the early 1930s a young Cary Grant filmed there and in the 1950s so did Max Bygraves.

From the late 1950s it became a centre for cinema screen manufacture by a company called Harkness, which many local residents will recall. Indeed they were at one time in the Guinness Book of Records for making the largest screen in the World. Not a lot of people know this but in the heyday of cinema people were allowed to smoke while watching the film. The result was that cinema screens often had to be changed every couple of years due to nicotine staining.

When Harkness closed their facility some years ago I tried to get the studio listed and turned into a film museum. Alas the Government refused to help and so the site is now occupied by blocks of flats. They adopt an attitude that the bricks and mortar in which films are made is of no historical importance. Indeed when I was chairing the campaign to save Elstree Studios, English Heritage or whatever they were then called, refused to list the studio for preservation. Thankfully fate was on our side in that fight. However, I lost another fight to save the iconic 1930s MGM clock tower and admin block in the mid 1980s. It was a local landmark but apparently that did not count. Some people still blame Hertsmere Council but that is not fair as under planning law they had no powers to stop the owner of an unlisted building from demolishing it.

To me the finest studio we ever had in Borehamwood was the late great MGM British Studios that fronted onto Elstree Way and occupied 20 acres of buildings and nearly 100 acres of backlot, now occupied by the Studio estate. If you want to know something about its history I would refer you to the two heritage boards we have erected at the bottom of Studio Way. I had the great joy from the mid 1970s to name the roads on the estate after film stars and other film studios but I wonder how many residents recognise the names? After all, it is 48 years ago since MGM closed its doors so why would you? Have you heard of Bray Studios, Richard Todd, Anna Neagle or Danziger Studios?

Luckily, Elstree Screen Heritage in association with our local government partners in the First Impressions have created a heritage trail of boards stretching from the railway station to Elstree Way. In a small but important way it salutes our unique film and television legacy in Borehamwood, which is unrivalled outside Hollywood. Personally I would love to see a local film and television heritage centre but without wealthy sponsors I doubt it will happen. By the way, billionaire George Lucas who made your name and nine films at Elstree Studios, this is a gentle hint. We both have one foot in the grave so let us make it happen and I await your cheque in the post. Until next time, take care and carry on regardless!