Visit to Sands Films

Sands out

The converted warehouse

A box of delights in Rotherhithe

I confess that I didn’t know – and I suspect that most of those on the visit to this back-street building near the Southern entrance to the Rotherhithe tunnel didn’t know either – what a treasure trove is stored here and continues to be added to and worked upon.

Since 1975, 83 Saint Marychurch Street, itself a converted warehouse with a rich history of trade in the docks for exotic fruits, sugar and spices, has housed a film studio with production facilities, a costumier with an international reputation, a cinema and a picture library that is open to all. As well as making its own films – “Little Dorrit” probably being the best example – it has helped produce or supply costumes for many more, including many BBC productions, such as the upcoming Richard III, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

sewing room

Richard Goodwin and Christine Edzard, the founders, have created and nurtured a remarkable and very valuable operation, which not only creates in-house, but also opens a window on another world. The picture library occupies a whole floor and, unlike many modern resources, is not digital but completely physical; shelves and shelves of scrapbooks filled with pictures. Nothing is ever thrown away.

Christina's

As an example of the resources they have and the light they can shine on local history, we were treated to a showing of their own film of the work in the Peak Frean’s biscuit factory in Bermondsey – both in 1906 and in 1988 just before it finally closed.

costumeboxes

In the costume workshops, there is an adherence to historical integrity and, although they are engaged in recreating or faking the appearance of historical costumes for the stage and screen, they do so with absolute integrity, using original fabrics and techniques as much as they can. The attention to detail is phenomenal and in return, the studio knows it can rely on continued work with top class and international projects. They do not often visit sets, the actors make the journey to Rotherhithe for their fittings. The staff and volunteers who work there have also found themselves a workplace like no other; one that inspires a deep sense of place and time and a fierce loyalty and devotion.

See it for yourself; the library and cinema club are both open to the public (but full tours have to be pre-arranged).

 sandsfilms.co.uk

silhouette

82 Saint Marychurch Street, London SE16 4HZ

Jonathan Chandler