Media: Thames, this is your afterlife: Sue Summers discovers how comedy is helping Teddington Studios to survive

AROUND the empty corridors of Teddington Studios is a chill no warm-up man can cure. For 26 years, as the production centre of Thames Television, Teddington was responsible for such hits as the Morecambe and Wise Show, Benny Hill and This is Your Life. But Thames loses its licence as an ITV broadcaster at the end of the month. Teddington, which employed 900 people, will now be lucky to employ 40.

It began in 1912, when a group of local actors persuaded the landlord of a house on the site, overlooking Teddington Lock, to let them use the grounds. The first studio went up at the end of the First World War. In 1929 British owners built the first sound stage and tried, unsuccessfully, to run it as Teddington Film Studios. Two years later, Teddington was taken over by Warner Bros, which sent Errol Flynn to make one of his first films there. But in 1944 a bomb almost destroyed the studio.

Teddington was reborn in the Fifties with the arrival of television. It became the home of ABC-TV, which amalgamated with Rediffusion in 1968 to form Thames. Such ground-breaking programmes as Sidney Newman's Armchair Theatre, Britain's first chat show (hosted by Eamonn Andrews), and The Avengers were made there. The studio's present marketing director, John White-Jones, was a cameraman on The Avengers, which went out live late in the evening. 'The reviewers used to talk about the subtlety of the soft-focus shots,' he says. 'That was because the cameramen had to wait for hours in the pub.'

Unlike the BBC's Ealing and Lime Grove studios, which shut down recently, there will still be life at Teddington. Thames's vast music library may be sitting in boxes on the floor of Studio Three, waiting to be auctioned off this weekend, but Teddington is being given a chance to survive. Next month it will become a stand-alone division of Thames, charged with making a profit by attracting production from the independent sector and even the BBC.

The world of television facilities is notoriously tough, and Teddington faces fierce competition from rivals such as LWT's London Studios. It cannot even bank on getting the programmes Thames itself will continue to make for the ITV network. 'We will only go on making shows like This is Your Life if we offer them a good deal,' says Mr White-Jones. 'Just because they are Thames shows doesn't mean we have a right to them.'

Even so, the signs are good. Not only has Teddington kept This is Your Life, it has already become the home of the BBC's Kilroy and Food and Drink. Last week it announced a three-year deal as the production base of SelecTV, the independent production group responsible for comedy shows such as Birds of a Feather and the forthcoming Thick as Thieves, Full Stretch and Tracey Ullman shows. SelecTV was previously based at Elstree, but Michael Pilsworth, its director of UK operations, says: 'Teddington is custom-made for sitcoms. We've already made pounds 1m of bookings there for next year, and we'll probably book another pounds 1m on top of that.'

One factor in Teddington's favour is that Thames was so confident about retaining its franchise that it invested millions in updating the studio's technical equipment just before the decision was announced. 'They have wonderful new cameras,' says Mr Pilsworth. 'And they've spent pounds 6m on post-production facilities. It will be the sitcom capital of Europe.'

Ewart Needham, Teddington's managing director, says the studio has a break-even figure of around pounds 4m. 'We will be exceeding that figure. We're budgeting for double in 1993. Will Teddington be a viable business? Very much so, we think.'

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
News
In other news ... Jon Snow performed at last year's Newsroom's Got Talent charity event
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

International Promotions Manager - Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: A global entertainment busi...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?