When Slough was Ran by Puppets...

When Slough was Ran by Puppets...

28 Dec

By Clarissa Hearn

As we approach a New Year, lots of people like to reflect on the past. Earlier last year we learnt that our Protyre Slough centre in Slough used to be more about miniature car tyres than the full-sized ones worked on today!

The site (pictured above circa 1960) used to be home to APF studios more commonly recognised by Gerry Anderson famously known as the creator for many 1960’s classic tv shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray.

Gerry owned a small number of studios under the business name APF (with associate Arthur Provis who left shortly after starting the project) in the area. When commissioned by Granada to make a 52 part series for Four Feather Falls he looked to find a bigger site as a studio and in June 1959 APF took over the site on Ipswich Road on the Slough Trading Estate.

Though called a studio the site was a small industrial building/warehouse, but provided four times the space they had had at Islet Park. It took 6 weeks for the team there to adapt the building for filming with one shooting stage (68 x 30ft) and a reasonable amount of workshop space with room for offices including a small 'theatre' for viewing rushes or recording dialogue.

gerry-a-ipswich-supercar-bridge-400p.png  gerry-a-ipswich-rd-stage-seeing-des-booth-450p.png

(Pictured left The puppeteers' Dexion bridge at  Road.  Cameraman Julien Lugrin is framing his shot using a TV monitor rather than the camera's viewfinder. Pictured right The Ipswich Road stage looking the other way.  The window is the designer's booth. To the right of this out of shot was the director's booth)

There was even a sound dubbing room, cutting rooms and an 'annexe' running along the side of the building which contained the darkroom (for loading film canisters) and the workshop where the puppets and sets were constructed. There was a back yard where exterior model shots involving a small water tank were filmed that was in view of traffic queuing on the road. The windows in the building were boarded up behind the glass to keep daylight out.


(Pictured left- A moving sky backing would be projected behind Supercar so it appeared to be flying.  It's assumed there are four 'people' aboard, judging by the number of operators. A tape deck with the pre-recorded dialogue also appears to be seen here in the foreground)

After APF left, the building was taken over by special effects designer Les Bowie.  He often worked on Hammer's horror films - in fact the small stage here was occasionally used when Bray was full for scenes involving effects. His films for Hammer included The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), Dracula (1958) and The Kiss of the Vampire (1963). He also won an Academy Award for his work on the 1978 film Superman.

You can view some fantastic historical overlays here of the site before and today:

Special thanks to tvstudiohistory for the imagery and further reading: http://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/gerry.htm#ipswich%20road
(C) James Fielding Photography 2014

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