Reading University TV Studio, Shinfield

from late 2022

 

reading tv studio 450p

 

In February 2020 Reading University announced that they had done a deal with Blackhall Studios to build a large film studio complex on land they owned at Thames Valley Science Park, next to the M4 near Junction 11.  This is due to open in 2022.  However, it consists of 4-waller sound stages suitable for shooting films and TV drama, but not for multicamera TV shows.

I gather the University were contacted by a TV lighting company after the announcement was made and it was pointed out to them that they really ought to include a fully equipped TV studio in their plans.  As it happened, they had a site earmarked for further expansion next to their existing Gateway buildings, which house a number of R&D and tech companies.

Plans were drawn up in the summer of 2020 that included a studio of around 20,000 sq ft. (This is very large indeed!)  According to the University’s website, the proposal was to use a building contractor that specialises in constructing large temporary venues for conferences and events.  Apparently, the building itself was to be erected in less than a week (!) and so would hopefully be available from early 2021.

 

My understanding is that BBC Studioworks then became involved in this project.  They brought their experience to bear and it would appear that the original plans were modified accordingly.  The studio will now have a floor area of about 13,000 sq ft (a rather more realistic and useful size).  From the plans, it looks as though the working area will be approximately 130 x 100 metric feet.  It will have a workshop/storage area and production offices, green rooms, dressing rooms, wardrobe/make up areas etc.  The 4K studio will be aimed at shiny floor audience shows and will be fully equipped with production, sound and lighting control rooms.  There will be easy access for crew members and production teams to the existing cafeteria in the Gateway 1 building.

An application for planning permission was submitted to Wokingham Borough Council in January 2021.  Permission was granted in July.  The opening date is said to be late 2022.  Any idea of this being a ‘pop-up’ temporary building has been quietly dropped.  Indeed, the university claims that ‘the studio could create over £225m of value over 30 years’ – so this does appear to be a long term investment.  I have looked at the plans and the whole scheme appears to be very well thought-out.

 

Of course, some might ask why BBC Studioworks need a studio near Reading?  One answer is that it is outside the M25 so is a ‘regional’ studio.  This ticks that particular box demanded by Ofcom but also means that freelance crew who live west of London will be available without the cost of travel and accommodation.  This would be attractive to many production companies.  Also, I can’t help noticing that it is a similar size to the George Lucas stages at Elstree, where Strictly Come Dancing is made.  Studioworks rent that studio from Elstree Studios (owned by Hertsmere Council), who can of course charge them whatever they like.  Having their own studio in competition with Elstree puts Studioworks in a very interesting position.