The Sands Films Studios in Rotherhithe are housed in an unprepossessing Grade II listed former granary. The Studios were founded in the 1970s and offer film production facilities, as you may expect, but also a cinema club (free) and a renowned costume-making workshop. You may have seen their creations in such films as Little Dorrit (1988), Vanity Fair (2004), The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Pride and Prejudice (2005) or Fingersmith (2005), among many others.
But there’s more to this granary than period costume and free flicks. It’s also home to Rotherhithe Picture Research Library. Neatly tucked on the ground floor of the oldest part of the building, its ceiling is supported by 18th century reclaimed ships’ timbers. Inside, imagine a giant scrapbook of thousands of images, photographs and other magazine clippings brought together in a serendipitously haphazard way, covering subjects as varied and far apart as advertising and packaging to costumes, via domestic utensils, nature, transport or war. Add to that a collection about local history and you begin to get a picture of the visual cornucopia treasured here and used by researchers, stage and fashion designers as well as local school kids.
The staff are incredibly friendly, welcoming and passionate, and although what looks like a cafe is actually a staff canteen, Neil, a ‘propah cockney’ (although his mum is apparently from Norwich) who seems to be the manager there, will probably let you have a bite if you ask nicely, and later come and sit with you for a nice cuppa and a good old chinwag. He assures us that the best time for a visit is on Tuesdays, when Olivier, the enthusiast in charge, is at hand and able to guide you through his treasures.