Cambridge Road Estate residents in Kingston are looking forward to a new internet café opening this month – thanks to donations from filmmakers including Paul Whitehouse.
Residents Association chair Harry Hall says recent funding has been put toward opening the café where four computers with free internet access will be available.
He said, “It’s going to come in really handy, helping residents look for work or trying to arrange alternative housing.”
Some Girls, Call the Midwife and the new Paul Whitehouse comedy Nurse are the most recent TV shows to use the estate as a location.
Mr Hall, who has lived on or near the estate all his life, explains that the neighbourhood has hosted filming over many years, “We had The Bill for a very long time. In fact, Kingston Council’s resident fund from The Bill is still going. Some of it went towards play and fitness equipment areas across the estate.
“The Bill shot the final episode here, right outside my home. It was pretty action packed, with a riot and a car explosion, huge flames coming out – it was really interesting to watch.
“They used our buildings when they needed a ‘rough estate’ – which we didn’t mind at all. If it really was a rough estate you wouldn’t be able to film here.”
Mr Hall says more recent shoots are attracting a lot of interest from younger residents, “The kids like to see famous faces on their doorstep and they tend to ask for autographs. I have to say the crews are pleasant to have around.”
He says the secret is a good relationship between Kingston Film Office, (which is managed by FilmFixer), and residents.
“We did have a security company once who were getting a bit heavy and we let the film office know. They asked the location manager to change security companies – which happened – and everyone was happy after that.”
Built in 1969, the estate was considered just old enough to be featured in period drama Call the Midwife. Harry did his best to help the location manager move some modern cars out of shot, in another example of how valuable good relations can be.
“They always send me a summary, so I know what’s going to be happening, and I can advise if I think any other residents need to be involved, or something’s not going to work. But to be honest, we haven’t had any negative experience of filming. It’s the reverse really, most of us find it really interesting to watch happening.”
As the donations continue for filming, they will be put toward the ongoing costs of the internet café and a fund for establishing a community hall.
“There’s a lot of good work that we can do for residents,” Mr Hall says. “The donations come in handy for projects that can really make a difference. It’s part of the reason we’re happy to keep hosting friendly film crews.”