Where and What Is Paradise
16mm film Black & White Sound 1960s 15:30
Summary: University project in the1960s about Brentford, including scenes shot inside the old Brentford gasometer.
Title number: 19434
LSA ID: LSA/25812
Description: Opening title reads "Kingston College of Art Students Union Film Society Presents" followed by various shots of local newspaper headlines from Brentford. Opening credits read "a film by Chris Owen" and "assisted by Joe Ruddy, Julia Oliver, Simon Rees-Roberts." Opening shot is taken from the Thames river bank looking over towards the Brentford Gasworks, soon to be demolished. The river bank is lined with trees, behind which the huge gasworks tower over them through the mist, with sounds of traffic in the background. Boats and small warehouses are cluttered around the muddy riverbank, whilst behind this a huge gas tower dominates the skyline. Another, narrower chimney sticks up further to the eastern side of the gasworks. A street sign reads 'Middlesex'. Victorian warehouses are busy with traffic; cars and trolleys bustle around carrying newspapers and piles of vegetables. One truck is labelled 'Borough of Brentford & Chiswick' and we hear tradespeople chatting. A high street shop with a Victorian shop front called 'Young Son & Marlow' is revealed to be a Scalemakers as the camera pans up. The gasworks tower over and dominate the streets. Suddenly, we are ascending the gasworks; we see the huge height through gaps in a rusty metal staircase. The camera pans around the view to reveal the extraordinary height of the structure, looking down at the high street, terraced houses, Kew Bridge and the Thames, and the Church of St. George (this church still exists but is disused). The filmmaker Chris Owen, unseen, discusses details of the gasworks with another unseen man who has an unidentified accent, possibly Indian. Various shots of the industrial details of the gasworks follow, with the speed of cuts between shots steadily increasing to create the impression of a vast maze of pipes and bridges. With the camera now at ground level, we hear the recording of the filmmaker's conversation with two young girls (who remain unseen) as the camera continues to cut between images of the gasworks. The girls (one of whom, we hear, is seven years old) discuss how the gas works smell; this view is afterwards echoed by the voice of a woman with a strong London accent. More shots of neighboring warehouses, and children's voices. A lock, and barges, and Victorian houses and carts. Victorian houses with a large billboard for News of the World. A large, imposing Victorian house bears a sign for London City Mission. Close-up of a sign for Brentford Freeschool (erected in 1815). The Congregational Church, again Victorian, followed by more Victorian Neo-Gothic buildings including a Post Office. The focus now switches to people in the street, judging by their clothing in the early- to mid-1960's. Another voice is heard, explaining of the filmmaker that "he's making a film about Brentford, especially the gasworks because they're gonna be pulled down, and he's a big fan of Victorian architecture." The Beehive Hotel and Public Bar, a beautiful Victorian building with men drinking outside; a derelict row of Victorian shops with bow windows. Again, the main tower of the gasworks towers over the high street. The children can be heard talking about their sandwiches. A horse and cart goes down a street and a small car passes it. The children ask why they have a camera; the filmmaker explains that they are making a film about Brentford. A sign is seen for Distillery Road, then Pottery Road. Older women's voices claim the gasworks are an eyesore and should be pulled down. A sign for the Piano Museum, outside St. George's Church. The last shots again show the gasworks tower looming over houses as voices argue that the planned demolition works will improve the area.
Credits: Chris Owen; Joe Ruddy; Julia Oliver; Simon Rees-Roberts
Keywords: Demolition; Architecture; Industry; River Thames; Gasworks
Locations: United Kingdom; England; London; Hounslow; Brentford, Kew Bridge; United Kingdom; England; London; River Thames
Martin Downes wrote on November 10, 2015:Dear all, My name is Martin and i live on a boat at Waterman's Park (the site of the Old gasworks)…Dear all,
My name is Martin and i live on a boat at Waterman's Park (the site of the Old gasworks) and i was amazed to see the size and scale of the gasworks in the film. There is such limited information about the old gasworks out in the public domain and Chris's film was a real jaw dropper for us all to watch, it was so informative to help us understand the history of the site that we now live on.
As an architectural graduate i was also fascinated by the industrial architecture of the buildings of the gas works and believe that a design for the redevelopment of Waterman's Park has to use the remaining historic works still present in the Park.
Currently the boat community at Waterman's Park is in the process of being evicted, to be replaced by a sterile and dead redevelopment by Hounslow Council, in the park.
The boat community are setting up websites and change.org petitions to stop the redevelopment. I have also put together a historically influenced alternate design and we would love to be able to use the film to educate the borough about the scale of the industrial work that is now buried under the site.
We have received several toxicology reports that state the severity of the industrial waste under the site and the adverse effect any construction work on the site will have on the surrounding ecosystem and water quality of the River Thames.
An interview with Chris (or Joe, Julia and Simon) would be an amazing feature that we could add to the media campaign we are kicking off in a week or two.
To talk to Chris himself, the man who has actually walked through the site before it was demolished and filmed it, really would be dream for us.
If there is anyone out there who could help us contact Andrew Finney, Chris Owens or any of the other filmmakers credited, would be invaluable to our cause.