Hollywood comes to Dagenham

Plans for films made in Dagenham took another step towards reality this week when the preferred bidders to build what will be London’s largest studios visited the site to meet the leader of Barking and Dagenham Council. 

Cllr Darren Rodwell met with Dana Arnold, Chief Executive Officer of Pacifica Ventures and Sasha Shapiro, Managing Director of Media Content Capital, as part of a review of progress with Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering regeneration company.  Be First is tasked with delivering the studio complex, which includes sound stages, media office complex, and a public entertainment complex.

Cllr Rodwell, Be First’s Managing Director, Pat Hayes, and the USA based duo also met up with local education chiefs, media students from Barking and Dagenham College and Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London.

Councillor Darren Rodwell said: “It’s great to meet Dana and Sasha. Their presence here confirms their commitment to help make our dream to have London’s largest film and TV studios come true, so that Dagenham becomes London’s Hollywood.”

“Film and the creative industries are a massive growth sector, so I was especially pleased to be able to introduce them to some of the key players in our local educational scene to start the conversation about jobs and opportunities for local young people.

Dana Arnold said: “We are excited to be meeting with Darren to report our progress in the effort to create not only the largest new, state of the art film and television production facility in London, but also what we believe will become the new media hub for all of London.

“We believe it will attract not only production but also every level of media creation, from preproduction, visual effects, and post production to development and delivery of all types of digital media.  The opportunity to create a digital media centre that will attract and hire the finest craftspeople and artisans in the U.K. is an honour.”

Sasha Shapiro said: “It is a pleasure to join with Darren in our effort to bring the world’s major producers of film and all forms of digital media to Dagenham where they will create the next generation of technically advanced film and television media that will be seen all over the world and make the phrase, “Made in Dagenham”, take on new meaning in the digital age.”

Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First, said: “Our plans are very much on course to deliver what will be London’s largest studios so we can make Dagenham as famous for films as it is for Fords.”

Yvonne Kelly, Principal and Chief Executive of Barking and Dagenham College, said: “It’s great for the college and the students to meet the people behind these exciting plans.

“Our college has a great track record of producing media personalities, including Idris Elba, and we believe having huge film studios on our doorstep will inspire students to get involved in the industry whether that’s in front of the camera or behind it.”

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: “It’s hugely positive for both London and the UK to see plans progressing for this important development which will bring vital new infrastructure and much-needed additional space. The capital is at the forefront when it comes to delivery of world class content, skills and creativity and it’s been a pleasure to meet with both Pacifica and Barking & Dagenham today to move forward discussions around promoting the new facilities, bringing major titles to east London and, ultimately, championing the capital as the best place in the world to make big-budget film and TV.”


Famous five east end women honoured

Five famous east London women have been honoured after their images painted by Barking school children went up on hoardings by their school.

The paintings of entertainers Dame Vera Lynn, who was from East Ham and lived in Dagenham, Sandie Shaw, who hailed from Dagenham, former Barking MP, Jo Richardson, Humanitarian Elizabeth Fry, who lived in East Ham, and St Ethelburga, the first Abbess of the monastery of Barking, were created by Years eight and nine at Greatfields School.

The school is currently being built in phases as part of the wider regeneration of the Gascoigne East estate in Barking.

Attending the official unveiling of the paintings were Headteacher Richard Paul of Greatfields School, Sarah Knight, Head of Art at Greatfields, the pupils involved in the project, Cllr Lynda Rice, Iain Ferguson of Be First, Andrew Shepherd CEO of Mid-Group Alison Cormack, of Bouygues UK, who was the brainchild of the project.

Dame Vera Lynn said: “I am delighted to be remembered in this way by the children of east London. As an east ender I was always proud of where I was born and bred and this makes me feel prouder still.”

Sandie Shaw said: “I am absolutely thrilled that I’ve been honoured in this way and I hope the children enjoyed their project. It’s very humbling, and now I not only have some great memories of Barking and Dagenham, I will also have something there to remind me!”

Sarah Knight of Greatfields School, said: “This project brought alive real local historical figures through art. It was such a great idea by Alison and the pupils really became engaged and found out how and why strong east London women have made such a huge impact on our country and society.”

Cllr Lynda Rice, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Diversity, said: “This borough has always produced powerful strong women and it’s great to see these iconic east end women recognised in this way.

“All of them in their own way helped shape our community, from St Ethelburga and Elizabeth Fry to Dame Vera Lynn who kept up morale in the war, and to Sandie Shaw, who was a trailblazing 60s singer with a sound made in Dagenham. They are inspirations to women in the borough today.”

Alison Cormack, of Bouygues UK, who was the brainchild behind the scheme and worked with Greatfields School art teacher Sarah Knight, said: “The idea for the project came about as part of my resident liaison officer role for Bouygues UK on the Weavers Quarter scheme we have just completed.  This involved working closely with Greatfields School and it was through engaging with Sarah and the school art club about community events that the idea to honour five famous local women evolved.

“Barking and Dagenham has an impressively rich history of trailblazing women and in a year which commemorates 100 years of some women getting the vote, it seemed very appropriate to commemorate some of our local female legends in a way which would engage the local community. These hoardings are a wonderful way to do this and it’s fantastic to see the scheme come to fruition!”

Iain Ferguson, Commercial Director at Be First, which is helping to deliver the new school and the regeneration of the Gascoigne East estate, said: “The images of these iconic east London women are an apt addition to the building of what will be a ground-breaking regenerated estate in a buzzing east London borough.”

Andrew Shepherd of Mid-Group, who are the builders of Greatfields School, and whose hoardings the paintings are fixed to, said: “We’re proud to help showcase the paintings and the images of these great east end women. We’re equally proud to help build Greatfields, which is showing what a great community school it is.”


Development framework winners named

Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering regeneration company, has named the four construction companies that will join its new Development Framework, Lot 1 for projects up to £20 million.

They are:

  • J.Murphy & Sons Ltd
  • Jerram Falkus Construction Ltd
  • Mulalley & Company Ltd
  • United Living (South) Ltd

Iain Ferguson, Commercial Director at Be First, said: “There was fierce competition for places.

“We are putting rocket boosters on our mission to deliver affordable homes for local people and the framework gives us immediate access to top quality construction expertise.

“It was an exhaustive selection process, but we’re delighted to welcome these four to the framework and look forward to working with them to accelerate development in Barking and Dagenham.”

The tender process included a competition to build a live project and submissions were assessed against their ability to deliver a £5.5 million refurbishment of the Sacred Heart convent.

The live project has been awarded to J. Murphy & Sons Ltd who will now build 9 flats and 20 new houses at the Sacred Heart site (pictured).

The contractors appointed to the Lot 2 Framework for projects £10 million upwards will be announced in the New Year.

Together the two frameworks are worth almost £1 billion and cover Be First’s 44 development projects and related infrastructure schemes.

Coming soon – hundreds of homes and an arthouse cinema

Permission was granted for more than 200 new homes in Barking and Dagenham at planning committee last night (10 December 2018).

Councillors approved three very different schemes proposed by Be First, the borough’s pioneering regeneration company, each set to provide affordable homes for local people.

  • The first project, planned for the site of the old Abbey Sports Centre at Axe Street in Barking, is a joint venture with Lindhill Properties which will deliver 170 apartments with at least 35 per cent at below market rate, as well as a new two screen cinema run by operators Arthouse.
  • The second will provide six flats with associated parking and landscaping on a largely disused garage site at Mellish Close in Barking.  The new one, two and three bedroom flats will be for rent to council tenants and constructed using modular construction techniques. It is the second time the council has approved this method of construction in the borough.
  • The third approval was given for the renovation of the Sacred Heart Convent at Goresbrook Road in Dagenham.  The plans for this long-vacated convent will provide nine flats in the 1930’s-built building itself and 20 new houses in the grounds.  All the new homes will be let at below market rents.

Director of Be First, Pat Hayes said: “We’re now stepping up the pace of our programme to build much-needed new homes for the borough in a wide range of styles and types.  What they all have in common is high quality and low rents for local people. And, that’s a combination that we’re determined to deliver more of in the next few years.”