Without wishing to sound too much like an old relic, the last time I pounded the streets of Soho with such fervour was in 1986.
I was looking for my first job in commercials and spent the best part of six months walking from door to door, talking to anyone who would talk to me and point me in the direction of the next useful contact. FYI - RSA Films very kindly let me in after a chance meeting led to three years' peerless production training.
Last Thursday's mission was different - to deliver around 250 Christmas cards, dispensing festive goodwill from Indibook Towers to as many production offices as possible. Given the ludicrous price of stamps, and my desire to 'really see' Soho again, I decided to deliver by hand.
And I'm glad I did.
Apart from having to sit down most of the next day, I got to revisit my familiar streets, spot the few survivors from my 1980's years around Lexington Street - Lina Stores, Andrew Edmunds, the NCP car park - and mourn the losses - Broadwick St. Post Office, Andy The Taylor and the all production companies who are no longer with us. I also had a chance to reflect on the similarities and differences that characterise the new generation who live, work and define today's Soho…
It's probably my age but producers seem to be getting younger and groovier, if looking like an Edwardian Gent is your thing. Honestly, some of the male bushiness on display is commendable. Speaking as someone who can barely grow designer stubble - well done, chaps!
Quite apart from the horizontal distance covered, I think some note must be made of the vertical heights covered on my epic journey. Just when you thought there couldn't be any more stairs to climb to reach the next production office - there are more stairs. To be fair, though, the views are usually spectacular once you get up there, despite the lack of oxygen masks.
Back Alleys pt 1
A lot of production offices still favour the alleys and courtyards that once would have graced the front cover of a tragic Dickensian novella. The contrast once inside the office though is usually mercifully dramatic.
Speaking as one who worked here, I believe I have a right to state that it is still the most unassuming / dull of all Soho's streets, especially since Wagamama upped sticks and left. Notable exception is the phenomenally long-lived 'Andrew Edmunds' of course.
Production companies have de-Soho'd a bit and set themselves up in new enclaves. Looking at the addresses on the Christmas cards, you still have the original Soho W1Fs, the newer Northern Territories of W1T, P, etc. and the Pioneers out in the hipster Google Zones of EC1 and 2. Having walked to and around a large proportion of London's production offices last Thursday, I am eternally grateful for this desire to cluster :-)
Back Alleys pt 2
Those companies emigrating to the New Territories still seem to favour the Back Alley wherever possible, like some kind of genetic comfort blanket.
My seasonal deliveries allowed me to witness some of the most wonderful Production Office Christmas trees. Most were lovingly and proudly decorated by the unsung heroes of every production office, the Receptionists.
We salute you and your festive tribute!
Have a great Christmas everyone - and happy New Year!
About the Author
Richard Lingard heads up Indibook and is the first point of contact for production and crew. He still works as 1st AD whenever possible and is a fervent admirer of damn fine coffee, biscuits and cake.