Remembering Cosgrove Hall Studios
Niki Hutchinson, reminisces about his his experience visiting Cosgrove Hall studios in 2003 as a teenager. Niki has volunteered with the Cosgrove Hall Films Archive and continues to support our work - a special thank you to Niki for his contribution.
Having been born at the tail end of the 80's and then growing up through the 90’s grew up watching the likes of Dangermouse, Duckula, Alias the Jester, Avengers Penguins, Victor and Hugo: Bunglers in Crime, Sooty’s Amazing Adventures (seriously, I could just keep on going here!!) whenever they happened to be on. In the mid 2000’s I realised just how wonderfully oddball and unique their sense of humour really was!! However, it wasn’t until 2003 that I would get the chance to visit the rightful birth place of these eccentric creations.
I discovered that one of Europe’s most renowned animation studios was located not in the depths of London, Nottingham or even in Liverpool, but in Lancashire, Manchester to be precise. For someone who lived in the North of England, this couldn’t have come at a better time.
I had just started getting interested in the idea of a career in animation and wanted to know more about how it all worked. Eventually, I managed to gain a contact, an employee of CHF by the name of Colin Davis. Colin was more than happy to allow my Mum, my two sisters and I to come down for a look around, and to do it on my 15th birthday!! (Not a bad present aye? ;))
So… on the 6th of August, we made our way to Chorlton-cum-Hardy. Having never been to this part of the country I was more than taken aback when we ended up in an unassuming housing estate next to, of all things, a Safeways! But indeed, this was the home of Manchester’s own animation power house, a massive (if not slightly faded) banner of the company’s logo was there to prove it!! This always makes me think of a seaside pier fairground whenever I’ve seen it. (1)
As we passed through the doors of the reception to await Colin’s arrival we looked around and immediately felt that a whole world of animation existed within these walls. From the life-size statues of Duckula and Igor(2), to the various promotional items. These ranged from the likes of Jamie and the Magic Torch to Discworld’s Soul Music. My eye was also drawn to the corner of the room which contained a display cabinet of their countless awards, one of them being a BAFTA, which I actually got to hold!! Although, a word of warning, the bottom part is a lot heavier than it seems.
As we climbed up the stairs with Colin, from then on, we were given total access to the whole of the building. From Brian’s personal office retreat, to CH’s own Digital department. Along the way we visited the film set where the new Andy Pandy series was being made and where the puppet’s were stored (3). even a tiny editing suite with the words “Do Not Enter” wasn’t off limit to us! Throughout the visit we met with many of crew members who chatted to us that day… some of them had been there since the early days of DM all of whom are unforgettable.
By the time we made our way to the 2D department and Colin’s workstation, he told me, if I came back in a few years time (with experience in producing animation) he would gladly consider me for any vacancies they had. As our tour ended and we prepared to make our way home, leaving with a smile on my face and a goodie bag in my hand (you can never be to old for one of those ;)) I honesty felt, at that tender age, that I had genuinely found my place in the world and was more than eager, to one day return and become part of it!
However the sad truth was, I would never get my chance to do so. Due to a change of management at the time and an ever increasing demand to buy overseas programming, the company would be dissolved in 2009 and eventually the building itself knocked down and a retirement home built in its place. So yeah... I was upset (if not a little heartbroken) and yet all these years later I have never forgotten what Colin did for me that day and the amazing experience I had. In fact, it only urged me on to find out more about their illustrious legacy. Whether its been traveling to locations and events, owning pieces of their work or befriending former staff members and even getting to meet Brian Cosgrove himself. In many ways I have tried to keep a little part of CH’s history alive within me and hopefully I will be able to continue to do so (4).
‘Attending the opening of the CHFA showcase with former Art director Bridget Appleby’ Image: Mario Popham, Waterside Arts October 2017