Merman, ‘Peep Show’ execs unveil $290m funding for new UK studio

Ashford International Studios

A proposal for a new UK-based production studio has received £250m ($290m) in funding from The Creative District Improvement Company (TDCI), which was founded by execs behind UK prodco Merman and the producer of shows such as The Inbetweeners.

The project is being supported by property developers Quinn Estates and spearheaded by TDCI co-founders Piers Read, who produced The Inbetweeners and Peep Show, and Jeremy Rainbird, who launched the prodco Merman.

They plan to convert the derelict 15-acre Newtown Rail Works site in Ashford in Kent, south-east England, into Ashford International Studios, a new TV and film studio that they say will create 3,000 jobs. The project is scheduled to be completed next year.

The plan is to create 80,000 sq. ft. of studio space, 80,000 sq. ft. of ancillary production space, 50,000 sq. ft. of storage space, and a 30,000 sq. ft. media village, including the Future Media Center, an educational hub developed in partnership with educational institutions in the area.

Rainbird say that he still expect the project to get underway by the end of this year, despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We are looking across the valley, not into it,” he said. “There will be even greater demand for studio space than there is now once this is all over. Everyone will need space.”

Studio space has been at a premium in the UK over recent years, with producers finding space increasingly hard to find. Disney has a long-term deal at Pinewood Studios and last year, Netflix struck a deal to secure space at London’s Shepperton Studios, putting further pressure on other outfits.

It has prompted several recent plans for expansion, including Sky’s development of a 32-acre film and TV studio at North London’s Elstree, which set to bring about more than 2,000 jobs to the UK creative sector.


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