Last week I wrote about wandering around the deserted MGM studios in Borehamwood in 1970. Little did I know a similar fate would befall me two decades later.

I refer to Elstree Studios, which went through an awful time in the early 1990s and was almost lost. Indeed 12 acres and many buildings were lost to be replaced by the Tesco superstore.

I was honoured to chair the eight-year campaign to save Elstree Studios and a temporary exhibition about that time at the Museum will shortly be finishing after a six month run. It was good to see so many visitors and to relive some memories.

The campaign started in 1988 when the then owners Cannon Films, makers of such classics as Superman IV ­— or, as it was nicknamed, Superman on a shoestring ­— got into a financial mess. They had only purchased the facility two years earlier and had already sold off the historic film library. They announced the sale but the price was based on its redevelopment potential, which deterred any film companies. Indeed I even had a meeting with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who agreed to support the campaign but declined to consider buying the studio.

The SOS campaign committee garnered great support from the media and the public within just a few weeks. I remember 15,000 names on a petition and we held a public meeting attended by 700 people. Many famous names lent their support but the one that touched me the most was a letter from Peter Cushing, who was sadly dying of cancer. He told me he was frail and held together by super glue. but if needed he would join me laying down in front of the bulldozers.

Then Brent Walker stepped in with promises to modernise the studio on reduced acreage, which meant the sale to Tesco. It was a viable scheme and there were no other takers. Alas Brent Walker had overextended and when the downturn happened, the banks started calling in their loans. George Walker was ousted from his own company and we spent the next few years in effect fighting the banks, who were determined to asset strip and to renege on the planning agreement, which required the company to rebuild the modern facilities and keep the studio operating for 25 years.

That planning agreement with Hertsmere Council proved vital as it prevented them bulldozing the whole site. Instead they decided to turn away work and run down the facility. It was a policy of death by a thousand cuts. In 1993 they closed the studio, save for a couple of brave tenant companies who held out. They then started selling everything including furniture, stripping copper wiring and literally the kitchen sinks from the restaurant. Heating was turned off so over the next three years moss started to grow in damp dressing rooms. The giant underground car park was sealed up as it started to flood and bring down asbestos.

At the same time they always said if you can find a buyer from the film business then show them around the desolate site. I will tell you about some famous names I did show around but there is not enough room today. To cut a long story short, the council took Brent Walker to court and the banks rolled over to avoid more damaging publicity and sold the studio to the council for a fraction of its development worth. I spent the next four years as chairman of the Studio in a voluntary capacity helping to rebuild and expand the facility. That cumulated in inviting Prince Charles to open the two giant new stages.

All these years later Elstree Studios is an enormous financial success for the ratepayers of Hertsmere and a top class and much loved facility. That eight-year campaign was a bit like being that chap who fought Goliath, but it showed that whatever the odds the little guys can win. To see Elstree Studios risen from the ashes like a phoenix is the thing I am most proud of in my life. Until next time, take care.