Whilst cycling through Old Street on Saturday, I somehow managed to notice this rather discreet film poster, almost coyly strapped to the side of the old Foundry building.
It is of course advertising the new film 'Hitchcock' starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren (who seems to have caused quite a stir at last nights BAFTAs ... for having pink hair). Anyway, it made me realise I've never really mentioned Alfred Hitchcock in relation to east London, but if you were to turn left at this poster (where Old Street and Great Eastern Street collide), head down Pitfield Street and nip across Shoreditch Park you'll find yourself standing in front of a block of 'luxury' flats that look like this.
If you look carefully, you might be able to make out that it says 'Gainsborough Studios' across the top on the right hand side. Previously on this site stood a power station, which, in the 1920's was turned in to a film studio, known as The Gainsborough Studios. A guy called Michael Balcon took it over and also took under his wing, a young lad from Leytonstone (also in east London) who was employed at the studios and supported him in making his first films, a silent black and white suspense thriller called 'The Lodger' was one and two other notable pre war efforts were 'The Lady Vanishes' and 'Rope'. This local lad, the son of a greengrocer was called Alfred Hitchcock.
With the advent of World War II, production wound down and the large chimney (a relic of the building's power station days) was taken down due to concerns of bombing damage. These concerns seem entirely justified, as at the time, the now open space of Shoreditch Park on the otherside of the road was a dense patchwork of narrow terraced streets, obliterated by V1 and V2 rocket attacks. In fact, parts of the park were excavated by the Museum of London in 2005 and 2006 as part of a community based archeological project.
Hitchcock took himself off to Hollywood to make 'Psycho', 'Vertigo' and other now well known films and the Gainsborough Studios languished for the next 50 years until the fortunes of Hoxton changed and eagle eyed property developers realised that the former studios overlooking the Regents canal could provide much sought after accommodation. The site was turned in to flats in about 2001 I think.
The flats are built around a courtyard, and upon entering you'll come across a quite startlingly massive sculpture (not visible from the street) of Hitchcock's head. It was made by Antony Donaldson and unveiled by the late film director Anthony Minghella in 2003.
The idea is that it's apparently depicting a young Hitchcock looking towards Hollywood where he would of course end his illustrious career. You could be forgiven for thinking upon first site (if you didn't know the Hitchcock connection) that it depicts Buddha or perhaps Chairman Mao. However, not to take anything away from Donaldson's impressive feat, it's certainly imposing; so much so, that if you walk around the back that you'll discover that there are offices inside. It must be quite a claim to fame to tell people you work inside Alfred Hitchcock's head.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.