Power and authority

At the beginning of this week we had the cameras in. Plus a bit of razor wire, some iron bars, fake police cars and a few actors. No doubt there were gaffers and all those other strangely-titled people that you see on film credits. Yes, our august Institute was being used as a location for a TV drama. I don’t know the title or channel but the drama is set in a young offenders’ institution, hence the trappings of law, order and incarceration.
It is surprising, to an outsider, how easily a few carpenters and painters can convert a setting into something completely different. I won’t say we all started behaving like young offenders, but it was quite a persuasive visual transformation.
It’s not the first time we have been used thus. A year or so ago the Institute was turned into an army barracks for the weekend for another TV drama. Five years ago we had a more thrilling role as the Arkham Asylum in the film Batman Begins.

I’m starting to see a pattern here. The design of the building that houses the Institute, dating back to the mid-1930s, gives it the look of a classic institution. It exudes those institutional qualities of reliability, power and authority. And perhaps just a bit of incarceration too.
It is interesting to note that in real life the building did once serve as a kind of barracks. The building was finished just as the second world war broke out and it was requisitioned as a home for the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) during the war, under the name HMS Elizabeth. My aunt was stationed here at that time and told me she remembers having to scrub the cork floors. The building was not commissioned for scientific use until 1950.
Maybe this gives some clues to potential uses for the building in five years time, when we are all decanted to the new UKCMRI, down by St Pancras?

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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3 Responses to Power and authority

  1. Bronwen Dekker says:

    How cool!
    I did a quick search on google images – very serious looking buildings and then remarkably countryside-like views to the north and west!?

  2. Frank Norman says:

    Bronwen – Yes, it is a lovely location.  You travel along normal-looking suburban streets from the tube station  and enter this big building. When you walk through the building and look out the back windows you are surprised to see a green valley. and no hint of suburbia.

  3. Eva Amsen says:

    Cool! It’s always fun to see familiar locations in films.

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