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14-15 May 2025
Olympia London

MPTS
03 Mar 2023

Behind-the-scenes at Versa London Studios

Max Miller
Take a look at how the studio is bringing new innovations to UK facilities

Walking up to Versa London Studios, you can immediately see a massive image emblazoned on the front of the building promoting the current occupants - in this case it was comedian John Bishop, who was there to film The John Bishop Show. Making its building an eye-catching location is one part of the new ideas it is looking to apply.

Versa London is one of many facilities to have launched or be in the process of launching in the capital recently. Now running for a little over a year, the facility is looking to establish itself as a studio that values inclusivity and wellbeing, as well as doing things in a more entertainment-focused manner.

In addition to the large advert on the outside of the building, this includes making it more comfortable and fun for audience members - with a staging area set up for them to relax and settle in before going to the show taking place. That said, it is open to and has hosted all genres of production, from high-end dramas to quiz shows.

Based not far from West Acton tube station, the facility includes 10,000 sq ft of studio space, and another 20,000 sq ft of ancillary space, including production galleries, dressing rooms, unit parking, scene dock, and more. This ancillary space is one area where Versa is looking to do things slightly differently.

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It includes a large mess room and break area for crew, with the wellbeing of crew a key part of the  as well as the “Versa Club Room” - a bar and social area that has also been used for shoots on occasion. Natural light shines into these areas, which helps as part of Versa’s ESG approach, according to executive director Charlie Ingall, who said: “It’s a fantastic part of our ESG because it adds into the well being that we want to promote here. We’re very, very open to the space being used for whatever the production wants to do. We’ve had meditation classes, yoga classes, and that all adds to wellbeing.”

Charlie Ingall

Ingall pointed to his professional rugby career, he currently plays for London Scottish and has previously played for Sale Sharks and Wasps, as to why he believes the wellbeing of the staff is vital - promoting teamwork and collaboration between the facility and production.

This close relationship between the teams is also assisted by there only being one production based at Versa at a time. At the time of this article, it was The John Bishop Show, which was just coming up to its final show, and Bishop himself said: “Having a permanent home at the studio for the whole series makes a massive difference, particularly when you’re doing a show like this, because it just gives you a sense of continuity. It’s like a residency, you get to know all the staff and therefore there’s a better symbiotic relationship.”

It has also allowed initiatives such as allowing local, and not so local, students to tour the facility as there’s no need to set up each day - everything can be left until the next time the production needs to shoot, knowing that another production will not arrive.

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Bishop added: “We brought 20-odd kids down from my old school in the North West, media students from a deprived area, who would never normally get an opportunity to do this. They got a full tour of the studio, the show being made, a feel for everything in the place, and the feedback from the school is that kids are now looking to change college courses because you don’t normally get to see that.”

Alongside Bishop and the production, Versa has also assisted The John Bishop Show with a pioneering use of a BSL interpreter during live shows. What started as a plan to have a small number of deaf audience members, had ballooned to over 50 by the last show of the series, with special accomodations made so that all can see the interpreter and be involved with the show.

 

Versa does its own work with the next generation too, with a programme that brings on runners who are then shown every step of the TV-making process. Ingall said: “We’re very passionate about the next generation. Of course, there is a there is a skill shortage in the industry, but that’s not the reason we do it. We want to bring young people in and show what what can be done the industry, and that may be on a facility side, but it also may be on the production side. It may interest them to be a production manager or production exec or they may be interested in being a coordinator.”

He added that in addition to Versa hiring several runners after their programme, “Two of our runners have gone on to work for very big productions with the same production companies who have worked here,” and that the company is working with the local council to expand its programmes.

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Versa also has green ambitions - with the studio run on 100% green energy from “a wind farm in Wales”, guaranteed by Ofgem’s REGO scheme, Ingall revealed. It also has intelligent LED lighting throughout, which is assisted by the natural light in most non-studio space areas.

Overall, Ingall sums up Versa’s strategy: “People are coming here for two reasons. They’re either coming here to make entertainment, or they’re coming here to be entertained. We are an entertainment venue.” 

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