TV stars head to Berkhamsted to rifle through BFI archive

Michael Palin and Gyles Brandreth look around the BFI archives in Berkhamsted
Michael Palin and Gyles Brandreth look around the BFI archives in Berkhamsted

Two TV stars and old friends bumped into each other while rifling through the thousands of files at the BFI archives.

Gyles Brandreth took a surprise trip to the British Film Institute (BFI) archives, in Kingshill Way, last Tuesday.

And while he was there he bumped into Monty Python legend and TV traveller Michael Palin.

The archive, known as the Paul J Getty Jr Conservation Centre, is home to more than 275,000 feature, non-fiction and short films which date as far back as 1894.

It also stores around 210,000 television programmes, and is one of the largest film archives in the world.

Mr Brandreth, who used to be a Conservative MP as well as a writer and broadcaster, seemed impressed upon his first visit to the archives.

He told the Gazette: “Neither Michael or I had ever been to the BFI archives in Berkhamsted before. They’re just amazing.

“I was looking for my first TV show – Child of the Sixties made for ITV In 1969 – and Michael was viewing East of Ipswich, a TV drama he wrote in 1986 which the BFI is showing on the South Bank on April 6 as part of the BFI Radio Times TV Festival.

“I’m now hoping The One Show – where I’m a reporter – will make a film of us rootling through the BFI archives together.”

The duo had good fun looking back at their respective careers, and seemed surprised at just how much of their lives had been captured within the thousands of files stored.

Gyles said: “There’s so much there – all our viewing lives in fact.

“We found stuff of Michael in pre-Python sketch shows from the mid-sixties that he’d never seen before.

“We first met in 1971 when we were published by the same publisher. Michael was with all the Pythons promoting their book, and I was promoting Brandreth’s Party Games. We travelled by bus for it.

“Happily, 46 years on we’re still here and Michael and I are still scribbling away.”

Although it was Gyles’ first visit to the archives, it was not his first visit to the town.

He said: “I think I first went to Berkhamsted to meet H.E Todd.

“He was a travelling shoe salesman and a wonderful children’s author who wrote the Bobby Brewster books.

“That visit must have been about 40 years ago!”