|The Maidstone Studios|
|Former names||TVS Television Centre|
Vinters Park Studios
|Address||Vinters Business Park, New Cut Road, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 5NZ|
|Owner||Maidstone Studios Limited (2002—present)|
|The Maidstone Studios|
The Maidstone Studios, formerly called TVS Television Centre, is the largest independent television studio complex in the United Kingdom, and is based at Vinters Park in Maidstone, Kent, England. It has been home to a varied selection of independent British television programming including Later... with Jools Holland, Jools' Annual Hootenanny, Take Me Out, Catchphrase, as well as popular children's shows such as Mister Maker and Let's Play for CBeebies, or Art Attack for TVS and later for ITV and Disney Channel.
Other recent credits also include: Bang on the Money, The Royals on E!, Ultimate Brain and Hetty Feather for CBBC, Davina McCall - Fitness DVDs, and The Coalition drama for Channel 4.
The site was originally chosen by the now defunct ITV company Southern Television in 1979 for a proposed new studio facility should they win the contract from the Independent Broadcasting Authority (the UK television regulator at the time), for the new dual South and South-east of England region in 1981. As Southern Television lost their franchise, they sold the site to the successful applicant Television South (TVS) at a premium. It was part of the agreement between TVS and the IBA, that TVS needed to provide a separate studio facility for the South East region.
The complex first opened in late 1982 providing broadcasting and production output for TVS. The site was also used as a regional office and a newsgathering hub, broadcasting the South East daily edition of Coast to Coast. TVS continued to use Maidstone until the end of their franchise, which they lost in 1991.
When TVS lost its franchise from ITV, the Maidstone facility was retained, with a view to TVS becoming an independent production company. The new south and south east ITV contractor, Meridian, initially continued to rent space in the building as a production centre for the south east edition of Meridian Tonight, before moving to its own centre at nearby New Hythe between 1994 and 2004. The Meridian newsgathering operation returned to Maidstone Studios in 2004, though the studio for the programme moved to Meridian's new base at Whiteley in Hampshire.
TVS, including the Maidstone Studios, was quickly bought by International Family Entertainment Inc. and the studios were used as an independent production facility. IFE subsequently launched a UK version of The Family Channel based in The Maidstone Studios, using some elements of the TVS programme archive. Flextech was a partner in the venture, taking a 39% stake in the business. In 1996, the studio complex was sold by International Family Entertainment Inc. to Flextech when it acquired the remaining 61% of the UK Family Channel business.
During 2002 the new owner of Flextech, Telewest Communications, overhauled the structure of the operations which resulted in the disposal of the studios.
The studios were bought in 2002 by a local consortium of businessmen under the name Dovedale Associates for £4.25 million, headed by ex-BBC producer Geoff Miles. In 2005 a £2 million refurbishment programme took place, as part of the new owner's plans for the complex. A new Studio 5 (now known as Studio 1) was opened, which covers 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) able to accommodate a 2,000-strong audience; it is now their flagship HD studio, and between April 2013 and December 2018 was the home of BBC2's Later... with Jools Holland.
From 2006 to 2012 a company called "TVS Television Productions Ltd" was based in offices at The Maidstone Studios. The name "Television South Ltd", "TVS" and the colour logo device had been re-registered to lighting cameraman Keith Jacobsen, who traded as an independent production company with no links to the original. The 'new' TVS ceased trading on 9 March 2012, but as of May 2017 is owned by another independent production company.
The area including car-parks and outbuildings to the east of the studio premises were bought by Hillreed Homes – planning permission was granted in 2014 for 77 dwellings, and work to redevelop the site started in 2017. It is planned for vehicular access to the studios (including for production trucks) to be retained through the new housing estate.
As of October 2017, Maidstone Studios is only advertising its two largest studios, and is no longer advertising the three other studios on site.
Studios 1 and 2 have room for audience seating as well as room for sets. Studio 1 can handle 2,400 standing, 1,200 seated; Studio 2 can handle 250 seated. Both have large production galleries, are fully air-conditioned and can operate in SD or HD. Studio 1 also includes two large scene dock doors to allow easy access for people, scenery and vehicles. Access to Stage 2 is via the studio's scene dock area. The studios do not currently have any camera equipment other than a limited number of tripods and pedestals, and hence visiting productions are required to hire-in equipment from elsewhere.
Maidstone also has four edit suites, one dubbing suite, dressing rooms and green rooms, production and wardrobe departments, scenery departments, transmission and playback facilities.
On the Maidstone Studios premises is a data centre that offers rack space for servers for local, national and international companies.
Other studios on the site:
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