Living in Magpie

This image of the stairs gives you a flavour of Magpie's building-site-ness. Photo: Colin Smith
This image of the stairs gives you a flavour of Magpie’s building-site-ness. Photo: Colin Smith

Stop/Eject‘s post-production crowd-funding campaign has been stuck at £440 for a little while now. As gentle encouragement to anyone out there who hasn’t contributed yet, or intended to but has forgotten or just not got around to it yet, here’s a taste of what we went through to make this film. What follows is a record of what it was like to stay and work in Magpie, Stop/Eject’s main location. Lest we forget.

First off, let me say thank you once again to Matt Hibbs, who was extremely kind in letting us use his premises not only as a location but as crew accommodation too. I don’t think I’ve ever met such a helpful and laid-back location owner, and without his positive attitude the shoot would have been much more challenging. So nothing that follows should be construed as a complaint. We knew what we were getting into, and we certainly got far more from Matt & co. than we had any right to expect.

Magpie once occupied just the ground floor of a four storey Victorian building. At the time of our shoot (late April), Matt had just purchased the upper floors, formerly a B&B, and was in the process of expanding his shop into them. So while the ground floor remained a working shop (and our key location), the rest of the place was a building site. Most of the refurbishment was taking place on the first floor, with the second and third storeys being used, prior to our arrival, for storage of tools and stock.

Katie loads the van at the back of Magpie. Photo: Colin Smith
Katie loads the van at the back of Magpie. Photo: Colin Smith

The first thing I noticed when we arrived there the day before the shoot was that it was a lot dustier than I remembered from the recce. Everything was coated in brick dust, which made noses itch, throats dry and eyes water throughout the shoot. Sleeping in the building probably wasn’t very wise from a health point of view, even after Katie had hoovered.

Besides Katie and I, Col, Rick and Johnny were staying there too – four nights for most of us. We set up airbeds and sleeping bags in some of the second floor rooms. The first couple of nights there was loud music pumping out of the bar next door. And it was cold. The only radiator we ever found working was on the ground floor, at the back of the shop. Everywhere else was damn chilly by 3am.

Not to mention dark. Many of the light fittings had no bulbs in, and torchlight was usually required to find your way around at night.

Ablutions were another issue. Matt and his builders had kindly reconnected the plumbing in the second floor bathroom, so in theory we could shower, although stepping out of it into the freezing bathroom was not fun. But after the first night the hot water was found to be leaking into the shop, so Matt had to disconnect it. So it was cold showers, strip-washes or trips to Sophie’s place after that.

Deborah Bennett makes up Libby Wattis in our kitchen-cum-HMUW-cum-Colin's-bedroom. Photo: Katie Lake
Deborah Bennett makes up Libby Wattis in our kitchen-cum-HMUW-cum-Colin’s-bedroom. Photo: Katie Lake

We brought a fridge with us, lent by Nic Millington, and a microwave and toaster, and Col’s hot plate, so we were able to make rudimentary meals. There was no potable water in the building, so we had to use bottled stuff from Sainsbury’s.

We were all very glad when Tuesday arrived and we could shift camp to Sophie’s house. Apart from Johnny, who claimed he got a better night’s sleep at Magpie. There’s no pleasing some people.

I encourage you to see our sadomasochistic sojourn at Magpie as a sponsored suffering. For example, you could sponsor us £5 a night for living in the conditions I’ve just described – that’s £20 total – and you’d get a digital download and an invite to the premiere. Sound like a good deal? Head on over to and make your donation so we can complete Stop/Eject and make living in Magpie worthwhile.

Magpie's upper floors (formerly a B&B) extended above the neighbouring bar, Twenty Ten. Photo: Colin Smith
Magpie’s upper floors (formerly a B&B) extended above the neighbouring bar, Twenty Ten. Photo: Colin Smith
Living in Magpie