Banbury boxing gym steps back in time

Spit and Sawdust becomes Chedworth Gym
Spit and Sawdust becomes Chedworth Gym

BBC drops in on Dave Earle’s gym to film popular TV drama

Dave Earle’s Spit N Sawdust gym, tucked away at the end of an alley in North Bar, became an unlikely TV film set this past week.

A boxer stands with Father Brown and boxing promotor played by Martin Kemp

A boxer stands with Father Brown and boxing promotor played by Martin Kemp

The BBC descended on the gym to film sequences for the crime drama Father Brown.

Based on the books by GK Chesterton the show, now entering its fifth season, features actor Mark Williams as the eponymous crime fighting priest.

It is a period drama set in the 1950s and it was this requirement, among others, that made the Spit N Sawdust gym an ideal choice.

Location scout and unit manager Matt Venables explained the location finding process: “It was quite a hard one to find. We needed a boxing gym set in the 1950s and it needed to be on two levels. We have various tactics including internet searches and looking at listed building directories.”

It was, however, a chance in a million tip that eventually lead the crew to the Banbury gym.

Mr Venables said: “I stay with friends when I am down here and it just so happened that one of their kids had done some boxing lessons at the Spit N Sawdust and suggested I look at Dave’s gym.”

He added; “It’s funny really, you try and get pictures, go online and get a cursory glance, and when I saw it I got excited.”

Mr Venables then made the call to Dave’s gym and put the ball in motion.

Dave said: “He sounded very excited on the phone when he called me and the very next morning he came to the gym.”

There are other concerns and parameters when choosing a location that fall outside the boundaries of just whether it is suitable for the desired program.

Mr Venables said; “You have to go and see if the physical location is OK. There are the physicalities of getting a film crew here but we liked it so much we had to have it.”

He added: “We are based in Moreton in Marsh and wouldn’t normally go as far out as Banbury.”

Despite limited access and being outside the normal catchment area for such trips the crew turned up on May 10 to prepare for filming the next day.

Dave said; “There were three trucks. Inside the trucks was the set so they tried to transform my gym into a 1950s boxing club.”

The filming is what’s called a story of the day, a deviation from the normal locations of the rest of the series and involved some heavyweights in the acting world.

Dave said: “Martin Kemp was here this morning. I bought him a coffee, - actually he wouldn’t let me pay!”

The star of the show is Mark Williams, best known for his roles on The Fast Show and for playing Arthur Weasley in Harry Potter.

Dave said; “He’s a fruitcake Mark Williams, he’s great.”

The episode being filmed will appear in the fifth series and is due to be on our screens in February 2017.