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Airships Research Sketch

Sample from an interview filmed with Den Birchmore, balloonist and retired Cardington Shed Manager, in his shed which is the home of the archive of Cardington Archive Trust, Cardington.

Cardington Sheds have loomed on the Bedfordshire horizon, and in my own visual memory, since a small child. Bedford was my home between ages 5-18 and I have continued my relationship with the town.


In 2017 I undertook an R&D project focused on my interest in Cardington Sheds, reflecting on the site in relation to imagination and innovation.  These vast sheds are the site of an exceptional cultural heritage, resonating ambitious innovations and great endeavours. 


Ranging from their primary purpose of building and testing airships, the sheds also hosted military barrage balloons in WW2, RAF parachute training, riot simulations for the police, rehearsal space for pop band, Take That and now serve as one of the largest film sets in Europe, recently studio to Batman and Dumbo.


Bedford provided an opportunity for my family – working class migrants from Wales and the North West - to aspiring middle class. My father, (born in Barrow in Furness, home of Vickers where the first airships were built) arrived in Bedford to work as a technician on Unilever’s electron microscope and then on synthetic flavourings and biological washing powders. Bedford had an early landscape of innovation sites such as Texas Instruments and the Concorde tests at RAF Thurleigh.


The Imperial Airship Program captured both our imaginations and as as a child I was taken to airshows and trips to see barrage balloons and the Goodyear blimp. The final work will not be personal, however this background informs my interest in other’s perceptions and emotional memories of Cardington and Shortstown.

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