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Lancaster student bags awards for paper-made TV and film sets

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A business, run by a Lancaster University part-time PhD student, which makes sustainable scenery for film and TV using cardboard – currently being trialled by ITV’s Coronation Street among others – has won a major award.

Postgraduate researcher Chris Gilmour, Director of Stockport-based business Vectar Sets, which he runs with business partner Tom Henderson, was one of the three UK winners (eight globally) who collected Ashden Awards in front of a packed audience at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

The event, also streamed online, was hosted by broadcast meteorologist, Laura Tobin.

Organisations tackling the UK cost of living crisis, providing the skills for green jobs and those calling for finance for low-income countries to adapt to climate change were recognised at this year’s awards.

Vectar Sets, who make reusable and recyclable cardboard scenery for the film and TV industry, won the ‘Greening All Work’ category.

The sets have been used by broadcasters around the world and are currently being trialled by ITV’s Coronation Street.

Previous productions to use Vectar Sets include Channel 4’s Drawers Off and BBC 3’s The Rap Game, as well as shows on STV and RTL and adverts for Meta (Facebook), Braun, Old Spice, Simplisafe and JD Sports.

Chris has been studying at Lancaster University for the last three years.

He began his PhD research building on his long career as an artist known for his hyper-realistic cardboard sculptures (

His initial research was focussed on the museum sector, but working on a production at the Vectar Project (a TV studio in Manchester known for its green credentials) highlighted how wasteful the entertainment industry can be and offered the possibility of finding concrete solutions for a pressing problem.

“The film and TV industry is horrendous in terms of waste,” explains Chris. “They can make a set for one series, one episode or a 30 second advert and then it is scrapped the day after.

“Vectar Sets are made with cutting-edge engineered paper boards, which offer the similar strength to wood, but are 80% lighter, quick to set up, easy to move and 100% recyclable.

“This makes it quicker and cheaper to produce sets, reduces costs in the studio with faster set ups and scene changes and smaller crews and helps to reduce the environmental impact of filming as the sets are fully recyclable – something that rarely happens with conventional sets.”

“I chose Lancaster University as the design department, ImaginationLancaster, has a passion for sustainability and finding solutions to real-world problems.

“My research here, and the support I have received from the teaching staff, has helped me to navigate the often-contradictory issues around sustainable design. Having an academic framework has made it much easier to evaluate the work I am doing and keep focussed at a very busy time now the business is taking off.”

Since 2001, more than 240 innovators in the UK and global South, have won a coveted Ashden Award.

Ashden uses its network to amplify their voices and raise awareness of their work. To maximise impact, the climate solutions charity also makes connections with funders, investors, policymakers and others, providing a global platform to showcase their initiatives.

Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb said: “All our worthy winners show how a zero-carbon world is within reach.”

She added that to reach it in time, and create the just transition that really delivered, commitments were needed from world leaders who attended the recent COP27 in Egypt.