BBC Television Centre – Memories of a landmark

We’ve known for a while that the BBC have been planning to sell, but now the building is finally on the market it feels an awful lot more real. In case you’re unsure, I don’t approve of the sale of the building. The BBC belongs in London and it belongs in that building. But the Beeb have made their decision and so I thought I’d write a bit about what that building meant to me.

I can’t remember when I first saw BBC TVC on the telly, it was probably in one of the many Children In Need or Comic Relief telethons which have been held there. The building looked special right from the first time I viewed it, that famous wall, the iconic white blobs the beacon BBC logo in the top left hand corner. That view symbolises for British TV what the Hollywood sign symbolises for films. It was a staple of those big night-long live shows that only the Beeb can properly pull off and as such has become such a well known landmark in our country.

As a person who has always been enthralled by the media, I always loved the whole look of TVC. It just seemed like the magic factory where the wonder of television came to life. Naturally I always wanted to visit, but I didn’t get the chance to go to White City until 2005.

It was to see a TV show, admittedly not the best one (Dick and Dom’s Ask The Family – I was more a fan of their Bungalow show, but sadly you couldn’t go and watch that!) and it was an extremely exciting moment. I’ll never forget when I first saw TVC. It was a truly inspiring moment to finally see that wall and that circular structure.

After we arrived we were whisked through the main entrance, under the giant wall of offices at the heart of TVC, past the fountain in the atrium, beyond that famous clock and on to the studios. We were to go into studio 6, fantastic! Several great shows have been filmed there – ‘Buzzcocks’, ‘Have I Got News For You’, Would I Lie To You’ – most of the panel shows!

On the way in, I remember our BBC guide getting slightly lost (yes, I know!) and leaving us in the Studio 6 canteen. The canteen, wow! This is where the stars ate, the producers, the script editors, heck even the director general himself must have dined here! This was part of the backstage and it was great

Eventually we were shown through to the actual studio, past the giant black curtains and to our seat in front of the set. This was my first TV show I’d ever seen filmed. Whatever age you are, it is a bit of a special moment, but it was made better by being within the magic factory itself, television centre!

After my visit, I become even more obsessed with the place, researching the building’s history – discovering how and why it was first built, what all the various parts of the building were, discovering that it’s actually in the shape of a giant questionmark (google it – it is!). I loved this building, this landmark and in 2006 I was lucky enough to visit again.

This time, I got the full tour as part of a school trip. We toured through the live weather studio, downstairs dressing rooms for the celebs in live shows. Experienced an entirely empty studio that had filmed ‘Friday Night With Jonathon Ross’ the night before. We spent an extended amount of time in the brand new news studios (that’s right, fully refurbished in 2006 and now being made redundant in 2011!!?) and I realised that one day I wanted to work in this building for the greatest broadcasting institution on the planet.

But sadly, that looks like a very unlikely prospect now. The Beeb may keep the building as part of a partnership, but it’s future as the  corporations flagship venue is over.

From 2013, BBC TV will be based ina brand new Salford facility called MediaCity that looks like this.

Wow, does it look dull. It’s just the same as all other ‘new’ buildings around, nothing special, nothing outstanding. BBC TVC has the looks, the history (Blue Peter garden, for example!), the location and the facilities that the BBC needs. They should not be moving.

Luckily, whatever happens, the main section of TVC (the ring and studio 1) gained listed status in 2008 and will remain and possibly be restored after the Beeb leave, but it will never be the same. For a corporation who still seem so obsessed with circles, I have no idea why they are leaving a circular building, a building saturated with history and one that it will be sad to see go.

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One Response to BBC Television Centre – Memories of a landmark

  1. Jack765 says:

    wow, that was quite touching, and you are quite right too!!
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