Any fan of British television can only hope to one day find themselves walking around the BBC’s New Broadcasting house in London, the new hub of British entertainment. You can imagine my excitement when I realised I would not only be visiting this historic building once, but twice in the same week! I had been lucky enough to secure tickets to BBC Radio 4 Extra’s The Comedy Controllers presented by former BBC producer Paul Jackson along with a distinguished panel including Jimmy Mulville, John Lloyd and the legendary Beryl Vertue as part of a series of special programmes coming in April, celebrating the history of British comedy.
This was the first time I had been to the BBC since the closure of Television Centre in 2013 and I was a little unsure as to how I would feel on stepping inside. As a sceptic of the controversial decision to move what many saw as the spiritual home of the BBC, I thought I was going to hate everything about New Broadcasting House and everything it stood for. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the constant nods to BBC’s past and the omnipresent ghosts of some of the corporation’s biggest stars. It seems fitting that above the entrance to the Radio Theatre stands a giant mural of The Goons. I’m not sure what Spike Milligan would have made of this over elaborate nod from the corporation which he spent many years conflicting with, but it still provides a sense of history to the place.
Adjacent to the Radio Theatre lies the viewing gallery for the BBC News Channel. This is where it hits home as to just how comprehensive BBC News journalism is and it was utterly fascinating to watch. Here you can actually see breaking news as it happens and the intricate, complicated role of a News Anchor and the extensive team around them ranging from producers, researchers and makeup artists. It was a real eye opener to just what goes into wrap around news broadcasting and maybe a significant factor into why the corporation remains one of the most trusted news organisations in the world.
As we continued our informal tour, we came across the home of BBC Radio 2; the newly titled ‘Wogan House’. Such a fitting tribute to the man who, for many, defined the station for so many glorious years and walking in you can sense his legacy everywhere. Even the reception staff become a little emotional when they talk about their late figurehead. It’s only here that you realise the Wogan House may just be a name but it means so much to those who work here and a gentle reminder of their much loved departed friend and hero.
Of course, it helped being accompanied by my friend and former BBC Radio producer Jo Tyler who added insight into her time working at Broadcasting House. This offered me another angle on the place as I was able to witness it through her eyes and the many changes she had charted since her tenure at the BBC. Jo spent some years as a producer at Radio 1 throughout the nineties and early noughties working with the likes of Jo Whiley and Chris Moyles and so knows Broadcasting House like the back of her hand. I was just in awe of her knowledge of the building and the people in it – something which I aspire to achieve in the coming years!
It is quite clear that New Broadcasting House may never be able to replicate the emotional attachment which some still hold for Television Centre. In my mind nothing will ever replace the magnificent doughnut. However, it’s reassuring to know that there is still a thriving hub at the BBC which celebrates British entertainment at it’s very best.