Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Home of Radio

BH. Broadcasting House. How the BBC love their initials and love to tell us about their buildings. And the home of radio has had more than its fair share of programmes about its history and what goes on behind that famous fa├žade.

Within months of its opening in 1932 John Watt was offering A Tour of Broadcasting House. I’ve already posted about The Second Tower of Babel narrated by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas in 1982. From 1997 comes this BBC2 documentary One Foot in Broadcasting House in which historian and broadcaster follows one day in the life of the building. There’s a rare chance to hear part of George Posford’s specially composed music composed for the opening  and we hear some fascinating anecdotes about that famous Prospero and Ariel statue. The programme was broadcast on 7 November 1997.

In 2006 Sir David Hatch returned to BH for an edition of Radio 4’s The Archive Hour. This programme, The Home of Radio, was broadcast on 18 March.

For that week’s Radio Times Sir David Hatch recalled his time at Broadcasting House and wrote this article:

Every weekday morning for 15 years I walked into Broadcasting House (BH) at 6.55 am, en route as controller of Radio2 (CR2) to see Ray Moore coming to the end of his shift. By then his belt was undone and he was bantering with Terry Wogan on the inter-studio link, limbering up for the live handover.

Later, as CR4, I called in on Today during the 7 am news bulletin to chat with Brian Redhead and John Timpson. Later still, as MDR (By now you’ve cracked the code – all BBC jobs were known by their initials. An engineer in external services information and operations was known as EIEIO. I’m not kidding!) I went to all five networks. Terry Wogan, God bless him, had returned from his TV chat show and Redhead and Timpson had morphed into Jim Naughtie and Sue MacGregor. The last two speak affectionately of BH on The Home of Radio.  

My first programme from BH as a producer was called Roundabout, and went out live on 1 April 1964. The first record went on at the wrong speed – 45 rpm not 33⅓ - and I thought my career was finished. Fortunately, those were the days when you were promoted for incompetence in the hope that, eventually, they would hit on something you could actually do.

Walking under Eric Gill’s statue, through the heavy gold double doors into the imposing half-moon reception hall, thrilled me every day. Gill was asked to provide statues of Prospero and Ariel, but is that what he sculpted? The local MP, and Lord Reith too, thought Ariel’s willy over-generous. Was it snipped? It was said that on Prospero’s back Gill had carved a girl’s face. True or false? Myths and legends abound before one has even entered the building.

An old girlfriend of mine, who had unceremoniously dumped me 20 years previously to marry a dentist, turned up in reception to meet me one day. I had set my face to cool and indifferent, only to discover that she was excited and in awe of what she was seeing – Robin Day, Denis Healey, Kenneth Williams, Robert Robinson, and Jimmy Young all in the space of five minutes. “It’s an amazing place,” she said. “Yes,” I said nonchalantly. And I thought “And it’s a bit more glamorous than a dentist’s waiting room.”

There’s more about Broadcasting House as well as Savoy Hill, Lime Grove and Television Centre in The BBC Tour presented by Nick Baker on BBC Radio 4 Extra on Saturday 9 August.  

Broadcasting House illustration by Mark Thomas at Central Illustration Agency as used in the Radio Times 3 November 2012.

1 comment:

Andy Walmsley said...

In fact David Hatch is, in the best tradition of Popmaster, "one year out". His first credit as BBC radio producer was 1 April 1965.

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