Always a Tucker at TVC

Jim and Bill Tucker at Television Centre Television Centre is like home for Jim Tucker and his father Bill

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There's always been a Tucker at Television Centre. For more than 50 years - the lifespan of the BBC's Wood Lane production centre - either Bill Tucker or his son Jim have worked there.

Bill, a senior engineer, was one of the first in, helping the telecine department set up shop ahead of the building's official opening in 1960 and staying put until his retirement in 1988.

Jim, who was also a telecine engineer before joining Studios & Post Production as a business systems analyst, will be among the last to leave on its last official day of business on March 28.

'I've worked at TV Centre my entire adult life,' says Jim, who faces redundancy in May after 33 years with the corporation.

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You'd go to the canteen and people from Grange Hill or Blue Peter were there. Richard Baker would be ordering his egg and chips. ”

End Quote Jim Tucker

He joined straight from school, having been selected for a technical assistant training course at Wood Norton in Evesham - following his father on that well-trodden path to becoming a BBC engineer.

HR paddy

'After the training I could have gone anywhere,' he says, 'but I knew I wanted to work at TVC. I chose telecine, but had to work the other shift to my dad after HR had a minor paddy.'

In those days, engineers worked the AP (or Alexandra Palace) shift - 12 hour days, seven days a fortnight and one weekend in two. 'I didn't see my dad for a number of years,' laughs Jim.

As a child, he'd visit the building at weekends, watching programmes rehearse or his dad run films (telecine enables programmes or parts of programmes on film to be played out for tv or transferred to video).

'A huge number of programmes were made on film in those days,' says Jim. 'Anything from a Blue Peter insert to a bought-in series of Mash. I remember thinking, This is alright.'

Even so, it was a culture shock when he arrived for his first day at work, fresh from his home counties secondary school. 'We had to call the masters at school 'sir'; at the BBC you were told to call everyone by their first name. And the dress code was anything goes. As an 18-year-old this came as a bit of a shock.'

Bill Tucker at work at the BBC in 1955 Bill Tucker at work in 1955, before TVC had opened

Plus it was huge, a rabbit warren of a place - 'You'd have to swallow your pride and ask for directions,' Jim admits.

Whitney Houston

But it was an exciting place to be. 'In the eighties, everything television happened here,' says Jim, who worked on everything from House of Elliot to Grandstand.

'You'd go to the canteen and people from Grange Hill or Blue Peter were there. Richard Baker would be ordering his egg and chips. Or you'd go to the tea bar by TC4 and see Madonna or Whitney Houston preparing for Top of the Pops. You didn't approach them - you were told not to.'

It was engineering feats rather than pop stars that turned the head of Bill Tucker in his early days at TVC.

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I know where everything is, I knew a lot of people. Television Centre really does feel like home to me”

End Quote Jim Tucker

The physics graduate, who'd been intent on a career with the civil service until he was sidetracked by a BBC 'engineers wanted' advert, was involved in the launch of BBC Two in 1964 and the introduction of colour later that decade.

He even linked up with a group of telecine engineers who set about building their own colour tv sets, as they were too expensive to buy.

Fifty-three years after Bill helped move the BBC's main telecine operation from Lime Grove to TVC, Jim is helping move S&PP's post production base out of the building and into a new W1 base before the developers set to work.

'It will be nice to see the place opened up a bit,' says Jim after surveying the plans for the building's future. 'It's a bit of a morgue now.'

But he'll miss his old haunt. 'I know where everything is, I knew a lot of people. Television Centre really does feel like home to me.'

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