History of the BBC

History of the BBC

Television Centre - A Celebration

Built as a flexible 'television factory', BBC Television Centre (sometimes known, simply as 'TVC')  has become a broadcasting icon.

 

To celebrate the building's 50th anniversary in 2010, BBC History talked to BBC staff and those who have had a long association with the building, about life in Television Centre, how the building evolved, and how it began.

 

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"The story goes.. he doodled a question mark"

Arthur Hayes
Arthur Hayes worked on Television Centre from 1956 to 1970, acting as Resident Site Architect from 1962. He worked with legendary Chief Architect Graham Dawbarn (known as ‘GRD’), and the BBC’s Civil Engineer Marmaduke Tudsbury. Myth has it that the building evolved from a sketch drawn on the back of an envelope, by Dawbarn. Arthur believes the story is not as simple as this, and that the plan evolved long before the sketch was made.
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"The building will always be in the blood"

Arthur Hayes
Arthur Hayes worked on the iconic lettering 'BBC Television Centre' across the main studio ('TC1'), and the lighting 'dots' both seen from the street outside. The elevation facade of  TC1 was something Arthur Hayes was particularly pleased with.
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"We were so proud of Television Centre that we staged the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest from there!"

Yvonne Littlewood
Soon after Television Centre was opened, the BBC offered to stage a major international music festival. The 1963 Eurovision Song Contest was hosted from three studios at the Centre. The Contest was directed by Yvonne Littlewood, and was designed to ‘show off’ the newly built Television Centre.
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"Working in the big studios of Television Centre was thrilling!"
Biddy Baxter
It seemed that virtually anything could be staged at the new Television Centre. The vastness of the studios was a real liberation to programme makers who had had to cope with the cramped conditions of studios at Lime Grove and Alexandra Palace. When Blue Peter moved to Television Centre, the sheer size of the studios became a great asset to series Editor Biddy Baxter. She still remains enthusiastic about the huge potential of large studios.
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"We broke a world record at Television Centre"

Edward Barnes
The studios themselves are not the only asset at Television Centre. The famous circle shaped outdoor area at the very heart of the building, otherwise known as 'the doughnut', has featured in all manner of programmes. Christmas 1977 was an important date for former Head of Children’s Programmes, Edward Barnes, when he exploited that part of the building to the full.
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"The bombing of Television Centre changed everyone’s attitude to security in the building"

Dave Earle
The physical vulnerability of any public building is something security staff worry about, especially during times of heightened terrorist activity. In March 2001 Television Centre became a target itself in the dying days of the IRA's mainland terror campaign. David Earle was in charge of playout engineering operations on the night the bomb went off.
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"Spotting celebrities, that’s what Television Centre is all about"
Gillian Thackray
Many BBC staff continue to express a real love for Television Centre as a building. The connection has built up over the years as staff have worked around the clock,  during some momentous occasions. Gillian Thackray who has worked on every floor of the building since 1982, allocating camera crews, and studios, says she loves the building, and recalls the night of the 'Millennium Bug' (1999 into 2000).
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"The buzz of the place is amazing"
Sophie Raworth
A sense of pulling together, and the excitement of just making programmes happen, has always been a feature of the success of Television Centre. News Presenter Sophie Raworth, says the atmosphere in the building during major events such as Children in Need is electric.
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"Slowly the working atmosphere became less formal and more fun!"
Alan Bayley
Television Centre has changed as a place to work over the years. Where traditional hierarchies between cast and crew were once fixed, a greater sense of collaboration and exchange of expertise is now commonplace. Senior Camera Supervisor Alan Bayley, who joined the BBC in 1974, says roles have changed radically in the years since he started work on the studio floor.
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"The building still has magic"
Bobby Warrens

If work hierarchies in the building have changed, there’s one thing that has not. If you come to Television Centre to see an audience show, or you’ve worked in the building, you can’t escape the 'magic' of the place. Bobby Warrans, who was a props buyer and maker for over twenty years, says some parts of the building are particularly special to him.
Excitement.. a sense of collaboration..  palpable dedication..  the sheer fun..  feelings and experiences that have filled Television Centre since its opening night in June 1960.
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