For the love of Television Centre
- 14 June 2011
- From the section Magazine
The BBC has announced that Television Centre is up for sale. The West London home of the corporation for over 50 years, it has played a central role in the history of the BBC. Here stars share their favourite memories of working in the place.
The For Sale sign is going up at BBC Television Centre. Shows recorded in its studios include Fawlty Towers, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Blue Peter and Strictly Come Dancing, as well as earlier series of Doctor Who.
The first postcode many children would have learnt by heart would have been W12 8QT - the address for BBC competitions.
But, while the full address mentioned Television Centre, the 60s building is not actually located at that postcode - that was for BBC offices and studios in Lime Grove not far away.
Myth has it the building - with the famous circle shaped outdoor area known as the "doughnut" at its very heart - evolved from a sketch of a question mark doodled on the back of an envelope.
But what is definite is the central role it has played in British television over the years. Stars share their memories of working there.
Sir Bruce Forsyth - The Generation Game, Strictly Come Dancing
The building means working with so many friends over the years. The biggest memory I have is my 80th birthday when the BBC put up a big silhouette of my pose with the fists. I'll never forget leaving the studio and seeing my pose the whole length of the building.
I first did the Generation Game in 1971, so I go back 40 years with it. It's a big part of my life. The Generation Game was wonderful. And it was great to bring it back in the 90s. Now Strictly is done there. It's risen from being a small show done in front of an audience at tables to something wonderful.
Lots of things have gone wrong but I love that, I love being spontaneous. I remember two of the dancers getting entwined in their microphones, they had to stop and the producer ran on. I said "Who are you" and started dancing with her. We got another laugh.
In the old days it was a hive of activity. At one time you could walk from one studio to another and they'd be three or four shows going on at once.
It's a great shame but life goes on.
Tony Blackburn - Top of the Pops
It's a tragedy, a real shame. TV Centre to me is a special place that represents the BBC.
We used to call it the Electric Doughnut. It's a lovely building that holds so many memories.
I used to do Top of the Pops there, and Noel's House Party. We had so much fun. Every time I go there I feel like I'm coming home.
To a lot of people that represents what the BBC is. It's totally nostalgic and represents everything that's great about broadcasting. It's been the centre of television for me all my life.
Sure, move with the times. But this is like knocking down Buckingham Palace. The new buildings are fine but there's no history.
The Top of the Pops studio wasn't vast. But there were so many memories there.
For me, the highlights were introducing Diana Ross, the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder in that studio. I remember talking to Stevie Wonder in his dressing room while he bashed out a tune on his electronic organ. It's such a shame...
Mark Curry - Blue Peter
Going to Television Centre for the first time was a huge deal for me. Working in those studios and knowing the history made it a really special place.
We'd be filming Blue Peter and next door they'd be making Top of the Pops or Doctor Who. You'd see all the stars of other programmes in the corridors.
You were right at the heart of things. It was like playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon. We had the Blue Peter garden there as well, but it was the studios that really excited me. They were huge - you could get a double-decker bus inside.
The fact it's closing down is a double-edged sword. It's sad because of all the memories. But I do think change is a good thing.
Cheryl Baker - Record Breakers
I'm really upset to hear this. I have so many happy memories of Television Centre. It's like no other TV studio or set-up in the world.
If you walk around that circular corridor and you see all the pictures of shows and presenters, it's magical.
It's such an iconic building. When you present a programme there you feel so privileged because you know all the big names who went before you.
I'm distraught, really. I hope they turn it into a museum or a visitor centre.
It must have so much memorabilia and footage, people would come from all over. It's like the V&A of television.
Michael Palin - Monty Python
I feel very fond of it, as it was where some of my first shows were filmed and the Monty Python programmes were recorded there. It was an odd place, with these circular corridors. I just remember holding the doors for people all the time. But there was something appropriate about going round in circles, trying to find something new to do.
It was quite something going up to the comedy floor and seeing Johnny Speight or Galton and Simpson. I remember seeing a newly delivered script of Steptoe and Son in an office and thinking "that's really amazing" .
And of course, there was the bar. Those were the days when people would go there at midday until 2.30 and then write a great sitcom.
I haven't worked there for a long time but one can get quite sentimental about the building. If there's a better way to use the BBC's money then fair enough, but I just regret that a place that was custom-built as a television centre can't be used for that any more.
Joan Bakewell - Late Night Line-Up
Years ago I signed a petition to have it listed. It's a building of peculiar idiosyncrasy because it was designed for the television of the 50s and is a vivid symbol of that era.
I lived through its heyday of the 50, 60s and first half of the 70s. It was a wonderful time, they used to do huge live dramas in big studios transmitted live.
In the 60s, I worked on Late Night Line-Up with guests like Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand and Jonathan Miller. There was a good deal of drinking in the hospitality lounge. The show would finish at midnight and we'd empty the drinks cabinet every night.
It is nostalgic for me. This was a place where unique things happened. How will I feel if I pass and see it's become a supermarket? I'd be heartbroken.