Television Centre at 60

2020 marks 60 years since Television Centre opened. Hailed as the ‘television factory’, it was an entirely self-contained studio and television production facility. Although it was the third such centre to be opened in the world after ABC in Australia and Granada Television in Manchester, it was the first to be conceived, and was revolutionary for its day. In its 60th year, it has been reinvented as the home of the BBC’s commercial subsidiary BBC Studioworks, along with three studios, residential, retail and shopping facilities.

  • The Television Factory Designed by Graham Dawbarn and operational by 1960, BBC Television Centre was, at the time, one of the most technically advanced production hubs in the world.
  • BBC Oral History Collection - Television Centre rememberedBBC staff remember working at Television Centre, including site architect Arthur Hayes, Blue Peter’s Biddy Baxter, and Yvonne Littlewood, the producer who staged the Eurovision Song Contest in the building itself.
  • Television Centre on Google StreetviewBefore the renovation and re-development of Television Centre, BBC History asked the team at Google Streetview to take their camera around the building. Every floor can be viewed, including the set of An Adventure in Time and Space, the 2013 film about the early years of Doctor Who.
  • In PicturesUnusual and rarely seen images of Television Centre’s past.

Further reading

What does Television Centre mean to you?

Which BBC programmes does it bring to mind, and do you remember the big events such as Children in Need, or Roy Castle’s record breaking tap dance routine? Did you ever attend a big audience show at Television Centre, such as Strictly, or The Two Ronnies? Let us have your thoughts and ideas.

Your memories

I once had a lucky opportunity to visit BBC TV Centre in the summer of 1982.

I was thirteen years old and lived in a village in Oxfordshire many miles from London. I had only been to London once before on a school trip in the late 1970s.

In the early 1980s a BBC production assistant moved in to our village and befriended myself and my parents. She was called Sue and was a lovely lady. She had a small dog which I loved. Me and my friends would walk the dog around the local fields.

I would talk with Sue for hours about her job and what it involved. She was always busy and would commute to TVC nearly every day.

I remember that she was a Production Assistant on a BBC drama called Beau Geste.

She talked about the show a lot. She then arranged to take me to TVC for a day. I was so excited and could hardly sleep the night before. The day arrived on a hot summers day in June and we drove up to the amazing Television Centre. Sue had to do some work and then promised me a behind the scenes tour. We first went to some production offices where Sue used a vintage Shibaden video tape recorder to view some monochrome video footage. She took timings and wrote notes. I’m sure the Shibaden was very state of the art at the time.

Sue showed me round every studio. I think there were seven or eight and everyone seemed to be buzzing with activity. I was lucky enough to visit the gallery of the huge studio one, and go to one of the video suites in the basement.

I was in total awe!

Then we visited the canteen for lunch. I think there were maybe two or three different canteens.

We ended up in one of them and saw many famous people. At the time I went they were recording Hi-de-Hi! and I saw the actor Paul Shane and his wife having lunch. I can’t put names to anyone else but I used to like Paul Shane because he was loud and funny.

I was in total awe and will never forget my visit to Television Centre.

Sue moved away from our village around 1984. I never saw or heard from her again but I hope she is well.

Jonathan Hawes, Oxford


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