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GES046 - BBC TV Centre (Trip 1)

Built on the site of the former Franco-British Exhibition of 1908, and completed in the summer of 1960, TV Centre has been the centre of BBC television output for over 50 years. Legend has it that architect Graham Dawbarn wondered how to fit everything in and drew a question mark on an envelope, he then realised that this was the prefect design. It is slowly being wound down as the News Centre has moved to BBC Broadcasting House, and BBC Sport and BBC Childrens have moved to Salford. The centre is due to be disowned by the BBC after 2013 or later. The central core and Studio 1 are Grade II listed. A decent history site can be found here.

This is where my online exploring 'career' started. I had joined a few explorer forums after becoming interested in the opportunities that exploring provided. Mainly after being shown some amazing pics of a chap called Downfallen. In order to get any sort of notice on a forum, one has to put up a report of something different. I worked for a company that had offices in a BBC building, and thus my pass could get me into almost any BBC Building. Although sadly not Bush house. Although I was fortunate enough to have worked there in the World Service section. Which for a travel junkie interested in world affairs, was heaven. But i digress. I went on a Sunday and treated TVC as if I had never been there before. I used to work in the basement under Studio 1 for awhile when starting off in TV. It was great because i worked out how to sneak into Jools Holland show rehersals. Standing a few feet from the likes of Paul McCartney, Beck, David Gilmour, Oasis (who had all non-crew staff thrown out, prima donna twunts), Catatonia (with the lovely Cerys Mathews and that rasping voice) etc etc.

Obviously not the most crazy and dangerous of explores, but taking pictures on BBC property without a permit is forbidden. So a slight risk of danger. When I posted the report up, I was savaged by a handful of the idiots that populate forums. They said I'd gone on an official tour. You can't see the places I went on a tour, but that didn't matter to them. I didn't want to risk any comeback from the BBC, so I lied and said 'a friend' had leant me their pass. Either way I was pleased to find a comment from a certain chap who most certainly wasn't a forum fool, a man who one could appreciate, rather than despair of. I started to message him and we discussed a few places I fancied exploring, including the Eastenders set I would later do. Unfortunately, such is the fragility of the 28DL forum, i got banned for some trivial reason and lost contact with the secretive Downfallen. Tragically he died 18months later, just after I rejoined 28DL.

All pictures taken on a Canon A80 automatic.

EXTERNAL SHOTS

This is the view into the TVC site from the roof of the multi-storey car park. The satellite dishes receiving feeds from around the UK, and from internationally mostly via places like Madley BT Satellite station. The blue sided football ground in the background is QPR FC.

The top of the road is Southern side of the main 'doughnut' part of TVC. In front of the chimney is the design block, where props and sets are designed and made. To the right is the East Tower. Childrens BBC was based here, before moving to Salford. The tube train runs down the Hammersmith & City Line to White City.

Underneath the Hammersmith & City Line tracks sits a number of storage sheds. Most are used for storing the battery powered trucks and prop carriages that are tugged behind. Some also store sets. One can also see the level of security the BBC employs. Infrared cameras and bounce beam pirs under the tube line, in case intruders decide to rope down.

A shot from the East Tower, here you can fairly clearly see the 'doughnut' as staff affectionately refer to it. The Top right corner of the shot is filled with the BBC White City building (far right) and then two buildings in a row, at the back the BBC Broadcast Centre (where all BBC channels are transmitted from), and nearer the camera, BBC Media Centre. The two lower light beige buildings running along side them are BBC owned. They were originally for local media firms to utilize, but were never taken up and sat empty for years.

Looking South, the white covers of the Shepherds Bush (H&C) station, since the photo was taken it's been renamed Shepherds Bush Market station. The round semi circle board to the left of the station sits above the entrance to Shepherds Bush Market.

The front entrance to TVC from the East Tower. The 'doughnut' sits on the left of the picture. The large black square is the roof of Studio 1. At the time it was the largest purpose built TV studio in Europe at 995m2, it's now the 4th largest. This is where Jools Holland's show, Noel Edmonds House Party, countless period dramas and charity shows (Comic Relief, Children in Need etc) were recorded.

The newer and darker brick building across from Studio 1 with a large square vented rood at one end, is Stage V. This was built after the main TVC 'doughnut' building. It mainly contains management and the upper floors are filled with edit suites. On the end of the Stage V building, one can see the semi-circular lower building tagged on the end. This is Stage VI, and was the main BBC Newsroom and news centre. This operation has moved to the new centre at BBC Broadcasting House near Oxford Circus. The ground floor of Stage VI is the main reception for TV Centre. It's also where in 2001, a taxi was parked outside by the Real IRA and blown up.

On the far right of the picture sits BBC Centre House. Effectively 4 small buildings joined to each other. They were labelled Blocks A-D and were never fully occupied as long as i've been known them. I used to work in B block.  A block is the one lowest of the picture, and D block the highest of the 4. They were used for various purposes, mainly Drama labs. One would often see stars of various TV dramas sat in reception. For one summer, I remember Jeremy Clarkson sat at a patio table with his producer, sorting out the next series of Top Gear. Smoking like bast ards. C block had a canteen in it, and in the basement sat the Film '98 (Film '99 etc etc) cinema, where at the time Barry Norman, and later Jonathon Ross would watch the films they reviewed. The building was mostly used by the Programme Acquistions department of the BBC (now relocated to TVC) who buy all the overseas films and TV shows for the Beeb.

In the centre of the 'doughnut' sits a golden statue of Helios the sun god, by TB Huxley Jones. The tall lights in the building on the left, are on the South Hall stairs.

Looking down from Stage V at Studio 1, with the old BBC logo removed, but still the name of the building showing.

At the back of the doughnut sits endless prop carriages for shows currently in production.

A familiar site to fans of Blue Peter, the garden. The pond sits in the top left of the picture, behind the tree.

INTERNAL SHOTS

Into the bowels of the TVC, this is the Stage V basement, where vast tape libraries sit. This is the news library, full of footage used to make up news reports.

This area is known as 'Stage Door', and is where guests and those appearing on shows are brought, before being taken to a dressing room through the doors to the right of the reception desk. outside the window is the inner courtyard of the doughnut.

The second floor of TVC has various observation rooms, where one can see what's going on i the studio below. For some shows they are locked to prevent what happens from leaking out. In this studio the lights are being set for a show. As they're all so low, i would guess this was for a drama being recorded.

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A Floor map of the 3rd Floor of TVC. The black squares amongst the light grey in the black & white top right mini-map are studios The largest one near the top being Studio 1. The SLAP Unit by the way, isn't where bad presenters go for punishment, it's Armando Iannucci's department.

The famous BBC bar, where for 9 months I had ridiculously long lunches getting beered up on subsidised lager and Guinness. It wasn't uncommon to see recognisable faces in here. I remember sitting next to Sid Owen and Todd McCarthy once from Eastenders. Another time Alex James from Blur was drinking with some chums.

The rather impressive 3rd floor, where the sport offices were. They've all moved to Salford now.

Looking down the South Hall stairs, undergoing renovation at the time.

While walking around it was interesting to see the different smaller bits of the BBC you never knew existed, like this office. Making sure newsreaders pronounce obscure peoples names and places.

Out on the Stage V spur up on the 4th and 5th floor are a maze of edit suites. These are the back ends of the suites, where material is played, edited, QC'd and played to tape. The grey deck is a D3 Digi deck (an early type of digital tape the BBC used) and the three darker decks are all Digibeta, the current digital tape standard at the time. Nowadays it's all HD Tape or server based files.

Higher up in Stage V, I stumbled into the BBC World studio, surprisingly empty. This is where newsreaders would present the news clips.

Lots of areas at TVC are off limits, unless you have a valid pass or PAC reader. Sadly I didn't, so couldn't get into some bits. The News Rooms obviously have pass readers.

The external corridor that goes around the back of most studios. More prop carriages scattered about for various ongoing shows.

When I went around, most studios without shows on, are left open. This is Studio 2. The Control room is behind the glass at the back.

Where the stars and guests sit and wait to be summoned to be wonderful. These are two of the bigger dressing rooms, handily near the Top of the Pops studio. The one on the right is where Brittany Spears was holed up when she appeared. Outside the door was a very wide and tall bouncer.

And that ended my 'tour' of the building and site. I did another last look around with my dSLR camera before I had to hand in my BBC pass on leaving the company I worked for. That will be Trip 2.

 

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