After 53 years the BBC is vacating its West London headquarters as it relocates the television and news departments to Broadcasting House in central London while sport and children’s programming are now based in Salford.
Opening on June 29th, 1960, the building housed the studios responsible for most of the BBC programming for Monty Python to Miranda. Before the television headquarters shuts its doors forever on March 31st, former BBC chairman Michael Grade gathered with BBC stars of the past and present to share stories and memories from their times at the BBC Television Centre. Some of the stars that took part in the special taped on March 18th were:
- Sir David Attenborough
- Penelope Keith
- Ronnie Corbett
- Meera Syal
- Sir Michael Parkinson
- Sir Terry Wogan
- Sir David Jason
- Zoe Ball
- Bob Harris
- Rebecca Front
- David Mitchell
- Dara O’Briain
- Fiona Bruce
The move hasn’t come without controversy. Some of the talent participating in the special were very vocal about the BBC’s decision to move house. The fact that the famous U-shaped building will be converted into a hotel and condos has many BBC alumni extremely upset.
Former BBC talk show host Michael Parkinson said, “We have lost an awful lot. It is as culturally significant in my view as the Royal Opera House or the National Theatre. If you think of what’s been done here, people’s memories of it, it is extraordinary that it has gone without any kind of recognition or outcry. It’s irreplaceable, it is a history of our time.”
Penelope Keith star of The Good Life said, The BBC has this vast edifice that is the news and we’ve got sport, religion, and children’s programming in Salford. Where does what happened here go? It hasn’t got a home – we are orphans.”
Comedian David Mitchell complained, “It’s a television factory. It’s not the same when studios are fitted around the country or around London. You’re not bringing creative people to the same place, nothing random or unusual is going to spark off.”
However, Sir David Attenborough sounded off as the voice of reason by saying, “We are going to lose something, but it’s worthwhile thinking about what the world was like when this place was being designed and built. Then television was a mystique, very few people understood it and cameras were huge. You couldn’t go out and just make television, it was a specialized thing. If you wanted to see it done, this is the place you went, and I would like to think we did it as well as anybody in the world. But now television has changed, we can all do television. You can go and buy home videos and it’s good stuff, it’s fine, television has changed and you have to recognize that.”
Goodbye Television Centre airs on BBC Four Friday, March 22nd.