The Key to a Long Gone Door 

1 November 2013

Do you ever look at what’s on your keyring? I mean, really look? Not just “Oh I need the front door key, where is it?” but actually look at it and go “Oh, I haven’t got the garage key!” or “Ah, that’s from that old front door. Can get rid of it now.”

I suspect most people do what I do and barely give the contents of their keyring a second glance. But the other day I actually looked at mine.

I found (as expected) my front and back door keys, and the shed key. There’s the stirrup shaped keyring that my dad used for his car keys for no apparent reason, and (for even less apparent reason) seemed to end up with me for reasons I can’t even recall. More useful is the Badger Brewery branded bottle opener, and less is the key to a pedestal drawer from an old office my employer moved me out of in 2012.

And then there’s another key. It’s a pretty normal key. A silver coloured key from a Yale lock. And I haven’t used it for years. Over a decade actually.

Key for the door to room 904 of Bush House

What’s so special about this key you may wonder. Well it’s the key to a door in Bush House, formerly home to the BBC World Service.

I worked for the BBC for eleven and a half years, from 2000 to 2011. I started on Greg Dyke’s first day as Director General and left just after the opening of the offices in MediaCity. For all of that time I worked for BBC New Media, which was based at Bush House until 2005.

I joined at a time when the team was growing rapidly. It’s space on a couple of floors in the North East wing no longer fitted everyone, and teams were being flung in to any old space they could find. A month or so after arriving I was moved in to a small room overlooking the Aldwych bus stand, accessible by walking down a dark corridor, past the two studios of the Croatian service and round a corner. Or by following the smell of the fumes from the double decker buses parked below.

A few weeks the project I was on had outgrown that office later we were shunted off again, this time to a ninth floor that had exceptional views of the Thames from the south facing windows. Unfortunately we were on the north, although it did give us a nice view of the old Rediffusion offices, then in use by a petrol company.

That room was 904 and I still have its key. There’s no lock for the key – that’s long gone, swept away as the entire floor was made open plan some years later, no doubt ending up in some landfill site. Meanwhile, six months later our project ended and I moved to a new desk on one of the main floors. And of course, even the BBC isn’t in there anymore; the last broadcasts being made in 2012 before the World Service departed for Broadcasting House.

But despite all this, the key remains on my keyring. A little piece of Bush House that stays in my pocket wherever I go. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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