The BBC Television Centre 

17 June 2022 tbs.pm/75329

 

Two copies of Ariel

From Ariel, the staff magazine of the BBC, for June and July 1960

Television is an industry: and Television Centre is an example of industrial planning. It isa factory designed for the production of about 1,500 hours of programmes a year, about half the output of BBC-TV. The other half is made up of Regional contributions, programmes sent over the Eurovision Link, OBs, films, and news broadcasts from Alexandra Palace.

The Layout

The layout consists essentially of a vast circular Main Block with three surrounding blocks — Scenery Block, Restaurant Block, and East Block (not yet constructed) — radiating from it. At a later date, a spur will be added. The total site area is approximately thirteen acres, of which the Main Block occupies 3½ acres [14,000m²] or 1¾ times the area of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Main Block is approached from a colonnade which rises above a forecourt between it and Wood Lane. Tt has an inner ring, going up to the seventh floor, which encloses a Central Garden 150 ft [62m] in diameter. In the centre of the garden is a fountain dominated by a gilded ten-foot [3m] figure of Helios (the all-seeing Sun God of Greek mythology) mounted on a forty-foot [12m] obelisk. Two bronze figures, one representing Vision and the other Sound, recline in a basin beneath the fountain.

 

Architect's diagram of TVC

 

The Entrance Hall, which follows the curve of the ring, is some 60 ft [18m] long by 25 ft [7.6m] wide and is 21 ft [6.4m] high to the underside of a suspended grille, above which are lights which can be intensified for televising arrivals. It also contains a gallery on which a television camera may be mounted. On the west wall is the mosaic mural designed by John Piper.

In the Main Block are the technical areas and the equipment directly associated with television productions. Here, too, are facilities for artists: good dressing rooms, baths, facilities for rest, restaurants, tea bars, and so on. Wardrobe is here. Hair-styling experts are on the spot. Make-up girls in their powder-blue uniforms are in attendance on every performer. Plenty of space and the most modern ventilation system protect the performers so far as possible from the heat of the studio lights. With seven studios it would be easy for performers to get lost. Special assembly areas, each to be recognized by a colour, have been planned to obviate this difficulty.

Studios

A ballerina in a dressing room

One of the Star dressing-rooms

The seven studios are grouped round this circular building, an arrangement which meets the technical requirements as well as providing easy access.

Studio One will be the largest and is 108 ft by 100 ft by 54 ft high [33×30.5×16.5m]. It will have a pit 7 ft 6 in. [2m] deep into which part of the floor can be lowered. The pit can be filled with water if the producer wants to include an aquatic ‘spot’ in the show. The studio will be used for Light Entertainment and Musical Productions and, when required, it can accommodate an audience of 600.

Studio Two will be for general purposes and measures 70 ft by 50 ft by 33 ft high [21x15x10m]. It will normally have three operational cameras which can be increased to four when necessary. It will be in service early in 1961.

Studio Three, measuring 100 ft by 80 ft by 44 ft [30.5x25x13.5m], will also be for general purposes and will deploy four, sometimes six, cameras. It is operational now and is the studio from which the opening programme will come on 29 June. This programme, entitled First Night, will be introduced by David Nixon and stars Arthur Askey, Richard Hearne, and Elizabeth Larner with Irving Davies. Also in the programme are the Irving Davies Dancers, the Leslie Roberts Silhouettes, the Television Toppers, and the George Mitchell Singers. The orchestra is under the direction of Eric Robinson and the settings have been designed by George Djurkovic. Producer is Graeme Muir.

A lighting rig

Studio Three being prepared for lighting

Studio Four is the same size as Studio Three. It will be used for Light Entertainment, Music, and Children’s Programmes. It will be in service this autumn.

Studio Five will come into service in the summer of next year. It will be the same size as Studio Two and will be used for School Broadcasts and Training.

Studio Six will be another general purposes studio and will be so constructed that it can be divided, if experience shows that two studios would be more useful.

Studio Seven will be for Talks.

Central Wedge

Between Studio Three and Studio Four is situated the Central Wedge. It is here that the Presentation Suite is housed together with the Central Control Room and the vital Central Apparatus Room which form part of it. This area fulfils a number of important functions. The Central Control Room is the focal point for the control of programme contributions from all sources: local studios, telecine, telerecordings, London satellite studios (including the News Centre at Alexandra Palace), OBs, and the Regions. Here continuity of the national network programmes is maintained. An adjacent Presentation Studio is used for announcements and simple programmes of the interview type.

International Control Room

Included in the Presentation Suite is the International Control Room which is intended to replace the present Continental Control Point in Broadcasting House. It will be the focal point for TV programmes sent to and received from European countries over the Eurovision link. Sound and vision mixing facilities will be provided for programmes necessitating multi-lingual commentaries and a comprehensive control line switching system will be installed to facilitate the setting up of the necessary circuits at home and abroad. The facilities will include tape reproducers, carrying identification signals in various languages.

Scenery Block

The Scenery Block (completed in 1953) covers approximately one acre. It includes workshops for the making of scenery and properties used in stage sets of television productions, a scenery painting studio, and extensive storage space for scenery and properties. Around the outside of the studios (the studio floors are at ground level) runs a covered carriage-way for the transport of scenery to and from the outer ends of the studios. The Scenery Block is situated on the outside of this carriage-way. The ease and speed with which scenery can be taken into and out of the studios is of the utmost importance because it is a major factor in controlling the amount of use that can be obtained from a studio. The importance of these arrangements cannot be overstated. The BBC has never enjoyed anything like them before.

The Restaurant Block

Restaurant

The Restaurant

The Restaurant Block, now in service, was brought into temporary use towards the end of 1955 as a rehearsal block and for offices. It faces south-west over its own garden on to the L.C.C. parkland beyond. A service tunnel links the kitchens to the Main Block so that supplies can be passed to the various tea-points and snack bars, and fully cooked meals delivered to the Reception Suite on the sixth floor.

The first and second floors are united into one double-storey dining space with cafeteria and coffee lounge on the lower level and a waitress-service restaurant on a balcony above. The top floor, which contains another cafeteria and a snack bar, can be approached from the Main Block by a bridge.

In all, the restaurant can provide meals for 750 people at one sitting and can cater for three sittings in sequence.

The East Block

The East Block is now being planned and building will commence next year. It will be the centre for engineering and house service maintenance, some stores and offices, and a suite for experimental television.

Looking to the future

In designing the Centre, it was necessary to prepare a scheme not only for the part of the site now developed, but to consider the possible ultimate development of the whole site in order to make certain that when the time comes for complete development, a cohesive scheme will result. The ultimate design envisages the construction of a curvilinear ‘tail’, running northwards from the north corner of the Main Block. Accommodation bids for this spur arc being considered at the present time with a view to a Schedule of Requirements being prepared to suit the potentialities of the site.

 

Entrance

The Entrance Hall, showing the Colonnade

 


 

Television Centre Opening Night

 

Studio scene with dancers

THIS PICTURE shows the scene in Studio Three, Television Centre, during the production of First Night. In the foreground is the studio audience accommodated on special seating which can be folded up and removed when not in use.

 

Good teamwork ensured the outstanding success of the largest party ever staged by the BBC. It was held on 29 June to mark the first studio programme from the Television Centre and was intended for those people, both inside and outside the BBC, who created the building.

There were also many television personalities present to do these guests honour – as well as heads of television departments and heads of those central BBC departments which have to do with the well-being of the Television Service.

 

Three women, with two men shaking hands

Arriving for the party, Carole Carr; Cliff Michelmore shaking hands with D.G.; Jean Metcalfe talking with Mrs Greene.

 

Three men and two women, four of them with drinks

Cecil McGivern with Armand and Michaela Denis, Mrs McGivern, and Jean D’Arcy, Vice-President of the Programme Committee of the European Broadcasting Union.

 

Three women and two men

Gerald Beadle welcomes Lady fforde (back to camera). On the left is Mrs Beadle, and on the right Lana Morris and Ronnie Waldman.

 

Sid James, Hattie Jacques and Eric Sykes

Sid James clinks glasses with Eric Sykes. In the background is Hattie Jacques.

 


 

Television Centre from the air

 

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