BBC-2 press review 

20 April 2024 tbs.pm/80762

 

Liverpool Daily Post

Power failure closes London theatres, stops Tube trains

BLACK-OUT FOR NEW £8M. TV

B.B.C.2 opening ends in chaos

By JOHN CHELSFIELD

Front page of the Daily Post for 21 April 1964

Sixteen months of intense planning for television’s biggest event for years, the opening last night for viewers in the London area of the B.B.C’s new £8,000,000 [£135m in today’s money, allowing for inflation – Ed] service B.B.C.-2, ended in chaos.

A major power failure hit a large area of central London and put the B.B.C.’s huge Television Centre at Shepherd’s Bush out of action.

The power failure also – stopped some Underground trains for ten minutes; closed cinemas and caused at least three West End theatre shows to be cancelled; plunged Piccadilly Circus into darkness and affected the House of Commons and Buckingham Palace (the Queen was at Windsor). A Central Electricity Board spokesman said the fault was thought to be in a 60,000-volt feeder at Iver (Buckinghampshire) [sic].

Meanwhile an estimated 1,500,000 London viewers, waiting round their new or converted [sic] 625 line sets, for the opening of the new programme at 7.20 p.m. saw blank screens as the time approached.

This gave place to pictures of the newsroom at Alexandra Palace. Gerald Priestland, of the B.B.C’s editorial staff, could be seen talking from his desk — but his voice could not be heard.

After some minutes sound was restored. But only pictures from Alexandra Palace could be screened. Television Centre and B.B.C.2 were cut off completely.

On B.B.C.-1 plans were hurriedly made to substitute a Western film from Alexandra Palace for the programme from Television Centre.

After half-an-hour all that B.B.C.-2 viewers were seeing on their screens was a notice bearing the optimistic words “B.B.C.-2 will start shortly.”

“Only sit back and wait”

A Shepherd’s Bush TV Centre spokesman said about 8 p.m.: “We can only sit back and wait now. We are in the hand of the electricity people. There is nothing going out from the Television Centre here at all.

“We thought we had taken every eventuality into account, but now we’re affected like this.”

Eventually a B.B.C. spokesman said B.B.C.-2 would now only screen a “Newsroom” at about 10 p.m. from Alexandra Palace. Everything else would be postponed.

Mr. Michael Peacock (chief of programmes, B.B.C.-2) said: “Obviously I am disappointed, but not to worry. We will have a jolly good night to-morrow — if the power is restored.”

A wobble, then Panorama

After showing the Western film, B.B.C.-1 switched over to “Panorama,” which was from Liverpool

Seconds before it came on, the screen wobbled violently and a flash came on: “There is a fault. Do not adjust your set.”

Then Panorama started — without sound. A few seconds later both sound and picture were normal.

● A spokesman for Associated Rediffusion said in London last night that their television programmes were not effected by toe power cut. “All our programmes are recorded to-night,” said the spokesman.

Power station out of action

Some time after the power failure, Battersea power station — one London’s biggest — was out of action after a fire in a cable room knocked out a 66,000 volt cable.

A fire officer said: “The station is not producing any electricity at all at present. There was a fire in a cable duct which eventually caused a transformer to explode.”

A Central Electricity Board spokesman said they appeared to have lost all their cables at the power station. “We cannot feed into the station. We do not know if the power failure caused the fire, or if the fire itself is the reason for the blackout,” he said.

Several fire engines were at the blaze and for two hours a dull red glow could be seen in the sky around the power station.

 

 

Western Daily Press (Bristol)

Breakdown blacks out the new kangaroo

 

Western Daily Press Reporter

Western Daily Press front page

The scheduled start of the new BBC-2 channel was called off late last night after a power failure plunged the West London Television Centre into darkness and chaos.

Breakdown came only 25 minutes before the 625-line channel was due to go on the screen for the first time, at 7.20 p.m.

At 9.45 p.m. came the point of no return – and the birth of screen kangaroo – symbol of the new channel – was postponed.

The failure – thought to be due to a fault in a 60,000-volt feeder at Iver, Bucks – also blacked out many parts of London, and disrupted traffic hospitals, [sic] entertainment, sport and trains.

Trains stop

Meanwhile, one of London’s biggest power stations, at Battersea, was put out of action when fire in a cable room damaged a 64,000 volt cable.

It took 60 firemen two hours to get the blaze under control.

The power failure stopped Underground trains in many parts of London and several cinemas closed down.

Hospitals switched on stand-by generators, and the American singer Lena Horne’s Palladium appearance was by dim emergency lighting.

Sent home

Traffic lights had to be replaced by policemen, burglar alarms went off, and theatre performances were cancelled.

The audience at the Windmill Theatre (“We Never Closed”) were sent home after an hour of seeing the revue by torch and bicycle lamp.

The Prime Minister and other distinguished guests ate by candlelight at a Cafe Royal dinner, and had to walk up six flights of steps because the lift was not working.

At the National Sporting Club a professional boxing tournament was cancelled, and Walsall’s game against Queen’s Park Rangers at Shepherd’s Bush was called off after 24 minutes because floodlights could not be used.

 

 

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen)

Power failure brings back wartime look to London

THE BIG BLACKOUT!

Birth of BBC 2 delayed: trains stopped: cinemas closed

 

The Press and Journal

THE birth of BBC 2 was postponed last night when a widespread power failure blacked out large parts of London.

After the power had been off for more than two and a half hours, the team behind BBC 2 conceded defeat.

Said Mr Michael Peacock, chief of programmes on BBC 2, “Obviously I am disappointed, but not to worry. We will have a jolly good night tomorrow if the power is restored”

Electric trains were halted for ten minutes, cinemas closed down, hospitals switched on standby generators, restaurants served cold food, public house customers drank by candlelight and singer Lena Horne’s Palladium appearance was by dim emergency lighting.

THE PALACE AFFECTED

Piccadilly Circus was plunged into darkness, burglar alarms went off, traffic lights had to be replaced by policemen, and several West End theatre shows were cancelled.

Among buildings affected by the failure were Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and St James’s Palace – but the Queen, her family and the Queen Mother were all at Windsor.

In the House of Commons lights dimmed and microphones failed for about ten minutes.

A Central Electricity Board spokesman said the cut was attributed to a fault in the 60,000-volt feeder in Iver, Buckinghamshire.

Meanwhile one of London’s biggest power stations, at Battersea, was put out of action when fire in a cable room damaged a 64,000-volt cable.

The huge station was producing no electricity late last night, said a fire officer. The fire had caused a transformer to explode after the widespread power failure.

About 60 firemen took two hours to get the blaze under control.

The Prime Minister and other distinguished guests ate by candlelight at a Cafe Royal dinner and had to walk up six flights of steps because the lift was not working.

Last night’s National Sporting Club professional boxing tournament was cancelled and Walsall’s game against Queen”s Park Rangers at Shepherds Bush was called off because floodlights could not be used.

The audience at the Windmill Theatre were sent hime after an hour of seeing the revue by torch and bicycle lamp.

TRAPPED

Many roads were unlit and a London Fire Brigade spokesman said they had received eight calls to people trapped in lifts.

Thousands of homes were blacked out.

At the BBC Television Centre the studio audience for the “This Is Your Life” programme were sent home and eventually, when the emergency lighting system began to run down, everyone in the building was advised to leave “while the going is still good.”

‘Chaos was complete’ in studio

The BBC’s £40,000,000 [£675m in today’s money, allowing for inflation – Ed] No. 2 TV service blacked out last night before it began, writes Alan Morris.

After 15 months of effort, planners were frantic when, within one hour of the first 625-line programme starting time a power failure cut all electricity at the corporation’s £12,000,000 [£203m] Television Centre in West London.

Torches and matches flickered through the gloom and at 7.20 p.m. – opening time – the Alexandra Palace, the original TV station, now used mainly as a news centre, put out a “standby” announcement.

A few minutes later Gerald Priestland, a senior news executive, told about 1,000,000 anxious viewers tuned to the blank ultra-high-frequency channel that thw service was in trouble.

Flickers

Thera was, he said, a widespread power cut in West and Central London.” He hoped BBC 2 might start shortly.

Viewers should have seen a debut skit on television, the musical “Kiss Me Kate” and Russian comedian Arkady Raikin [Raikin was born in what is now Latvia – Ed]

Rex Moorfoot, TV head of presentation, arrived immediately to attemot to restore order in Studio B, where all BBC production staff were gathered. At 6.34 lights flickered momentarily and 20 minutes later came the complete breakdown.

“For a few minutes chaos was complete,” said a production assistant.

Rowan Ayers, assistant head of presentation, found people jostling up the centre’s narrow stairs to the fourth floor presentation suite and shouted: “This is an emergency. Everyone out of here.” Eventually the suite was supplied with light from a stand-by power plant.

Terrible

Pamela Donald, Dundee repertory actress and former Border Television announcer, who should have had her big national break as No. 2 hostess, exclaimed: “This is a terrible disappointment. We had such high hopes for tonight.”

Miss Donald (22) appeared in HM Theatre. Aberdeen, last summer, but has a link with the city going way back beyond that. She made her stage debut tn Aberdeen when she played in “Watch It Sailor.” During her run here last year, she celebrated her 21st birthday.

A goodwill message from France’s own second television service, which began on Saturday, was to have been sent to London over the Eurovision link. It was cancelled.

The Television Centre switchboard was jammed with calls from people asking what had happened — but switchboard staff were unable in the darkness to see where to plug the calls in.

Pressmen were guided to phones by public relations staff with candles

The power failure also hit BBC 1 and North and North-east viewers, in common with those in the rest of the country, missed three of their favourite programmes – Tonight, On Safari and The Lucy Show

Television planners, however, rose to the emergency by transmitting an American film from Alexandra Palace which was unaffected the black out.

The film was shown from shortly after 7 p.m. until 8.30 p.m. when Panorama was screened from Liverpool.

 

 

Birmingham Post

Black-out wrecks BBC first night

 

The Birmingham Post

A FIRE at Battersea power station caused a widespread power failure in London last night and wrecked the opening of the BBC’s new television service — BBC-2.

Electric trains and some Underground services were halted for a time, cinemas closed down, hospitals switched on stand-by generators, restaurants served cold food, public house customers drank by candlelight, and Lena Horne’s Palladium appearance was by dim emergency lighting.

The lights went out and Piccadilly Circus was plunged into darkness, burglar alarms went off, traffic lights had to be replaced by policemen, and the shows at three theatres were cancelled.

“Leap into view with BBC-2,” beckoned the big BBC second television channel placards at Shepherd’s Bush’s £10,000,000 [£169m in today’s money, allowing for inflation – Ed] Television Centre, but just before 7 p.m., lights at the Centre began to flicker and by seven — 30 minutes before zero hour for the Kangaroo symbol to flash on to the screen — they had faded completely.

Lifts stopped and candles were pressed into service to light the way up the stairs to Pressmen invited to the show.

A film was transmitted meanwhile from Alexandra Palace on the main BBC channel accompanied by screen flashes about the failure.

A Shepherd’s Bush Television Centre spokesman said: “We can only sit back and wait now. We are in the hands of the electricity people. There is nothing going out from the Television Centre here at all.”

Later it became clear that even if the power supply returned the spectacular opening night show Kiss Me Kate, although it had been “canned,” would have to be postponed until to-night.

‘Of all nights

A newsman, Mr. Gerald Priestland made the formal announcement from Alexandra Palace about the breakdown.

He told viewers: “Welcome to BBC 2 from where it all began – Studio A at Alexandra Palace, now the newsroom of our new channel.

“To-night of all nights there has been a loss of electrical power at our main studios at the Television Centre, due to a major mains failure in West London.

“It therefore falls to me to apologise and welcome you to our humble parlour and to give you as scheduled the news in brief.”

A BBC spokesman said there were only two live programmes going out from Channel One. The Tonight team had been unable to go on and had left the studios.

The other live programme, Panorama, was being transmitted from Liverpool and would reach those parts of the country which were not affected by the power cut.

A spokesman for Associated Rediffusion, the London ITV contractor, in London said that not affetced [sic] by the power cut. They had all been recorded.

Playgoers wait

Players sat patiently in their seats at several West End theatres waiting for the lights to go up and the shows to begin.

But at Her Majesty’s Theatre (No Strings), the Apollo (Boeing-Boeing) and the Globe (The Formation Dancers) it was later decided to cancel the performances.

Among buildings affected by the failure were Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and St James’s Palace — but the Queen, her family and the Queen Mother were all at Windsor.

In the House of Commons lights dimmed and microphones failed for about ten minutes.

Firemen were called to Sabena House, off Piccadilly, to rescue a woman who had been stuck for an hour in the lift.

Scotland Yard Information Room had many “999” calls reporting burgular [sic] alarms sounding. The Yard established that this was due to the power supplies to the alarms being cut — this automatically sets them off.

 

 

News Letter (Belfast)

B.B.C. KANGAROO SITS OUT IN CHAOS

 

News Letter

The scheduled start of the B.B.C.’s new channel was called off late last night after a power failure plunged the Shepherd’s Bush, London, television centre into darkness and chaos. Breakdown came only 25 minutes before the 625-line Channel 2 was due to go on the screen for the first time at 7-20 p.m.

At 9-45 p.m., said a B.B.C. spokesman, came the point of no return – and entry of the screen kangaroo was postponed. “We will have a jolly good night to-morrow if the power is restored,” he added.

The failure – thought to be due to a fault in a 60,000-volt feeder at Iver (Bucks.) – also blacked out many parts of London and disrupted road traffic, hospitals, entertainment, sport, trains and home life.

Meanwhile, one of London’s biggest power stations, at Battersea, was put out of action when fire in a cable room damaged a 66,000-volt cable.

The station, which generates enough power to supply Manchester and Salford, was producing no electricity late last night, said a fire officer. The fire had caused a transformer to explode after the widespread power failure.

About 60 firemen took two hours to get the blaze under control.

The audience at the Windmill Theatre (“We never closed”) were sent home after an hour of seeing the revue by torch and bicycle lamp.

At the Television Centre the studio audience for the “This is Your Life” programme were sent home and eventually, when the emergency lighting system began to run down, everyone in the building was advised to leave “while the going is still good”.

 

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