Television Centre review – the high life on Auntie’s doorstep

The redevelopment of the BBC’s iconic Television Centre into flats, shops, cinema, even a new Soho House, is well-made and thoughtful – just not daring enough

Oh my. All our yesteryears. All, that is, for those of us old enough that BBC TV was the warp and weft of our childhood: Blue Peter, Doctor Who, Monty Python, Top of the Pops, The Two Ronnies. All came out of a nationalised dream factory in White City, west London, a work of Attlee-era, amiable constructivism, its plan not a hammer and sickle but a question mark. A bit Hollywood, a bit Magnitogorsk, then, although not too much like either.

BBC Television Centre, which was designed by Graham Dawbarn from 1949 onwards and completed in phases from 1960, had an enigmatic presence in the nation’s consciousness. While the sets inside its large studios were beamed daily and nightly into millions of living rooms, images of the building itself, with its distinctive round courtyard, would be broadcast more occasionally. Sometimes self-parodic comedy shows would shoot in its endless circular, Orwellian corridors. Roy Castle performed there with the largest tap-dancing troupe in the world. It seemed to exist independently of any particular place, or at most in a rather vague part of the capital. It was a given, like the test card, or the slowly revolving Earth in the BBC1 ident, a quintessence of Beeb-ness handed down without explanation by our betters.

Continue reading...