I, personally, am so sad to see the end of the White City BBC TV Centre, as it closes its doors next week. Its been a huge part of my life, and is actually the very reason I was born in this great city of London.
My parents moved to London from Birmingham in the 60s when my Dad got a job with the BBC. He worked there his entire working life (my whole life) retiring a few years ago. Starting out at White City he had the glamorous job of setting up for outdoor broadcasts (yes, he was responsible for Live Aid reaching your TV set!). This job, amounted to many happy memories for me, sometimes hanging out in BBC vans all day, watching all the weird dials and connections, to meeting celebs. One particular happy day was at a Live Aid event in Hyde Park, for some reason we had a radio connection to the celebrities’ caravan, and I sat listening to them on their breaks the whole day.
An earlier memory that also sticks firm in my mind was a visit to the TVC itself, eating at the then infamous BBC canteen, and paying a visit to the Blue Peter garden. I remember it well as it was a sunny day and 6 year old me, left my favourite white cardigan in the bp garden, never to be recovered. I like to think it found its way into a time capsule and will be dug up again in 1000 years, and future generations will think ‘who was this ‘Celeste’ child, and what great things did she achieve to have the honour of inputting into the sacred time capsule?’
Later in my life it remained a significant place to me, passing by time and time again on the Central Line, I will always remember the huge Going Live painting on the side (until the renovations in the late 90s) anyone else remember that one?
And now more recently I spent two years working just a stone’s throw from the TVC, and would often bump into blurry eyed morning news presenters at the bus stop or in Starbucks… as they topped up their caffeine levels after their early shifts.
The Question Mark
The famous question mark was built in 1960 and provided a big boost to west London including the creation of homes for the influx of BBC staff (including my Dad) at nearby Ealing.
Its arrival at White City came at a time when the area was already famed around the world, having made its mark when it held the Olympics last minute in 1908, after hosts Rome dropped out. The area following this, as well as boasting a huge stadium, shared a large famous exhibition site, for the popular great exhibitions which were a regular event in the capital. It was also at this time that it earned its name as the great ‘White City’ after its white cladded exhibition halls. The site was vast, more than 8 times the size of the original Hyde Park exhibition in 1851.
BBC Centre and Stadium
The exhibition site and stadium, had its very own London tube Station Wood Lane, however this closed a year before TVC opened. In 2008 the station was resurrected, completely rebuilt, one of the newest stations, opening on the same line as its early ancestor and serving the BBC and nearby Westfield Shopping Centre.
Much of the exhibition site was demolished in the 30s making way first for a housing estate, and then the rest in the 60s for BBC Centre. The site remained a sporting hotspot for many years entertaining many different sports from athletics, to rugby, and boxing , and even hosted a match in the famed 1966 world cup. However after the arrival of the BBC in the 60s the area went into decline. The stadium itself was eventually closed in 1980s and demolished, the space being bought out by the BBC for the extension of their TV Centre.
The TVC though, continued to thrive and final renovations took place just a few years ago in the late 2000s when the brand new BBC Media Village was built (between the old question mark, and the A40) This new area includes it’s own post office, Tesco’s and Startbucks.
It’s now been sold off, and the centre of BBC life has moved to the BBC Broadcasting House in very central London, just next to Oxford Circus.
It’s expected that the site will be turned into flats, and a hotel, among other things.
Its an iconic building, and its closure has caused controversy even among celebs and those who have worked there in the past. I’m sure whatever the future holds for it I hope they are able to keep some of the essence and memories that this historic little corner of London created for so many across the world.
What are your personal memories of BBC TVC, or favourite shows? I’d love to hear your memories and comments in the comments section below.
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