Magic of NBH

Published on 13 November 2009 in , ,

Back when I was aged 9 in what we’d now call Year 4 at primary school, we had to get together in small groups to do a project together. The result was to create a sort of combined report on the chosen subject.

For some reason I don’t know, our chosen subject was sport – quite why I ended up doing something about sport I can’t tell you cos I’ve never shown the slightest interest in sport throughout out my life.

BBC Manchester

Photograph by Jeremy Tarling. Creative Commons licensed.

For some other reason I don’t know, we decided to write to radio stations about how they covered sport. We wrote to Piccaddilly Radio who never replied, however BBC Radio Manchester did and they invited us to their studios to watch a sports bulletin being broadcast.

Which is why about eight of us, our teacher, and presumably the odd parent or too, went to visit New Broadcasting House sat majestically on Manchester’s Oxford Road.

New Broadcasting House (or NBH as you have to call it when you work in the BBC – why use a full name when a TLA will do?) always held some sort of magical grip on me when I was as a kid. Whenever my parents drove us over the Mancunian Way, I’d look out to the side and get a glimpse of it.

Okay realisitically it’s a rather dull looking building, but it’s the BBC!

Anyway, back to 1980s Radio Manchester.

We all got in and whoever had drawn the short straw gave us a little tour of the building. Naturally I was dead impressed to see the mighty concert studio which felt enormous, the inside of studio 1, and other such delights like “the steps which Stuart Hall and John Mundy climb every night to present North West Tonight.” Yeah, the steps� In rhetrospect I think we were slightly short changed on that one.

After the mini tour we were taken into a room and given some orange juice and biscuits whilst being offered Radio Manchester car and window stickers, postcards of presenters (including Mike Shaft who is apparently the UK’s leading authority on basketball) and a Radio Manchester apron “for your mum” (I don’t remember my mum ever using it for some reason.)

And then it was off to watch the sports bulletin. We were herded into a little glass booth between two studios. In one, a rather bemused drivetime presenter looked at this gaggle of kids watching him, and in the other the news presenter and sport reporter came in to do their stuff.

With that it was all done and we were whisked back home clutching our photographs and aprons.

Even having been inside, it still maintained a hold on me. Okay so there’s not much magic there – true, the glamour, the lights, the magic are all mostly in London. However growing up, London was a place that was very far away, whilst NBH was right on the doorstep.

Depsite working for the Beeb for nearly ten years, I never actually had the chance to visit Oxford Road professionally until very recently. My department now has a small team in the building, in preparation for the 2012 move and I recently had cause to visit them for a meeting and to deliver tea bags (apparently they don’t have them up there… or at least those former Londoners haven’t found the local supermarket yet!)

It may not have been quite as magical as it was all those years ago, still there was something rather wonderful being there, if for no other reason than seeing giant pictures of Marc Riley and for sitting near Gordon Burns in the canteen…

A few years after my first visit, Radio Manchester was rebranded as BBC GMR. It was renamed back to Radio Manchester in 2006. Stuart Hall, who was born in Hyde by the way, stopped presenting North West Tonight in 1990 and John Mundy left in 1993. Mike Shaft left Radio Manchester at some point at some time, but returned to the building to present BBC 2002 – a year long radio station run by the GMR team for the Commonwealth Games. Not long after, he returned to Radio Manchester and presents a Sunday morning show.