Bye bye NBH
I was about eight when I first stepped foot in the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in Manchester. Having grown up in the area there was a tingle of excitment as we were given a tour of the building and shown the steps which John Munday and Stuart Hall walked up every night in order to watch North West Tonight. We weren’t shown what was at the top of the steps, just the steps themselves.
Many years later the building had a buzz about it thanks to it being home to the seminal Radio 1 dynamic duo, Mark and Lard. As a member of the uk.media.radio.radcliffe usenet group, I attended many a meet in the nearby Lass O’Gowrie where we’d wax lyrical about our idols and consume plenty of ale.
Some years on I started working at the BBC myself, and in 2009 the first of my colleagues made the move from London to Manchester after it was announced that my department would be moved to Salford. Towards the end of that year I stepped foot inside myself, swiping my BBC pass on the entrance barriers as I headed up to the tiny second floor office that the initial team were based in.
With time to kill between meetings and discussions I wandered the corridors of the building. The Radio 2 and 6music studios. The endless dark corridors with office doors firmly shut. The pictures of Anthony H Wilson (which would remain there despite his death.) Poke your head through that door and there was Studio A. Look down that bit there and there’s Studio D. The BBC Philharmonic playing away in their studio. Oh and the canteen and the club, side by side, complete with brass plaque announcing it had been opened by Messurs Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley following a refurbishment. And in the canteen itself, Gordon Burns eating fish and chips.
Over 2010 and 2011 the Manchester team grew and grew. Some of my colleagues seemed to spend half their week on the train, wizzing between the two cities; Virgin Trains the true winner in the BBC’s policy it seemed. With most of my projects still firmly based in London, my own visits were few and far between. The odd meeting here; some interviews to conduct there.
The months passed. My redundancy letter was received. The leaving date announced. And the day of departure for the Manchester team revealled. By beginning of June they’d be in their new home of Salford Quays, with its car parking, Lowry Centre and branch of Costa Coffee.
And on Friday 20 May 2011 I boarded a train to Manchester for what would be my final ever meeting in New Broadcasting House. A tinge of sadness. No more wandering around its corridors whilst the orchestra played on. No more sharing lunch time with Gordon Burns. To some a dark and dingy dive, in dire need of replacement. For me, as iconic a place as Television Centre. A microcosm of the BBC. Where part of my history was. A place where broadcasting magic occurred.