BBC - Television Centre

Home Page / Television Home Page / Anna at the BBC

Aerial View

With thanks to www.webaviation.co.uk for the fabulous aerial view of TC and the East Tower (where I worked)

Revelations of sex and drugs at TV Centre in new BBC 4 doc

Lights! Camera! Action! Tales of Television Centre is a feature length special for BBC Four following the life of the BBC hub across the years. It includes revelations about sex and drugs at large on the premises.

The film, directed by Richard Marson, takes a tour around the building, with stars - from Pans People to Doctor Who's assistants - and crafts people giving their anecdotes about each section from the doughnut to the canteen.

Contributors include Sir David Frost, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Joan Bakewell, Jeremy Paxman, Sir Terry Wogan, Esther Rantzen, Angela Rippon, Biddy Baxter, Edward Barnes, Sarah Greene, Waris Hussein, Judith Hann, Maggie Philbin, John Craven, Zoe and Johnny Ball.

The documentary unearths historic complaints about "herbal smells" in the corridors and Play School presenters smoking joints before going on screen.

The programme reveals what went on in some of the stars' dressing rooms, with former Doctor Who actress Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant, saying, "People were bonking all over the BBC. Everybody was doing it on the premises."

As well as anecdotes and revelations, there is  memorable, rarely seen (and in some cases newly recovered) archive material, including moments from studio recordings of classic programmes like Vanity Fair, Till Death Us Do Part, Top of the Pops and Dr Who, plus vintage behind-the-scenes footage.

"Yes it's bricks and mortar, " says director Marson. "But it was a also a world within a world. Everything was under one roof. It was like a big family."

Marson started off as a floor assistant in 1987, working on Going Live and Top of the Pops and went on to become the director of Blue Peter before leaving in 2007.

TC For Sale


The TV Centre is up for sale and people have already started moving out of the building with the aim of it being empty in 2014. The film is being previewed at the BFI on 15 May.

Plan of TVC

Apparently this sketch was found in a skip! Full story can be found here / Official handbook here

Thank you to David Downes for this lovely image of Television Centre.

Goodbye Television Centre!

So it's 'goodbye' twice then? The year I left (1977) and when it was finally closed down on March 31st, 2013! An excellent blog by Phil Coomes can be found here and a comprehensive Daily Mail article here

Television Centre end announcement

Me and Television Centre or should that be Television Centre and I?

My car parked at Television Centre

Eventually, this whole front section was given over to Minis (only on this side of the gates) as they were the only cars that would fit - I would love to find an image of a full row of them. We actually parked in reverse to this picture - but this is image (taken from the official handbook) is well before the Minis took over - a chicken wire fence was erected to make a boundary from the pavement and the minis backed into or drove bonnet first into the chicken wire leaving a narrow space to manoeuvre against the wall. To reach the space it was a requirement that we drove through the gates, around and out - we were not permitted to access the parking area from the road direct - the Commissionaires held the last word and many a time I ended up having to park in White City!

My Co-Workers at the BBC (Nottingham and TVC)

Bruce Myles - Reporter for East Midlands Today (Nottingham)

Bruce Myles in 1981

A rather unfortunate (but only one I can find at present) image of Bruce Myles in 1981 courtesy of the BBC Archive

Dennis McCarthy - Freelance Reporter for East Midlands Today (Nottingham)

Dennis McCarthy at the microphone

Dennis doubled up as a radio newscaster for Radio Nottingham and freelancing for BBC East Midlands Today television news

Gerald Savory - Former Head of Drama Plays, Producer Play for Today 'Churchill's People' vilified and voted as the worst ever made drama series for the BBC, brought 'Take Three Girls' to the BBC and 'Mapp and Lucia' to LWT

'Take Three Girls' - Drama series devised by Gerald Savory about three single girls sharing a London flat between the end of the 'swinging' sixties and the start of the 'glam' seventies. They were: posh cello-playing deb Victoria Edgecombe (Liza Goddard), failed actress Kate (Susan Jameson) and Cockney art student Avril (Angela Down). Each week the story concentrated on the ups and downs of one girl in particular (episode titles would sometimes reflect this-the first one was titled 'Kate, Stop Acting', episode three was 'Requiem For Cello In SW3') giving the series something of an anthology feel. Successful enough to return for a second series although when it did only Victoria remained (Kate had got married and Avril had taken a job in Paris) and she was now joined by new flatmates Jenny (Carolyn Seymour), a young journalist, and American psychology graduate Lulie (Barra Grant). A host of guest stars appeared in the series, among them Stephanie Cole, Peter Bowles, Sally Thomsett, Anthony Valentine and Maurice Denham were all on their way to television immortality. Eleven years later the original girls (and actresses) were reunited for Take Three Women - four episodes shown on BBC2. Victoria was a widow with a young daughter, single Kate had a 13-year old son and Avril owned an art gallery. Gerald Savory produced the later series and the reunion was completed when the group Pentangle, who performed the original theme music ('Light Flight') reformed to provide the music once more.

Leads in Take Three Girls

From left to right Angela Down, Susan James and Liza Goddard

Take Three Girls Radio Times Article

'Churchill's People'

This was Gerald's swansong at the BBC and he, Brian Rawlinson (Script Editor) and I made up the producer's team not to be confused with the 'production' team which was exclusively brought together for each episode in production. As there were 26 episodes we really swept up all the talent we could - from IMDB I was able to piece together our star (and very well known these days) directors and writers. To think I worked with all these people!

Churchill's People Full Cast and CrewChurchill's People Series writing credits

If I start cherry picking the cast it may even exceed the above - full cast members can be found here but a few (in no particular order) included :

Alfred Lynch, Bernard Hepton, Jeremy Kemp, Ray Barratt, Rodney Bewes, Tom Conti, Brian Cox, Edward Fox, Ian Hendry, Alan Haward, Gemma Jones, Dinsdale Landen, Michael Kitchen, Bryan Marshall, Leo McKern, Clive Francis, Evi Hale, Charles Gray, Robert Hardy, Arthur Lowe, Anna & Daniel Massey, T P McKenna, Brian Blessed, Patrick Troughton, Dennis Waterman, June Brown, Annette Crosbie, Rosalie Crutchley, Donald Gee, Jeremy irons, Nigel Stock, Philip Madoc, Robin Ellis, Wolfe Morris .......... And yes, for the eagle eyed it was very top heavy with male actors!

But it failed miserably! The Sunday Telegraph bellowed ' Churchill's People is a co-production disaster ... it not only sounds like a school's radio programme but looks like it too!" Then television criticisms started appearing "When the BBC carefully fail to provide an 'advance viewing' of 'a major new series' for critics, the omission is seldom due to forgetfulness or modesty. It means they fear ......"

Cutting from Radio Times

And so, having started in the prime Drama slot following the news, after the first four or five episodes, it was tucked away to a much later evening slot!

Brian Rawlinson Onedin Line

Brian Rawlinson as Robert Onedin and as I remember he looked when I worked with him.

Brian Rawlinson - a greatly respected actor whose versatile credits range from quintessentially British Classic Films such as 'Far from the Madding Crowd' and popular soaps 'Z Cars' and 'Coronation Street to appearing regularly in the 'Carry On' films. He is possibly best remembered as Robert Onedin (brother to James and Elizabeth) in 'The Onedin Line' an immensely popular BBC Drama set in the shipyards of Liverpool at the turn of the 20th century. Brian temporarily turned his back on acting to become the script editor on 'Churchill's People' and his portrayal of Robert Onedin was sadly missed - I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when he returned and took up the reigns as Robert once more. He exacted his revenge on his sojourn on 'Churchill's People' by appearing on 'TV Hell' " a theme night that BBC 2 ran in 1992 and which focused on bad (unsuccessful) television programmes."

Brian Rawlinson

In suitable shaded surroundings, Brian Rawlinson gently told us what was on his mind.

"They were in a terrible fix really. They got this monumental piece of programming with an awful lot of good talent associated with it; but what to do with it? You see it was rather like, you know that terrible vase that Auntie Florrie sent you and you think where are we going to put it? Who knows after the next whatever it is, somebody may dig them up and who knows they may become unbelievable archival material." (Transcribed from the recording)

A genial man to the end, Robert died in 2000.

Irene Shubik - Freelance Producer for Drama Plays known for 'The Wessex Tales' and 'The Mind Beyond' and infamous for bringing 'Rumpole of the Bailey' to the BBC and losing it to Thames Television and her former friend Verity Lambert. (Credits link)

Irene Shubik rumpus over Rumpole

Innes Lloyd - Producer and Drama Plays favourite rebel whose many finest moments include 'Edna the Inebriate Woman' and 'True Patriot'.

Louis Marks - Producer Drama Plays who brought the trilogies of 'Eleanor Marx' (daughter or Karl and associate of Engels) and 'The Lost Boys' (the story of J M Barrie's involvement with the Llewellyn Davies family) to the silver screen following a distinguished career as script editor and screenplay writer of several 'Doctor Who' episodes.

Louis Marks

Louis Marks’s work ranged from Doctor Who and Robin Hood to Sophocles. Photograph: Michael Powell (from the Guardian Obituary)

Radio Times featuring cyborgsRadio Times with Doctor Who cover

The Lost Boys

Louis Marks was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet and to have him as a Boss was pure heaven! I worked with Louis on a number of productions under the general banner of 'Play for Today' which is what our department, Drama Plays, was all about; but Louis liked trilogies and we worked together on two of them 'Eleanor Marx' and 'The Lost Boys' a title since hijacked to become synonymous with the horror genre.

The Lost Boys DVD set

Luckily a DVD of our 'Lost Boys' exists and it is interesting some of the diverse quotes from television critics as part of the selling point!

Andrew Birkin correspondence

Andrew Birkin writing to me at the BBC linking me inextricably with Louis - it's his expenses claim for £900 - bit hefty in those days and a reminder, as if I didn't know that he lived in that most eligible of locations, Cheyne Row. I visited there once it was dark, narrow (probably a throw back to Harry Potter) and stacks of books everywhere - a bit like a second hand bookshop!

Our 'Lost Boys' referred to the Llewellyn-Davis family's involvement with J.M.Barrie. The writer who brought this story to Louis was Andrew Birkin (brother of Jane) who, it seems, had lived and breathed Barrie and the boys for most of his adult life. Thanks to my involvement with this production I, too, became a slavish fan of Barrie, all things Peter Pan and a supporter of GOSH, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

Louis Marks and Andrew Birkin on location

l to r - Louis Marks and Andrew Birkin on location in Kensington Gardens (probably) - 1976/7

Since our production, Johnny Depp has brought his own inimitable style to the story and I was amused to see this letter in the Mail on Sunday dated 12th April 2015! I realise it follows the announcement of yet another in-depth study into Barrie (I haven't read it yet so cannot make comment) soon to be released. The books author states that Nico Llewellyn-Davis was consulted - as indeed he was when Andrew Birkin conducted his research. Nico, the youngest of the five brothers has born the heavy burden of family spokesman/chronicler for many years now as he is the only surviving brother to have lived through those very intimate times.

I can imagine Barrie wanting 'Peter Pan' to appear as if by magic! Lucky no puffs of smoke were required!

Louis and I

I wonder if the fact that both our fathers were jewellers and we both studied History of Art as our educational 'majors' that made our working relationship so successful? I liked Louis a lot and he treated me in a very fatherly manner - I have nothing but fond memories of him.

Louis Marks obituary

Writer and producer behind a string of television classics

"Louis Marks, who has died aged 82, was a writer for some of British television's most popular series and the producer of acclaimed single plays and a six-part adaptation in 1994 of George Eliot's Middlemarch. Marks also scripted four Doctor Who adventures, including The Day of the Daleks (1972), with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, which introduced the Ogrons as the footsoldiers of the Daleks. A scholar of the Italian Renaissance, he transported the fourth incarnation of the Time Lord, played by Tom Baker, to 15th-century Italy for the 1976 adventure The Masque of Mandragora. His script drew on influences such as a Machiavellian comedy, a book-burning priest and the musical surnames Rossini and Scarlatti.

Marks was born in Golders Green, North London, the son of a Jewish jeweller. After attending Christ's college, East Finchley, he read history at Balliol College, Oxford. He then studied Italian Renaissance history in Florence. This led him into writing and academia. He contributed articles to journals, became head of history at a boarding school and, in 1955, founded the monthly magazine Books and Bookmen, of which he was editor.

Marks entered television as a scriptwriter on The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene, an early ITV success after the channel's launch in 1955. He wrote four episodes (1958-59) of the series, whose executive producer, Hannah Weinstein, had fled Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witchhunts in her native US. He also wrote episodes of Weinstein's subsequent action-adventure series, The Four Just Men (1960) and Danger Man (1964) before graduating to script editor (1965-66) in the later days of the long-running detective series No Hiding Place.

In 1967 Marks created the ITV drama Market in Honey Lane. Made at Elstree Studios, two decades before EastEnders was launched there, it attracted more than 20 million viewers. The following year, the programme was turned into a twice-weekly serial under the shortened title Honey Lane. ITV regional companies moved the revamped, soap-style programme to afternoon or late-night slots, the viewers disappeared and it was axed.

After working as a BBC script editor, Marks became one of its most eminent drama producers, mainly of single plays. One exception came when he commissioned Andrew Birkin to write The Lost Boys (1978), the story of JM Barrie's relationship with the Llewelyn Davies brothers, on whom he based Peter Pan. "Instead of 90 minutes, I felt we needed four or five hours if we were to tell the story without resorting to the simplified characters and dramatic licence of Hollywood biopics," explained Birkin. "Louis listened patiently. To my eternal gratitude, he agreed to a trilogy totalling four-and-a-half hours." It was described by one critic as "a sensitive and beautifully crafted masterpiece".

One of Marks's productions of modern drama in the Play for Today slot was The Falklands Factor (1983), Don Shaw's account of an 18th-century Spanish invasion of the British-held islands that was resolved through negotiation, but with no agreement on sovereignty. Screened only months after the end of the Falklands war, it was inevitably controversial.

In most of his other 30-plus plays for the BBC, Marks showed a preference for the classics, with adaptations of JB Priestley's Time and the Conways (1985), Arthur Wing Pinero's The Gay Lord Quex (1983) and Trelawny of the Wells (1985), Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan (1985) and the Jane Austen novel Northanger Abbey (1987).

Taking on Sophocles' Theban plays – Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone, adapted and directed by Don Taylor – was particularly ambitious, but their screenings over successive nights in 1984 were widely applauded.

A version of the Muriel Spark novel Memento Mori (1992), directed by Jack Clayton, won acclaim at film festivals around the world, and Harold Pinter's BBC film adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial (1993) was another high point.

As well as Middlemarch, Marks produced screen versions of two other George Eliot novels: Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe (1985), which he adapted himself, with Ben Kingsley in the title role, and Daniel Deronda (2002), his final work for television.

Away from his work, Marks was known by friends for his great sense of humour. He left the entertainment industry to run a bed-and-breakfast establishment with his wife, Sonia, whom he had married in the 1950s. She died in 2006. He is survived by their two daughters.

Louis Frank Marks, television writer, script editor and producer, born 23 March 1928; died 17 September 2010"

Page refreshed : 20th September 2017 (G)

Back to Top