Bye bye BBC Bush House

After 70-odd years, the BBC has begun to leave Bush House, home of BBC World Service radio. Some buildings have character. BBC Bush House has… had. This gives a flavour of it.
Video about Bush House and the World Service

For a while I worked, drank and watched the fish inside Bush House.

I was particularly fond of the Outlook programme – partly because they paid me for stories from Africa. But also because you could climb out a window from their office to a flat roof with satellite dishes. From there a metal ladder led up to another roof level. Then a second set of rungs provided a route to the very top and views over most of the rooftops between Bush House and the Thames.

I sometimes wandered past the rooftop water tanks to the front of the building and out onto the canopy over the grand entrance. In my mind’s eye we sat and contemplated our eyrie above the throng. I lay back and surveyed the clouds. Maybe one of us smoked. I remember the roof as curving – with the slight risk of sliding off to plummet to street level, but it looks more angular in the slide show. Memories can be tricky.

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “Bye bye BBC Bush House

  1. I felt the same about Radio Éireann’s days on the third floor of the GPO. Primitive it may have been but there was a community there that did not easily replicate in the more plastic environment of the Radio Centre in Montrose.

    There is a guy who has just set up a website dedicated to those happy days. I have done a piece for him on a friend of mine who used to work there and who smuggled me in to join in the excitement.

    http://thegpo.net/producers.shtml

    .

  2. The 4-minute clip you provided was excellent!

  3. Testing to see if WordPress will allow me comment. Refused several times already.

  4. Grand so, my original comment went something like this:
    Never had the opportunity to see Bush House, but it has been my bedfellow for the last fourteen years of sleepless nights. I hope the move does not change the format.

    • Same with me.

      I now only get it through RTÉ’s digital CHOICE channel and then it’s only the odd half hour.

      What used to drive me mad, though, was the bloody awful music they played between 12.45 am and 1.00 am. Or was that the BBC medium wave filling in a gap until they went over to the World Service?

      I don’t have a medium wave radio anymore, got a DAB, so only FM and DAB.

      .

    • blackwatertown

      Some African programming is merging with the World Today I think – Nigeria rules everything.

  5. I had also left a link to here at the bottom of my piece on the GPO site. At the time I didn’t realise that since my previous visit to the site they had added a “shoutbox” for comments. The webmaster has transferred my link to that page here: http://thegpo.net/list.shtml

    .

  6. I often walked past Bush House when I worked at the LSE bookshop. I never had the slightest idea what went on inside, except that it was something to do with the BBC. Wht I do know is that a lot of BBC staff are thoroughly disgruntled at being winkled out of London and dispatched to the grim Northern wastes (as they see it).

  7. In 2008 we attended a Fortean Convention next door at Westminster Uniy.One lunchtime me and a friend [Bob,aged 70+} Went to The Reception Desk at Bush House.I pulled out my Nikon and asked if I could take shots .We caused a minor security alert,+ were bundled out the door..!!!!Where I took this photo instead!

    • blackwatertown

      They did use to be rather strict about security. There was bother in the past – poison-tipped umbrellas, Russian mafia, foreign dissidents working in the building – and the Indian high commission next door.
      Actually, bother happens these days too. Emails at Broadcasting House in London were blocked for some hours recently, quite possibly as a result of an Iranian denial of service cyber attack – part of the ongoing tussle between the BBC and the Iranian authorities over BBC broadcasts to that country.

  8. rummuser

    You were not spiderman were you?

    • blackwatertown

      No – but my Top Boy came home with a certificate from a school trip not so long ago praising him for being Spiderman. There was climbing and abseiling involved.

  9. Nigel

    In late 1983, I thought I heard the following coming over the World Service airwaves: “The death has been announced of the Right Honourable George Wigg. His condition is said to be satisfactory”. Or perhaps Peter Cook been briefly let loose in Green Continuity at Bush House.

  10. Liverman

    Wow. Really love your blog.

  11. Bap

    I don’t even know how I ended up right here, however I thought this post was good.
    Cheers!

  12. Great post. You’ve gained a reader from the world of radio.

  13. Pen Cavallo

    Woah this blog is wonderful.
    I like reading your articles.

  14. Amazing things here. I am very glad to look your article. Thank you a lot and I am looking forward to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  15. blackwatertown

    @ Liverman, Bap & Pen – thanks.
    @ Radio Gurbeti – welcome.
    @ Bamberger – I don’t think I’m ready for touching just yet. Maybe when we know each other better?

  16. Thanks for share this excellent post with us is really interesting, keep up the good work

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