The BBC is planning to close its Maida Vale studio complex after 84 years and move its live music base to Stratford in east London. The world-famous studios have hosted thousands of performances ranging from The Beatles, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix to Beyoncé to Girls Aloud, in addition to hosting the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
The studios were originally constructed in 1909 as a short-lived roller-skating venue. The BBC took over the building in the 1930s and refurbished it to serve as studios, making it one of the broadcaster’s oldest buildings. However, the distinctive and unusual building is in a residential area and contains asbestos, increasing the cost of refurbishment.
“I understand how much our musical heritage at Maida Vale means to us, to artists and to audiences,” the BBC director general, Tony Hall, said in a note to staff. “We haven’t taken this decision lightly. But we’re determined to ensure that live music remains at the heart of the BBC and moving to this new development gives us the opportunity to do just that.”
Maida Vale was famously the site of Bing Crosby’s last recording session and has hosted tens of thousands live music events for BBC radio stations, ranging from John Peel sessions to Radio 1’s Live Lounge recordings. It was also the home of the experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop, where Delia Derbyshire recorded the famous Doctor Who theme.
The BBC hopes to relocate most of Maida Vale’s functions to a new complex in the Stratford Waterfront development in the Olympic Park by 2023. The site will contain recording and rehearsal studios, providing a purpose-built base for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the BBC Singers, as well as being used regularly by the BBC Concert Orchestra.
The world-renowned broadcaster has pledged to run music sessions in east London schools as well as making digital music resources available to schools everywhere. The BBC will also partner with local education groups on other music projects. BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, Asian Network, Radio 2, Radio 3, 6Music and BBC Introducing will all broadcast performances regularly from the East London venue.
A BBC spokesman told The Independent: “This isn’t happening for four years – we’ll have loads of bands in between now and then and we’ll be celebrating the wonderful heritage of the Maida Vale years nearer the time we’re due to move out.”
James Purnell, the BBC’s director of radio and education, said: “This proposed new building will act as a magnet for music development in east London and will allow us to share our music facilities and expertise with local, diverse communities as well as being a much better place for our brilliant music staff to work from.”