The central line was packed. It was rush hour and nervously I fidgeted at the strap of my Eastpak rucksack, perched on the ledge by the door of the carriage. My shoes bashed against the side anxiously. as my mini disc player blasted music into my ears.
It was such an important day. As I stepped off the tube and made my way through the barriers I could see it already. Across the road from White City was hopefully to start of my dream career. For the next 6 weeks I was on work experience at the BBC.
In my head sat my parents’ tips for being the best runner in the world.
– Always have a pen and note pad.
– Write everything down.
– Buy a pocket A-Z
– Note everyone’s coffee/tea preferences once and never ask again.
– Never pretend you understand or know something when you don’t
– Always make sure everyone else has had something to eat/drink before you help yourself
– Always look busy yet attentive and don’t ever say your feet hurt
With this advice and my cleanest sneakers upon my feet I entered BBC Television Centre.
It was the summer after my AS Levels and the nerves were high. But walking into the big glass reception area was very exciting and new. As I was escorted by the work experience rep to my new office I was marvelled by the building. The brightly lit corridor that led to the first of many canteens in TVC and we passed a large tour group “oohing” and “aahing” at glass cabinets of memorabilia. One of the most vivid things I remember about that walk was passing the WH Smith. For some reason this amazed me – what office has a WHSmith inside the building?! (In fact that very lunchtime I purchased my pocket A-Z in there that I’ve had for my whole TV career.)
It was when we reached Stage Door and it’s big windows revealed the infamous doughnut that I remember it all sinking in. I was at the BBC. That was the doughnut. The doughnut you could see at the start of Live and Kicking with the bouncy ball flying around the golden statue. The place where on really special occasions bands would play during live broadcasts of Top of the Pops or Comic Relief.
I then began my 6 week stint as a work experience runner at the BBC. During this time I got to know parts of the building and worked hard to make sure I would be allowed to come back again one day. The sense of pride everyday as I got my pass out of my ruck sack and walked through the doors was overwhelming. It made me feel part of something very special.
Thanks to the amazing advice of my parents doubled with some good luck I was offered a rolling contract at the BBC. I spent a year roaming the building and learning my craft.
This week the memories came flooding back. Remembering how I got terribly lost in the bomb shelter (yes the TV Centre came with its own bomb shelter) corridor of the basement whilst trying to find the tape archive room.
This happened more than once.
The “prop cupboard” was amazing. Although cupboard was a funny way to describe the massive warehouses where I’d go to source anything from a chair to a pipe. I could’ve spent hours in there.
I also once lost Pete Doherty in the building only to find him hours later playing a harmonica in the doughnut. I once ran all around Shepherd’s Bush trying to find a certain singer a beef pot noodle at 11pm at night.
I had to walk Graham Norton’s Labradoodle puppy Bailey round the Blue Peter Garden while he rehearsed.
One of my personal favourites was finding a psychotic fan of a boy band who had hidden herself in the toilet of their dressing room.
I very much enjoyed eating my lunch outside in the doughnut. In fact it was my favourite place to lurk after the Top of the Pops set and the Blue Peter Garden. The tours were fun to watch, seeing the excitement on people’s faces. Everyday was like one of those tours for me. I found a world I wanted to belong to forever.
I was lucky enough to work there for a year before I went off to university and began my life as a freelancer. In that time I had credits including Top of the Pops, Later With Jools Holland and BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend under my belt. And I luckily over the years have been able to return to TVC for various jobs.
But now the BBC is moving.
This is the final week of TVC.
The WH Smith has shut down, the last tours have been shown round and the final shows have finished being recorded.
Farewell TVC – it’s sad to see you close your doors…
…after you’ve opened so many for me.