The BBC’s iconic studios in West London were given a Grade II Listed Building status on 5th May 2020 after much concern the historic site would be sold off and redeveloped. The fact the BBC even wanted to leave its famous premises took many by surprise. The date of the Grade II listing announcement was made was very significant for the 5th May would have been Delia Derbyshire’s 83rd birthday! She was perhaps the BBC’s most notable personality based at Madia Vale and no doubt she would have been pleased with the news.
The BBC, had hoped to see the studios sold off and their recording venue moved to a new location in Stratford. The BBC explained there was problems with the Maida Vale structure and it needed a huge amount of work, plus the sound levels had to be somewhat kept at a lower level than they would have liked because the studios are in the middle of a residential area. The building is a very long one (as the skating rink picture below shows) and the structure occupies a good stretch of Delaware Road in London, W9. It has five studios, offices, a canteen and other facilities.
It is expected the BBC will still vacate the site and move to a new building in East London, however what they wont be able to do is sell of the Maida Vale premises for the purposes of development as they had thought. Plans will have to be modified because the building must be kept due to its intrinsic historic value. Who knows, in the current climate, the BBC may even change their mind and decide to stay at Maida Vale!
Ironically the BBC describes its Maida Vale Studios as having ‘the best acoustics in London!’ This is the BBC’s blue plaque, seen outside the premises on the same day the announcement was publicly made.
The news the BBC Maida Vale Studios had been listed. Source: Twitter
Historic England say they found the building and its history to be of considerable merit in terms of the arts music, and technology. The style of building used, which is Edwardian baroque, was too given considerable merit both internally and externally.
The history of the building as detailed by Historic England. This and other interesting stuff can be found at the link below.
The consultation and final report can be found at Historic England. There’s also a good bit of historical information on the building which cannot be found anywhere else as well as the reasons for the granting of a Grade II listed designation.
Historic England reasons for giving the studios their Grade II listed status. Just a very small part of the premises are not given listed status. This is because these are modern embellishments and do not contribute to the building’s historic fabric.
The Maida Vale BBC Studios as they originally were – a skating rink! It was said to be the largest in the world at the time. Source: PicClick
Maida Vale Studios began life as a skating rink in 1909. That role lasted just a few months however. The venue went through a number of other uses before being bought by the BBC. On 30th October 1934 the BBC opened their new studios.
Studio Number One in August 1935. Source: Twitter
The BBC Dance Orchestra at Maida Vale, 1937. Source: BBC Big Band
The Studios after a hit from a wartime bomb. May 1941. Source: BBC Big Band
The BBC Orchestra in the new look Studio One at Maida Vale, possibly 1952 when the rebuilding work was completed. Source: BBC
The Queen visited Maida Vale Studios in 1953. Film here.
A nice picture of Maida Vale’s Studio Three in March 2020. Source: Twitter
The studios are famous for the Radiophonic Workshop which as some will know, with Delia Derbyshire at its helm, they created the Dr Who electronic music.
The somewhat uninspiring corridor where the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was based! Source: Twitter
Paul Weller, The Jam’s former frontman, outside the studios in May 2016. Source: Twitter
Reggae group Steel Pulse did a series in 2016 & are seen in Maida Vale Studios with a copy of their best known work – Handsworth Revolution. Source: BBC
Coldplay with Femi Kuti and his band at Maida Vale. Nov 2019. Source: Twitter
Jimi Hendrix played here too, so did Freddie Mercury & Queen – and Bing Crosby did his last ever song in the Studios, 1977.
Bing Crosby’s finale was at Maida Vale. Source: Twitter
Here’s some more pictures of Britain’s best rock icons who have played at Maida Vale Studios…
Ringo Starr in Delaware Road outside the studios. 1963. Source: Twitter
The Beatles at Maida Vale’s canteen in 1963 during the recording of Pop Goes The Beatles. Source: Twitter
John Lennon in the canteen at Maida Vale, 1963. Source: Twitter
George & John at Maida Vale, 1963. Source: Twitter
The Fab Four at Maida Vale, 1963. Source: Twitter
Paul McCartney at Maida Vale, 2009, for Children in Need. Source: Twitter
Paul in concert at Maida Vale, October 2013. Source: Twitter
Macca with James Bay at Maida Vale, 2016. Source: Twitter
Macca, Maida Vale, 2016. Source: BBC
David Bowie in his Starman days at Maida Vale. Source: Twitter
David Bowie arriving at Maida Vale, October 1999. Source: Twitter
David Bowie at Studio 4, Maida Vale, 1999. Source: Twitter
David Bowie performs for a special Radio 2 programme at Maida Vale in September 2002. Source: Twitter
The psychedelic rock group used Maida Vale studios in their early days when Syd Barrett was their lead. At this time the band’s other famous frontman, David Gilmour, had not yet joined. They later moved to nearby Abbey Road where their world famous Dark side of the Moon and later productions were recorded.
A nice shot of the Pink Floyd. Maida Vale 1967. Source: Twitter
It is said Pink Floyd recorded in Studio Four.
Nick Mason, Richard Wright, Syd Barrett and Roger Waters at Maida Vale for a recording of Top Gear, December 1967. Source: Twitter
Nick Mason at Maida Vale in 2014. Source: Twitter
And finally… The BBC Radiophonic Workshop
The Radiophonic Workshop was founded by Daphne Oram in 1957. A year later, on April 1st 1958, it was officially established at Maida Vale. Delia Derbyshire is perhaps the workshop’s most noted personality. She was popularly known as ‘The Sculptress of Sound.’ Other say Delia was ‘the unsung heroine of British electronic music.’
Here’s Wikipedia on the work done by Delia Derybshire and Dick Mills to create the famous Dr Who music.
Apparently Delia once claimed ‘My most beautiful sound at the time was a tatty green BBC lampshade, it was the wrong colour, but it had a beautiful ringing sound.’
A nice photograph of Delia Derbyshire at Maida Vale. Source: Twitter
Richard Bird (the workshop’s first sound engineer) and Daphne Oram, 1958. Source: Twitter
Daphne Oram, Desmond Briscoe, Richard Bird and Donald McWhinnie seen during a recording. Source: Twitter (Note: The timeline’s either been suspended or made private thus an archived image is used here.)
The Radiophonic Workshop in 1962. Source: Twitter
Some of the workshop’s early equipment. Source: Twitter
Delia Derbyshire with Desmond Briscoe at work in the Radiophonic Workshop, Maida Vale, circa 1965. Source: Twitter
Delia Derbyshire in the Radiophonic Workshop, Maida Vale. Source: Twitter
Malcolm Clarke in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1974 with a Synthesiser called The Delaware. Source: Twitter
A rare picture of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram together. This was apparently at the Radiophonic Workshop’s 25th Anniversary in 1982/3. Source: Twitter (Note: The timeline’s either been suspended or made private thus an archived image is used here.)
If you would like to be kept up to date with what is happening at Maida Vale Studios, I recommend the Twitter account MaidaValeMuso – who worked hard to get the studios listed. They informed me they hope the studios can be commercialised (if the BBC doesnt want it) and that the studios can continue to be used for its valuable role in the music and the arts.