BBC to Close Former Home of the Radiophonic Workshop

The BBC has announced the closure of its Maida Vale studios, the former home to the legendary Radiophonic Workshop and the place where the Doctor Who theme was realised back in 1963.

Long-mooted for closure, the building is in a residential area and contains asbestos, making refurbishment prohibitively expensive. The world-famous studios have hosted thousands of performances since the BBC took over the site in the 1930s. The Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Beyonce have all played at Maida Vale, and Bing Crosby made his very last recording there just three days before his death in 1977. The building is also home to the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

For Doctor Who fans, Maida Vale is up there with BBC Television Centre and Lime Grove Studios on the list of key production locations in the long life of the programme. It was there that Radiophonic Workshop staff Delia Derbyshire and Dick Mills worked on Ron Grainer’s music for the series theme, bringing the tune to life with pioneering electronic techniques to deliver something remarkably original which, in a variety of different forms, has served as Doctor Who’s audio calling card ever since.

A number of the most memorable sound effects associated with the programme were also created there, including the TARDIS dematerialisation effect, the Dalek ship and the sonic screwdriver.

In announcing the closure, BBC Director General Tony Hall was keen to stress that the move does not mean the end of the corporation’s long association with live music.

Hall said in a note to BBC staff:

“I understand how much our musical heritage at Maida Vale means to us, to artists and to audiences. 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.”

The plan is to relocate most of Maida Vale’s current functions to a new, state-of-the-art facility in the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London by 2022. Other arts organisations including the V&A, Sadler’s Wells, and the London College of Fashion will have bases there.