Today the hoardings were standing as usual on the west side of Great Portland Street so, as I went round All Soul’s into Portland Place, I was astonished to find that the hoardings there have disappeared. And gone too from Duchess Street, now restored to its spacious elegance. Revealed are pristine pavements and a vast and rather splendid building.
Peering inside, I saw wide open spaces, pillars, stairways, tables delivered but unpacked. After several years the construction work, it seems, has finished, and the building handed over to the BBC. It has room for more than 5000 staff, I gather, and news teams are expected to move in during 2012. Bush House and Television Centre will close. It’s the beginning of a new era.
BH is a big presence in Fitzrovia. As I work from home, I often stroll round the block and sometimes come across a bustle of activity at the side entrance at Western House or outside Radio 1 in Clipstone Street. A black limo, bodyguards, a push of photographers and autograph hunters – but I usually have no idea who the celebrity is. Passers by are usually too polite or busy to hang around, but we have a ringside seat.
One evening I came upon a long queue stretching along Portland Place. “For the News Quiz,” they said, but they were all ticket-holders. “Never mind”, said a BBC person, “we’ll see what we can do”. I joined the queue and they let me in.
Jennifer Kavanagh is the author of Call of the Bell Bird, The World is our Cloister and The O of Home.