On June 5th the BBC announced news of the closure of their historic Maida Vale studios. It comes following constant refurbishment and BBC bosses saying that the studios are ‘wholly unsuitable for the 21st century’. Maida Vale studios came under BBC ownership in the 1930s.
“I understand how much our musical heritage at Maida Vale means to us, to artists and to audiences,” the BBC director general, Tony Hall, told 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.”
The BBC have confirmed that they will be looking to sell the property on when they plan to end their ownership in 2023 which has lead to fears that the studios shall be demolished and replaced with housing in the already gentrified area of West London.
Maida Vale studios already have to run within strict hours to be able to operate in a residential area so the BBC are looking to move their music studios to a hub in East London. The problem also isn’t helped by asbestos found in the building, which would require extensive renovation to remove.
Since the beginning of the BBC’s ownership of Maida Vale it has hosted some of the most iconic and influential pieces of British culture from the past 75 years. Because of the historic nature of the building there have been calls from local MPs to make the building grade listed but these calls have not yet been put into action.
From recording Doctor Who’s theme song in 1963, Maida Vale has been a pioneering centre for music. The workshop improved a lot of equipment in it’s early years including devising a rudimentary multitrack and early methods of manipulating tape. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was far ahead of it’s time, allowing the original Doctor Who theme song to use synthesisers long before they were available for commercial use.
In the 1970s Bing Crosby’s final recording was at Maida Vale a mere three days before he was struck down by a heart attack in Spain. The majority of the 4000 Peel Sessions were also recorded there. Famous Peel Sessions from the studios include Joy Division, The Fall, Sonic Youth, Arab Strap and The Smiths, many of which have gone on to be popular parts of the band’s discographies, such as The Smiths’ session making appearances on the end of 1984’s Hatful of Hollow.
Letting Maida Vale go will be one in a long line of failures by London councils to protect our musical heritage. Following the demolition of the London Astoria in 2009, Turnsmill in 2008 and Hammersmith Palais in 2007 the capital is incrementally losing its cultural heritage at the hands of gentrification.
Not only does London lose landmark venues, it also takes away the opportunity for upcoming artists to play these venues. Upcoming band Youth Killed It said: “Ever since music graced our lives as kids, Maida Vale has been a staple of what it means to make it. We’ve seen so many of our favourite bands roll through that studio and we always dreamt of setting foot in it and playing in the exact same spot where our heroes once stood.
It means an awful lot to the music community and its loss will be a further blow for up and coming bands. We hope they rethink their decision and continue to put on amazing bands there.” Musicians have rallied to save the venue, Foals’ Yannis Philippakis pleaded “Don’t confine it to history”.
To replace Maida Vale studios the BBC have allocated space in the Waterfront Complex at the Olympic Park in East London. Along with this new development there are also promises of purpose built space for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra which currently reside in Maida Vale but these new promises are nothing in comparison to the cultural icon we leave behind with a big part of our musical heritage.