BBC sells off Maida Vale at the worst possible time

BBC sells off Maida Vale at the worst possible time


norman lebrecht

June 05, 2018

Tony Hall’s decision today to sell off the BBC’s historic Maida Vale studios has all the hallmarks of fudge.

The studios occupy one side of a street in one of London’s most expensive residential areas. The time to sell would have been 5-10 years ago, during a property boom when developers would have paid a fortune for the site.

Now, with top-end property prices frozen and Brexit heaving with uncertainty, the BBC will get a fraction of that price and it still has not solve the main problem: what’s to be done with the BBC orchestras that rehearse and record in Mada Vale?

In truth, the orhestras haven’t needed the building for a decade. Since the collapse of commercial recording, London has plenty of rehearsal space to rent – and at a far lower premium than the per-foot cost of Maida Vale.

But the BBC could not make up its collective mind about Maida Vale and Lord Hall is among the worst of its ditherers.

He is now talking of building a big complex for the orchestras in East London. But who needs that? And when will the BBC reach a decision on what exactly is the purpose of its London orchestras?

Dither, dither, and Tony Fudge.



  • MavisP says:

    So now you are a property expert, Norman. What about selling off the studios cut-price to the St Mungo’s charity for the homeless who have property backing onto the BBC studio site from the adjacent street? Or would that be a little too close for comfort for the local NIMBYs?

    • Nik says:

      It’s a lovely thought, but BBC management supposedly has a duty to licence payers which includes careful stewardship of the corporations assets, not giving them away to charity.

      • Olassus says:

        Well, the BBC certainly fails in its duty to license payers. In fact it fails in its duty to Britain, and to British culture. BBC News reflects maybe 40% white ethnicity, like London but not like Britain. Calls for dilution of the role of the Church of England, to be more in ratio. Uses euphemisms everywhere, e.g. “grooming gangs.” As NL reported the other day, wants to outsource the filming of the BBC Proms. Now this sale — another reflection of lost priorities. Patriots shouldn’t pay the fees.

        • Nik says:

          The topic at hand is rather more specific, but by all means have a good general rant.

          • Olassus says:

            Thank you.

            … and the Queen should object to the third runway, which exactly lines up with her garden.

        • Will Duffay says:

          ‘Patriots’?? What are we here: gun totting rednecks?

          But seriously, get a grip (unless you’re being satirical).

  • Deborah Mawer says:

    ==The time to sell would have been 5-10 years ago, during a property boom when developers would have paid a fortune for the site.

    We only know this in retrospect. That’s the problem, at the time you simply don’t know it’s a boom

    • Nik says:

      That’s not true. You can definitely see when a boom is happening, and 5 years ago it was indeed very obvious that there was a boom in London prime property.
      The thing you don’t know in a boom is when it will end and how severe the crash will be when it does.

  • Will says:

    A more balanced report here. While its sad to leave because of the heritage of the site, its a pretty horrible place to work in general.

    • Dave K says:

      To be fair, any other report I’ve seen is more balanced than this miserable wail, and I’m no great fan of the BBC management.

      The right time for the BBC to relocate the BBCSO is when they have somewhere to relocate to. That hasn’t realistically been the case up to now; plans to move back in the 2000s were scuppered when we all had to bail the banks out. Since then it has continued to be make do and mend at Maida Vale; the recent refurb of the front of house areas there can’t disguise the fact that the place is on the way to falling in on itself.

      As for the orchestras not needing the building, come off it. Are you suggesting that the national broadcaster’s flagship orchestra should work out of the back of a truck? And if rehearsal space is so freely and cheaply available all over London, how come other bands are so frequently seen at MV?

      The East Bank plans (rather more concrete than just being “talked of”) will put BBC music somewhere meaningful in terms of the local community and outreach rather than an isolated west London suburb or the middle of “tax-efficient” bankerland where others run their show for the benefit of the well-heeled and their corporate pals.

      The delicious irony of it being a Boris plan allegedly stolen by Sadiq Khan is an enjoyable by-product; payback for Ken’s bikes idea?

      As for “selling off” the studios, I can’t find any reference to that specific plan anywhere. Maybe I should check the Slipped Disc property pages more often.

  • Bob says:

    This iconoclasm is equivalent to, say, Abbey Road studios selling up and moving to, at random, Dartford.
    It is simply scandalous contempt for history that seems to be evident in the BBC… and quite possibly our country in general.
    Fcku it up and sell it to the Russians seems to be a general rule, presumably with the requisite lining of pockets.

    Perhaps, with all the destruction and uncertainty evident in our country, they could fcku up two birds in one throw and build the 3rd runway on the site.


  • David Ward says:

    I’ll remember BBC Maida Vale with affection. Two modest operas of mine (one a BBC commission) and my 1st cello concerto were recorded by the BBC there in the 1980s. However, a more up to date facility has been sorely needed for quite some time.

  • Carl DiOrio says:

    Love Slipped Disc but do I detect the sound of an axe grinding. They don’t plan to move for several years, according to a BBC release: “The move to the new building from the current studios in Maida Vale is currently planned for 2022/23.”

    • norman lebrecht says:

      No-one expects the market to recover in the next five years. London is being abandoned by bankers and oligarchs. My local friends in the property market predict a decade of stagnation.

  • Phillippa Ballard says:

    David, that made me listen to a movement of your cello cto here

    Liked it

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Assuming the crash in property values hit the U.K. during the Great Recession about the same time it did here in the U.S., I would’ve thought the primo time to sell Maida Vale would have been ca. 2007. But whatever, at least the Brits have a national radio/TV network that actually does broadcast a little classical music (for now).

    I have kinda wondered why the Beeb has so many orchestras….NOT that I would advocate putting any musicians out of work. But there are a bunch of “commercial” symphonies around the capital already – London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic, etc. Since the ’80s when London stopped being the world’s recording studio in the summer, how *do* all these ensembles make ends meet?

  • Jim says:

    I know nothing about property, but don’t forget about th Music Box scheme which was supposed to do this a decade ago