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Currently [the exhibition is now over] in the foyer of the AP Ice Rink, there’s a small exhibition of the current plans for the future of the east wing, involving a bid for HLF money to repair and open up the BBC studios and the Victorian Theatre. Obviously SAP welcomes the bid and supports it, but with important reservations, which we set out below. Save Ally Pally encourages anyone interested in the future of Alexandra Palace to attend, view and give their opinions (including their opinions on the depth of the consultation, billed as "HELP SHAPE Ally Pally"). Obviously this is easier if you live locally – we have suggested to the Palace that they put it online.
How we got to here
As a supporter, you'll know that from 2006 to c. 2010, the Save Ally Pally campaign exerted a decisive yet (in some quarters) unacknowledged influence on the future of Alexandra Palace. Major milestones as a result of our High Court victory were:
(a) withdrawal of the Council's favoured development partner (Firoka) as purchaser;
(b) abandonment of the Council's policy of AP sale;
(c) Walklate investigations into the circumstances of the attempted sale;
(d) adoption by the Trust Board of UN World Heritage site status as a long-term goal;
(e) suspension as Councillor of the then Chairman of the Trust Board;
(f) appointment of a respectable CEO;
(g) successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund
None of the above – not a single item – would have happened without the Save Ally Pally campaign's action in the High Court and the decision on 5 October 2007, when the High Court quashed the agreed sale that had been signed and sealed by Haringey Council. The judge also awarded costs against the Trustees (the council).
"HELP SHAPE Ally Pally"– the current consultation
In the studio wing, what is proposed is a modern makeover and treatment of a site of historic importance. Visitors may wish ask themselves whether the proposals for the BBC television studios are appropriate or whether something more sympathetic might be made. If this is a genuine consultation, then it should be possible for the plans to be further worked on in the light of our criticisms below. This is a wonderful opportunity and possibly the last, to get the studios right.
The remaining opening dates and times (Ice Rink entrance) are:
Monday 6 October midday to 5 PM
Tuesday 7 October 4:00 PM to 8PM
Sunday 12 October:
The plans will also be on display at the Wood Green Shopping mall from midday to 5 PM, Sunday 12th October.
The plans cover probably more than an acre's worth of building. Great care and consideration has been taken over the (north east) theatre wing.
However, the south-east wing is of course, is the site of the pioneering, world-famous 1936 television studios. Studio A continues in outline, minus the gantry crane. However, the plans would see the middle of the SE-wing gutted and appear to disregard the remaining fabric of the history of Studio B – that is, John Logie Baird's studio of 1936-37.
Modernisation of an historic site
The approach taken by the council's "Regeneration Working Group" has been to treat the SE wing as a derelict, brown-field site that might as well be anywhere. The desire has been to make it look smart inside and symmetrical from the outside. What is proposed amounts to a wholesale modernisation of an historic site. The big steps/introduction area planned for the entrance is bold. But how imaginative is the rest? Does the modern, generic style recognise or respond adequately to the history of the site?
For example, Logie Baird's small Spotlight Studio would be destroyed, but this is not obvious from the plans. The big section marked "gallery" has a meaning that is misleading. The producer’s galleries were in Studio A and B – Studio A’s is still there -, and were the first in the world – all subsequent TV studios’ control rooms borrowing the Ally Pally name.
Indeed, the plans lack the usual detail of existing and proposed – showing for comparison purposes, what is there currently and therefore what would be lost. This is important – once historic interiors are destroyed, they are gone forever. The golden conservation principle is “conserve as found” – and that principle is largely being followed religiously in the plans for the Victorian Theatre, and yet not in the arguable more precious BBC studios.
Yes, what's proposed are beautiful modern examples of interior exhibition design, full of multi-media exhibits ... that could easily be elsewhere in London, or in the media museum in Bradford, or anywhere in the world. But in Ally Pally, uniquely, the structure is the exhibit.
The "Baird Studio" would remain in name only. It is not clear whether Studio B is to be retained as a studio, since one drawing shows it with windows opened to the outside. Obviously this would destroy its character as a studio.
The extension of the Baird Studio onto the outside balcony would be lost. This would preclude the possibility of a partial restoration of the principal element of the 1936 Baird Studio, theIntermediate Film Technique, that was housed in the booth behind the reverse bay window.
The south-east wing part of the plans seem half-baked
There are other historically significant parts of the south-east wing which are not detailed on these exhibited plans including:
(a) the six-storey BBC tower;
(b) the hidden grand Victorian staircase
(c) all the rooms on the northern side of the SE wing (about a third of the entire floor). These were never part of the BBC conversion and are derelict. They could be used for exhibition space, reducing the need gut parts of the original BBC layout.
(d) other areas leading from the “Transmitter Room”, and on the first (studio) floor, which were used for production and have important industrial-archaeological interest in the history of broadcasting and media technology.
The treatment lacks sympathy and sensitivity to the history to such an extent, that it would likely preclude an application for UN World Heritage status, a goal that was formally adopted by the Trust Board just 30 months ago. Is it any accident that in the current public display, billed as "Help Shape YOUR Ally Pally" and "have your say" ... there’s no mention of the goal of UNESCO World Heritage?
It's important to remember that we are dealing with (a) a Grade II listed building, controlled by (b) a Charitable Trust whose beneficiaries are legally the citizens of all North London, and whose historical sgnificance is, of course, of national, and international importance.
We are so close to an ideal result ... this could also be the last opportunity to properly preserve, open up and celebrate the birthplace of TV.
Save Ally Pally Group
Working: to remove the financial burden of Haringey Council
on our Trust, to safeguard the first television studios in the world,
the Father Willis Organ and the Victorian Theatre and to secure
Alexandra Palace for future generations of Londoners, not by
handing it to a property developer-of-last-resort, but rather by
putting the People's Palace back in the hands of the People.
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When I last inquired, I was told that the Save Ally Pally Group had shut down. In any case the website given in the article has not been updated for years......
Please correct me if I am wrong.
The email from firstname.lastname@example.org arrived two days ago. I suspect that any project involving both the London Borough of Haringey and UNESCO would not require frequent website updates