National Fisheries Museum Experience in Grimsby

When they start with capital letters, the words "Experience" and "Heritage" usually bear unfortunate connotations. The Heritage industry is a branch of tourism that seems concerned mainly with paying people to pretend to do the jobs that until recently they performed for real. At the National Fisheries Museum in Grimsby, for example, ex-trawlermen work as (forgive the phrase) cod fishermen, for the benefit of tourists.

And, in general, to experience an "Experience" is to be battered with multimedia banalities; fundamentals are concealed lest they be too intellectually demanding.

So I approached the BBC Experience with trepidation. The new attraction opened to the public two days ago, occupying an area in the bowels of Broadcasting House that was previously studio space for making radio programmes. Today, it is populated by actors pretending to be technical staff so that tourists can pretend to be actors. But only a churl would deny that the chance to play opposite Joe Grundy in a spoof edition of The Archers is both enjoyable and instructive.

"To bring the best of everything to the greatest number of homes": that was John Reith's promise on becoming the BBC's first director-general. Seventy-five years on, the Corporation is spending heavily to tempt people out of their homes and into Broadcasting House.

Sixty thousand licence fees were consumed in creating the BBC Experience. Its boss, Mike McDonald, reckons the cash will be repaid within seven years if the predicted number of punters can be prevailed upon to pay pounds 5.75 (about three weeks' worth of licence fee), for the 100-minute, um, experience.

He may be proved right. The BBC Experience is essentially an exercise in self-glorification, but by a rare institution that has reason to rejoice.

New arrivals are mustered in an exhibition area where Guglielmo Marconi's quantum leap towards wireless transmission is explained. Then you are sat down in front of a bank of seven screens to witness the logical conclusion of the pioneer's work: a filmed account of a day in the life of BBC radio, from a strident dawn chorus of Radios 1 and 5 Live to that soothing pre- med known as the final shipping forecast on Radio 4.

In fact, this slick presentation was put together last April - so long ago that a Conservative government was still in power and Mark Radcliffe presented the breakfast show on Radio 1. To show that the BBC never sits still, closed-circuit cameras have been installed in key Radio 5 Live studios and offices, so you can see programmes being assembled and broadcast.

Suddenly, pressurised presenters and production staff find themselves unwitting points of interest; I predict a swift enhancement of sartorial standards among radio staff.

Next, the mock studio, where visitors concoct a counterfeit episode of The Archers with the help of a real (or at least on-tape) Joe Grundy; much jollity as spoof Borsetshire accents collide with mistimed sound effects and a grumpy Grundy. Goodness knows what polite Japanese tourists will make of it all.

The Experience really begins to show when you move from a fictionalised present to the all-too-real past. Radio archive material has been cleverly intercut with images to merge 75 years of British history with the BBC, until the two are virtually congruent.

The main omission, though, is painfully obvious: the death of Diana. If the schedule that created the BBC Experience in just a year was thought too tight to allow late changes, the Corporation's news team could surely have demonstrated otherwise. If, on the other hand, the decision was made on grounds of decorum, why sell the video of the Princess's funeral in the shop?

The final third is a "free-flow" area, Experience-ese for a part where you can dawdle or dash through hi-tech, hands-on exhibits. You may, for example, watch transfixed as Michael Fish gets ready for a TV weather forecast. You learn that he is the one person in the country without a clear view of the weather map; colour separation technology means he faces a near-blank patch of blue, which explains why weather presenters stick to broad sweeps of the hand in order to sustain the illusion.

The BBC performs a similar trick, defying intuition yet somehow delivering. Enough people, inside and outside the Corporation, have shown sufficient belief that an organisation whose raison d'etre is purely transient has become custodian for the spirit of a nation - and, now, purveyor of a good day out.

If your High Street travel agency looks a little empty today, that could be because your travel agent is in Tenerife, for the annual jolly known as the Association of British Travel Agents' convention. Labour's Nigel Griffiths neatly summed up last year's event by referring to "that grey area between networking and not working".

Networking, and indeed not working, is often alcohol-assisted. Every organisation with something to sell (ie all of them) plies the travel trade, and assorted hangers-on such as journalists, with impressive ranges of refreshment.

The whole soggy saga is summed up by an invite from the Belgian tourist office to "Get ABTAlutely Mannekin Pis***!". As well as free fries and mayonnaise, the invitation promises "Barrel Loads of BEER!" And if you still haven't got the message, there's a picture of Brussels' most celebrated tourist attraction urinating into a beer glass.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'