Queen visits BBC's revamped state-of-the-art Broadcasting House

In a short address broadcast live by the BBC and around the globe via the World Service, she referred to a previous visit to Broadcasting House

Tony Jones
Friday 07 June 2013 13:49
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sits in her car after officially opening the headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation's new Broadcasting House in central London
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sits in her car after officially opening the headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation's new Broadcasting House in central London

It was business as usual for the Queen today as she declared the BBC's revamped state-of-the-art Broadcasting House officially open.

The Queen - without the Duke of Edinburgh, who was undergoing an exploratory operation - had earlier toured the major new extension to the broadcaster's London headquarters and even listened to a live performance by the pop group The Script.

In a short address broadcast live by the BBC and around the globe via the World Service, she referred to a previous visit to Broadcasting House with her husband shortly before her coronation 60 years ago.

She said: "I was struck then, as I am now, by the sheer pace of change which has transformed your industry over the past 60 years, years during which broadcasting has enriched our lives in so many ways."

The building cost just over a billion pounds and took a decade to complete.

Hundreds of BBC staff lined an open atrium for the Queen's arrival and some cheered as she stepped from her chauffeur-driven limousine.

She visited the studios of Radio 4's Today programme, where she spoke to listeners, and listened to a live performance in the Radio 1 studio, giving a single clap at the end of the performance.

Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, who greeted the Queen with the BBC's director general Tony Hall, said: "The BBC's broadcast of the Coronation in 1953 was the first major national TV event which brought the nation together around their TV sets for the first time, so nothing could be more appropriate than Her Majesty opening new Broadcasting House today.

"It provides us with a building which brings together the heart and soul of the BBC and its journalism in one place for the first time; and whose benefits we hope will be reflected in great output for audiences in years to come."

The Queen gave a live broadcast on a BBC Radio 4 programme about the development called New Broadcasting House, presented by James Naughtie and Sian Williams.

She said: "Thank you, director general. It is a great pleasure to visit the BBC today, and to see it in its new home.

"I remember first coming to Broadcasting House with my father the King and my mother and sister shortly before the war.

"I came again with the Duke of Edinburgh shortly before the coronation in 1953."

She added: "I hope this new building will serve you well for the future and I am delighted to declare it open today."

The Queen is known to be a fan of classical music but she was treated to a special performance by The Script and Indiana, a BBC Introducing artist, in the "Live Lounge" before her live broadcast.

She sat and listened intently as they played the David Bowie song Heroes.

At the end she chatted briefly to lead singer Danny O'Donoghue and when she learnt he was playing the Glastonbury festival, joked about the mud.

She said: "Glastonbury, the place you get covered in mud?"

The singer replied with a laugh: "You've got to bring good wellies."

The Queen was taken on an extensive tour of the revamped Broadcasting House. In the newsroom she was besieged by staff who held up their camera-phones and cheered and waved as she walked past their desks.

Mary Hockaday, head of BBC News, took her around the open-plan floor, which serves as a backdrop to the BBC's news bulletins and its 24-hour news channel.

At one point the Queen approached the enclosed studio where broadcasters deliver the news but the two presenters inside did not realise she had reached their floor.

A huge laugh went up from the staff when they turned around to see the head of state watching them and they quickly acknowledged her presence with a nod.

The Queen then talked with broadcaster David Dimbleby before meeting veteran presenter and Strictly Come Dancing host Sir Bruce Forsyth.

Sir Bruce said: "It's a great day for the BBC. It's about time the BBC had a great day."

He added that the Queen was "so gracious" and said: "To do what she does day after day, meeting people, she does a great job. You have to see her in action."

The Queen also met Sir Bruce's Strictly co-host Tess Daly, presenter Claudia Winkleman, and actress Jenny Agutter.

Walking past a Dalek, the Queen went on to meet Dr Who actress Jenna-Louise Coleman near to a Tardis.

She also talked to newsreader Fiona Bruce, presenter Alex Jones, presenter Stacey Dooley, Radio 1 DJ Greg James and actress Anne Reid.

Sir Bruce added it was a "great shame" the Duke of Edinburgh could not attend the opening due to being in hospital.

"This building would have meant an awful lot to him," Sir Bruce told BBC News.

"Seeing the BBC in its early, early days, because we all go back 50, 60, 70 years, and to see it now the way it is is quite remarkable."

He added he was sad and "a bit unhappy" that BBC Television Centre, where he filmed the last show with Miranda Hart, was over.

But asked about the BBC's future following recent scandals, he said: "I think it will be a surge from now on. The BBC will just go higher and higher and higher.

"I think a lot of things have been learned, a lot of lessons have been learned."

He also praised the Queen's manner with people, saying: "She is so adaptable to anybody. She's so wonderful with people she's never seen before. She has a natural way of adapting to whoever she's talking to.

"Nobody does monarchy better than us."

Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten thanked the Queen for opening the new headquarters of "a great British national institution and one of the greatest broadcasters and news gatherers in the world."

Asking her to unveil a plaque to commemorate the occasion, he said: "I know I speak on behalf of all of my colleagues and everyone who works for the BBC in sending our best wishes to his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh for a speedy recovery.

"He came and visited us in Salford not very long ago and I think we all very much enjoyed that visit.

"As you said in the Today studio, you first visited Broadcasting House before the Second World War. The clock has ticked on since then.

"Sixty years ago we televised the Coronation which was a really decisive moment in the development of television and since then we have been recording the sometimes turbulent, never boring events , of the world's and Britain's history but also chronicling in Britain your own extraordinary record of dutiful service which we have done with boundless admiration, so it's a particular privilege that you have come to open this new headquarters today."

Afterwards, Script singer Danny O'Donoghue described the experience as "bizarre" and "pretty intimidating".

Bandmate Mark Sheehan said when they were told about the royal engagement he thought it was a joke.

"Still today, coming in today, I thought people were playing a joke on us," he said.

During her tour the Queen looked relaxed and at ease and appeared to enjoy meeting the famous faces from television and radio.

The Queen's solo visit was praised by some of the celebrities associated with the BBC.

Actress Jenny Agutter said: "I think the Queen coming here shows that she can do it on her own, she's done that before, but she was prepared to come without her consort."

Strictly Come Dancing host Tess Daly said her thoughts were with the Duke: "I wish him a speedy recovery and a full recovery. I'm sure the Queen wants him back home as soon as possible."

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