|2006 | January - December
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threat to the palace where television was born
Consultation into sale of palace
hill and Crouch End Times 29/11/06
The one-month consultation period into the sale of Alexandra
Palce to Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd began this week.
Members of the public are invited to give their views by writing
to Charity Commission Direct, PO Box 1227, Liverpool, L69 3UG
or emailing email@example.com by 12pm
on January 5, 2007.
Reference number 522431 must be quoted. Once the consultation
period is over, the Charity Commission will decide whether
to give its consent to Haringey Council to grant Firoka the
Concerns voiced as 125-year deal
is done for Alexandra Palace
MP Lynne Featherstone has voiced her concerns after the Firoka
Group was formally granted the lease for Alexandra Palace for
the next 125 years.
"Everyone, particular the Haringey taxpayer will be relieved
to be no longer burdened with the cost of the Palace. That
said, the future of the Palace now rests in the hands of the
Firoka group for the next 125 years. I wish this new endeavour
every success. However, this success still needs to incorporate
the aspirations of local people and the preservation of the
unique birthplace of television. I will be keeping a keen eye
on progress as this take shape," she said.
Councillor Bob Hare, Lib Dem Spokesperson
on Alexandra Palace, said: "We are not opposed to the
principle of leasing the Palace, as long as it achieves a
good result for the Palace and the people of north London.
However, we have numerous concerns about the deal that has
been negotiated which we feel have not been adequately answered.
We shall be putting our concerns to the Charity Commission
during the 30 day period for representations that will be
Anyone who wishes to make representations on the proposed
lease of Alexandra Palace to Firoka for 125 years should write
within the next 30 days to: Alexandra Palace Representations,
Charity Commission Direct, PO Box 1227, Liverpool, L69 3UG,
or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, clearly
marking correspondence 'Alexandra Palace' and asking for confirmation
Preserve this unique piece of
ALEXANDRA PALACE has a long, colourful and eventful history,
but apart from its spectacular fires and its transformation for
a short time during the war years into a POW camp, it is perhaps
best known for being the birthplace of television.
The claim isn't strictly accurate of course, but it was at
Alexandra Palace that the world's first television studios
were built and where the BBC began television transmissions
almost exactly 70 years ago.
In this age of technical and scientific innovation on what
sometimes seems like a daily basis, it is easy to overlook
the sense of excitement created by the transmission of those
first grainy images. But there are many people still alive
who can remember the enormous public interest generated by
the construction of the new television station, including those
signature masts which were still transmitting television pictures
In the years since then, the studios have become seriously
dilapidated . A website dedicated to saving the studios laments:
''The two main studios and their associated control rooms have
been allowed to fall into utter disrepair and are now quite
dangerous in places. The overall dilapidation of the rooms,
once the pride of the BBC, is a very sad sight.''
Now Hornsey & Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone
has tables an early day motion recognising the heritage of
the studio and calling for it to be preserved and conserved
as part of our national and international history.
She points out that there is no protection of the original
studios in the proposed lease for the sale of the palace by
Haringey Council but the new leaseholders would be entitled
to point to 25 years of neglect as the main reason why the
studios are endangered.
However, Ms Featherstone's motion should be warmly welcomed
and supported. Surely there are enough people who care, to
ensure that a way is found of preserving the studio for posterity,
in a way that allows people to appreciate a truly unique piece
of social history on our doorstep.
TV studios could disappear in £70m office revamp
By Joanna Bale The Times
IT IS known as the birthplace of television — the venue
for the world’s first public television broadcast. But
70 years on all trace of the former BBC studios in Alexandra
Palace, North London, could disappear to make way for offices.
“This is direct television from Alexandra Palace,” were
the words uttered by the presenter Elizabeth Cowell as the
cameras rolled live for the first time on November 2, 1936.
For the next 45 years the BBC used the studios to broadcast
to the nation, channelling through it such historic events
such as the 1953 coronation.
With the proposed sale of Alexandra Palace to Firoz Kassam,
a businessman, in its final stages, there is no agreement that
any part of the original studios will be preserved.
Historians and politicians last night called
for an urgent review of the project. Robin Reynolds, head
of heritage at the BBC, said: “What happened at Alexandra
Palace 70 years ago has made a huge impact on the world.
The studios tell a story not just about the first pioneers
of television, but about a great British achievement.”
John Trenouth, former curator for television
for the Science Museum, said: “The studios are just
a small part of the palace and to destroy them would be a
Lynn Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood
Green, has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament to highlight
the issue and the Charity Commission is due to hold a public
The initial television service consisted of mainly live programmes
for two hours a day, except for Sundays. Light entertainment
dominated, with assorted musicians, entertainers and even penguins
from London zoo making appearances in the studios. Presenters
such as Elizabeth Cowell and Jasmine Bligh spoke in clipped
tones and wore evening dress.
Transmission was halted during the war,
but the palace’s
transmitter was secretly used to jam the German aircraft navigation
system, causing bombers destined for London to drop their loads
on the fields of Kent.
When BBC TV News left in 1969 the studios
were used to house the Open University until 1981. One studio
is now derelict. The other houses a small museum set up by
amateur enthusiasts which the BBC is not allowed to spend
The terms of Mr Kassam’s 125-year
lease state that there should be a museum within the palace
but it does not automatically guarantee the retention of
the original BBC studios.
The studios are high-ceilinged rooms, 30ft
by 70ft. One still contains a glass-windowed director’s
gallery, accessed by a metal ladder.
Mr Kassam, managing director of Firoka,
plans to spend £70
million transforming Alexandra Palace from a loss-making exhibition
centre and ice rink into a leisure and entertainment venue
with a cinema, hotel, nightclub, casino, bowling alley and
He said: “The studios are very dilapidated and not easily
accessible. If the BBC don’t want to throw money at it
then why should they expect me to throw money at it? They have
been empty for 25 years.
“The studios may stay where they
are, they may not, but the heritage will be preserved."
N Dutta Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 02/11/06
Seventy years ago today the first ever
television broadcast was made from Alexandra Palace. NEETA
DUTTA explores the history of the studios and why its future
is far from guaranteed "This
is direct television from Alexandra Palace," were the
immortal words uttered by presenter Elizabeth Cowell on November
2, 1936, as the first official television broadcast beamed
across a 30-mile radius and into approximately 40 homes.
For the next 50 years, the BBC used two studios in the east
of the palace to broadcast to the nation, including historic
events such as the 1937 coronation of King George VI and the
1953 coronation of Elizabeth II.
Transmission was halted briefly during the Second World War,
but the palace's transmitter was modified and used to jam the
German aircraft navigation system, causing bombers destined
for London to drop their payload on the empty fields of Kent.
Today, the studios are not in use since the departure of the
BBC in 1981. With the proposed sale of the palace to Firoka
(Heythrop Park) Ltd in its latter stages, there has been no
guarantee that the original studios will be kept.
John Trenouth was the senior curator at the National
Museum of Photography, Film and Television for 20 years and
is currently working with the BBC on a show about the studio's
anniversary. He said: "It is the birthplace of
TV, it is where it all began. It is where what was once science
fiction became science fact. It is part of our heritage."
While Scottish pioneer John Logie-Baird had been transmitting
images since January 1926, for half an hour at a time in the
evenings, his 30-line images were crude. By the mid-1930s,
more than 50 different inventors and companies in 11 different
countries had already tried to overcome the problems posed
by a practical television system.
The British government was keen to develop a high-definition
system, a minimum of 240 lines and 25 frames, and so in 1934
set up the Selsdon Inquiry (also known as the Television Advisory
Committee). Its eventual decision, that there would be a high-definition
television service run by the British Broadcasting Corporation,
was the first attempt at television regulation.
Alexandra Palace was chosen as the best location, because
transmission needed to take place at 600 feet above sea level
and the palace, at 300 feet above sea level, only required
the building of a 300-ft tall tower to be suitable.
In 1936 the BBC hosted trials between the EMI-Marconi and
Baird television systems to decide which would carry the television
standard for the future. Studio A was equipped with the Marconi-EMI
Emitron system, while Baird installed his mechanical system
in Studio B.
It was decided that the two systems would run side by side,
alternating weekly, under evaluation for six months, after
which a permanent system would be chosen.
"In true British style a coin was tossed to decide who
would go on first that night," Mr Trenouth said. "The
Baird system won, did its transmission, and then there was
tea and scones and then the second transmission went out."
Marconi-EMI won the competition and became widely regarded
as the first high-definition television service in the world.
Mr Trenouth said: "There were teething
problems and mistakes were made, as you would expect, but
those early engineers were true pioneers of television. One
of the big things was that the transmitter should never have
been in the same building as the studios because of the sensitivity
of the equipment. Apparently in the BBC canteen, if you let
your knife and fork touch, little blue sparks would fly."
The service consisted of mainly live programmes for two hours
a day, from 3pm to 4pm, and from 9pm to 10pm, except for Sundays.
Output grew through the Fifties and Sixties before the news
service moved in the Seventies.
The BBC continued to produce television programmes at Alexandra
Palace for the Open University until 1981, when the university
moved to Milton Keynes. It was at this point that the equipment
was stripped from the rooms. The Alexandra Palace and Park
Charitable Trust took on ownership of the palace in 1988 with
Haringey Council in charge of administration.
Mr Trenouth said: "In a way, the studios
have survived through a quirk of fate so far, but I don't
think future generations will forgive us if they are lost
forever. I visited them for the first time 19 years ago and
it was a real moment with the hairs of my neck going up.
It is like they are frozen in time and to stand there, where
it happened, I think it is something that should be available
to the public."
Firoz Kassam, the managing director of Firoka, is keen to
point out that a television museum will be somewhere within
the palace, but the maintenance of the original studios cannot
be promised. He also added that no definite plans can be made
until contracts are exchanged.
Liberal Democrat councillor Bob Hare, one
of seven on the board of trustees, said: "I understand
that they are in an unusable state, so they need work, but
could be converted into a restaurant or cafe but with the
actual structure intact."
An Alexandra Palace spokesman said: "Before
any building work can be done to the palace, there will need
to be a planning process including a public consultation
and, at the consent of English Heritage, in concern of the
building's listed status. Neither of these processes can
start until contracts have been exchanged between the trust
"It is therefore not possible to say
beyond what was in Firoka's early plan and whether and how
public access to the broadcasting studio's is guaranteed."
There are to be no official celebrations today for the 70th
anniversary but a small group of enthusiasts, including Mr
Trenouth, plan to gather beneath the transmission tower to
mark the day.
He added: "I understand the financial
needs of a developer but I would hope that the historical
value would be appreciated and some vestige of the original
studio is kept."
Good news for users of old station
It is always pleasing to bring
good news. Users of the community space at the old Alexandra
Park train station, a building of some considerable charm,
have become increasingly worried about the facility's future
in the light of the Ally Palace sale.
Trustees were concerned that the organisations which use the
centre will be left homeless when their lease runs out in 2011
and were bidding to have the building removed from the sale
However, new owner Firoz Kassam has moved quickly to allay
these understandable concerns. When informed of the situation
by Broadway, he responded emphatically: ''If it has a community
use and that is what is required locally, then that is what
we will keep it for.''
You can't get much clearer than that. If Mr Kassam is a man
of his word and he remains in charge of the Firoka empire -
which he himself built from scratch - then the community organisations
which are very much at home at the old station can afford to
breathe a sigh of relief.
Mr Kassam might also like to put his assurance in writing,
thus increasing confidence that the facility will remain in
use for the community's benefit long after the present lease
N Dutta Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 02/11/06
Palace gambling rejection concern:
casino not integral to plan
Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 30/03/06
The rejection of plans for a casino at Alexandra Palace last
week may have jeopardised the whole redevelopment of the historic
site, according to Haringey Council papers.
But the prefereed bidder for the palace, Firoka, said this
week that, although the company was disappointed with the decision,
and a new proposal will have to be found, the small casino
was not integral' to the financial viability of the redevelopment.
At a meeting of the council's executive last Tuesday, members
voted against allowing plans for the casino intended for use
only by guests of a proposed hotel to be sent on to the Department
of Media, Culture and Sport's casino advisory panel (CAP),
to secure permission for the gambling facilities.
The council's report included comments from Andrew Travers,
its finance director, stating that the gambling venue was an
integral part of the redevelopment package, exclusion of which
may jeopardise the whole redevelopment scheme'.
But Firoka disputes the claim. A spokesman
for the company said: "There was language in that report
to the council executive that suggested the casino element
was 'integral' to Firoka's proposals, which may have been
the opinion of the council report author. The valuation criteria
used to assess the respective proposals did not use such
language, neither has it been considered 'integral' during
the negotiations to date. The casino part of the plan would
have used a relatively small part of the entire site.
"If the council is not going to apply
to the CAP for one of the new licences, a new proposal will
have to be found. The negotiations between the trustees and
Firoka's legal advisors continue and we are confident they
will reach fruition in the coming weeks."
Under the new Gambling Act, local authorities must present
casino proposals to the CAP, showing the economic and regeneration
benefits to the area and demonstrating their willingness to
give the casino a licence.
Financial guardians for Alexandra
hill and Crouch End Times 10/03/06
A team of financial experts has been appointed to safeguard
the future of Alexandra Palace as a major tourist attraction.
General manager Keith Holder has brought in specialist advisers
to attract the necessary investment from the private sector
to refurbish the palace, and pay for its multi-million pound
Visitors flock to the ice rink, as well as concerts and exhibitions
held at the palace, but much of the site is derelict and in
desperate need of a cash boost.
Although there is not yet a masterplan for the palace, it
is likely to include shops, restaurants, a live music venue,
and even one of the Government's super casinos is being considered.
Councillor Andrew Krokou, chairman of the
board of trustees, said: "The priority for the trustees
is to make sure the palace and park are sustainable without
the need for local authority resources. We believe the current
plan to bring in external investment has the potential to
achieve that aim."
The current development plan has been made possible by a statute
passed in 2004 which enables the trustees of Alexandra Palace
and Park Charitable Trust to offer a 125-year lease to external
contractors, who guarantee to ensure continued public access
to the palace and park.
Alexandra Palace was built in 1873 as a recreation centre
and visitor attraction. It was destroyed by fire two weeks
later but was rebuilt within two years.
Ally Pally bid decision
By Kay Murray Muswell
hill and Crouch End Times 03/02/06
Plans to turn Alexandra Palace into a leisure and entertainment
venue, including a cinema, hotel, nightclub, museum and casino,
are one step closer after Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd was named
as the preferred bidder for the London landmark's redevelopment.
The move was announced by the palace's board of trustees on
Monday evening, after members approved a report from its team
of professional advisors which recommended Firoka's appointment.
The report advised that negotiations should begin as soon
as possible to agree the terms of the 125-year lease with Firoka.
The chair of the board of trustees, Vivienne
Manheim, said: "The
priority for the trust has always been to secure the future
of the palace for Londoners and to remove the financial risk
from the local authority. I am delighted this looks likely
to be the outcome and look forward to fruitful negotiations
beginning as soon as possible."
The priority for the trust has always been to
secure the future of the palace for Londoners and to remove
the financial risk from the local authority.
Vivienne Manheim, chair of the board of trustees for Alexandra
Firoka which owns several hotels and Oxford United Football
Club was chosen over fellow bidder, the Earls Court and Olympia
Firoz Kassam, owner of Firoka, said: "We
are delighted to have been selected as preferred bidder,
this is a major undertaking and we are looking forward to
working with the trustees of the charity and the local community."
Lib Dem councillors Bob Hare and Wayne Hoban voted against
They said they could not support the result of what was an
unnecessarily rapid and inflexible timetable, arguing that
the public consultation process had been inadequate and the
concerns expressed to the board by the palace's statutory advisory
committee had not been given an adequate response.
Both councillors did recognise the positive features of Firoka's
Mr Hare said: "Despite our concerns,
both Mr Hoban and I fully recognise many positive aspects
of the vision expressed by Firoka. The real work starts now
to tie down the details of the Firoka bid.
"Lib Dems on the board will be doing
everything we can to make sure that the palace development
is successful, in the interests of the people of the borough
and north London."
consultation 'insult to the public’
Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 20/01/06
The public consultation process to determine who will run
Alexandra Palace for the next 125 years has come under fire
from angry residents and councillors.
Only a week was set aside for the public to view the proposals
of one of the bidders, Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd.
The other bidder, Earls Court and Olympia (ECO), decided not
to display their plans, despite both companies being asked
to as part of their bid.
The process has been branded a sham' and an insult to the
public' by the chairman of Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association,
John Hadju, who is seeking further consultation with both bidders
and a longer consultation period.
"The fact that ECO failed to provide any information
about the bid makes the consultation null and void, with not
enough information available for residents to make any comment," he
said, adding that there had been little publicity and no details
on traffic implications, noise and pollution.
A spokeswoman for Alexandra Palace said: "There
is no statutory requirement to consult the public at this
stage of the process.
"However we have proactively sought
to provide the local community with the opportunity to comment
on the proposals."
She added that two committees containing representatives from
community groups have been advising the boards of trustees
and kept informed throughout the consultation process.
Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 12/01/06
Alexandra's future: the first phase of Firoka's
plans (main picture, highlighted in light green) will incorporate
the exhibition section, the second (dark green) the hospitality
area and the third (blue) the public entertainment facilities
Alexandra's future: the first phase of Firoka's plans (main
picture, highlighted in light green) will incorporate the exhibition
section, the second (dark green) the hospitality area and the
third (blue) the public entertainment facilities
Alexandra Palace could soon be transformed into a public leisure
and entertainment venue.
The site could house a cinema, hotel, nightclub, museum, small
casino, new ice rink, bowling alley, recording studio, gym
and children's entertainment facilities, under plans unveiled
this week by one of the two bidders for the 125-year lease.
Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd revealed large public display boards
outlining its proposals at the palace on Monday.
The company's rival, Earls Court & Olympia
Group (ECO), chose not to exhibit its plans, despite being
asked to as part of its bid.
ECO did, however, submit a detailed business plan to trustees,
promising a comprehensive renovation'.
Both bids outline using the palace as an exhibition, leisure
and entertainment development. This would also include the
restoration of the theatre space for public use, and the continuation
of popular events such as the fireworks display.
The palace's celebrated Willis Organ, situated in its great
hall, also features in both proposals. Firoka plans to refurbish
the musical instrument, while ECO will pay for it be to relocated
from the theatre to an appropriate setting.' ECO's plans were
less detailed than its competitors, but did promise a media/heritage/educational
facility based around the history of television and journalism'.
The firm would operate the existing ice
rink until the equipment is no longer viable for safe use.'
The general manager of Alexandra Palace and Park, Keith Holder,
said: "We are in the final
phase of the selection process and we are delighted by the
high-quality submissions we have received.
"The professional team will be evaluating
each proposal against strict and approved criteria, which
includes looking at the deliverability of the vision each
sets out for the palace's future."
Firoka's plans are on display in the Palm Court area of the
Palace, but the public only has until noon on Tuesday to comment
on both sets of proposals.
The extent of the public consultation, which also includes
a comment box to enable visitors to provide written feedback,
has been criticised.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Bob Hare said: "The
boards are up for only a week for the public to comment on
and comments can be written down.
"It is meaningless out of all the
public consultation processess I could have conceived, this
has to be the most pathetic."
The board of trustees is expected to announce the preferred
bidder in February.
u On Monday, the Liberal Democrats announced that they will
be appointing two councillors to the Ally Pally board.
The party had previously not taken its positions
on the board due to concerns about its constitutional postition,
powers and structures.
Ally Pally bidder drops out of
Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 05/01/06
One of the companies shortlisted to take on the 125-year lease
of debt-ridden Alexandra Palace has withdrawn its bid.
The Business Design Centre Group (BDCG) notified the palace
of its withdrawal just before Christmas, weeks before the final
decision is set to be made.
Neither side are commenting on the
reasons for the move due to confidentiality agreements, but
a spokeswoman for Alexandra Palace said: "We are obviously
disappointed. However, the competition is still very strong
and we have every confidence that we will come to a successful
Dominic Jones, chief executive of the BDCG, a company which
holds high-profile exhibitions, talks and educational fairs
at its centre in Islington, remained equally tight-lipped.
"As we are bound by the terms of a confidentiality agreement,
we will not be making any further statements," he said."However,
we would like to take this opportunity to offer the trustees
and staff of Alexandra Palace our very best wishes for the
BDCG's departure now leaves the Earls Court and Olympia Group,
and Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd to battle it out for the lease
of the historical site.
The three bidders were originally chosen from a total of 13
companies in November, at which point they were asked to provide
more detailed proposals to be displayed to the public by today.
The two remaining contenders will make a presentation outlining
their plans to the Alexandra Palace and Park Board and Haringey
Council on Tuesday.
Displays of their proposals will be on show in Palm Court
from 12pm on Tuesday until 12pm on Tuesday, January 17, and
the board will then make a final decision on its preferred
bidder later this month or at a meeting on February 7.