London Calling

By Russ J Graham

Associated-Rediffusion had to get itself ready quickly. With 11 months - or less - until independent television went on air, they were without even a registered office, let alone studio facilities or the imposing headquarters that their first General Manager felt they required.

The former office of the Air Ministry in Holborn, Adastral House on Kingsway, was purchased and renamed ‘Television House' – though the Rediffusion symbol, a starburst, was almost immediately dubbed the ‘Adastral' by staff members, thus continuing the name.

The first move was to gut the ornate office block internally and create offices for the company, two studios, film processing laboratories, editing suites, dubbing studios, a local newsroom, an office and studio space for Independent Television's news company ITN, and, late in the day, provide office and production space for the temporarily homeless weekend contractor ATV.

Bovis Limited began work early in 1955, working vast amounts of overtime whilst staff attempted to create a whole company around them. A fascinating – if probably apocryphal – story involves a departmental secretary finding herself bricked up in her office and spending some time shouting for help before Bovis workers demolished the wall, rescued the secretary and rebuilt the wall, all in a matter of minutes.

To supplement the two studios at Television House, Associated-Rediffusion purchased a plot in Wembley to house four more studios, and took options on space at the Granville Theatre in Walham Green and a sound stage at Viking Film Studios.

In less then six months, A-R recruited 1000 staff members – from secretaries to Roland Gillett, the programme controller of the new company.

Despite the hurried nature of the build-up of the service, A-R were ready for launch in good time, and set their minds to the gala opening of the service on a date in late September to be set by the ITA. The transmitter began test broadcasts on 13 September, and A-R were given the final go-ahead by the Authority.

Launch date would be 22 September 1955.

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Article ©2004 Russ J Graham

Compilation ©2004 Transdiffusion Broadcasting System

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