A trip to Giltbrook 

2 September 2007 tbs.pm/2165

Roddy Buxton visits Giltbrook – the news studio set up by ATV to serve the East of their region following the 1980 franchise round.

The Midlands gets sliced in two….

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In 1980, ITV franchise applications were announced for the next ten years. Though not as controversial as the franchise auction ten years away in the future was to be, this round nonetheless had its changes.

Firstly, two long-serving ITV regional contractors were lost: Southern was to be replaced by TVS from January 1982, and Westward by TSW during the summer of 1981.

Secondly, well-established Midlands contractor ATV was forced to re-structure to provide a better Midlands-based service. This also included a requirement that the region was split into a dual news area – East and West – to provide better coverage.

During the late 1970s, ATV was strongly lobbied by viewers and even City Councils in the North and East Midlands to provide a news service that covered their area better, as they felt that anywhere 20 miles outside of Birmingham didn’t seem to get a look in.

ATV was successful with their franchise application and its proposed changes for the region – but the IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority) was still concerned that the viewer wouldn’t really notice a lot of change apart from a few new programmes, and of course the new dual news service. (ATV had also proposed to change their name from ‘ATV Network’ to ‘ATV Midlands’.)

To satisfy the IBA, ATV called in the image consultants – and the company was re-born as ‘Central Independent Television’. As part of this re-structuring, ‘Central’ had decided to re-locate its main production studio from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire to a new East Midlands-based complex in Nottingham: another move that was to prove rather controversial in the not-so-distant future. The Lenton studio complex in Nottingham wasn’t to be completed until 1984.

In the meantime Central had to locate a temporary news studio, based somewhere in the East Midlands, to satisfy the new IBA franchise requirements.

Shady dealings on an industrial estate…

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Based on an industrial estate in Giltbrook, Nottingham, was Recording and Production Services (RPS) who specialised in hiring OB and video equipment to broadcast companies – both ITV and BBC. The company’s owner, Malcolm Bartram, had formed very close links with ‘top brass’ in Birmingham – often providing supporting OB and recording facilities for many ATV productions.

On hearing of the forthcoming franchise changes, and the requirements laid down to ATV by the IBA, Malcolm hastily added a full IBA-spec studio extension, production gallery, dressing rooms and other facilities to the existing offices and hire company storage area, and then offered the facility as a temporary base for the new East Midlands service, scheduled to open in January 1982. The management at Central jumped at this offer, and began to equip the studio and production areas with a combination of new and surplus equipment from Birmingham and Borehamwood.

Central moved into Giltbrook around late 1981 to make preparations for the East Midlands news service, scheduled to open on the 1st January 1982. Meanwhile, Malcolm Bartram had relocated RPS to larger premises further up the road. The company was later purchased by Chrysalis and now provides OB facilities internationally. Malcolm Bartram is still involved today.

From ‘In Colour’ to ‘In Cash’….

It is rumoured that Central only wished to sign a 2-year lease on the property, which would take them into 1984, by which time construction of the new complex at Lenton in Nottingham would be complete. But Bartram was unhappy with this arrangement, as it was in effect costing him and RPS just to move out for two years and provide a temporary studio. As the end of 1981 drew closer, management at Central realised that they hadn’t much time before the new service was due to begin – and they hadn’t officially got a studio facility available.

Thus a deal was quickly struck, and Central signed a lease for a much longer period: the actual figure was kept quiet. Part of the deal was apparently that Central paid in full, up front. Which they did – and allegedly ‘in cash’.

The East Midlands gets its own news service – well nearly…

Central made sure its viewers were fully aware of its new service and its fresh look to programming, with publicity on-screen and in the Midlands press throughout late 1981. Even the final ATV Today on 31 December, 1981, ensured that Central News got a mention.

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ATV Today reporters Anne Diamond and Nick Owen were chosen to host the new East Midlands news programme. Local mayors, dignitaries, and officials from Central were invited to see the new ‘Central – East’ studio officially opened by Sir Bryan Young of the IBA, followed by the transmission of the first East Midlands news service. But things were not to go as planned.

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Back then it was a time when unions still had the power to take a television station off the air – and did. There had been the great ITV strike of 1979 and a strike at the BBC the previous year, for example.

The early 1980s saw a lot of unrest at Central – mainly as a result of the changes. As previously noted, the company had planned to relocate its facility from Borehamwood to a new complex to be opened in Nottingham. Many of the staff working at the Borehamwood studio were asked to re-locate, and refused due to costs. From this a dispute between management and the Electricians’ Union brewed that was to remain unsettled for a further 4 years, affecting pan-regional continuity announcements from Birmingham, lunchtime news bulletins and even major drama series in production such as Boon and Aufwiedersehen Pet.

At Giltbrook, the electricians were also unhappy with pay and working conditions. So they pulled the plug. Instead of their much-vaunted own programme, viewers in the East Midlands on opening night were instead given ‘Central News – West’ from Birmingham. Back to square one! ‘Central News – East’ had in fact gone ahead as planned, but it was only viewable on the internal monitors.

Lenton Lane-Giltbrook

The East Midlands continued receive its news service from Birmingham until 1984, but Central did manage to balance items from both the East and West Midlands. In comparison, ATV Today would have had problems due to its reliance on 16mm film.

Central vacated Giltbrook around 1983 – pretty much in the same way they vacated Broad Street in 1997 – by simply walking away, locking the door and leaving the equipment. The only known transmitted output from Giltbrook was ‘continuity’.

Some of the equipment left – namely camera, vision and control equipment – was removed and sold off. But the bulk of it was left installed – and the building remained locked and boarded up until the late 1980s when it was sold to the first of many independent video producers.

And the present…

Around 1997, an independent production company based in Nottinghamshire – Finishing Post Productions – purchased the building. It’s perhaps ironic that much of the equipment installed in the building today was purchased and removed from ATV Centre following its closure in October 1997.

Internally, the building hasn’t changed that much since the days of Central, but today it is thriving with activity, and always fully booked throughout the year, producing corporate and promotional videos and even educational and shorts for major broadcasters.

The building now hosts a full studio, production gallery, sound booth, edit suites, music suites, DVD/Media suites, Graphics Department, Green Room, Dressing room, Machine rooms and facilities for parking OB vehicles.

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The lines to Birmingham are still fitted in the PABX room – in BT junction boxes labelled ‘Links to ATV Birmingham’: the building management have chosen to leave these fitted (we are told) for ‘Old times’ sake…’ The old Central uplink dish and smaller dish pointing towards the transmitter at Kimberley (which is within sight of the studio) are still fitted to the roof- but looking a little tatty.

The area itself has undergone major development. The industrial estate now looks dated, as a major retail park, consisting of a massive car park, “Ikea” and a few sports’ shops have been built opposite.

Original Building Specs

Studio 12.3m x 9.6m fitted with 360-degree wraparound cyclorama cloth -, which can also be used for either Blue-Screen or Green-Screen chroma-key. Constructed to IBA specifications.

Studio height is 5.7m from floor to lighting grid.

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2 x dressing rooms. Dressing Room 1 is 2.3m x 2.9m and Dressing Room 2 is 3.1m x 4.6m.

1 x Green Room 5.9 x 6.1m with Pool Table.

900 Amp supply for lighting.

Access for OB trucks.

You Say

4 responses to this article

Adrian Huckfield 1 November 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hi Roddy, I read your article about Giltbrook with interest. There is an inaccuracy regarding News from Giltbrook. I moved from Elstree to Nottingham in July 1983. Because Lenton Lane wasn’t ready, we built a 1″C edit suite in a warehouse in Finch Close for Family Fortunes with Max Bygraves shows recorded at Elstree. My colleagues & I from VTR,Vision & Editors worked at Giltbrook. Central News East came from there (Sept 83 – 3rd Jan 84). I worked on the first & last news from there. I also did live play-ins to ITN News from Giltbrook i.e for Torvill & Dean routine. Central News East transferred to Lenton Lane in Jan 1984.

Twiggy 23 July 2017 at 10:16 am

I recall talent bods in our primary school (I would have left there in 1982 I think). Anyway our school was called Gilthill and was at the top of the hill overlooking the fields as they were in the process of being turned into housing and the first wave of for the industrial estate (when there was a chocolate factory Permaquip, Stag Furniture, Drewery and Edwards factory shop who made granny pants etc…) I think it’s on its third or fourth wave now with places having been built, then demolished then built again and now another Ikea part is currently going up with parking if the roof, all viewable from my home. It used to be beautiful fields in every hue of yellow/brown/green now it’s a blue and yellow eyesore. Prior to it all was Bonser Engineering who made Fork Lift Trucks (they also owned a Brough Motorcycles and a Brough Superior was on display in the front office), After Bonser had gone: I’ve no idea if they were bought out or just closed, The plot was taken over by Dyggor Gaylord who kept the huge trucks which weren’t out earthmoving for motorways etc.. they weren’t on the site for long due to a double fatal industrial incident. Terrible as one of those killed was a friend of the family.
Anyway back to the studio, the talent bods being all hip wanting us children to call them by their first names which was disrespectful back then, even friends of my Dad were with either ‘Uncle’ or ‘Mr’ and one Tydd Gote bod had a ‘cool’ Sony Walkman with the wire headphones with foam on…guess what I wanted that following christmas? We were given leaflets about it and a handful of us of us went to Giltbrook studio on what I think was the Saturday morning. The men thought they were so important. I don’t even know who they were, they had those TV voices if you get what I mean. I wasn’t start struck. One I recall liked to comb his hair a lot so I asked why. I would’ve been ok if meaning to ad lib to It so I didn’t join the independent television workshops which I think after the initial poncing about was at Lenton Lane. My middle child is now a broadcaster: both radio and TV. He joined a theatrical group after getting an adhd, he’s excellent himself at adlibbing. All I ever did were some radio advertisements but it wasn’t my thing.

Twiggy 23 July 2017 at 10:30 am

I recall talent bods in our primary school (I would have left there in 1982 I think). Anyway our school was called Gilthill and was at the top of the hill overlooking the fields as they were in the process of being turned into housing and the first wave of for the industrial estate (when there was a chocolate factory Permaquip, Stag Furniture, Drewery and Edwards factory shop who made granny pants etc…) I think it’s on its third or fourth wave now with places having been built, then demolished then built again and now another Ikea part is currently going up with parking if the roof, all viewable from my home. It used to be beautiful fields in every hue of yellow/brown/green now it’s a blue and yellow eyesore. Prior to it all was Bonser Engineering who made Fork Lift Trucks (they also owned a Brough Motorcycles and a Brough Superior was on display in the front office), After Bonser had gone: I’ve no idea if they were bought out or just closed, The plot was taken over by Dyggor Gaylord who kept the huge trucks which weren’t out earthmoving for motorways etc.. they weren’t on the site for long due to a double fatal industrial incident. Terrible as one of those killed was a friend of the family.
Anyway back to the studio, the talent bods being all hip wanting us children to call them by their first names which was disrespectful back then, even friends of my Dad were with either ‘Uncle’ or ‘Mr’ and one Television bod had a ‘cool’ Sony Walkman with the wire headphones with foam on…guess what I wanted that following christmas? We were given leaflets about it and a handful of us of us went to Giltbrook studio on what I think was the Saturday morning. The men thought they were so important. I don’t even know who they were, they had those TV voices if you get what I mean. I wasn’t star struck like some of the children there (didn’t know who they were), the girls from school especially . One I remember, it seemed he liked to comb his hair rather a lot so I him asked what was ‘wrong with his hair?’, he wasn’t impressed but I think with hindsight he was possibly a sleaze. I would’ve been ok if meaning to ad lib to It so I didn’t join the independent television workshops which I think after the initial poncing about at Giltbrook was at Lenton Lane. My middle child is now a broadcaster: both radio and TV. He joined a theatrical group after getting an adhd, he’s excellent himself at adlibbing. All I ever did were some Christmas time radio advertisements but it wasn’t really my thing. I was just roped into it.

Peter Revell 27 September 2017 at 4:59 pm

I was a sound engineer with Central at the time of the transfer of the news programme to Giltbrook. A number of us from Birmingham were rostered to work alongside the Elstree guys who had not done much “live telly” although being extremely experienced in light entertainment with shows such as The Tom Jones Show. We all had a ball at Giltbrook as we were on very generous expenses and it made a pleasant change from the Birmingham studio.

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