This talented crew transformed BBC Television Centre into our biggest London club. We get more details on the launch, and ask what the building means to them
Since it first became operational in 1960, BBC Television Centre on Wood Lane in London’s White City has become iconic for British TV viewers. The Graham Dawbarn design – complete with its famous “doughnut” – is a landmark piece of modern architecture that became the backdrop for many classic programmes, and a beacon for those who grew up loving the Beeb.
Now part of the West London building has been transformed into White City House, offering three floors of club space, a rooftop pool and bar, two cinemas, a screening room, a 24,000 sq ft gym and indoor pool, and 45 bedrooms. On the ground floor, The Allis lounge and bar is fully open to the public, serving food and drinks all day.
Neighbours will include the BBC and ITV, and the design features plenty of nods to the building’s origins. The reception resembles a TV set with a Sixties-style desk and curved sofa, leading through to the lifts, with circular patterns inspired by an old design for Doctor Who’s TARDIS.
So what’s it like working in a place with such a unique history? And how will our sixth London club be different? We caught up with some of the team who worked on the launch of White City House as they put the finishing touches to the club.
James South, General manager
Favourite show: Going Live! a magazine show that aired for just over three hours on Saturdays mornings between 1987 and 1993. Appointment viewing for kids, it showcased a hugely varied mix of material from the often profound agony uncle segment to gunge-tastic gameshow Double Dare.
“White City House is going to be incredible. The idea is to emulate the summer vibe of Shoreditch House, where I was GM until recently, over in West London. It’ll all be in keeping with the era of the building, late Fifties early Sixties, with props and design elements that evoke the shows we all grew up with. On the approach, your entrance will be like walking into the BBC. The club space is going to have a more modern feel, with a lot of glass, a lot of outside terrace space, so it’s very light and airy.
“As a West Londoner myself I’m well aware of the heritage of this building: my generation in the UK grew up knowing the postcode of BBC Television Centre off by heart – W12 7TQ. They used to read it out all the time on Going Live!, which I’d watch every Saturday morning without fail. Now we’re going to be working alongside the BBC, so it’s important we strike a relationship with them. After that my plan is just to do what Soho House has always done, which is deliver an excellent service.”
Noelle Nikkhah, West London membership manager
Favourite show: Top of the Pops, which aired regularly between 1964 and 2006. From David Bowie singing Starman or Frankie Goes To Hollywood shocking oldies with Relax, it was one of TV’s most culturally important shows.
“Having gone to school very nearby, I’ve always seen this building as a hub of the West London creative scene. We grew up watching BBC shows as a family and I remember being so jealous when my sister went along to the filming of Top of the Pops but I was too young to go.
“In working on the membership for White City House it’s been clear that most West Londoners share the same connection with this building and its heritage, and can’t wait for the regeneration that the development will bring.
“With each House the general vibe reflects the area and White City is incredibly diverse. From BBC veterans to local artists, musicians and designers, we have a real mix of founder members who reflect the area and will set a great atmosphere.”
Kate Bryan, Head of collections
Favourite show: Hartbeat, one of many shows presented by artist Tony Hart in his 50 years at the BBC. It’s best known for encouraging viewers to send in their artwork, hoping to be shown in his “Gallery”.
“Tony Hart was really important because he never spoke down to people. That’s why people still talk about him in elite art circles, because artists who are now staggeringly successful all experienced that same dream of watching him on telly and trying to get on the show. I sent in a snail made out of sweet wrappers to Hartbeat, which I’ve realised in later life was reminiscent of Matisse’s snail. In my memory it went on TV, but they’d send you a book token and I don’t remember that, so maybe I’ve made it up?
“For White City House the first thing I did was create a collection called Dear Tony Hart. We asked several museum-level artists to tap into their inner child and create art for him again, almost like a love letter to him. I’ve had fascinating conversations with people like Gavin Turk, Mark Wallinger, Mat Collishaw, Polly Morgan – famous artists who are still very affected by it. And of course, once they send it in I’ll be giving them all book tokens.”
Oli Richardson West London P&D manager
Favourite show: Match of the Day, the world’s longest-running football TV show. First aired in August 1964, it became peak Saturday night viewing for Brits following England’s 1966 World Cup victory. It went on to pioneer technology like slow-motion replays and still gets an average audience of around 4 million a week.
“Living in Twickenham, southwest London, my family would sometimes go to a rugby game if we got tickets, but football was all about Match of the Day. We’d watch it with friends, it was a good time to get everything in a condensed way.
“Playing and watching team sports has taught me a lot that’s useful in hospitality, and I think that attitude helped me through the Soho House graduate training programme six years ago. Working on the floor you know that you’re not going to do everything yourself and if you figuratively drop the ball, you need to stay positive. If you let your head drop it’ll result in more work and more pressure on other people.
“Opening White City House will be a challenge because it’s a big site with a lot of people, and a building people have a lot of attachment to. But the core team have done a lot of openings together and are used to the craziness, fun, nerves and excitement.”
Daniel Thompson, Opening operations director, UK & Europe
Favourite show: The work of natural history presenter Sir David Attenborough. First joining the BBC in 1952, Sir David (now 91) has made some of the most important nature programmes ever, including Life on Earth and Blue Planet.
“For me some of the best BBC programmes were made by Sir David Attenborough. He used to have one of the offices right at the top of Television Centre, and I like the fact that he’s now using his status to spearhead a lot of environmental issues.
“Watching his documentaries has influenced me I think. Sustainability and looking after the planet is something we all should be more serious about. We have paper straws at Soho House now and we’re looking into ways to recycle used coffee grounds.
“White City House has been an incredible project to work on. We try to be mindful of the heritage in every detail, from plate design to candleholders. Even with the font on the menus, we’re looking at old scripts and TV guides to bring that history in. Soho House has its own style, but we’re also respectful of the building, area and community.”