Last Friday I was delighted to be invited to appear on BBC Breakfast .
It was the first time I’d been on BBC television since 1987 and it couldn’t have been more of a different occasion.
Last week I was discussing a serious issue about the benefits system and its effect on single parents. In 1987, as part of my comedy duo Pep Talk, I was hurling myself about the studio of the Saturday morning children’s TV show Going Live .
What struck me this time as I arrived at Television Centre were the many long lost memories of that first visit that the building suddenly brought back. It also reminded me how iconic the building has always been to me and how sad I felt about its forthcoming closure in 2015.
When I first went to TV Centre all those years ago, I remember my comedy partner Lil and I sitting on a wall opposite the gates for the best part of an hour, just staring at it in awe. I’d never felt in awe of a building before. (As far as I was concerned St Pauls, Buckingham Palace, Westminster et al had nothing on this White City super structure.) This was the place where the magic happened, where all those wonderful programmes were made, and we couldn’t believe that we were actually going to go inside television’s hallowed home.
We had great expectations as we were signed in at the stage door. We thought we’d bump into all the TV stars of the day and were convinced that by the time we left we would have made loads of contacts and managed to convince some producer or other to give us our own prime time TV show. And actually things started off pretty well. Almost immediately we came across the fabulous Prunella Scales, sitting in her rollers drinking a cup of coffee. Of course she didn’t talk to us, but it was the sign we’d needed – we’d arrived at our own personal Mecca (and I don’t mean the bingo hall).
The morning was thrilling, appearing on live television on the BBC, on a show hosted by Philip Schofield and Sarah Green, with the pair of us stomping about doing unfunny sketches and an awful song (hindsight is a wonderful thing). It was one of the most exciting days of my life.
Sadly though, we didn’t get to see any other stars (Victor Kiam was the guest on the show and he really didn’t count), and no producers came running over to offer us our own version of The Morecambe and Wise Show.
But we left the studios with a spring in our step and happy in the knowledge that we had walked the BBC corridors of fame and that perhaps some of it might have rubbed off on us. And maybe, just maybe, we’d be back there one day.
Well it only took me 24 years, but there I was last week, walking those same corridors. (And I’m not convinced they’ve been decorated in the interim years.) It felt just the same and I was suddenly 22 years old again starting out on my career with everything to look forward to. Sadly the reminiscence bubble burst as soon as I sat in make-up and looked in the mirror. My reflection told me that though I might feel the same inside as I did 24 years ago, clearly the years have taken their toll. I don’t have quite such a spring in my step and have a far greater need for anything and everything the make-up department could trowel onto me.
However what hadn’t changed was the excitement I felt about that building. I’m lucky enough to have appeared on other TV shows filmed in other studios, but TV Centre is special. I understand the BBC has to change, cut costs and diversify, but it deeply saddens me that the spiritual home of the BBC for over 50 years will soon cease to exist.
I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to go to TV Centre again and sincerely hope I might get another chance before the BBC White City era ends.
NOTE TO SELF: Looking forward is important but looking back can be magical.