Thursday, 12 July 2012

Farewell, Bush House

Another golden era endeth. Today, at midday BST (such distinctions are important in this case), the BBC broadcast for the final time from Bush House, home of the World Service, icon of The Strand and erstwhile populariser of an otherwise little-known Irish jig by the name of Lillibullero.

I'm sure there are all manner of excellent reasons for the move, just as there are for vacating Television Centre. But I can't help feeling, just a little, that something else rather special has been lost.

Knowing it was about to shut its doors forever I tried to have a snoop around earlier this year. I was very polite but the burly men in uniform on the reception desk were having none of it.

'There is an open day, once every year' said one with what I initially thought was a smile. 'You should come to that.'

'Excellent!' I said. 'When is it?'

'Er... July,' he smirked. 


'Yeah. You missed the last one last year.'

Gee thanks. 

But soft! What light from yonder window breaks?' There may be hope yet, in the form of an online auction. You see, the Beeb is selling off the contents of Bush House lock, stock and revolving turntable and there's a chance for prospective buyers to book an appointment to view the lots. In truth I'm unlikely to make it before the auction closes on July 27th (bidding opens tomorrow) so the closest I'm going to get to this little bit of broadcasting history is my vain entreaties with the guards in the Bush House lobby combined with my almost nightly listening in the small hours, lying in bed and imagining the lives being lived in the exotic places where the other 160 million regular listeners are hearing the words I'm hearing.  

So I was keen, for old times sake (over 70 years of them, containing the likes of George Orwell, Charles de Gaul, and Paul McCartney to name but three) to listen in today to the final ever moments to be uttered from those hallowed portals. If you missed this little piece of radio history, here it is taken 'off air' as it happened:

It's hardly likely to make the top ten archive broadcasts of all time, but it is in its own small way, history. As, now, is Bush House - at least as far as the BBC is concerned.

And so, it seems, is Lillibullero. I really thought I'd hear that strange, archaic jingle as they faded out from Bush House for the last time. But no. As a station ident it seems to have been replaced by a rather bland chord sequence over which people recite 'BeeBeeCee' in a variety of foreign accents.

All rather strange. But then so, in its way, was Lillibullero - an odd song about Irish nationalist ambitions and hardly the stuff of nations speaking 'peace unto nation(s)'. But a comforting tune to millions in its World Service incarnation, over many decades and in hundreds of distant lands. If they won't play out with it, I will...


  1. I used to wok round the corner from Bush House and never, ever saw anyone famous coming in or out. Very disappointing ;-)

  2. It's the same at Broadcasting House isn't it, EM.

    Oh, the times I've hung around just waiting for a glimpse of Terry Wogan...

  3. This whole thing makes me so sentimental. I spent 7 happy years at the BBC and think the whole thing (closing Television Centre etc) is a terrible mistake.

    1. I envy you your seven years Alison... I'd have happily settled for seven minutes if I could've slipped past the rather over-manned security desk! But like you, I think the utilitarian decision to vacate these buildings is a big mistake, and one likely to be regretted in years to come.

  4. Beautiful building wish I got a look see too.


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