Just when I was wondering how I could persuade one of my grown-up sons to spend time with me in London (other than just to eat) an opportunity to do something interesting and inexpensive came my way. Step forward BBC Tours.
A new tour launched in April this year is proving extremely popular and, having enjoyed it myself I can see why it gets heavily booked. With prices from £11.25 for concession tickets (isn’t it grand to be an oldie?) it is excellent value for money for the 1½ hour tour of Broadcasting House. Not only do you get a fascinating insight into the history of the Beeb, and watch the newsroom in action, you also get a chance to try your hand at reading the news or, like me, become a weather girl – not as easy as it looks. I had no idea they work without a script and improvise as they look at the images on the TV monitor whilst wildly moving their arms around behind them hoping they are in the right area of the country. But that perhaps explains why Michael Fish and weather forecasters in general don’t always get it right!
The radio studios were particularly interesting and the interactive drama studio complete with a wide range of sound effects was fantastic – I’ll never listen to radio drama in quite the same way again. We had a couple of American families on our tour whose kids couldn’t wait to step up to the mikes to take part in the drama. I wanted to have a go myself but having embarrassed my son with my earlier weather girl slot decided to take a back seat on this occasion. But there’ll be no holding me back next time. Did somebody say there was a walk-on part in the Archers? We also saw the Radio Theatre where live programmes are recorded and I was so impressed I have now registered to be part of a BBC studio audience. Here’s hoping for some good tickets.
The tour groups are limited to a maximum of 25 people with two guides. Our guides, Rachel and Simon, both BBC employees, were excellent: knowledgeable, entertaining and brought everything to life. The time whizzed by and although I was thinking I would have liked more, the tour is actually a perfect length and true to form my son’s stomach was rumbling. Time for lunch.
Obviously being in London I toured Broadcasting House in Portland Place where it all started, but there are also tours of other BBC studios at Salford, Birmingham and Newcastle. For full details visit www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours or call 0370 901 1227.