Fri. Sep 22nd, 2023

The BBC has sold its historic Maida Vale studios to a partnership that includes the Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer and the film producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

The venue in north-west London has hosted thousands of performances from generations of pop and rock royalty including the Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Dusty Springfield, Beyoncé and Adele.

It was also the home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop (where the Doctor Who theme was recorded), and hosted live music events for BBC radio stations, ranging from John Peel sessions to Radio 1’s Live Lounge recordings.

The new owners, which also include Zimmer’s business partner Steven Kofsky, have agreed to continue the venue’s legacy as a centre for pioneering music making and retain the building’s original facade.

Initial plans say the venue will remain as a studio space, with a multimillion-pound refurbishment plan. There will also be the creation of a not-for-profit education facility.

Adele performing for Radio 1 at Maida Vale in January 2011
Adele performing for Radio 1 at Maida Vale in January 2011. Photograph: Andy Sheppard/Redferns

Zimmer, who has composed scores for dozens of films including The Lion King, Gladiator, Top Gun: Maverick and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, paid tribute to the venue’s history.

“The first time I worked for the BBC at their Maida Vale studios was 45 years ago,” he said. “I was just a kid, in awe, honoured to be booked to play on one of my first sessions. I still remember the strong pull, the desire to touch the walls, as if that would somehow allow me to connect to the artists whose extraordinary music had resonated against these walls on a daily basis.

“This was a place of revolutionary science in the service of art, this was a place that inspired you to give your best, where music was performed around the clock and art was taken seriously. For the people by the people. This was the place that kept a struggling musician like me from giving up.”

Bevan and Fellner, the co-chairs of the production company Working Title Films and the producers behind critical and commercial hits including Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually and Frost/Nixon, said the studios were “synonymous with artistic excellence” and had “become part of the fabric of the UK’s pioneering cultural industry”.

The building was constructed in 1909 as a rollerskating venue before being bought by the BBC in 1933 and refurbished into studios.

The broadcaster announced in 2018 that it planned to move its live music base to Stratford in east London, after previously saying Maida Vale studios was “wholly unsuitable for the 21st century”, with problems including asbestos.

Among the figures calling for the venue to be saved was the Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who said it was “every bit as important as Abbey Road studios”.

The studios set up for the BBC Symphony Orchestra
The studios set up for the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Photograph: Percy Ryall/Alamy

The building was Grade II-listed in 2020 but the BBC was criticised for objecting to the decision, which lowered its potential value because it could not be demolished and sold for new, lucrative apartments.

The BBC said it intended to move to its new site by late 2025. The location will contain recording and rehearsal studios and provide a purpose-built base for the BBC performing groups.

Lorna Clarke, the director of music at the BBC, said: “Maida Vale has played such an important part in the BBC’s history, and its significance in popular culture is huge. We are so pleased to secure a sale which looks to continue the bright, vibrant future of music making in this iconic building – not only providing new studio spaces but jobs and an education facility.”

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