BBC sells London music studios used by The Beatles and David Bowie

BBC sells London music studios used by The Beatles and David Bowie

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The BBC has sold music studios in London’s Maida Vale that had been used by The Beatles and David Bowie to a consortium including Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer.

The group also includes Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, co-chairs of film producer Working Title, with plans for the complex in north-west London to be turned into new studios as well as a not-for-profit education facility for musicians. 

The buyers have promised a multimillion-pound refurbishment plan, and a commitment to providing local jobs, innovation and investment. The complex was valued at about £10mn, although the broadcaster did not confirm the purchase price on Monday. The new owners also include Zimmer’s business partner Steven Kofsky.

Lorna Clarke, director of music at the broadcaster, said on Monday that the building had “played such an important part in the BBC’s history, and its significance in popular culture is huge”. 

The BBC will move its own facilities to new studios being developed in Stratford, east London.

The amount raised from the sale is small compared with the billions of pounds that funds the BBC every year from the licence fee as well as the broadcaster’s own productions that are sold around the world.

Maida Vale Studios, which has seven music and radio studios, has been used by the BBC since 1933. Others who have recorded in the building include Led Zeppelin and Dusty Springfield. It was home to John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, known for the Doctor Who theme tune.

Bevan and Fellner, whose company produced hit films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, said in a statement: “Maida Vale Studios has been synonymous with artistic excellence for generations. The venue has become part of the fabric of the UK’s pioneering cultural industry, from helping to nurture new and groundbreaking artists, to housing some of the world’s most legendary musicians.”

Zimmer, who has composed music for blockbuster movies such as The Lion King and Pirates of the Caribbean, said that he had first worked for the BBC at the Maida Vale Studios 45 years ago in one of his first sessions for the broadcaster.

“This was a place of revolutionary science in the service of art . . . This was the place that kept a struggling musician like me from giving up.”

The building was constructed in 1909 as a roller-skating venue before being converted by the BBC. In 2020, the building was given Grade-II listed status, a move opposed by the BBC. The listing was seen as having had an impact on the value of the site.

The Grade II listing means that the new owners will need to redevelop behind the existing, white rendered Edwardian facade. 

The new BBC music studios in Stratford are planned to open in late 2025, and will form part of wider efforts to create a new London creative quarter, called East Bank, with the V&A, Sadler’s Wells, UCL and UAL’s London College of Fashion.

The new site will host classical, pop and choral music and the requirements of the BBC Performing Groups. It will also host music sessions and concerts for stations such as Radio 1 and Radio 3.

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