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"Hello Radiolympia. This is direct television from the studios at Alexandra Palace!" *

THESE were the immortal words spoken to camera by Elizabeth Cowell and received at the big Radio show at Olympia, in West London. This was amongst similar test transmissions during August 1936, prior to the beginning of regular broadcasting just a couple of months later, on 2 November 1936.

Alexandra Palace was the birthplace of scheduled public, "high" definition television broadcasting in the UK and arguably, the world.

The American Modern Mechanix magazine of May 1935, described this as, England Will Broadcast First Chain Television Programs, to "Lookers".

BBC Studios A & B are the world's oldest surviving television studios.

YET in 2007, our People’s Palace was to be sold down the river by its very guardians – the Trustee – the London Borough of Haringey. The TV studios were to be destroyed with the connivance of the local council. Here is raw uncensored opinion and information about the scandal of the attempted fire-sale of our Charitable Trust’s asset, for property development. It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.

AFTER receiving a slap-down from the High Court (2007, October 5), two and a half years went by before the council finally abandoned its 15-year-old policy of "holistic" sale (i.e. lock stock and barrel). Then there was an attempt at partial sale ("up to two-thirds") to a music operator but without governance reform. To tart the place up for a developer, the council blithely sought about a million pounds towards this goal, a further sum of cash to be burnt.

THE local council has proved itself, to everyone's satisfaction, to have been a poor steward and guardian for over 20 years. Now, the master plan (below) developed under the new CEO Duncan Wilson OBE deserves to succeed.

It would be also be a big step forward to have a Trust Board at least partly independent of Haringey Council. 'Outside' experts would be an advantage. They'd likely be more interested, committed, of integrity and offer greater continuity. Bringing independent members onto the board and freeing it from political control would be the best assurance of success, sooner.


The pride of Haringey

WHILST walking around in any street in Haringey on any day, one may catch sight of a familiar symbol on the side of vehicles, on the odd sign tied to a lamp post, even appearing on a flag flying from the town hall; yes it is the most famous sign in Haringey, you’ve got it, it is Haringey Council’s own logo.

The logo was taken from Haringey’s coat of arms created in 1965 when Haringey was formed. The emblem symbolizes the London Borough and Haringey has displayed it with pride. It’s on signs, buildings, vehicles, documents, letterheads and every page of the Council’s web-site.

Yet how many know the origin of this symbol? Haringey Council doesn’t care to remind people of its background and they would probably rather people forgot if they ever knew. There is a certain irony about the kind of web-site it took to reveal the history behind the symbol which stands for the Borough. On a Casino web-site
(, there is a piece about our history:
The Haringey Symbol is based on a device in the Borough Arms. It is a stylised electric flash representing the first television transmission in Britain from Alexandra Palace
At some point in the Council’s past there was obvious and justified pride in this. Alexandra Palace is the highest place in the Borough above sea level, it is the most important building in the Borough and it is the Bletchley Park of London. It’s fame as the birthplace of television is known around the world. The world’s first television transmission came unsurprisingly, from the world’s first television mast (still standing) alongside the world’s first television studios, at Alexandra Palace.

“This is direct television from Alexandra Palace” were the first, simple yet immortal words spoken by Elizabeth Cowell on 2 November 1936 at the beginning of the first public television broadcast in world history. It happened at Alexandra Palace, Haringey, and fittingly this was celebrated in the symbol used throughout the Borough. The radiating zig-zags represents the transmission signal.

But one of the most important events in the history of Haringey – arguably of the world – is being forgotten. The pride in being home to the birthplace of one of the greatest engineering and technical achievements of last century is quietly being cast aside. Haringey want to get rid of the building to a favoured business partner for a reported £1.5 million pounds: a sum they have already spent in sale costs.

But Haringey Council has lost its former pride to such an extent that it has now agreed to the destruction of these television studios by Firoka, their favoured developer of Alexandra Palace. The story of the sale being attempted can also be seen online at
saveallypally. The Council are still trying to flog the Borough’s most important and most historic building, for property development.

The world-famous studios A and B, just to the west of the BBC Tower, are still there. Waiting, either to be demolished by Haringey or to be declared a UN World Heritage site. The public are barred from entry on the pretext that the studios are riddled with asbestos (it was completely removed 10 years ago). Early television exhibits continue to be concealed from the public by Haringey Council. Today’s Council no longer speaks proudly of the television studios as first in the world, but refers to them as the ‘old’ studios or the ‘disused’ studios. Such has been the decline in self-respect.

Because the Council made such a mess of managing the Palace, the studios will be sacrificed in an effort to flush down the drain the evidence of Council incompetence. The ultimate price for the loss of control of rebuilding costs, after the 1980 fire, is to be paid by the Studios and to the cost of history and future generations. is another casino web-site that has a section on the Borough of Haringey. This source of interest in Haringey is surprising given that the Borough possesses no casinos – yet. Do they know something we don’t? See here.

It is fitting that I learnt about the history of the Borough’s symbol from on-line casino sites. Haringey’s favoured business partner, Firoka, is keen on having a casino in Haringey, having been thwarted last year in getting a casino in Oxford. Firoka’s boss spends much of the year in Monte Carlo, famous for its casino.

While the Council is still trying to win public approval for the sale, Haringey decline permission for that casino. But Haringey Council are nonetheless now assisting with Firoka’s first gambling licence at Alexandra Palace – they even offered to put the Application in the name of
Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd, a Council-owned company. Haringey are currently asking themselves for a permanent gambling licence on behalf of their favoured business partner.

Are croupiers to be the glamourous new role models for Haringey’s youth, rather than boring old electrical engineers? If the Council is prepared to see demolished the history on which their corporate identity is based, why not be honest and get rid of the logo too? A vestige of such a leap forward in technology would be an anomaly after the Council allows the demolition of the world’s first TV studios.

After 40 years with the old logo, earlier this year Haringey decided to spend thousands of pounds of tax money in giving it a tweak. In March 2007, perhaps to disguise the now-embarrassing origins, the Council arranged for the logo to be tilted and coloured orange and green to become the current edition (once described as a squashed spider). Instead of symbolizing knowledge radiating out equally in all directions, the revised signal is twisted, contorted. The same signal is being slowly crushed, struggling to escape from a box of darkness (the Council of course prefers modern metaphors rather than allusion to what they see as ancient history).

But to truly break with the past, maybe Haringey should bring it more into line with the modern era and today’s new values and update it significantly. In order honestly to reflect the new priorities, perhaps the Borough’s symbol needs to reflect the likely change of use. It would represent not the world’s first TV broadcast in Haringey, but the future: the first casino in Haringey. Why not change the Council logo to a stylized roulette wheel?

[letter of 11 December 2007, unpublished by local newspapers. Was it unpublished through fear of offending Haringey Council?]