Caption for top photo

"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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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.


• Is the Firoka deal dead or not?

THE CHAIRMAN of the Alexandra Palace Board of Trustees (for at least another month) recently wrote that “the Trust continues to explore” how to achieve the significant investment needed for the palace.

This may or may not be news to Firoka, the property developer with which the London Borough of Haringey signed a 125 year lease for our charity’s asset.

For some time now, the Trust and its PR company Lexington have claimed that Firoka will deliver £75m or £55m or - most recently – £45 million of “investment”. Why does the exploration for cash continue? Has the Trust in fact lost its way?

The contract with Firoka specifically promises a Casino in the User Clause section. Despite much obfuscatory bluster, this is not denied. The chairman has not yet offered an explanation for the casino clause or even acknowledged it. Is the reason for no comment that this Clause is a matter of embarrassment to the Council? Perhaps the next chairman will address it.

Another sign the deal is dead is that the Chairman has, for the first time, publicly opined that the casino “would be totally inappropriate at the Palace”. Is the reason that this was not said earlier, because of a fear of offending Mr Kassam, who insisted that there was the promise of a casino in the contract? But if the whole deal is off, it is now safe to make such a bold statement? Is this leadership?

If a casino fails to materialize at AP, it will be because either the whole Firoka deal is off or because Haringey renege on its promise to Firoka of a casino in the legally enforceable lease. The later to cost the Council a lot of money, but hey, its only our money they would pay to Firoka in damages!

For the past two years, the Council has described Firoka as its “Preferred Development Partner”

When Firoka were evicted from Alexandra Palace in December, following their unlawful occupation, the Trust issued some kind of ultimatum to Firoka.

This was followed in January with what the chairman then described as receipt from Firoka of a statement expressing the “clarity” the Trustees had been seeking and “fresh commitment” from their preferred partner. The commitment that was fresh then, now looks stale and even rancid.

And recently we heard a renewed offer to takeover AP from the current London Mayor, in which the Haringey council leader expressed glee and interest. Is this another signal the Firoka deal is dead?

The chairman is keen on always being clear, or at least saying he wants to be clear. Can he please clarify whether or not the Firoka deal is on or off? Will the Trust proceed with the Firoka deal or consign it to the dustbin where it always belonged? The uncertainty is not helpful and some of the Trust’s concerned beneficiaries would like to know.

The chairman’s commitment to openness “in the coming months” was first made last Christmas, four months ago. Since then we have had the normal secretiveness and repeated exclusion of press and public whenever there needs to be discussed something that is politically embarrassing. The public – the beneficiaries – needs fewer vacuous platitudes and more information from this shady Trust.
Hornsey Journal
30 April 2007