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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Recall at Amnesia Palace

Or, does Alexandra Palace cause memory loss?

SOME TIME AGO, the Alexandra Palace Trust Solicitor claimed that
our charity had never made a profit in “living memory”. This was a curious phrase, but it does contain a clue to a peculiar condition affecting council officials who control our Palace.

The Trust’s solicitor clean forgot that the AP trading company made operating profits in several years and in the 10 years to 2006, was modestly profitable overall.

In the first Board meeting after the High Court stalled the sale of AP, the Trust Solicitor told Trustees said that the Lease had been made available to the public – but forgot that the Lease was deliberately concealed at the time of the Charity Commission’s Public Consultation and a redacted version was made available, only later.

Memory loss is normally associated with old age, but the Council officials responsible for our Palace seem to be affected prematurely.

What is the evidence for Memory-Loss Alexandra Palace Syndrome (M-LAPS)?

The AP sale documents were so secret that the Trust’s beneficiaries (us public) were not allowed to see a single page during the Charity Commission’s Public Consultation in December 2006. The Council stated they were subject to “commercial confidentiality”.

But in a Council debate about AP’s future in July last year, the Chairman of the Trust said that it was “all in the public domain”. He had no recollection of any Council secrecy over the sale.

Our young chairman appears the worst afflicted by M-LAPS. The plans for a casino at AP remain a total blank. He said to me and others that a casino was a “myth”, but forgot it’s on Firoka’s architects’ drawings.

During the recent mayoral election, the chairman of our charitable trust was out canvassing for Ken. At least one Wood Green resident was told on the doorstep that, it is written into the Lease that it would be illegal to have a casino on the premises (!?). This is a big confusion.

If the chairman had read the Lease, then he completely forgot that, in the four brief paragraphs of clause 3.12 Restrictions affecting use of the Premises, there is not a word about casinos. But the lease is not silent on the subject of casinos: seven short paragraphs earlier (, the Borough of Haringey expressly gives permission to Firoka for use as a small casino.

The AP chair has insisted that a casino cannot happen, but the poor chap forgot that his own council already gave permission in the legally binding Lease. And this was drafted and agreed after the council executive voted against applying for a casino licence in 2006 at Golden Alexandra Palace. Such a muddle could cost taxpayers money if Haringey does renege on that contractual promise.

(The Council reminds us of the executive’s ad hoc decision not to apply for a casino licence at one time. But they forget that there has been no Full Council Resolution to institute a no-casino policy, leaving the door open to the casino wanted by at least one Member of the Executive, Councillor Lister.)

The forgotten Victorian Theatre, magically preserved in a time warp seems to have been overlooked by the Trust Board and may face an uncertain future with the Council’s favoured property developer, along with the Willis organ. Both were largely ignored in the ‘holistic’ sale of the entire building to the property developer.

Everyone associated with the property disposal overlooks that the so-called “old” and “disused” studios, are in fact the first television studios in the world. But the area of BBC Studios A & B are remembered in the plans: they’re earmarked for office space.

After prompting, the chairman managed to remember that the Lease gives permission for an office in the building, but due to chronic M-LAPS, he could not recall that it is to be 30,000 square feet’s worth of commercial office space in our charity’s premises.

THE CHAIRMAN's Xmas blog promised more openness and information. Months later, that is forgotten. The Trust Board always remembers how to exclude the press and public from the parts of meetings that are exempt (i.e. secret and embarrassing), but forgets that our Charitable Trust was set up for the benefit of the public.

Was M-LAPS responsible for the failure to renew the temporary licence to Firoka, whose Period expired on 1st August 2007, but whose occupation – and hyper-profits – lasted another five months before their eviction?

Is there something debilitating in the building that induces M-LAPS? Is it asbestos dust? Perhaps the world’s first television mast emits magnetic pulses which erase parts of Councillors’ memories. Or is it stress and exhaustion that causes M-LAPS at Amnesia Palace?

Ham & High
29 May 2008