Sunday, 9 December 2012

The ghosts of Yalding

On Friday 7 Dec 2012, the last Newsbeat programme to come from Yalding House was broadcast. This photo shows most of the people in the office on that last day.

Back row l-r Jon Jackson, Chris Smith, Dan, Nell Jordan-Gent, Julian Marshall, Jack Fiehn, Ant Baxter, Declan Harvey, Sophie Miller, Matt Wareham.
Front row l-r Nick Wallis, Simon Mundie, Nesta McGregor, Chi Chi Izundu, Natalie O, Jonathan Richards.
It was also my last day at Newsbeat, after an eight week stint backfilling for the output editors and summaries editors as they ran dummy programmes and trained themselves up on the new kit in the eighth floor of New Broadcasting House.

I worked at Newsbeat for three years between 2004 and 2007, so I know the office and the building well, and it was great coming back to see some old faces and meet new people.

In my old stint I was a reporter, mainly an entertainment reporter. This time round, older and uglier, I got to sit in the output editor's chair...

Amazing view from the output editor's chair
... and have a good chunk of responsibility for the overall sound, shape and editorial direction of the programme.

There is a recurring character trope among the people who work at Newsbeat. Everyone there is intelligent, committed, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, creative, friendly and hard-working. These are some of the best young radio journalists in the country at the top of their game. It was, as you can imagine, a joy to be working with them, even for a very brief time.

The Newsbeat presenter's studio chair
There was a strange atmosphere on the final day. Radio is perhaps the most ephemeral medium, and so the buildings where radio stations are located take on a distinct resonance. Despite having the architectural charm of a basement car park, magic happened at Yalding.

Chris Evans, at the height of his notoriety, broadcast from Yalding. John Peel (once considered one of the greatest Britons who ever lived, let's not forget) spent the last chapter of his career based at Yalding. If you ever geared up for a night out with Pete Tong in your kitchen or car - that was coming from Yalding... you get the picture.

Like many of the people in the group photograph above, I grew up with dreams of working at Radio 1. I managed it for a brief time, but on Friday there were people around me who were closing the door on an office they had worked in for ten years or more.

Don't get me wrong, no one was getting too sentimental, and the eighth floor of Broadcasting House is a palace by comparison, but there wasn't a single day I didn't walk into Yalding thinking "Blimey! I'm working at Radio 1! Look! I have a pass that lets me into Radio 1! How the hell did that happen?!"

Now that little chapter is over, I'm off to do other things. Thanks to everyone at Newsbeat who made me feel so welcome (and for the older lags, welcome back). Thanks particularly to Rod McKenzie for giving me the contract, and Jonathan Richards, who gave me the benefit of his expert and clear guidance when I was finding my feet in the first couple of weeks of editing the programme.

And thanks very much to Yalding House. There are a lot of old radio ghosts racketing about in that building. It was nice to be there at the end.


  1. To be fair, Yalding was pretty stinky, though :D

  2. Well said that man. I was trying to put some words down about Yalding closing, but it seems you've done a better job than I could have hoped to do.

    Yalding House holds many many happy memories for me - the Newsbeat office in particular. I popped in to see the last programme being broadcast and I'm glad I had a chance to say goodbye.

    What a weird thing to be saying about a building - but as you say it wasn't about the building - it was about the incredible programmes that came from Yalding.