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WATCH: Last scenes at Central Studios

Birmingham | News | Published:

Once they were filled with the noise and bustle of TV production, broadcasting news and entertainment to millions of viewers.

But the studios and corridors of the former Central Studios, in Broad Street, Birmingham - eerily silent for almost 20 years years - now ring only with the sounds of the heavy machinery brought in to tear it down.

Once home to iconic shows of the 70s and 80s shows including motel-soap Crossroads and iconic Saturday morning children's show Tiswas - as well as Central News - the building is being bulldozed as part of the £400 million Arena Central development designed to bring new homes and businesses to Birmingham city centre.

At the time of its opening in 1970, the studio was the most advanced television production facility in Europe and was also home to favourites Bullseye and popular tea-time quiz Blockbusters.

Now the roof has caved in and water flows freely through the floors of the cavernous abandoned building.

Demolition has begun to clear the site to make for the new development - but not before members of the Tiswas fan club were given exclusive access to the former studio building, to say goodbye to the studios that were one home to their beloved show.

They toured the studios, exhibition hall and offices of the building - and secured mementos before they were lost for good.

Photographs, captured by superfan Marc Neun, show a site frozen in time, without outdated computer screens still on desks and cheery signposts still pointing the way to long-vacated dressing rooms.

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While the site was a far cry from its 70s heyday, members of the club said they were still fascinated by the building.

Mr Neun, of Basingstoke, who founded the Facebook-based Tiswas fan club in 2009, said: "Around six of us wanted to pay a last visit to the studio to take pictures of the site where Tiswas was made for posterity.

"The people demolishing the building were very helpful and allowed us access to the site so we could see what was happening and take some images around the studios.

"It was quite an eerie experience in some ways. To think when these television programmes were made the place would have been absolutely bustling.

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"Some parts of the building were in a very poor condition. The roof had given way in places and in those sections there was water all over the floor.

"The programmes made at the studio gave people a lot of pleasure so it was tremendously sad to see it in such a state."

Mr Neun, 40, said many of the rooms had been stripped of equipment and fittings but there were still some reminders of the building's heritage and those who worked there.

A lower-floor security office was still kitted out with old video machines and computers. And a sign depicting the circular Central logo from decades past - a white sphere with different colours on one side – was also still clearly visible over the doorway to an office.

Chunky plastic telephones from the 80s and 90s were still attached to walls with labels on the old videotape stores, handwritten in black marker pen, still in place and cables snaking across the floor.

Perhaps most poignant of all, signs were still on the walls directing visitors to studios and dressing rooms.

was still fixed to one of the walls. Performers would have consulted this after entering the building to find the rooms where they would prepare for filming.

Mr Neun said: "They were just small reminders of the people who were employed at the studio and of the role it played in broadcasting for a very long time.

"In my opinion it is a great pity the decision was taken to demolish the building. It should have been turned into a museum celebrating broadcasting in the area.

"As fans of Tiswas we wanted to pay one final visit to the place where it all started."

The group visited Studio Three - which was home to the anarchic children's show during its near-decade run - which was also used for the news.

The studio was in use until the late 1990s, but by 1994, Central Television had been fully taken over by Carlton and the company purchased land in nearby Gas Street to construct a modern digital studio.

By the end of 1996, facilities at Broad Street were being wound down and the full switch to the new facility was made in 1997.

ITV News Central still broadcasts from the Gas Street facility to the present day.

Mr Neun said demolition, which started in 2008 is continuing – but much of the outer structure is still intact.

He has been allowed to keep some mementos from the studio, including the security office sign with the old Central television logo on it, and also rainbow boards - set dressing in the bright colours of the Central logo which would have been on the wall as background.

He said: " I will treasure all of the items and I am really pleased they have been put aside for me to keep."

Tiswas ran from 1974 to 1982 and helped launch the careers of many stars, including DJ and TV presenter Chris Tarrant and Dudley-born comedian and actor Lenny Henry.

Birmingham comic Jasper Carrott also appeared on the show during its run as did former Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy.

One of the most popular skits was the Phantom Flan Flinger, who would throw flans around the studio at presenters, camera operators and audiences alike.

Mr Neun, who works as a mobile DJ, said he was only eight when the series finished but became an enthusiast of the show through videotapes recorded by fans when the show first aired.

"I remember the show being on but I was still quite young when it ended," he said.

"I didn't see a full show until I was in my teens so I really only started watching the show after it ended. It all started from there."

He said Chris Tarrant had paid his own visit to the studio a few years ago.

One of the studio's other notable programmes, Crossroads, had some of the biggest ratings on television at the time, when 15 million viewers regularly tuned in.

Set in a fictional motel in the Midlands it garnered a reputation for cheaper production values and shaky sets but despite this viewers continued to tune in from its launch in 1964 to the end of its original run in 1988. A revival in the early 2000s proved short lived.

Mr Neun said a blue plaque would be placed in the area when the studio building was gone commemorating the television studio.

"Obviously the new development is also called Arena Central which honours the site's previous heritage," he said.

"Even though the studio will be gone at least it will not be forgotten. Some of the programmes made there are also available on DVD so it will continue to be recognised into the future."

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