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300 Words From London: Ariel's Penis and Musical Comedy Radio

Lake visits the newly restored BBC Radio Theatre, an art-deco classic in the heart of the West End.

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by Lake, Editor, London for outsideleft.com
originally published: August, 2007
there is still a place for ukulele strumming Northerners

Above the door of the BBC's Broadcasting House is a sculpture of a pair of Shakespearean characters by Eric Gill. Back in 1932 it caused an outcry because of the size of Ariel's penis. I know Lord Reith petitioned Gill to adjust its size. I don't know whether he did. Is the member up there too big or just right? There's plenty of time to ponder this as I wait in a long queue to get inside.

It takes almost as long to get into BBC Broadcasting House as it does to go through security at Heathrow Airport. It's the same process. Empty your pockets, take off your jacket, put them through a scanner then walk through a metal detector. I say almost as long only because this being the BBC they seem to have two or three employees where most companies, international airports included, would make do with one. This high-tech security system that somewhat spoils the original 1930s art-deco reception area is manned by six or seven security guards. But then there are three receptionists sitting behind the desk.

I am attending a recording of a comedy entitled "15 Minute Musical" at the BBC Radio Theatre. I actually don't have all that much interest in the show itself (a political spoof of West Side Story titled, wait for it - Westminster Side Story - ) I just wanted to get into the theatre where all the classic Tony Hancock shows were recorded (and the Goons, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Britten, David Bowie, the list goes on... So 15 minutes of lame songs and jokes was a small price to pay. Especially when compared to the near hour of Beatles remixes I endured to get to look around Studio 2 at Abbey Road.

The theatre has just reopened after extensive but sympathetic renovation. While the recording facilities may be state of the art, the Gilbert Bayes friezes running around the walls, bathed in soft pink light, still glow with 1930s style.

I endured the first half of the usual inoffensively bland Radio 4 comedy show but made my excuses and left before the threatened 15 Minute Noel Edmonds musical started taping.

You can get inside and look too. Just email the tickets department at the BBC. You could be lucky and get to see something you might actually enjoy. At least you can take heart that there is still a place for ukulele strumming Northerners in the world of radio entertainment. Listen to "15 Minute Musical" sometime in September to hear what I mean.

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Lake
Editor, London

the first journalism Lake ever had published was a history of Johnny Thunders for Record Collector magazine, since then he has written for publications including the Guardian, Dazed and Confused, the Idler and more recently, outsideleft.com as you have just seen.

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