Behind the Scenes at BBC 6 Music

The BBC 6 Music Studio

Last month was, of course, my 18th birthday, and as part of this Mum got in touch with Chris Hawkins, host of BBC 6 Music’s early morning show to see if it would be possible to visit the studios at all.

I think we had to get permission from one of the bosses before we could organize anything; but Mum managed to set it up in time to be able to tell me on my birthday last month.

So yesterday morning, after staying the night with Dad’s sister, we got the first train out of Lewisham and started our journey to BBC Western House, where we arrived just in time to hear the start of Radio 2’s 6am news bulletin from in the reception area, before one of Chris’ producers came down and took us up to the studio on the 4th floor.

It was a normal working day, so we were able to sit and watch the show going out live from in the production area. Its interesting how the producers sit in the studio rather than being in the production area; I believe this is different from Radio 2, where the producers aren’t in the studio itself. We were also able to look through to a second studio (currently being borrowed by the BBC Asian Network) and a third studio at the end (used for pre-recording). Radio 2’s studios have a similar set up – and there’s a few more of them.

At this point I should explain that, when I was 10 I sent in a tape of one of my radio shows, parts of which were played out on air one Sunday afternoon. And a short clip of this tape still exists – a short recording of the 10-year-old me saying: “This is Fred Hart, handing over to Chris Hawkins” has been put on to his jingle playout system! The computer system running this is called VCS, and this was created specially for the BBC. Similar systems are used by Germany’s NDR, MDR and WDR.

We went back outside towards the end of the show – because at 6 Music they hot-seat – using the same studio all-day long. Watching the changeover between the two programme teams reminded me of what it’s like at Corinium Radio studio, when we use the office at the library as a studio. Several people are packing up and leaving, while several more are unpacking and getting ready to go on air, all at the same time! We sat and watched the start of Shaun Keveney’s Breakfast Show – Mum, not being a 6 Music listener, thought it was quite entertaining!

Afterwards, we went with Chris through to the third studio, used for recorded, as he had some links to record for the Late Night Jukebox. Unlike some of the other BBC stations, 6 Music is pre-recorded throughout the night, and with the music already put in to the system, Chris’ job that morning was to record the links into it as well. Its was similar to how I recorded the Corinium Radio Reloaded programme for our broadcast last July.

We then went upstairs to the area where the programme teams are based – at 8am it was still fairly quiet, and Chris explained how there’s a lot of music listening to be done when he’s not at the studio; a lot of the preparation is done at home although the show isn’t scripted. The teams doing both the 6 Music and Radio 2 websites are stationed not too far away either.

We headed back down the lift and, before heading off to find some breakfast (by this time, it was approaching 8:30am), we headed outside; Radio 1 are just up the road, Radio 4 are almost next door, and production company Wise Buddah isn’t too far away either. This was followed by a quick photo in front of the Radio 2/6Music logo in the reception area, before Mum and I went to find some breakfast.

Central London

With our car parking ticked being valid from 08:00 to 13:00 (none needed overnight), we still had a few hours to spare. So we went on a walk around central London. Its an area we don’t go in to very often; and the last time was at night anyway, when we went to the theatre. We walked up to trafalgar square, and along the Mall towards Buckingham Palace, where we stopped to take some photos.

We then walked down Birdcage Walk, towards Parliament Square, and along Whitehall; me pointing out to Mum which government minister goes where as we went (eg: “Cabinet Office. That’ll be where Sir Humphrey is based“. We then walked past Horse Guards, and at 10:50am we were just in time to watch them changing the guard at 11 – and had another chance for some more photos. Finally, we headed back up to Charing Cross Station via a walk along the Thames, and took the train back to Lewisham.

By this time it was nearly lunch time, so we drove to Welling and had lunch in one of the pubs, before calling in at my grandparents, who lived just round the corner for a quick cup of tea, before heading back to Cirencester.

I enjoyed my day off college, and taking advantage of the fact that my lessons on Thursdays don’t start until 1pm, I enjoyed an extra couple of hours in bed this morning to recover, and forget that college even existed. 🙂

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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