Rex House

From Scotland On Air
Jump to: navigation, search

The top floor attic at Rex House, 202 Bath Street, Glasgow was home to the BBC's first radio station in Scotland, 5SC, between March 1923 to November 1924. It had just one studio.

Description of studio

The top floor attic at Rex House consisted of a studio, control room and waiting room, although the latter was soon needed for expansion.

The studio equipment consisted of Western Electric speech input apparatus. Meanwhile, the control room "consisted of various odd switches, batteries, bell pushes, and a conglomeration of electrical accessories screwed on to the wall in such a manner as to be convenient for the one and only engineer, operator and general broadcasting official."

A glass partition separated the studio from the control room, with communication between broadcasters and engineers reliant upon a peculiar system of cryptic hand signals.[1]

A week ahead of the opening of 5SC, the Evening Times reported that good progress was being made on adapting and equipping the premises for broadcasting. It described the set-up in great detail:

The concert-room, or 'studio' where the actual concerts will take place, embodies many interesting features. To ensure that the music or speech transmitted retains its clearness it is necessary to eliminate echoes from the concert-room. This is achieved by draping the ceiling and walls with curtains and covering the floor with a layer of felt.

At one side of the room will be placed the microphone, mounted on a pedestal, and in the middle of the floor will be a small moveable platform for the singer or speaker. The platform serves the double purpose of keeping the singer in the correct position and of giving him the resonant floor underfoot which makes for ease in singing.

Adjoining the studio, and with a window opening into it, is the operating room. The operator will be seated at a table, from which he can watch the singer. On his left will be a telephone connecting him directly with the transmitting station at Port-Dundas.

On the right will be a three-stage amplifier mounted on a panel along with the controlling mechanism. The microphone into which the artist will sing or speak does not give a current of great enough magnitude, and its volume will accordingly be amplified several thousand times. This amplified current will pass over the underground cable to the transmitting station at Port-Dundas.

The operator at the studio will control the whole process of transmission and will make the necessary adjustments to secure the required amplification and modulation. A receiving set is to be fitted at the studio, so that the operator will be ‘listening in’ all the time and will regulate the transmission according to what he hears.⁠[2]

The studio was about 30 feet square, draped with grey-coloured hessian and, as a result, described by many as feeling like the 'Black Hole of Calcutta' when an orchestra was playing.[3] The broadcaster Howard Lockhart described performing in the studio as a young boy of eleven:

I remember the heavy grey drapes on the walls and ceiling, the grey corded carpet and the dead, grey sound when one spoke. The microphone was slung on a stand, I remember, that had rubber wheels, and I had to climb on to the conductor's rostrum to reach it when it was my turn to speak. [4]

Closure

The Glasgow premises were moved to Blythswood Square on 7 November 1924 and this remained the main BBC building in Scotland until 1930, when the official headquarters were moved to Scottish Broadcasting House, 5 Queen Street, Edinburgh.

References

  1. Glasgow Weekly Herald (Radio Supplement), 2 March 1935, 15.
  2. ‘How the Glasgow Studio Will Be Fitted’, Evening Times, 26 February 1923, 5.
  3. George Burnett (ed.), Scotland on the Air (Edinburgh: Moray Press, 1938), 1.
  4. Howard Lockhart, On My Wavelength (Aberdeen: Impulse Books, 1973), 1–2.