On the 20th of April in 1964, BBC 2 failed to launch. The new channel was supposed to start off with a comedy show, a production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate and to end with a fireworks display at Southend Pier. However, a fire at Battersea Power Station caused the Television Centre to lose all power. Instead of the entertainment scheduled, the presenter attempted to offer a news bulletin about the power outage, but it was broadcast without sound. Test cards reading “Major Power Failure” and “BBC will follow shortly” were displayed for the rest of the evening.
Robert Longman, who was in charge of engineering that night, recalls trying to negotiate the confusing corridors of Television Centre with a candle stuck in a paper cup as they desperately tried to find a way to get the new channel on air. “It got to about 6.30pm when I noticed that the power frequency was falling slightly… then we lost power completely,” he told BBC News Online.
“I went around telling everyone that we would be able to sort it out and not to panic… then we found out the whole of West London had gone.”
“I just froze and thought ‘oh dear’, because it was an engineering problem – my problem – and the place was packed with people.
“In the end we just sent everyone up to the BBC Club for a drink where there was emergency lighting.”
The channel successfully restarted the following day and broadcast the launch events that evening.
Forty-nine years later on the 20th of April in 2013, the following photographs were taken and transmitted around the world without a single technical glitch:
And here are the photographers who definitely deserve a drink!
Why don’t you join us? It’s easy:
- Take a photograph on a Saturday
- Upload the photograph to a friendly photo-hosting site
- Send a tweet to @SatScenes with the url and location
I’m looking forward to seeing your Saturday Scene in the next edition!