Set in Alexandra Park, Alexandra Palace was built in an area spanning
Wood Greenand Muswell Hill, North London, Englandin 1873 as a public recreation, education and entertainment centre and North London counterpart of The Crystal Palace.
The Great Hall and West Hall are used as an
exhibition centreand conference centreoperated by the trading arm of the charitable trustwhich owns the building and Park on behalf of the public. There is also an ice skating rink. Since 1995 the Palace has been a Grade II listed building. It was designed to be ‘The People’s Palace’ and later nicknamed (allegedly by Gracie Fields) [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DE3DC153AF934A25752C1A960948260 nytimes.com] ] Ally Pally, and in 1936 became the headquarters of the world's first regular public 'high definition' [The 405-line television systemused by the Marconi-EMI system was considered 'high-definition' at the time, when compared with the 240-line Baird system.] televisionservice, operated by the BBC. The Alexandra Palace television stationwas located on the site and its iconic radio tower is still in use. The original Studios A and B still survive in the south-east wing with their producer's galleries and are currently used for exhibiting original historical television equipment. The original Victorian Theatre with its stage machinery also survives. The theatre and stage structure is currently on English Heritage's "Buildings at Risk" register. There is currently an application to upgrade the listing by Hornsey Historical Society [ [http://www.hornseyhistorical.org.uk ] Hornsey Historical Society] , which originally got the Palace Grade II listed (against the opposition of trustee Haringeycouncil), and the BBC.
Also, a planned development of the building into a mixed leisure complex including hotel, replacement ice rink, cinema, bowling and exhibition centre has encountered much opposition by some public groups and was blocked in the High Court in October 2007.
The Great Northern Palace company was established, but was unable to raise the finance for the project. However, the idea lived on and on 23 July 1863 Alexandra Park was opened to the public. It was named after
Alexandra of Denmarkwho had married Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, four months earlier. In September 1865 construction of the palace commenced, but to a design different from Jones'. sang on the opening day before an audience of 102,000. [C. E. Pearce, "Sims Reeves: Fifty Years of Music in England" (Stanley Paul, London 1924), 307.] Only sixteen days later the palace was destroyed by fire, killing three members of staff. Only the outer walls survived.
With typical Victorian vigour, the palace was quickly rebuilt and reopened in May 1875. It contained a
concerthall, art galleries, a museum, a lecture hall, a library, a banqueting room and a theatre. An open-air swimming pool was constructed at the base of the hill in the surrounding park; the pool is now long closed and little trace remains except some reeds. The Grounds included a racecourse with grandstand (Alexandra Park, which closed in 1970), Japanese village, switchback ride, boating lake and a nine-hole golf course. The Willis organ installed in 1875 (vandalized in 1918, restored and re-opened in 1929) is still working, but its restoration is continuing. In its 1929 restored form, Father Willis's masterpiece was declared to be the finest concert-organ in Europe by Marcel Dupré. [ Felix Aprahamian, "The Alexandra Palace Organ", Sleevenote to HMVHQM 1199 (Hayes 1970).] In 1900 the Palace and Park’s owners were threatening to sell it for development, but a consortium of local authorities led by Hornsey Urban District Council managed to raise enough money to purchase them in the nick of time. By the Alexandra Park and Palace (Public Purposes) Act 1900, a charitable trust was set up; representatives of the purchasing local authorities became the trustees with the duty to keep both Palace and Park "available for the free use and recreation of the public for ever". It is this duty that the present trustee, Haringeycouncil, is currently trying to overturn, protesters fear, [ [http://www.saveallypally.com saveallypally.com] ] by selling the whole Palace to a commercial developer. [ [http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/content/camden/broadway/news/story.aspx?brand=NorthLondon24&category=Newsbroadway&tBrand=northlondon24&tCategory=newsbroadway&itemid=WeED13%20Apr%202007%2016%3A46%3A44%3A220 Ham & High] ] The Palace passed into the hands of the Greater London Councilin 1967 and then was transferred in 1979 to Haringey Council.
The building has a wealth of history, for example, during World War I the park was closed and the Palace and grounds were used as an internment camp for German civilians.In 1935 the trustees leased part of the palace to the
BBC, which used it as the production and transmission centre for their new BBC Television Service. The antenna was designed by Charles Samuel Franklinof the Marconi company. The world's first public broadcasts of high-definition televisionwere made from this site in 1936. Two competing systems, Marconi-EMI's 405-line system and Baird's 240-line system, were installed, each with its own broadcast studio, and were transmitted on alternate weeks until the 405-line system was chosen in 1937. The palace continued as the BBC's main TV transmitting centre for Londonuntil 1956, interrupted only by World War IIwhen the transmitter found an alternative use jamming German bombers' navigation systems (it is said that only 25% of London raids were effective because of these transmissions).Fact|date=March 2007 In 1944 a German doodlebugexploded just outside the organ end of the Great Hall and blew in the rose window, leaving the organ exposed to the weather. [Aprahamian 1970, loc. cit.]
During the early 1960s, an outside broadcast was given from the very top of the tower, in which the first passage of a satellite across the London sky was watched and described. After that it continued to be used for news broadcasts until 1969, and for the
Open Universityuntil the early 1980s. The antenna mast still stands, and is still used for local analogue television transmission, local commercial radio and DAB broadcasts. The main London television transmitter is at Crystal Palace in South London.
In 1980 the trustees decided to refurbish the building, but a couple of days after the
Great British Beer Festivaland during Capital Radio's Jazz Festival a second disastrous fire started under the organ and quickly spread. It destroyed half the building. Again, the outer walls survived and the eastern parts, including the Theatre and the BBC TV studios and aerial mast, were saved. In this fire parts of the famous Organ were destroyed, though it had been dismantled for repairs and some parts (including nearly all the pipework) were away from the building in store. Some of the damage to the palace was repaired immediately but Haringey Council overspent on the restoration, managing to create an £30 million deficit. Later the Council was severely criticised for this in a report by Project Management International. [Project Management International plc, "Alexandra Palace: Report for the London Borough of Haringey" (1990)] . This was followed by the decision of the Attorney Generalin 1991 that the overspending by the Council as trustee was unlawful and so could not be charged to the charity. The Council for some years did not accept this politically embarrassing finding, and instead maintained that the charity "owed" the Council £30m; charged compound interest on what it termed a "debt", which eventually rose to a claim of some £60m; and to recoup it tried to offer the whole Palace for sale, a policy their successors are still trying to carry out despite being stalled in the High Court in 2007. As of June 2008, it is still unclear whether the Council in either of its guises has agreed to write off their overspend.
ice rinkwas installed in 1990. Primarily intended for public skating, it has also housed ice hockeyteams including Haringey Racers, Haringey Greyhoundsand briefly London Racers. [Martin C. Harris, "Homes of British Ice Hockey"] During the 1960s the Palace housed a public roller-skating rink.
The Theatre was greatly altered in the early 1920s with the General Manager McQueen-Pope spending the war reparation money on refurbishing the auditorium. He abandoned the understage machinery which produced the effects necessary in Victorian
melodrama: some of the machinery is preserved and a current project is for restoring some of it to working order. After these changes the theatre was leased by Archie Pitt, then husband of Gracie Fields, who appeared in the theatre. Fields also drew an audience of five thousand people to the Hall for a charity event. However after the BBCleased the eastern part of the Palace the theatre was only used for props storage space.
In June 2004 the first performances for about seventy years took place in the theatre, first in its foyer then on 2 July in the theatre itself. Although conditions are far from ideal the audience was able to see the potential of this very large space — originally seating 3000, it cannot currently be licensed for more than a couple of hundred. It is intended that the theatre will one day reopen but much costly restoration will be required first. It will never again reach a seating capacity of 3000 (not least because one balcony was removed in the early part of the twentieth century as a fire precaution, when films started to be shown there) but it does seem likely that a capacity of more than 1000 may one day be achieved. A major season of the theatre company
Complicitewas planned for 2005 but the project, which would have included some repair and access work, was cancelled due to higher-than-anticipated costs. [cite news
last = Gillespie
first = Ruth
title = Complicite scraps plans for Alexandra Palace rebirth
work = The Stage News
date = 2005-02-08
url = http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/6411/complicite-scraps-plans-for-alexandra-palace
accessdate = 2008-06-25
quote = The company had announced plans for a £500,000 refurbishment of the 19th century building last year, more than 65 years after the venue went dark, and planned to occupy the space for 12-weeks in the spring. However, Complicite has been forced to abandon its proposals after the cost of essential safety work on the 2,500-seat auditorium shot up from £160,000 to £310,000.]
Plans by current trustees, Haringey Council, to replace all the charitable uses by commercial ones by a commercial lease of the entire building, including a casino, encountered considerable public and legal opposition, [http://www.saveallypally.com/] and on 5 October 2007 in the High Court, Mr Justice Sullivan granted an application by Jacob O'Callaghan to quash the Charity Commission's Order authorising a 125-year lease of the entire building to Firoka Ltd. [cite news
title = Court rejects £55m Palace plans
date = 2007-10-05
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7030648.stm
accessdate = 2008-06-25
quote = Firoz Kassam, the former chairman of Oxford United Football Club, wants to refurbish the building's exhibition halls, add a 150-bedroom hotel, casino, bars and restaurants, and provide public leisure facilities on the site. But on Friday the judge quashed a Charity Commission order which permitted palace trustees to enter into a 125-year lease with Mr Kassam's development company, Firoka Group. Mr Justice Sullivan said lease details were not given in time for public consultation, so the whole consultation process must be reopened.]
In November every year, a large fireworks display is held as part of London's Bonfire Night celebrations.
The Observer"Wildlife Exhibition" held here in 1963 was an important early event in highlighting awareness of worldwide endangered species, and gained a very large attendance (46,000). [William M. Adams, "Against Extinction:The Story of Conservation" (Earthscan 2004), p. 61. Example of display, [http://www.english-nature.org.uk/imagelibrary/image_details.cfm?id=112857] ]
On 28 April 1967, a benefit event took place at the palace. "
The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream", organised by the " International Times", demonstrated the importance of the quickly developing UK Underground scene. Although "underground" venues such as the UFO Clubwere hosting counter-cultural bands, this was certainly the biggest indoor event at the time. Performers included headlining act Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, Savoy Brown, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Soft Machine, The Moveand Sam Gopal's Dream (featuring Sam Gopal, Mick Hutchinson and Pete Sears).
In 1973 the
Divine Light Missionheld a "Festival of Love". [Price, Maeve (1979): "The Divine Light Mission as a social organization". "Sociological Review", 27, Page 279-296.] The Grateful Deadplayed a series of shows here, 9 September 1974 – 11 September 1974. The band's recording of the show was released as part of the Dick's Picks series in March, 1997.
The exterior of the palace was used as Victory Square in Michael Radford's 1984 film adaptation of
George Orwell's novel " Nineteen Eighty-Four".
Sinclair C5was launched at the palace on 10 January 1985.
The Stone Rosesplayed their first major gig in the south of England which became famous due to the fact that the band managed to sell the venue out before making major in-roads into the music press or making any national TV appearances.
The 1996 MTV Europe Music Awards was held in the palace, hosted by
Robbie Williams. Squeezeand The Kinksperformed at the palace on August 12, 1990, in a concert which was broadcast on BBC Television.
Blur organised a major concert at the venue in October 1994 to promote their classic album
Parklife. The concert was later released on video and DVD, and used as the basis for Blur's promo video End of a Century.
The 52nd edition of the 2002 Miss World pageant was held in the palace on 7 December. The pageant was initially slated for
Abuja, Nigeriabut due to conflict in the city of Kadunaarising from a publication of an article in a Lagos- based newspaper, the pageant was relocated to London at the Alexandra Palace. The Strokesrecorded a live performance at Alexandra Palace on 5 December 2003, this performance was to be released in the form of a live album, but the idea was scrapped.
Travis played Ally Pally on 20 December 2003, the footage of which was used for their live DVD titled 'Travis - At The Palace'.
The third annual
European Social Forum(ESF) took place on 15–17 October 2004 in London, the main venue being Alexandra Palace.
The very first
Give It a Namemusic festival was held at Alexandra Palace on 2 May 2005.
In October 2005
Kiss 100 FMcelebrated its 20th anniversary with a club night featuring many famous past and present Kiss DJs performing.
On 5 December 2005 Paul Weller Played one night and released the show on a two disc cd entitled
In 2006 a dance music
ravepromoted by Slammin' Vinyl under the name of Tranzmission was held at Ally Pally [ [http://www.jungleravers.com/ravereviews/reviews/slamminvinyl/transmission-26th-March-2005.htm jungleravers.com] ]
Alexandra Palace plays an important part in the 2006 "
Doctor Who" episode " The Idiot's Lantern", set in 1953.
On 16 June 2007 – 17 June 2007 the Palace hosted the first London Hackday which was affected by a lightning strike on the building resulting in rooftop vents opening and the hall being flooded.
Alexandra Palace is the new venue
PDC World Darts Championshipfrom December 2007 [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/darts/6516989.stm World Darts moves to London] ] after 14 years at the Circus Tavernin Purfleet, Essex. The Alexandra Palace was previously home to the News of the World Darts Championshipbetween 1963 and 1977.
The band [http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=43573668 Kick Asteroid] recorded a single entitled "Shadow of the Palace" recounting semi-biographical events centred on the famous London landmark.
Notes and references
* [http://www.alexandrapalace.com/ Alexandra Palace] (official site)
* [http://www.victorianlondon.org/buildings/alexandrapalace.htm Alexandra Palace (Victorian London)]
* [http://www.saveallypally.com Save Ally Pally: history of recent ownership of the Palace, and campaign to preserve the Palace and the TV studios for access and use by the public]
* [http://www.transdiffusion.org/emc/baird/ally_pally/ Detailed history of early BBC TV broadcasts, with archive photos 2003-09-14]
* [http://www.apts.org.uk Alexandra Palace Television Society]
* [http://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/old%20bbc%20studios.htm#alexandra Unofficial History of BBC Television at Alexandra Palace]
* [http://www.independent.co.uk//eceRedirect?articleId=2112597&pubId=55 "Development threat to the palace, where television was born"] ("The Independent" article on development plans, 30 December 2006)
* [http://www.lynnefeatherstone.org/2006/10/birthplace-of-tv-at-alexandra-palace.htm "TV studios under threat"] (Local MP's blog on Palace's future, 29 October 2006)
* [http://www.londonarchitecture.co.uk/Building/280/United_Kingdom/England/London/Wood_Green/N22/Alexandra_Palace.php Pictures and Information About Alexandra Palace History]
* [http://www.hornseyhistorical.org.uk Hornsey Historical Society]
* [http://www.furious.com/perfect/Sydbarrett.html More information on the 14 hour technicolor dream]
* [http://www.allypallyorgan.org.uk Alexandra Palace Organ Appeal]
* [http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/6411/complicite-scraps-plans-for-alexandra-palace Complicite scraps plans for Alexandra Palace rebirth (The Stage Online)]
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