The main source for conditions in the studio in Marconi House, beyond Arthur Burrows and B.B.C. archive photographs, is Cecil Lewis. This Studio was also used by L. Stanton Jefferies, first Director of the London Station and then Director of Music, as his office. This was the Studio for the supposedly first experiment in radio drama on 2 September 1922, if we are to follow Gielgud's account. This was Howard Rose's recollection of production from 'the quaint back room at Marconi House' (Gielgud, 1957, 17). I question the veracity of this (2.1, 2.2).
Marconi House was also the Studio for the following: the 'birth' of B.B.C. radio drama (both the 25 December 1922 'The True Story of Father Christmas', and 16 February 1923), and for the variety and other items until the move into Savoy Hill. Lewis says that the move into 'our present offices at 2, Savoy Hill' was 'at the end of February' (31), but it is not clear when production moved into the first, single Studio there before the official opening on 1 May 1923.
Lewis's description of the production set-up is as follows:
The Marconi House studio was originally a cinematograph theatre and was situated at the top floor of the building overlooking the Strand and the river. It was a small room about 20 feet square, with a faded green carpet. The walls and ceiling were draped with thin white muslin, which in the sooty London air had soon become soiled and dingy. A few chairs, a grand piano, and a worn-out leather settee with the horsehair coming through, completed the furniture, with the exception of a small desk at which Mr. Jefferies compiled his programmes. There were also two telephones, both of which had a perfect mania for ringing, and a typist who clicked away cheerfully morning, noon and night.
(Lewis, 1924, 29)
First Phase of Savoy Hill production - April-May 1923 autumn 1924
Production moved to the first and then the only studio in Savoy Hill, officially from May 1923. I have however suggested that the 23 April 1923 celebration of Shakespeare's birthday may have been the first production there and not in Marconi House, on the grounds of size (eight scenes and twelve or more actors in total (3.2.23)). As more studios were added, this original studio was renumbered. It was then referred to as Studio No. 3.
The pitfalls in giving an account of play production in the Savoy Hill building can be appreciated. The original studio will be called Studio No. 3 (as that became its established name) and also for clarity 'First Studio (1923-4)'. This studio was heavily draped and sound was deadened too greatly. That was Phase One.
Second and Third Phases: building of Studio No. 1 autumn 1924 to 1926
The Second Phase began in the autumn of 1924, when another larger studio was built (later called No. 1), less damped down as regards sound. Play production was now in this Studio No. 1, and in 1925 this studio was modified further and the first multi-studio production was attempted, with a separate Control Room and the Control Board. So play production from autumn 1924 till early 1926 was in this Studio No. 1 ('Second Studio (1924-6)', with use of the original studio. By the end of 1924, Eckersley reported the invention of fading in and out.
Fourth and Fifth Phases: new Studio No. 2 with its effects Studio No. 2 (B) from early 1926
Early in 1926, with more studios added to the Savoy Hill building, the new Studio No. 2 became the Drama Studio, as it had a small ancillary Studio No. 2 (B), for effects. This will be referred to as Studio No. 2 ('Third Studio' (1926-32). Of course for some adventurous productions more resources than Nos. 2 and 2 (B) were used.
Sixth and Seventh Phases: new large Studio No. 7 from early 1927
In early 1927 a large new Studio (No. 7) also became available, more often for orchestras, variety and audiences. In 1928, the Control Panel was further improved. Savoy Hill now had seven studios and extended eventually to a tenth, an ex-warehouse, a mile away. The most complicated productions of Lance Sieveking involved five studios and the Control Panel (or two).
So here are the phases of Savoy Hill play production:
Phase 1: From May 1923 (and possibly April) to autumn 1924. Production in the heavily-damped Studio No. 3 or 'First Studio (1923-4)'
Phase 2: From Autumn 1924 to early 1926. Production in the less heavily draped and larger Studio No. 1 or 'Second Studio (1924-6)'
Phase 3: Within this period, Studio No. 1 was modified in 1925. Other technology was developed: simultaneous broadcasting linking up Stations (S.B.), the new Daventry 5GB and Daventry 5XX, multi-studio production, the first Control Panel, O.B. (outside broadcast), fading in and out, and slide projection of scripts in the studio.
Phase 4: From early 1926, production moved to the new Studio No. 2 with its effects Studio No. 2 (B) or 'Third Studio (1926-32)'. There was also an 'Echo Room', the third part of the combination. Draping was moveable.
New echo room in June 1927
Phase 5: More effects technology was introduced in 1926.
Phase 6: A large new Studio was built in Savoy Hill, slightly bigger than Studio No. 1 and mostly used for music.
Phase 7: From 1928 to 1928, the Control Panel was much improved and the most adventurous multi-studio production was broadcast.
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