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Critical Writing in Art & Design Students Reprogramme Television Centre

Propland: Reprogramming Television Centre is a collection of texts by graduating MA Critical Writing in Art & Design students that explores the legacies of the Television Centre as well as the wider area and communities of White City, London. Built to be the headquarters of the BBC and once known as the home of British television, Television Centre was sold for redevelopment in 2012. Although the iconic circular central building, studio one and selected elements of the building are protected through Grade II listing, other parts and surrounding buildings have been demolished to make way for housing, offices and leisure facilities.

‘It seemed an obvious topic, as the Programme had relocated to White City, an area dominated by Television Centre,’ explained one of the book's editors Kit Webb. ‘We wanted to engage with the area more broadly, to situate ourselves and respond to the space. The name “Propland” is the term that set designers and builders used for the area, because of the surrounding warehouses where props and sets were made. So we’ve re-christened the area Propland and want to consider the building as a prop in itself for further speculations or histories.’ 

The texts from the 14 graduating students tell less familiar histories, covering a range of topics from the Helios Fountain, which sits in the courtyard of Television Centre, to the Graphic Design of BBC, the language and rhetoric devices of Jeremy Paxman and the circle – both as the iconic shape of the building and a motif used in advertising for the redeveloped Television Centre.

A series of 400-word vignettes punctuate the book, capturing significant events and quirkier parts of the BBC’s history such as the pets of Blue Peter, Michael Fish’s infamous 1987 weather forecast blunder and Bubbles the Clown. They form what Kit described as a ‘skewed rather than a comprehensive or official institutional history, shaped by our own personal interests and memories'. Jessica Dyer, one of the book's art directors, added, ‘We didn’t want to glamorise the BBC and wanted to keep a critical approach to the institution.’

Visual Communication students Jacob Pardoe, Liam Johnstone and Yuanbo Jiang designed the book. Selected through an open call, they worked closely with the writers to create the visual form of the publication, contributing maps and a timeline as well as graphic elements throughout the book. The design also features illustrations from Peony Gent, a first-year Visual Communication student.

Early discussions on topics for the publication were supported by writer, media producer and historian of television John Wyver. Writer and architect Douglas Murphy contributed an essay to the publication and helped mentor the students, along with Dr Emily LaBarge, who advised the students throughout the project and contributed an Afterword to the book.

Propland: Reprogramming Television Centre is the latest collaborative book to be published by graduating Critical Writing in Art & Design students. Past publications have covered topics such as Albertopolis, Butlers Wharf and Ark – the College’s student-run magazine. The project offers an opportunity for students to experience working collaboratively on all aspects of a live publication project, from the production, editing, and planning to the promotion. For these students, it was an opportunity to build on skills from previous live projects. In their first year they worked with Contemporary Art Practice students and external partners including The Museum of London, Siobhan Davies Dance and The Serving Library, Liverpool. 

Propland: Reprogramming Television Centre is being launched on 25 June 6.30–9.30pm at Unit 1 Gallery, Workshop, 1 Bard Road, London, W10 6TP

The book can also be seen along with graduate projects at Show 2018 in Battersea until 1 July.

Find out more about the Writing programme and how to apply.