W1A – a great experience at the BBC – but no seesaw Inspired by the recent BBC comedy W1A set in the redeveloped Broadcasting House in London we signed up for a tour. I had great memories from the BBC Experience which I was involved in launching many years ago. But this is something different using the building and the 24 hour news and feature operation as the backdrop – much more authentic. The tour starts on the gallery overlooking the giant newsroom – the largest in Europe – with some 300 people working there on a round the clock rota. This is what you see behind Fiona Bruce or Huw Edwards when they read the news. But it is not what it seems. The news studio is actually below the newsroom and the scene is projected live on to the screen behind the newcaster, who sits on his or her own with only remotely controlled cameras for company!. Similarly the Andrew Marr Show is no longer broadcast from the top of Millbank Tower but in a studio at Broadcasting house with a film of the River Thames convincingly behind his guests – although as someone pointed out the London sky is always blue! The tour includes a visit to the One Show studio and this does overlook the plaza between the two buildings now joined together, so people can gather and watch from outside. There were elements of the old BBC Experience in the tour with opportunities for participants to read the news and present the weather, as well as creating a short radio play – all good fun. But we didn’t se the seesaw as depicted in W1A. We were assured that there were funny chairs and strange meeting rooms on the upper floors but we didn’t get there. The 1 ½ hour takes place up to 15 times every day and the adult charge is £13.75. Well worth it, I would say. There are similar tours of other BBC buildings in Salford and Cardiff, to name just two, take a look here. Fashion brings in the afficianodos Making fashion come alive is a challenge for museum curators but when they get it right people will flock. Somerset House hosted the successful Valention exhibition two years ago and followed it up by the much more demanding Isabella Blow Fashion Galore which closed in March. This included not just a large number of stunning outfits – over a hundred – but also their settings – the styling designed by the creative genuis of Isabella. Numerous videos throughout the exhibition of fashion shows and interviews brought the exhibition alive and served as an impressive memorial to Isabella Blow. At Bermondsey’s Fashion and Textile Museum there is still time to see a bright and colourful collection of Artist Textiles from Picasso to Warhol (closes 17 May). For those who have not explored this treasure trove of fashion, it’s just a short walk from London Bridge in an iconic Mexican-style building designed for the founder, fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. This exhibition shows a thepatterned fabrics hanging from above and in showcases as well as clothes made from them. On a video wall artists including Picasso are at work. In 2006 the museum was taken over by Newham College and there are students everywhere talking, sketching, studying and having coffee in the lively café. The next exhibition Made in Mexico opens on 6 June and features the classical Mexican shawl, the rebozo, made famouns by artist Frida Kahlo. The Glamour of Italian Fashion at the V&A (ends 27 July) is a masterclass in how to make fashion compelling not only for the afficianados who were there in their droves examining every stitch of every garment but also for the general visitors – including a few men. And it was mainly men who created what became an influential fashion industry to rival Paris after the Second World War. Italy’s strength was the skill of Italian-made unique textiles in silk, woold, cotton. The designers followed. The exhibition uses mirrored walls, intercut video film clips of stars of the 60s and 70s (Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren) wearing the latest fashion and in the last room a catwalk showing some of the later ballgowns against a filmed backdrop. The weavers, tailors, embroiderers and dressmakers appear on the screens throughout and in the final section well-known designers talk about the future of fashion in Italy and Europe as a whole. This is a great exhibition and the V&A has taken the opportunity to announce already its next major fashion extravaganzy, Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty”, opening 14 March next year. Tickets are already selling fast! This exhibition will bring McQueen’s designs to a European venue for the first time (it was originally shown in 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to great acclaim). This promises to be something very special!

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