£24M For Ally Pally

London’s Alexandra Palace is to get a £24 million overhaul to restore the aging landmark to its original Victorian splendor, according to the Evening Standard.

About two-thirds of the financing will come from a £16.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the rest from fundraising by the palace’s trustees.

The first phase will concentrate on the largely closed-off east wing of the vast hilltop complex, which was built on the site of a former dairy farm in 1873 as a rival to Crystal Palace.

Only 16 days after it had opened in Alexandra Park in 1873, the building was destroyed by fire and three members of staff were killed.

Fans of what is often referred to as “Ally Pally,” which is distinctive for the 220-foot transmission mast topping it, will hope the revival plans will meet with better luck than previous efforts.

The new money will allow its theatre and derelict BBC studios, known as “the birthplace of television,” to be brought back to life after decades of neglect.

In 1936 it became the headquarters of the BBC’s first regular public “high-definition” television service.

The BBC was still using the building in 1980, when another fire destroyed almost half of it.

Apart from going through various financial problems over the years, the building’s also said to be victim of a gypsy’s curse.
The BBC studios will be turned into a visitor attraction and educational centre.

“Visitors will be able to learn about the history of the BBC and the history of TV,” said Alexandra Park chief exec Duncan Wilson. “I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where you can do that in a place where TV was born.”

It’s also hoped that the studios, which are below the transmission mast, may eventually be granted World Heritage Site status.

The theatre, which has hardly been used since the 1930s, will become a new event space for plays, opera, concerts and comedy. There will also be work on the cavernous East Court space between the studios and the theatre and on “greening” the approaches.

The venue has also been used for concerts. In 1967 “The 14 Hour Technicolour Dream,” organised by the International Times, featured Pink Floyd.

Other high-profile acts to play the building include Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, Wishbone Ash, The Strokes, Blur, The Kinks and Squeeze.

“Ally Pally is held in huge public affection and we’re delighted to be giving our initial support for this exciting project,” said Heritage Lottery Fund London head Sue Bowers.

Councilor Matt Cooke, chairman of the Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust, believes the funding represents “a really significant economic boost to one of the poorest boroughs in the country.”

He said it will act as a catalyst for wider investment and regeneration that will create around 200 direct jobs at the palace and a further 200 locally.”