July 30, 2020, by Kathryn Steenson
King’s Meadow Campus
The University of Nottingham has been at King’s Meadow Campus for 14 years now, but the site is sometimes still referred to by what came before us: the Central TV Studios.
The building now known as King’s Meadow Campus first began life as the East Midlands Television Studios. The foundation stone for the building was laid by Lord Thomson of Monifieth, Chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, on 23rd February 1982. Just over two years later the new, £21m, television centre was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 2nd March 1984.
Programmes produced on the site included Family Fortunes, Grotbags, Crossroads, and The Price is Right. The studio was used for the interior shots in Auf Weidersehen, Pet (more on that later), and was among the many Nottinghamshire locations that doubled as Germany.
This plan shows the site layout of the ground floor of King’s Meadow Campus, in its previous incarnation as the East Midlands Television Studios. At the time it was a state-of-the-art facility, with recording booths and five studios on site, ranging from small studios for local news broadcasts to larger ones where game shows were recorded in front of live studio audiences of up to 500 people. You may notice a small room called ‘Central Stores’, next to Studio 7. It’s still called that, although now it houses over-spill library books and journals that aren’t in heavy demand. Some members of staff (possibly including me) only found out the name was inherited from Central TV when they saw the plan, having thought it was named after the centralised library stock stored there.
The closure of the studios was controversial and resulted in several hundred job losses and some work relocated to Birmingham. The University bought the site and it was opened in 2005 and is mainly the campus for professional and technical services rather than teaching and research. One of the studios was kept as a studio, and is still rented out for use in filming, most often motion capture for video games, but it also played the role as ‘TV studio’ and ‘airport’ in the film Goal! 3 (a film which was “met with disappointment from audiences”, though some of the staff here quite enjoyed the cast and crew being here). It’s used as a rehearsal space, and you can see it in the rehearsal photos for Nottingham Playhouse’s The Madness of George III), but students will be most familiar with it as an exam space (with the exception of this year!).
The building has retained its filming heritage in more tangible ways too. Several friezes that were used on the set of Blockbusters in the 1980s and 90s (you can see them at the end of these opening credits) now decorate the walls of the stairwells and reception, although the nervous students who congregate beneath them are completely unaware of their place in TV history.
In 2013, a group from an Auf Weidersehen, Pet fan site and two former crew members visited KMC and walked around filming their reminiscences. They bumped into a couple of staff members from Manuscripts & Special Collections trying to find Studio 8, which is now the archive store. It’s normally locked and off-limits to the public, but we gave them a very quick tour and let them film the behind-the-scenes. There have been more changes since then – offices have moved, staff have come and gone – but there is an awful lot that remains the same.
Manuscripts and Special Collections is normally open for people to consult the rare books and archives in the Reading Room, and we do offer semi-regular tours, but we’re currently closed due to the coronavirus. Please check our website and Twitter @mssUniNott for more information about our collections and for information about reopening.