Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Local colour

As a regular visitor to the BBC studios in Leeds, more often at a drop of a hat, to contribute no more than a few minutes to some news programme or other, I have to record a small piece of local history.

The studio complex which for more years than I can remember, has occupied a site opposite Leeds University, has now closed and the operation has been moved to a new site in St Peters' Square. What particularly excited my attention what that this new site is rather conveniently close to another street in Leeds, bearing the name Brussels St: a coincidence, of course, but how appropriate. Needless to say, the location map handed out to help visitors find the new studios has the distances marked in metres.

The old studio has a particular place in my own personal history as it was there, in March 1977, that I made my personal television debut, lifting the lid on the scandal of NHS hospital kitchen hygiene standards – an episode that eventually cost me my job as a local authority environmental health officer.

As one of the original whistle-blowers, I can now reveal that, when I presented myself to the studio that March for what was a rather long sequence of interviews, I was offered the usual cup of BBC coffee. But my host rather regretfully informed me that they could not give me any food, as the canteen was closed.

Of this, I was well aware. I had been in the previous week and threatened prosecution, because of the appalling hygiene standards. As a result, the management had decided to close the canteen "for refurbishment". So, with their own operation closed down for poor hygiene standards, the BBC then ran a major feature on poor hospital kitchen hygiene. I think I was the only one, at the time, to enjoy the irony.

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