New exhibition celebrates 100 years of the BBC in Manchester

The new display showcases Manchester as a centre of innovation in broadcasting, from 1922 to the present - and looking to the future
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The Science and Industry Museum has introduced a new display marking 100 years of the BBC in Manchester, showcasing the city as a centre of innovation in broadcasting from the early radio experiments in the 1920s, right up to the revolutionary ideas of today. 

The temporary display features 14 objects and photographs with their accompanying stories, taking visitors on a journey through the past, present and future of the broadcaster’s time in Manchester.

You can discover the history behind 2ZY, Manchester’s first radio station, created by Metropolitan Vickers, a major engineering business and one of the founders of the British Broadcasting Company, at their factory in Trafford Park.

Photograph showing the interior of the 2ZY Radio Station. Photo © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

The first official broadcast from 2ZY was on 15th November 1922, one day after the first broadcast from the BBC’s very first official broadcast, transmitted from 2LO in London.

2ZY was highly experimental, with office rooms at Trafford Park turned into broadcasting rooms, and engineers and researchers becoming the first on-air talents.

They also pioneered broadcasting live music and featured the first programme relayed from the USA.

After only one year, 2ZY moved from Trafford Park to Dickinson Street in Manchester city centre. This was to make travelling to the station easier for performers and presenters. 

Violinist Isolde Menges at the microphone, broadcasting from the temporary radio station, 2ZY, at Metropolitan-Vickers. Photo © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

The display features a radio transmitting valve used at 2ZY, which is one of the only surviving objects from the original station at Trafford Park. The station used many of these valves to strengthen radio signal so it could travel further and reach more listeners. 

Many people were inspired by the first radio broadcasts to buy or build their own radio sets to tune in and participate in this new form of media.

The display includes a ‘Goltone’ crystal radio and headphones, made by Ward & Goldstone Ltd in Salford in 1923. 

There’s also a photograph of customers listening to the radio at the Butcher’s Arms, Salford in 1923, one of the first pubs to purchase a valve radio. This powerful radio could receive broadcasts from 2ZY in Manchester, 5IT in Birmingham and 2LO in London, the first three BBC stations. 

You can also see photographs at the new display capturing what it was like to work and perform at the studio; including children’s presenters who were all known as ‘aunties and uncles,’ and concert singer Isobel Baille performing.

Isobelle Baillie, a Manchester-born soprano who performed on the first transmission from Radio Station 2ZY at Metropolitan-Vickers in 1922. Photo © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Plus there’s a chance to explore new technologies created by innovators at the BBC’s Research and Development labs over the past decade in nearby MediaCityUK, to transform how we watch and listen.

The Science Museum Group has also digitised 1,000 objects from the BBC Heritage Collection for the first time to make it easier for audiences across the globe to discover the innovations in broadcast technology that helped make the BBC the world’s biggest broadcaster. 

“We are delighted to be able to tell the amazing story of the BBC in Manchester and to celebrate the achievements of such an iconic organization through this small but important display,” said Lewis Pollard, curator of television and broadcast at the Science and Industry Museum . 

“The BBC has played such an integral role in making Manchester the creative and technologically innovative city it is today, so we can’t wait to be able to share its incredible history and what it is doing to make broadcast even more exciting for future generations.” 

‘Celebrating 100 years of the BBC’ is at the Science and Industry Museum until February 2023.

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