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Celebrate a century of the BBC in Manchester at the Science and Industry Museum

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 will feature 14 objects and photographs with their accompanying stories, taking visitors on a journey through the past, present and future of the iconic broadcaster’s time in Manchester, combining the Science Museum Group’s collection of historic never-before-seen objects, with cutting-edge new technologies being developed today. 

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. It was there that they ran experiments throughout 1922, culminating in the first official broadcast from 2ZY on 15 November 1922, one day after the first broadcast from the BBC’s very first official broadcast, transmitted from 2LO in London. 

See photographs capturing what it was like to work and perform at the studio, including images of children's presenters who were all known as ‘aunties and uncles,’ and concert singer Isobel Baille performing. Listen to original broadcasts and see one of the only surviving objects from this time: a radio transmission valve from the original Trafford Park station.  

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. These include the BBC Box, which learns what you like from your viewing and listening habits to recommend new programmes you might like, and the BBC Perceptive Radio, which listens to its environment to adjust the volume and make voices stand out against background noises. 

The display will launch the Science Museum Group’s Broadcast 100 season of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the BBC and the 40th anniversary of Channel 4. New temporary exhibitions, special displays and public events at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and Science Museum in London will explore how the way in which we connect with and consume entertainment is ever evolving. 

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. 

Lewis Pollard, Curator of Television and Broadcast at the Science and Industry Museum said:

"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 organisation through this small but important display. 

"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."

The Broadcast 100 programme is supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery. 

For more information about the Celebrating 100 years of the BBC display at the Science and Industry Museum visit: https://www.scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/celebrating-100-years-bbc-manchester  

The Science and Industry Museum is currently going through a multi-million pound restoration programme, meaning some areas including the Power Hall remain closed to the public. However, there’s still plenty to do, see and enjoy. 

-ENDS- 

NOTES TO EDITORS

For more information, interviews and images please contact Rachel Conway at rachel.conway@scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk or on 0161 696 7785. 

Key Manchester stories

Trafford 

In 2022, it will be 100 years since the earliest radio programmes were broadcast by the BBC in Manchester from one of the country’s first radio stations, at Metropolitan Vickers in Trafford Park. Objects and archive material from SMG collections bring this story of innovation to life, revealing the people behind the broadcasts and the impact they had on listeners. 

Metropolitan Vickers were part of the original BBC consortium and built a radio station at their factory in Trafford Park, called 2ZY. They ran experiments during 1922, which culminated in the first official broadcast from 2ZY on 15 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. 

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. 

Salford 

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. 
  • A photograph of customers listening to the radio at the Butcher’s Arms, Salford in 1923. P G Jeffery, owner of the Butcher’s Arms pub in Salford, one of the first pubs to purchase a valve radio for his customers’ enjoyment. This powerful radio could receive broadcasts from 2ZY in Manchester, 5IT in Birmingham and 2LO in London, the first three BBC stations. 

The display features contemporary stories and objects from the BBC Research and Development department at MediaCityUK, showing how 100 years on, Manchester is still a home of pioneering broadcasting, creating exciting new technologies that aim to transform the ways we consume media. It focuses in particular on the ‘Object-Based-Media’ which offers unprecedented flexibility to audiences by breaking down broadcast programmes into discrete elements that can be mixed and matched according to the needs of the user. This is set to revolutionise broadcasting, as previously everyone has received the same programmes on radio and television, regardless of personal needs or access requirements.

These include: 

  • The BBC Box, a prototype data hub that allows users to store and harness their personal data to tailor broadcasts to their needs and wants. It safely stores user data locally and cannot share anything with third parties or even the BBC without user consent, empowering the user to take control of their data. 
  • The BBC Perceptive radio, which ‘listens’ to its environment. It has a built-in microphone, light sensor and proximity sensor. It can tell if you are sitting down to listen in closely or if you have it on in the background while you are doing the dishes. With this information, the radio alters its settings to match your needs. It can adjust the volume and make voices stand out against background noises in a programme.  

ABOUT THE SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY MUSEUM

The Science and Industry Museum tells the story of where science met industry and the modern world began. Manchester was one of the first global industrial cities, and its epic rise, decline and resurrection has been echoed in countless other cities around the world. The museum's mission is to inspire all its visitors, including future scientists and inventors, with the story of how ideas can change the world, from the industrial revolution to today and beyond.  

The Science and Industry Museum is on the site of Liverpool Road Station, which was the Manchester terminus of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the world's first purpose-built passenger railway. Among its internationally significant buildings are the world's oldest surviving passenger railway station and the world's first railway goods warehouse. In total, there are two Grade I listed buildings and four Grade II listed buildings on the site. 

The Science and Industry Museum is part of the Science Museum Group, a family of museums which also includes the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon; and the Science and Media Museum in Bradford. The Science Museum Group is devoted to the history and contemporary practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media. With five million visitors each year and an unrivalled collection, it is the most significant group of museums of science and innovation worldwide.

ABOUT THE SCIENCE MUSEUM GROUP

The Science Museum Group is the world’s leading group of science museums, welcoming over five million visitors each year to five sites: the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York; the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; and Locomotion in Shildon.

We share the stories of innovations and people that shaped our world and are transforming the future, constantly reinterpreting our astonishingly diverse collection of 7.3 million items spanning science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Standout objects include the record-breaking locomotive Flying Scotsman, Richard Arkwright’s textile machinery, Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE computer and the earliest surviving recording of British television.

Our mission is to inspire futures—igniting curiosity among people of all ages and backgrounds. Each year, our museums attract more than 600,000 visits by education groups, while our touring exhibition programme brings our creativity and scholarship to audiences across the globe. More information can be found at sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk.    

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