BBC Radiophonic Workshop founded

1 April 1958

Image: The original composers of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop at Maida Vale in May 1958. Donald McWhinnie takes notes while Daphne Oram, Desmond Briscoe and Richard Bird operate the equipment.

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop officially opened for business on 1 April 1958 from Room 13 at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios. It was set up to provide theme tunes, incidental music and effects for BBC programmes. The Workshop's best known creation is the menacing and other-worldly Doctor Who theme, which is justly celebrated as an innovative and iconic piece of electronic music. However the output of the unit included work as varied as the themes for The Living Planet, PM, Blake's 7 and school's programmes such as Look and Read, plus comedy effects for The Goon Show.

Reporter Vera Gilbert from Nationwide joins the Workshop for a day to celebrate the Workshop's 21st birthday.

The Radiophonic Workshop was established at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios after pioneering work for the Drama Department by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram that produced new sounds manipulating tape and test oscillators. Names associated with the Workshop's history include Dick Mills, Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson, Paddy Kingsland, Peter Howell, John Baker and Elizabeth Parker. Over the years they used found sounds, synthesisers and eventually samplers to make their unique creations.

The Radiophonic Workshop was a BBC department producing work for specific purposes. But this work was heard across the BBC and thus it created an aesthetic that influenced musicians and creative people in the wider world. It closed in 1998 but recently original members of the Radiophonic Workshop have been playing some of their greatest moments live.

BBC One Schools & Colleges Music Arcade programme sent Tim Whitnall to see how the Doctor Who theme tune was composed, whilst Lucie Skeaping joined children from St. Mary's Balham CE Primary School in the studio with Peter Howell of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop for some electronic music making.
  • Women of the WorkshopThe women who shaped the pioneering sound of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
  • Delia Derbyshire Day Charity organising events about Delia Derbyshire, centred around her Archive held at John Rylands Library, Manchester.