When I was fourteen I broke into BBC Television Centre. More than once.
I was the quiet friend of a group of bold girls. I loved it. Being quiet didn't mean I was less naughty though. We were all odd in our own way. Growing up in London was both exciting and very scary. It was my time of racing hormones and thrills to be sought out.
One of the things that thrilled us most was music, all sorts, goth, punk, pop, we listened to it all and we fancied everyone in the bands. We heard that one of the bands we liked was going to be on Top of the Pops, so we decided to take the tube to White City and hang around outside to see if we could catch anyone going in or coming out. We waited there for ages in the cold.
Then we saw two girls being escorted out by security, two girls about our age being shown to the gate and told never to come back. Grumpily [the girls] shunned them and walked by. Jodie (the boldest [of our group]) caught them up and asked them if they were ok and what happened, and then we found out...
The BBC building is a massive place. If you go around it, down one of the side streets, quite a way, there is a park, Hammersmith Park. If you cross this park swiftly to the back, there are (well there was) tall bushes and trees which hide a very tall spiked fence and directly on the other side are humongous storage containers, the kind that would store a small house, all hidden by the bushes. To this day I have no idea how I got my chubby body up and over the fence, aided by trees as none of us were good in P.E. but I did, we did. Up and over and slide down the 15" gap between the fence and the containers until our feet found the fence footings which was a handy wall to walk along. Squeazing along we could cover quite a distance without being seen, back to the BBC building. Once we had reached the end of the containers there was a matter of one security post. A uniformed man, with his peeked cap, in his little box, with a walkie-talkie, waiting. But the box wasn't really pointed towards where we were hiding, so it was a short time before his head was turned and one by one we legged it to the circular-shaped building.
We were in. The building was sectioned off into four colours. It didn't take long to work out we needed the green section and that's where we headed. Passing through corridors filled with doors, all with names of presenters or TV shows or administration-type titles on them, the Saturday morning kids shows, news readers, Blue Peter presenters. We passed one that said Andy Peters, [then] Philip Schofield and again as Jodie was the boldest she tried the door.
It was open. It was empty. We all had a look. Not a big room, a desk chair and lots of paperwork and books. Sitting on a shelf was Gordon the Gopher. We hatched a plan to take the puppet and leave a funny ransom note. We did and we thought it was hilarious.
Passing people we recognised from TV, we did stop and ask Harry Enfield for an autograph. He did, but quickly, he didn't really like it. I learnt that day that even though you can be on the telly or on stage and put yourself in a position where everyone will laugh at you, privately you can be the shyest of them all.
Being interested in costume I was delighted to find rooms with rails and rails of costumes and accessories, a costume department. Some of them we recognised from Blackadder. One of Queenie's beautiful head-dresses for instance, with its jewels and pearls that was almost heart-shaped with its droplet in the middle that sits on the forehead. Holding it was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.
It was also parallelled with [the] anticipation of getting caught, which eventually we did. The closer we got to the Top of the Pops studio the more security was pacing the corridors and we just couldn't dodge all of them. They knew Thursday night would mean chasing the pop cravens out of the place and it looked like they hadn't worked out yet how we all got in. We were all under sixteen and harmless really, so I guess it was worthless calling the police and probably made the security look lame. We didn't run. It was getting time to make the long journey [back] anyhow before we were really late home and got the bollocking we deserved. And we didn't want to climb the fence again to get out.
We didn't get to see the band, and I can't even remember who it was we went to see.
On Saturday morning we kept an eye on the TV show Going Live and felt sure it would be mentioned that Gordon was gone. Not a mention of a ransom note, its demands and Philip didn't swear on kids' TV as our demand stated. Our Gordon was obviously one of many Gordon puppets and he appeared, as his squeaky normal self on the show.