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Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End may not be a Madison Avenue skyscraper but this distinctively-shaped and mildly brutalist 1930s building is set to become almost as famous when the BBC’s answer to Mad Men screens next week.
The site is about to undergo an £18 million makeover, which will include the full restoration of its main areas as well as a new art house cinema, exhibition space, bar and cafe. But the facelift will also include, subject to planning, the creation of some 120 Crouch End homes on land that surrounds the site – the sale of which is said to be paying for £10 million of the renovation costs.
The new drama, called The Hour, follows the British TV industry in the 1950s and while Mad Men’s actors could luxuriate on set in huge trailers, residents of Crouch End were disturbed by nothing more than a grubby BBC wardrobe trailer outside their local hall, according to the local paper.
Stars of The Hour include actors Dominic West from The Wire, Romola Garai, Ben Withshaw and Green Wing comedian Julian Rhind-Tutt who are pictured above inside Hornsey Town Hall.
It’s not the first time the building has been in the limelight. TV buffs will notice its striking shapes in shows including political farce The Loop, comedy series Peep Show and the spy drama Spooks.
In The Hour, Hornsey Town Hall takes the role of the BBC’s Lime Grove studios in Shepherd’s Bush, which was demolished in 1993. The Hornsey version is a local gem, listed in 1960. It hasn’t changed a bit since then and inside lies a time capsule complete with wood panelled walls, art deco styling and period lighting – perfect for the detail obsessed producers of The Hour.
Close to the original BBC studios at Alexandra Palace - the BBC relocated to Shepherd's Bush in 1956 - the area of Crouch End has long been a haven for media and arty types. In the intervening years, it's been largely left alone making it perfect for a small screen period drama.
Central Hornsey lacks a tube or railway station but does make up for it with a community feel - it's got two butchers, a baker and a greengrocer. Thespian residents David Tennant and James McAvoy must like it for its bygone vibe although a Waitrose recently moved into the vacant Woolworths.
And while Crouch End is no Sunset Strip it does have a number of star-studded myths. This includes one about Bob Dylan. On his way to visit the home of The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, Dylan knocked on a local front door whose resident said ‘Dave’ would be back home soon and for Dylan to wait. ‘Dave’, a local plumber, had just finished a job and on returning home was overjoyed to find the music legend sipping tea in his front room.