Belfast Telegraph

End of an era as BBC Northern Ireland social club demolished

By Brett Campbell

A veteran BBC journalist has said many of his former colleagues in Belfast will be sad to see the demolition of their old social club which became a sanctuary during the Troubles.

Denis Murray, who celebrated his last day of work 10 years ago in the venue, recalled how it offered a safe space for staff during the conflict.

But BBC NI has said the building is scheduled for demolition, as it is no longer fit for purpose.

"There was a time when it was the only bar that was safe in that part of the city, especially for people with public faces in the 1970s and 80s," he said.

"The city centre used to shut at night and there was nowhere to go, which meant the social club was often a place where the rafters would rock."

The former political correspondent also celebrated his 40th and 50th birthdays in the once bustling bar which was equipped with a snooker table and was the hub of numerous sporting clubs. "We revived a soccer club briefly in the 80s and we even played against UTV and other media outlets in charity matches," he recalled.

"It was just a place where staff could get away from it all and at times it was heaving, especially on election night and at Christmas.

"Sadly it withered on the vine a long time ago."

Despite hosting the occasional book launch and politician who was waiting to be grilled on the airwaves, Mr Murray said it was never as exciting as the Beeb's London club.

"You could walk in there and see people like Tom Jones just sitting down eating a pie," he recalled.

He attributes the demise of the club to a decline in drinking culture which was once synonymous with the profession.

"It would have been common at one time for television executives to have a drinks cabinet in their office, but that has all changed," he said. "Even by the time I started in the BBC, which was in 1982, it had already started to become a bit dreary.

"It closed a couple of years after I left and has been used for storage since then."

Belfast Telegraph

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