One of the most fun ways to get to know the UK, as hermetic as it may sound at first, is to experience its TV and Radio culture. One of the best places to get that experience up close and personal without becoming a total couch potato is to be in the audience at any number of filmings and audio recordings all over the city for the national television and radio stations.
These recordings, done on the premises of “BBC Broadcasting House” in Oxford Circus, and down on the South Bank of the River Thames at “The London Studios,” make up the vast majority of the UK’s recorded television and radio. For the production companies, there is nothing worse than a grand pan across the audience only to see loads of empty seats, so the tickets are always free of charge and you never know who is going to show up to that particular evening’s recording.
I remember waiting outside the London Studios with a number of my friends, having secured four tickets to see a filming of an episode of the BBC Two TV comedy panel show “QI,” hosted by Stephen Fry. Waiting for an hour in the hot July evening sun, we had no idea that we were about to walk into a filming of the Christmas episode, with special guests TV personality Graham Norton and Harry Potter himself—Daniel Radcliffe.
The whole evening was great fun; the guests were hilarious, Stephen Fry as witty as ever, and it was equally a great insight into the inner workings of studio “live” TV. Most importantly, the whole experience was FREE! Check out http://www.applausestore.com/home.php to see what shows you might be interested in requesting tickets to and sign up for their mailing list for notifications of anything that you may want to see in the future! You can book tickets to see Big Brother, Britain’s Got Talent, X-Factor, QI, and Top Gear among others.
If you want something a bit higher brow, BBC Radio is one of the last bastions of brilliant English language radio drama and comedy—BBC Radio 4 broadcasts radio plays and other forms of story telling and panel shows all of the time. Similarly, they always need real audiences to interact with the story tellers and actors and then record the laughter! Check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/tickets/ to see what free performances for BBC radio or TV you might be able to see.