Blast From The Past: Jools Holland Loves Canary Wharf

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 58 months ago
Blast From The Past: Jools Holland Loves Canary Wharf
Don't do it Jools!

Haven't we all always wanted to watch a garishly dressed Jools Holland wax lyrical about Canary Wharf? No? Well someone at the BBC definitely did, when, back in 1996, they commissioned this rather wacky short.

Building Sights was a series in which a (sort of) famous person spoke for a few minutes about one of their favourite buildings. There are a few London based ones we'd recommend you check out, but this bizarre Jools Holland outing is by far the highlight.

Everyone's favourite/least favourite grand piano playing presenter starts by talking about his love of London's architecture, which began when he went up St Paul's Cathedral as a child. So now he's here to talk about his latest obsession, or, as he dubs it: 'the big fellow'.

The camera pans out to show Holland looking out the window from the roof above the clouds. He's only visible because of the yellow (better than) high-vis suit, which might be the reason he's wearing it. Although surely it is no coincidence that this is a canary yellow.

Immediately he comes across an issue. He looks to see how Canary Wharf blends in with its surroundings. The symmetry of The Queen's House as seen from Greenwich Park, has been "regrettably" ruined by One Canada Square. Do not fear. Jools has an idea.

Note the disembodied arm holding the enormous tower.

"We build a secondary tower and put it here [symmetrical to the first]". But Holland won't stop there. He wants an enormous tower — double the size of the original — smack bang in the middle of the first two to complete the bombastic trinity. Holland deadpans, "it's going to be expensive, but it might just work".

Ignoring the ridiculousness of Holland's foible, it's important to point out how much London's landscape has changed since this film was made. Back in the 1990s, One Canada Square really was the big fellow; Britain's tallest building and just second in Europe. Nowadays it's slipped down the rankings, standing in the shadow of The Shard in London and barely scraping into Europe's top 25.

Speaking of the landscape, Holland gives the viewer a whistle-stop tour of the Isle of Dogs. He's even so kind to point out a pub where he used to play the piano — the now defunct Brunswick Arms. Then it's onto Canary Wharf itself.

Holland doesn't go straight for the tower, instead scoping out the whole development. He happens upon an "incredibly noticeable and snazzy lav that rather resembles an Egyptian mausoleum." An astute comparison, and we've always found ancient dead pharaohs a good pondering topic on the loo.

The way he springs from this rug is oh so graceful.

Then there's the moment we've all been waiting for. A full frontal shot of Holland and that suit, as he lounges on a picnic rug. Had HD existed back in 1996, there might have been a spike in blindness when this first aired. We've all had a lucky escape.

Then he's inside One Canada Square which he calls "the embodiment of 1980s Britain." He reels off some facts about the tower, claps in the lobby to hear the echo and scares some local suits. Then we're off on another tour. Holland plays at being a high powered executive before shoving his head into a model of the concert hall.


Finally he clambers through the window to take a look at the view he's so obsessed with; he claims 'Minister for Views' was an alternate dream career he had. There's that iconic curve in the river — sans Eastenders theme-tune unfortunately — and you can just about make out the City in the distance.

Holland ponders: "200 years ago it would have all been fields. What will it be like in 200 years time? Perhaps it will be turned into flats or perhaps London will be chock-a-block with buildings this big all over."

Hopefully whatever happens, Holland is cryogenically preserved — yellow suit and all — so he can present a show on future London's tallest building.

You can watch the full thing over at BBC iPlayer.

Also see: BBC iPlayer's treasure trove of London documentaries

Last Updated 05 October 2017