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Maida Vale Studios

BBC Symphony Orchestra musician contracted cancer from asbestos at Maida Vale Studios

A BBC Symphony Orchestra horn player died of mesothelioma after he was exposed to asbestos over a number of years at the world famous Maida Vale Studios.

Posted on 11 July 2021

Christopher Larkin, pictured, died aged 73 on April 8 this year, the same day that the BBC admitted liability in his legal case against them for the asbestos-related cancer that caused his death.

An inquest held into Mr Larkin’s death in early June concluded that the cause of death was mesothelioma caused by exposure at the BBC.

Mr Larkin, a married father of three, worked for the BBC for over 35 years, recording at Maida Vale’s Delaware Road London studios between 1979 and 2015.

His widow Patricia is represented by Leigh Day partner Harminder Bains, who represents the family of another former BBC Symphony Orchestra musician who also died of mesothelioma.

Ms Bains says she is now gravely concerned about the number of people who may have been exposed to asbestos at Maida Vale Studios, due to be closed by 2023. A major reason for closure has been given as the cost of refurbishment due to the presence of asbestos in the building.

She will be pursuing damages for Mr Larkin’s family from the BBC. In the course of Ms Bain’s legal case on behalf of Mr Larkin’s family, the BBC disclosed thousands of pages of evidence which made it clear that there was asbestos in the Maida Vale Studios.

Cancer caused by asbestos is traditionally associated with people who worked in heavy industry. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the presence of the substance in buildings, such as schools and hospitals, has shortened the lives of the people who worked there.

As early as 2006, the BBC alerted former employees to the presence of asbestos in its BBC London television centre studios and asked them to make contact.

Now, Mr Larkin’s family want to raise awareness of the danger to other musicians and technicians of the presence of the lethal substance on the BBC Maida Vale premises.

Before his death, Mr Larkin recalled that when he began work at Maida Vale the building, which dates back to 1909, “was rather down-at heel . . . with various old redundant air conditioning and lots of exposed ducting and lagged pipework”. He said he knew asbestos was removed from the building during renovations in the 1980s and he believed the same was true during renovations in 1996.

He added: “Frequently the (asbestos) lagging on the pipework and the ducting got knocked about, particularly by the support staff or the numerous rock musuicians or bands who recorded there.”

His son Barney Larkin said:

“As a family, we are really still struggling to get to grips with dad’s untimely death. Before his diagnosis, he was enjoying retirement and was busy developing speaking events dedicated to the history of the French Horn as well as performing original research with a view to writing a book on the subject.

“He had a long career at the BBC and used to love spending time with friends and colleagues he had worked with over many years. Other than his cancer, he was in rude health and looked after himself. We are saddened that he was exposed to asbestos by an organisation he gave the best part of his life to. We miss him terribly.”

Leigh Day partner Harminder Bains said:

“Although the BBC finally admitted liability it was not until a court case was commenced and an application for disclosure was made.

“Even then, despite their own documents confirming that asbestos was in the building, the BBC delayed admitting liability for several months. I have another client who was exposed in the same building and as a consequence worry about the number of BBC employees, musicians and celebrities who may also have been exposed. It is unconscionable that despite having documents confirming the presence of asbestos in the building, the BBC filed a defence denying that Mr Larkin was exposed to asbestos during the course of his work.”

Harminder Bains
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Harminder Bains

Joint head of the asbestos and industrial diseases, internationally renowned for her role fighting for victims of asbestos

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