Saturday, 22 January 2022

Archive Fever


This blog is often concerned with radio archive. But in this post I’m looking at an archive programme that doesn’t contain archive material. Moreover it was broadcast with the express intention of not being repeated and not being available to ‘Listen Again’.  Like the radio of old this was radio of the moment, never to be heard again. Until now that is.

Archive Fever is an edition of Radio 4’s Archive on 4 broadcast live in April 2017. Presented by cultural historian Matthew Sweet in what was billed as an attempt “to live in the moment and evade posterity as he pieces together an edition of Archive on 4 without the use of any archive whatsoever - and in a valiant attempt at auto-destructive radio, tries to remove all trace of this very programme from the world”.

The programme considers some of the practical and philosophical questions about archiving.  Are we over burdened by ‘stuff’? Should we keep everything? Or anything? How do we decide what to keep? What is important now and will it be in the future? Can we synthesise what we have into something new or interesting? If we lost our archive would we cease to exist?

Archive Fever takes its title from the 1995 book from French philosopher Jacques Derrida. He suggested that we are all archivists, though we are not necessarily any good at it - ask any trained archivist or librarian.  In the digital world ‘archive’ is all around us in call logs, web pages visited, Instagram photos, cloud storage and the like. But how do we make sense of it or use it?

In this documentary Matthew Sweet is live in the studio but the programme includes five pre-recorded sequences or interviews. At the end he rips up his script and destroys the recordings, held on memory cards, by taking a hammer to them.   Of course we know the BBC will have kept a copy, if only in the short term, for legal and compliance reasons. And of course I, as an amateur radio archivist kept it. After the passage of nearly five years perhaps its time to bring it back to life. Judge for yourself.

Archive on 4: Archive Fever was broadcast on Saturday 15 April 2017. There are contributions from William Basinski, Mike Figgis, Christopher Frayling, Aleks Krotoski, Hanif Kureishi, Andy Martin, Joanna Norledge, Caroline Shenton and Carolyn Steedman. The producer is Martin Williams.

Friday, 24 December 2021

Loudly proclaim with one accord


The sound of church bells ringing out on Christmas morning was part of the radio landscape (on BBC national radio) for just over four decades.  The peal of bells from British churches and cathedrals were featured in a short programme (10 to 20 minutes) on the Home Service and then Radio 4 between 1943 and 1986. For the almost half that time they were introduced by Robert Hudson (commentator mainly for cricket and numerous royal events) but earlier sequences were linked by staff announcers or former staff announcers.

From Christmas Day 1960 comes this recording of Christmas Bells. It’s another tape recorded at the time by Eric Bartington and re-discovered recently in New Zealand by Gerard de Roo. The first minute or so is missing but the bells included here are from Sheffield Cathedral, Ottery St. Mary Parish Church in Devon (pictured above), Parish Church of St. Patrick Ballymena in Co. Antrim, Parish Church of St. Mary Hampton in Middlesex, Birmingham Cathedral, St. Cuthbert's Church Edinburgh, Parish Church of St. Mary Swansea and, as was often the tradition on this broadcasts, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Introducing the bells is Stuart Hibberd (above), the former announcer best remembered for some of his important pre-war and wartime announcements. He retired from the BBC in 1951 but continued to present the weekly series The Silver Lining – talks designed to provide “comfort and cheer for all in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity” – until 1964.       

Church picture credit thanks to Sandra Wright at

Sunday, 19 December 2021

Back in Time On the Light – Part 2

Back in August I dipped into the collection of donated recordings made in the early 1960s. It’s time for a second set of BBC Light Programme shows, both of which date from exactly 61 years ago.

First up is another Record Roundabout show with Jack Jackson (pictured above). From this hour long show we get to hear the last third or so. As usual Jack intersperses the tracks with comedy clips. The music on offer this time, none of which troubled the British hit parade, is:

Darn That Dream – Johnny Nash

Copenhagen – a ragtime tune played by Joe ‘Fingers’ Carr

Somebody – Joe Williams

Jersey Bounce – Ray Ellis Orchestra and Chorus

I Found a New Baby – The Trombones Inc.

Bloodshot Eyes – Lorne Lesley

Twelve Days of Christmas – Jerry Fielding Orchestra

The second show from Monday 19 December 1960 is Music for Sweethearts “a late evening setting for romance” with the sound of Eric Jupp at the piano and with his orchestra. This late-night show of lush orchestral music - and based on this evidence arranged to induce you into a deep slumber - ran, at intervals, from June 1957 to December 1961.

Eric Jupp (pictured above left with flautist Don Burrows) had been a staff arranger for Ted Heath and his Music and a long-time member of the Oscar Rabin Band. He was already a familiar name to radio listeners appearing on a number of shows from the mid-50s on including In the Still of the Night, Morning Music, Show Band Serenade, Our Kind of Music, In Show Band Style and Saturday’s Music Album.  

Radio Times billing for the first show
on 23 June 1957

Jupp’s orchestra was featured in Music for Sweethearts until October 1959. The following year he went over to Australia on a short-term contract with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation so that when the series returned in April it was Johnny Pearson conducting. Jupp was back in October 1960 and this recording is his last appearance. In 1961 Jupp made a permanent move to Australia initially working as a music advisor for ABC’s Light Entertainment division in Sydney and then mainly as a film and television composer. His orchestra was featured on the ABC show The Magic of Music (1961-74) but perhaps his greatest musical contribution is a tune seared into the mind of many sixties children that of the theme to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. He briefly re-appeared on the Light Programme in 1965 in Melody Hour and in 1966 one of his Australian series was re-broadcast by the BBC.

For the final series of Music for Sweethearts (April to December 1961) the music was provided by Eric Cook and his Orchestra. Cook too would also emigrate to Australia in the 1960s.         

Making the introductions is David Gell, who’d presented the show since April 1958. David would host hundreds of programmes for the BBC and Radio Luxembourg as well as being a familiar face on ITV music shows before returning to his native Canada in 1977. 

Music for Sweethearts ran at half-an-hour but this recording is of the first 20 minutes.

These recordings were made by the late Eric Bartington and I extend my thanks to Gerad de Roo who rescued them and passed them to me.    

Monday, 22 November 2021

Sixty Years Ago

22 November 1961. Elvis is number in the UK hit parade with His Latest Flame. Jimmy Dean's Big Bad John tops the Billboard Hot 100. The Biblical epic King of Kings is the latest cinema release. Macmillan's government has implemented a wage freeze and is considering joining the Common Market. JFK is not yet a year into his Presidency and the date two years on would prove fateful. Meanwhile at Hull's Hedon Road Maternity Hospital I was born.

But this is a radio blog. So what, I hear you cry, was on the radio that day? The BBC Programme Index helps fill in the blanks but you can't beat going back to the Radio Times listings.    

My edition of the Radio Times is for the north of England so on the Home Service we only get the first edition of Today with Jack de Manio. Replacing the second post 8 am news edition is Today from the North with John Watmaugh. It's term-time so schools programmes take a chunk out of the daytime hours. Wednesday means Choral Evensong and from 5 pm programmes badged as Junior Time in what was the old Children's Hour timeslot include a drama The Immovable Object produced by long-time Manchester-based producer Trevor Hill. From the current perspective the evening schedule seems a little odd, the Home Service carries the Bizet opera Carmen in four acts, so taking up most of the night. However, the Third Programme has the drama, in this case an adaptation of Un Caso Clinico (A Hospital Case) by Italian playwright Dino Buzzati.

The Light Programme offerings include Housewives' Choice with Kenneth Wolstenholme who was in a for a busy day with tv commentary to follow in the afternoon. Radio commentary on the second half of the England v Ireland international was by Raymond Glendenning and Robert Rosser. Lunchtime music was provided by Bob Miller and the Millermen and guests in Parade of the Pops. We now know how this show sounded thanks to a chance discovery of a recording of the programme from 30 August 1961 in my earlier post Back in Time On the Light - Part 1.   

There are some very familiar titles in the afternoon and early evening including Listen with Mother, Woman's Hour (it would not be until 1973 that it moves to Radio 4), Mrs Dale's Diary and The Archers, as well as the teatime magazine show Roundabout. The evening on the Light moves from the long-forgotten comedy Once Over Lightly, Jimmy Young presenting Younger than Springtime, a Mid-Week Theatre story by Philip Levene who would later script some classic episodes of The Avengers, through to Jack Jackson's Record Roundabout and the BBC West of England Players who bookend this day with appearances on Morning Music and the pre-closedown Late Date.               

Of course it wasn't just the BBC you could tune into to. There were any number of foreign stations, perhaps the AFN, but more than likely it'd be 208 metres for some alternative night time listening on Radio Luxembourg. The schedule for the 22nd can be found in the issue of Disc ("the top record and musical weekly") tracked down online by Mike Barraclough. Essentially its full of lots of very short  pre-recorded sponsored shows with not much clue, at least in this publication, as to who the DJs were

6.00 Record Show

          7.00 Pops at the Piano

7.17 Wednesday's Requests

7.45 Jimmy Young Sings

8.00 Honey Hit Parade

8.15 In the Groove

8.30 Sound of Fury

9.00 Internationalities

9.30 David Jacobs

10.00 Teen and Twenty Club

10.30 Record Show

11.00 Request a Golden Guinea

11.15-11.30 Hits for Six

12.00-12.30 Midnight on Luxembourg 

Meanwhile over on the telly ITV offered us Zoo Time from Whipsnade Zoo, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, Coronation Street (so some things never change), Rawhide, the musical programme Pop! Vintage '48 and The Blackwell Story,  a drama about America's first woman medical student Elizabeth Blackwell. Over on the BBC it was an afternoon of live football with Kenneth Wolstenholme commentating of the England v Ireland international, The Flowerpot Men, Tales of the Riverbank, Cliff and the team with Tonight, the US series Frontier Circus, Peter Dimmock with Sportsview and the start of a new 6-part drama A Chance of Thunder by Z Cars scriptwriter John Hopkins.    

Sunday, 14 November 2021

From the Cenotaph


Today marks Remembrance Sunday, the day to commemorate those who gave service during the two world wars and later conflicts. Marking this day on the Sunday after Armistice Day has been part of British life since 1946.

Armistice Day services were first held in 1920 and a year later the Royal British Legion began selling poppies. Early BBC programmes did mark Armistice Day each November 11th but it wasn’t until 1928 that it was allowed to broadcast coverage of the events at the Cenotaph in London, including the two minutes silence.  An agreement was made with the Home Office when the BBC assured that it could be done by use of underground cables to minimise the risk of “unsightly mechanical apparatus” except for “one microphone which might take the form of a lectern”.  Thus started a broadcasting tradition that means that this is one of the longest-running outside broadcasts on UK radio.

Radio Times billing for the Service of Remembrance in 1956

The Armistice Day coverage continued until 1938, with the 1937 and 1938 ceremonies also filmed by BBC television for broadcast later that day.  It resumed after the Second World War on Sunday 11 November 1945 but the following year the Government decided to mark the event on the second Sunday of November on what was to be called Remembrance Sunday. Setting the scene for that 1946 service at the Cenotaph was Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. Subsequent Services of Remembrance were carried each year on both the Home Service and the Light Programme with commentary alternating between Vaughan-Thomas and Richard Dimbleby. By 1962 Robert Hudson took over the radio commentaries with Dimbleby (and following his death, Tom Fleming) taking over the BBC television presentation.

Hudson would describe the role of commentator for the event as "having a pastoral role to play; his words, dropping precisely into place, must strike exactly the right note. The mental image of the scene and the personal recollections prompted by his words can often be more vivid and satisfying than any television picture, however skillfully composed."

This brings us to Sunday 13 November 1960 when this recording of the Service of Remembrance was made. The announcer (Frank Phillips?) introduces the programme before going over to “our observer overlooking the scene in Whitehall”. That observer is once again Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. This is another recording made by Eric Bartington and digitised by Gerard de Roo, to whom I extend my thanks. 

Since this recording the radio commentary for the Service of Remembrance from the Cenotaph has been provided by the following:

Robert Hudson (1962-84), Raymond Baxter (1985), John Hosken (1986-88), Tom Fleming (1989-93), Cliff Morgan (1994), Eric Robson (1995-97) Nicholas Witchell (1998, 2000-02, 2006-15), Robin Lustig (1999), Fergal Keane (2003-05), Jonathan Dimbleby (2016 & 2018), James Naughtie (2017), Eleanor Oldroyd (2019) and Paddy O’Connell (2020-21).

Robert Hudson's diagram for the 1984 service
(from Inside Outside Broadcasts, R&W Publications 1993) 

Paddy O'Connell on broadcasting from the Cenotaph
(Radio Times 13 November 2021)

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Lost Hearts


Amongst the many ghost stories from the pen of M.R. James is one with all the classic elements of the genre: a young boy sent to a remote country house, a reclusive relative, visions of the recently departed, unexplained scratches on the bedroom door and a gruesome final image.   

Lost Hearts was originally published in 1895 and later appeared in the 1904 anthology Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. This collection has been much plundered by TV producers, particularly by the BBC for the series of ghost stories for Christmas. Lost Hearts was broadcast by BBC1 on Christmas Day 1973 but there has been an earlier ABC production, now lost, in March 1966 adapted by playwright Giles Cooper. Film versions appeared in 2007 and 2018.

On the radio there have been a number of readings of the story. In 1946 David Lloyd James read it in an afternoon story slot on the Home Service. At Christmas 1957 it was Hugh Burden’s turn on the Third Programme. Again at Christmas Benjamin Whitrow read it, this time on Radio 4 in 1997. Ten years later Derek Jacobi introduced a 15 minute dramatisation. Both these broadcasts have been repeated on Radio 7/4 Extra. It appeared yet again in December 2019 as part of the Ghost Stories from Ambridge series with John Rowe, aka Jim Lloyd of the The Archers, narrating.   

But there’s one reading that appears to have been overlooked, and its one by the star of numerous Hammer horrors, Peter Cushing. It was tucked away in the now long-forgotten Radio 4 Sunday morning magazine show Forget Tomorrow's Monday. Running from October 1977 to December 1978 it was produced by the Woman’s Hour unit. The guest on the 29 October 1978 show was Peter Cushing and he was asked to read Lost Hearts.  A recording of Forget Tomorrow's Monday was passed to me some time ago by Richard Tucker, a collector in New Zealand, but it was only recently when I listened again that I realised the value of this recording. It’s never, to my knowledge been repeated and may not even be in the Sound Archives.   

So enjoy, for the first time in 43 years, this telling of a story from the master of Victorian macabre.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

You've Got to be Joking

You've Got to be Joking
was the radio comedy panel show that ran for six series between 1976 and 1982. I say panel game though there was no discernible format. The chairman Cardew Robinson would give each of the three comedians a subject or maybe the start of a story that they would follow-up with gags, a shaggy-dog story (the shaggier the better) or a song.  

The show was devised by the BBC resident comedy guru in Manchester, producer Mike Craig, though obits for Cardew, who died in 1992, erroneously credit him with the idea.

Accompanying the comics for the songs was Harry Hayward, perhaps best known for his numerous appearances on Workers' Playtime and later Ken Frith who often played with the Northern Dance Orchestra. 

The six series started off on Radio 2, where it really belonged, but with series 3 and 4 turning up on Radio 4, though both stations repeated some editions that had been heard on the other one.

Providing the comedy were invariably Northern comics, well steeped in touring the clubs and theatres. Some were fairly regular broadcasters like Duggie Brown, Bernie Clifton, Tom Mennard, Dave Evans.

Cardew Robinson had been broadcasting on the radio since 1947 initially billed as Douglas 'Cardew' Robinson and then adapting The Cad persona. He'd pop up on numerous variety shows such as Variety Bandbox, Variety Fanfare (where he was the resident comic), Music-Hall, over 80 editions of Workers' Playtime, Blackpool Night, Variety Playhouse and London Lights. He was also on the mid- 60s Ken Dodd shows and over 60 editions of the comedy panel show Does the Team Think?

I've a couple of editions of You've Got to be Joking that I recorded. From the start of the 1980 series on Radio 4 comes this gem of a show with Tom Mennard, one fine form here, Bernie Clifton, with a 3½ minute gag fest at the start, and Tony Peers. First broadcast on 9 July 1980 and repeated on Radio 2 on 30 June 1981 it has not been heard since.

From the fifth series here are Mike Burton, Malcolm Stent and Jan Harding. This was broadcast just the once on 24 March 1982.

Series Guide

Series 1: 13 December 1976-7 March 1977 (13 episodes) BBC Radio 2

Duggie Brown, Bernie Clifton, Tom O'Connor, Bobby Knutt, Mick Miller, Jack Platts and Peter Wallis,  

Series 2:28 November 1977-27 February 1978 (13 episodes) BBC Radio 2

Bernie Clifton, Norman Collier, Tom Mennard, Jan Harding, Tony Kent, Bobby Knutt, Don Maclean, Peter Wallis, Mick Miller and Ron Delta 

Series 3: 28 November 1978-20 February 1979 (13 episodes) BBC Radio 4

Bernie Clifton, Tom Mennard, Dave Evans, Jan Harding, Peter Robinson, Duggie Brown and Mike Newman 

Series 4: 9 July-13 August 1980 (6 episodes) BBC Radio 4

Tom Mennard, Bernie Clifton, Tony Peers, George Roper, Jan Harding and Peter Robinson

Series 5: 10 March-14 April 1982 (6 episodes) BBC Radio 2

Alan Fox, Colin Price, Tony Kent, Mike Newman, Malcolm Stent, Vince Earle, Mike Burton and Jan Harding

Series 6: 10 November-15 December 1982 (6 episodes) BBC Radio 2

Mike Burton, Mike Newman, Jan Harding, Tony Kent, Vince Earle, Ronnie Hayward, Phil Cool and Colin Price  

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