Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Arena Radio Night

Both the novelty value (there was an in-vision edition of In Town Tonight as far back as 1954) and the necessity (stereo broadcasts of Top of the Pops or In Concert) of radio and TV simulcasts has long since passed, occasional 'Red Button' broadcasts of Sounds of the 80s aside.

The BBC2 schedule
The Arena Radio Night of 18 December 1993 was one such simultaneous transmission but one with a subtle difference. BBC2 offered pictures and sound whilst Radio 4 gave us a slightly different but complementary soundtrack. The box in the corner, voiced by Peter Cook, would have conversation with the radio, the voice of Josie Lawrence, but you'd only hear both sides if you had your television and wireless sets lined up together. (Memories of the those Saturday morning stereo test broadcasts using BBC tv and Network Three for those that go back that far).

Radio 4's schedule
From the folk behind the long-running arts programme Arena in purported to show "how the two media have competed over the years, and which medium does what best".  In fact it was a celebration of radio with typically quirky mini-features and narration.

The evening's entertainment was headed by an introduction from David Attenborough. In this sequence I've overlaid the radio soundtrack at various points. You'll immediately recognise the voice of the announcer during the programme as Peter Donaldson.

Throughout the night BBC historian Professor Asa Briggs presented a series of films which, borrowing their title from As You Like It, discussed The Seven Ages of Radio. The technical explanations are from Robert Hawes and the readings by Ian McKellen. (This is the first film, the other six can be found on the Arena Radio Night playlist on YouTube.)

In Heard But Not Seen we are treated to a special Letter from America from Alistair Cooke, introduced by Mark Tully.

The short film The Time Signal was an unusual look at the pips and was presented by Dr Carl Dolmetsch, aka 'Mr Recorder'.

Taking a humorous look at early football commentary was Back to Square One, a film by Steve Bendelack. The cast is Philip Pope, Alistair McGowan, Jon Glover, Andy Parsons, Christopher Driscoll and Marion Sumerfield. There are contributions from Alan Green, Robert Hudson and John Motson.

Memories of Sunday lunchtime meals and radio shows were evoked in the piece Sunday Dinner. In this upload I merged the BBC2 and Radio 4 sound.

One of the undoubted highlights of Radio Night was the reading of the Shipping Forecast on both TV and radio, the one and only time this has happened. Doing the honours was continuity announcer Laurie MacMillan. This remains the most viewed upload on my YouTube channel with nearly 163,000 views.     

I'll post more clips as and when I get the opportunity and also overcome some copyright restrictions.

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