Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Six Continents


 
One of the BBC’s longest serving foreign correspondents during the 50s, 60s and 70s, Ian McDougall, has died recently at the age of 94.

In reporting the news Ariel recalled that:
McDougall joined the Corporation in 1948 after serving in the Intelligence Corps and seeing active service in Italy. A year later, at the age of 28, he became the youngest foreign correspondent the BBC had ever appointed when he was posted to the Paris office.

He went on to file an estimated 1200 reports for Radio 4 and World Service from more than 40 countries across four continents, enjoying long-term postings to Vienna, Berlin, Africa, the Far East, Belgrade, Bonn and Brussels.

On reaching 60, he took on the role of editor and presenter of Radio 3's Six Continents, which examined news from the communist world and the Middle East, remaining with the programme for seven years.

Finally retiring from the BBC in 1988 after 40 years, McDougall became a tutor and lecturer at Oxford University, specialising in Russian politics and history.

In fact Ariel is probably way understating the number of reports he filed, the number is nearer 14,000.

Six Continents was introduced in September 1979 as part of a Radio 3 schedule shake-up by incoming controller Ian McIntyre, something of a departure for the mainly music based network. The idea was to provide news analysis of world events based on output from the BBC’s Monitoring Service. 


Writing about the programme for the Radio Times in 1979, Mike Phillips recalled that “the Monitoring Service began at the start of the war years as part of the BBC’s war effort and has recently seen its 40th birthday. At Caversham there are over 100 monitors listening to the output of radio stations broadcasting in over 40 languages. The BBC World Service, the Foreign Office and as number of newspapers and commercial agencies use the product of Caversham’s work but so far there’s been no regular service direct to the public”.

Six Continents ran on Radio 3 until 1987 with Angus McDermid sharing presenting duties in later years. This edition comes from Wednesday 16 April 1986. In this edition Ian McDougall examines the Libyan crisis, nuclear testing, the Philippines, India, world terrorism, Ethiopia and Soviet life.

There are no recordings from the foreign radio broadcasts, the extracts here are read by Clifford Norgate, Sean Barrett and Susan Denny. The producer is Adam Raphael who, I assume, is the journalist who at the time was political editor for The Observer.



Monday, 23 February 2015

Centre Spot

Local TV services have met with, it’s fair to say, mixed fortunes. The service in Birmingham, for instance, had an abortive start when City TV collapsed before launch. Picking up that licence is a consortium headed by Chris Perry and Kaleidoscope TV, names that will be familiar to anyone who’s read about the recovery of ‘missing believed wiped’ TV archives.

And the radio connection? Well I mention this because amongst the shows on Big Centre TV, launching this coming Saturday, is a chat show fronted by veteran broadcaster David Hamilton. Whilst there’s no discernible local connection the first show sees ‘Diddy’ David having a nostalgic trip down memory lane with his old DJ chums Ed Stewart and Pete Murray. There’s more about the recording of that show here. Future guests include Jona Lewie, Jackie Trent, P.J. Proby, Tony Christie, Jane Rossington and Madeline Smith.

Monday, 16 February 2015

A Day on 2

Set the controls for the 18th of February 1985.

Imagine being able to fashion a radio time-travelling device that can receive your favourite show from the past or being able to listen again to an historic broadcast (and no I’m not talking about 4 Extra!)  
OK, so it probably wouldn’t be BBC Radio 2 on 18 February 1985. As far as I know nothing earth-shatteringly significant happened that day. But, for no real apparent reason, thirty years ago I decided to stick some tapes in my cassette recorder and capture that days output, well a large chunk of it.

This is your chance to hear again how the station sounded in the mid-80s, from Night Ride to Round Midnight, stopping off at the JY show, John Dunn’s Mystery Voice and all points in between.  Here's a quick rundown of the day in jingle form and the full Radio Times schedule.



These are the technical bits: I’m posting the clips on my YouTube channel just to ensure a wider audience. I’ve chopped out most of the commercial music tracks in order to avoid any copyright notices. So far this seems to have worked, though for some reason listeners in Germany may not be able to hear all the programmes, sorry Germany.

I’ll be posting the shows online during the day of the 18 February 2015 at the same time as their original start time – although to avoid staying up all night Peter Dickson and Colin Berry’s show will be available on Tuesday night. Each time a programme is added I’ll update this blog post, send a Tweet and update my Facebook page. All times in GMT of course.
Unfortunately I didn’t record every show that day. So you won’t hear the specialist music shows with Alan Dell and Humph, the mid-afternoon sequence Music All the Way or that evening’s Star Sound Special.  However, elsewhere on this blog you can read about and hear Alan Dell, Humphrey Lyttelton and Music All the Way.  Also the quality of the audio is variable, this is nothing to do with my FM reception at the time but more the fact I used budget tapes.

Kicking things off at 1 a.m. was Peter Dickson with a suitably jokey start to Nightride. Peter took care of the overnight shifts alternating with either Bill Rennells or Charles Nove. Lack of needletime meant we still had doses of the Radio Orchestra, the Brian Lemon Trio and so on. Making the first of two appearances that day is John Fogerty, whose new album Centrefield had just been released, although Peter seems not to know the former lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival. There’s a also a talk from Barney Lawrence – anyone know who he is? This kind of (mildly) comical talk was still a feature of Nightride just as they had been on You and the Night and the Music. 



Following Nightride was a repeat of the previous day’s Two’s Best with John Dunn, demonstrating that the current overnight repeat policy is nothing new. Sadly I didn’t record this programme.
At the time the king of the early shows was Colin Berry who’d had early starts, on and off, since January 1976. Getting up before dawn every day must have been taking its toll as Colin reports he’s practically wrecked the studio and nearly garrotted himself with his headphone lead. Note also a mention of changes that evening on BBC TV, he’s referring to a new BBC1 globe and the launch of EastEnders. Listen out too for a news summary from David Bellan.



At 6 a.m. enter the still much missed Ray Moore. Ray’s on form this morning, witness that lovely intro into the Shakin’ Stevens track There’s also mention of the announcers over on Radio 3 with Tarmac Rigby and Miss Hughes who’s apparently “gone into tax exile”. Towards the end of this recording catch Bill Rennells voicing a trail for Gloria’s show later that day and her special guest David Cassidy – more on that to follow.



It’s “hello chums” from Ken Bruce on the Radio 2 breakfast show. Perhaps it should have been the Late, Late Breakfast Show as Ken didn’t go on-air until 8.05 am. At the time of this recording he’d been presenting the programme for just six weeks. Punctuating proceedings are Steve Madden reading the news and Pause for Thought with the Rev Roger Royle. Listeners to Radio 2’s current morning output will notice how much calmer it all was thirty years ago; no shouting, no whooping, no laughing acolytes and no-one else to read the traffic news.



The matters on Jimmy Young’s agenda at 10.30 are the Falklands, the miners, school dinners and Winter Fuel Allowances. In this extract he interviews SNP MP Gordon Wilson about his Cold Climate Allowance Bill and Peter Smith of teachers’ union AMMA about school kids supposedly having ‘chips with everything’. In contrast to Jeremy Vine’s show no listeners appeared on the programme to voice their opinions, all the feedback from “the listener” is read out by Jim himself. “Bye for now!”


“Hello there!” It’s amazing to think that Radio 2 took an hour out each lunchtime for David Jacobs to play “our kind of music”. Much as I love the music he played it really did seem like the station was stepping back to the days of the Light Programme, even including a track by Frank Chacksfield, a regular on the Light.



As a reminder that Radio 2 used to have women presenters during the day on weekdays here’s Gloria Hunniford with an edited version of her 90-minute show. Promised guest David Cassidy is a no-show, having backed out at 12 noon due to a “contractual difficulty”, so instead its Bonnie Langford! Glo’s second guest is author John Byrne Cooke, son of Alistair Cooke. 



From 3.30 pm it’s as if Radio 2 had a short interlude and put up the audio equivalent of the test card whilst Music All the Way was on. This was a 30-minute sequence of music on record and BBC sessions. I didn’t record the programme for 18 February but you can hear an edition from February 1986 here. Of Music All the Way former Radio 2 presenter and announcer Charles Nove commented: “An odd little duty, that one, which involved heading for one of Broadcasting House's least popular studios (bit of lashup, no windows, dodgy ventilation etc) and doing the live top and tail for this, and playing in the music, ‘supervised’ by the BBC's most panicky producer and a bored engineer. Overmanning? Never!”

In all the recordings so far you’ll have heard very little new music, and certainly nothing that would trouble the charts. That’s why David Hamilton’s show was such a breath of fresh air, and rightly dubbed “the music show”. There’s also plenty of listener interaction and prizes available in The Music Game and Spot the Intro. 


The reigning monarch of drivetime for an eon was John Dunn. The show’s mix of music, topical interviews and a quiz – in this case the long-running Mystery Voice competition – is still the template for today’s Radio 2 offering. Providing the programme rundown at the end of this recording is John Marsh.



There are no recordings of Alan Dell’s double bill of the Dance Band Days and the Big Band Era but you can hear other editions here. Nor did I tape Humphrey Lyttelton with The Best of Jazz but there’s plenty of Humph here. And again I inexplicably failed to record Star Sound Special in which John Benson featured the music of Nelson Riddle. But what you can hear again is the third edition of a new panel game, and the second dose that day of David Hamilton, in Some of These Days. The premise of the programme was to answer questions about news, events, TV shows and music that happened on that day in history. On the panel are Peter Jones, Sheila Tracy, Fiona Fullerton and Barry Cryer.  



Closing proceedings for the day is Brian Matthew with the daily arts and music show Round Midnight, at this point more than halfway through its 12 year run.  Brian’s guests are Patrick Marr and James Roose-Evans talking about the revival of George Axelrod’s play The Seven Year Itch and author Nickolai Tolstoy plugging his latest book The Quest for Merlin. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

All Talk


Talk Radio, the UK’s third commercial radio station, officially launched on this day in 1995. Its programme director Jeremy Scott promised a “provocative, opinionated and confrontational approach”, though listeners may have heard little of that in the opening offering from Sean Bolger and Samantha Meah. Perhaps it was all a little too early in the morning.

The third national licence, following the award of the first two to Classic FM and Virgin, had been advertised in November 1993 as a “predominantly speech” station, which the Radio Authority deemed to be 51% in any three hours. Six bids were received with Talk Radio offering an aggressive £3.82m.  Others in the running were Newstalk UK £2.75m, Apollo Radio £2.27m, LBC £2m, First National Entertainment Radio £1.54m and Jim Black Broadcasting with £1.04m.Talk Radio’s bid had the backing of the US group Emmis Broadcasting who ran radio stations in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, plus Australian based Prime Television and Hambro Bank.   
The launch line-up included a number of well-known radio (and TV) voices such as Scott Chisholm, Vanessa Feltz, Anna Raeburn, Terry Christian, Jeremy Beadle, Tommy Boyd, Dr David Starkey and Kiss FM ‘shock jock’ Caesar the Geezer. But MD John Aumonier promised that the shock jock tactics so beloved of US talk radio and employed by the likes of Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh would not be part of his station’s output. “Number one, the market does not want it. Two the regulatory authority would not allow it.” However he did promise to shake up the cosy image of speech radio in the UK and that the station’s style would be “profoundly shocking” but not offensive. 

This is a short clip taken from a test transmission on 12 February 1995.



Though the official launch date was given as Valentine’s Day 1995, the station snuck in early on the evening of the 13th with a three-hour show from Caesar the Geezer at 10 pm. and then an hour of Wild Al Kelly. From 2 am Talk Radio resumed test transmissions until the 6 am official launch.


Providing the tongue-in check quasi-BBC announcements was actor Jonathan Kydd - Talk Radio was transmitting on what had been Radio 1’s medium wave frequencies – over Graham de Wilde’s KPM library music composition The Unknown Warrior. The opening news bulletin was read by Sophie Decker, if memory serves she’d previously been part of Radio 1’s Newsbeat team, before leading into The Dish with Bolger and Meah, a show described as “unremittingly dreadful” by the Daily Telegraph’s Gillian Reynolds.

Later that day, at 7pm, the station offered The Rude Awakening with Carol McGiffin and Moz Dee, That programme title – and Talk Radio loved its programme titles in the early days – was a little misleading for an evening show. The reason stems from an eleventh-hour change of heart when test runs of the breakfast show with McGiffin and Dee proved just too rude and just three days before launch it was swapped with Bolger and Meah’s show.  


Here’s Talk Radio’s launch programme schedule:
Monday-Friday
0100 Wild Al Kelly & Mike Hanson
0600 The Dish with Samantha Meah and Sean Bolger
1000 UK Today with Scott Chisholm
1300 Anna Raeburn
1500 Boyd Up with Tommy Boyd
1900 The Rude Awakening with Carol McGiffin and Maurice Dee
2200 Caesar The Geezer

Saturday
0100 Something For The Weekend with Nick Miller
0600 Maurice Dee
1000 Dr. David Starkey
1300 Sound Advice with Gary Jacobs
1500 Books People Read with David Freeman
1700 World's Biggest Quiz with Dale Winton
1900 Janet's Planet with Janet Gershlick
2200 The Other Side with Ronnie Barbour

Sunday
0100 Something For The Weekend with Nick Miller
0600 Dangerous Dan Erlich
1000 She'll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas with Vanessa Feltz
1300 Nancy Roberts
1500 Success with Sue Plumtree
1600 Gary Newbon
1900 Terry Christian
2200 Jeremy Beadle



One name missing from the line-up but at the time already floated as a possible recruit was Steve Wright. Speaking to the Radio Times his agent Jo Gurnett denied this: “Steve has no plans to join Talk Radio”. But he’d resigned from Radio 1 just 2 or 3 weeks earlier and had, it transpired, spent four months negotiating with the station. Steve joined nine months later.


Talk Radio UK faced a turbulent first year on air. A failure to draw in sufficient advertisers compounded with the large licence bid led to considerable losses and an early management shake-up. On air the shock jock tactics of certain DJs – fifteen complaints were upheld by the Radio Authority in the first three weeks alone - meant a number had been dropped by the end of the year. First to be yanked off the air was Wild Al Kelly, his co-presenter Mike Hanson talking to the Independent in April wouldn’t be drawn on the reason why “but let slip it was something about fish.” Kelly was initially replaced by Chad Benson, working on overnights alongside Hanson, before both were replaced by Ian Collins. Others falling by the wayside were Terry Christian and, just 48 hours later, Caesar the Geezer.
By the Autumn 1995 Samantha Meah, Dale Winton, Janet Gershlick and Sue Plumtree had also gone and from October there was a refreshed more news-based line-up that included some old hands: James Whale, Mike Dickin, Jonny Gould, Sandy Warr with First Report, Trevor McDonald with a Sunday morning political show, Simon Bates and Jonathan King. In November Wrighty eventually came on board. Once again the listening figures failed to hit the mark and Bates and King had left the station by the following March.  

There’s a whole stack of Talk Radio UK off-air recordings uploaded onto YouTube by user dpro73 (link here) including a recording of the station launch that’s way longer than the one I made, but nothing from Bates or King and only one instance of Steve Wright so here are three recordings from my own archive.
Firstly from 2 October 1995 it’s Breakfast with Bates with Simon Bates, of course, and discussion about the extra-marital activities of Princess Diana. The news headlines are read by Sandy Warr.



Following Simon that day was Jonathan King complete with his Entertainment USA theme tune.


And finally from 6 January 1996 it’s the Saturday morning Steve Wright’s Talk Show. With Steve is Georgey Spanswick and his old Radio 1 chum Richard Easter. The guests are former Rugby league player Brian Moore, who years later would go on to present on Talk Radio’s successor talksport, Les Dennis, Jon Culshaw and John Carter, best known for Holiday and Wish You Were Here   

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Radio Lives – Sandra Chalmers



This post was to be titled From Children’s Hour to Woman’s Hour but on reflection it didn’t seem to do justice to the career of Sandra Chalmers who sadly died on 2nd February following a stroke.

Like her elder sister Judith, Sandra’s professional career started early, as an actor on Children’s Hour programmes for the Northern region. But rather then go on to be straight woman to Ken Dodd and globe-trotting on Wish You Were Here, Sandra worked with Tich and Quackers and worked in Manchester and Stoke!


Appearing alongside Ray Alan on Tichpuzzle in 1964 Sandra spoke to the Radio Times: 
“I was a bit wary of television work at first”, she says, “because of Judith, but now I’m thrilled about it.” Sandra made ger TV series debut last week in Tichpuzzle and tonight she can be seen again along with Tich and the daffy duck Quackers, asking puzzle questions and giving answers to young viewers.

A Manchester University graduate – she studied English language and literature and American literature – Sandra joined the BBC in Manchester two months ago. Her job involves some odd working hours but she does not mind this. “I’m used to working shift jobs – once as a ground hostess at Manchester airport and another time in a breakfast-food factory. I put plastic spacemen into cereal packets … one a second!”

Life is certainly very exciting for Sandra at the moment. Apart from her radio work and Tichpuzzle she is busy saving hard and preparing for her wedding – to a mechanical engineer – which is to be some time next year.

Tichpuzzle is Sandra’s first ‘proper’ television work. “I began broadcasting when I was thirteen, in radio,” she said, “in Children’s Hour. I also did a few tiny parts in Harry Worth’s series about three years ago, and I had some walk-on parts in University plays. But that’s all.” 

Sandra went on to be the Presentation Organiser for the BBC in the North and in 1970 joined the BBC’s newest local station, Radio Manchester, as a presenter and senior producer. She hosted phone-ins, then in their infancy, programmes of personal reminiscences in I Remember and the breakfast show Up and About. In 2010 she was invited back to the station as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations and to read the 10 am news bulletin just as she had done on the day of launch:




In 1976 Sandra was appointed manager of BBC Radio Stoke (pictured at the top of the page with programme organiser Geoff Lawrence), taking over from David Harding, and becoming the first woman to hold such a position. By 1983 she was down in London as editor of Woman’s Hour – maintaining the Chalmers family connection with the programme; Judith had presented it during the 60s. Under Sandy’s stewardship the programme, according to Jenni Murray, “started to proactively set its own agenda and play a more active role.” The Woman’s Hour Unit at that time also produced the Radio 4 phone-in shows Tuesday Call and, jointly with the World Service, It’s Your World.

It was back into management from 1987 when Sandy became Head of Radio Publicity and Promotions during which time she created The BBC Experience before moving on to become General Manager, External Affairs. She left the Corporation in 1994 and for six years was Director of Communications for Help the Aged, offering media training and regularly acting as an expert contributor on TV and radio on over-50s issues. 


Latterly Sandy ran Chalmers Communications, was on the Board of Directors at Saga Radio and presented programmes on Primetime Radio between 2000 and 2006 such as The Collection on Sunday afternoons. Here's a scoped version of a show from 14 December 2005:



In 2010 memories of Children’s Hour were revisited in a series for Radio 7, in this introductory clip from a Radio 4 Extra repeat:



Sandra Chalmers 1940-2015



A big thank you to Noel Tyrrel for the Primetime Radio audio.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Let's Get Digital

With the recent announcement by OFCOM of two applications to run D2, the second national, commercial digital multiplex and last Friday's Drive to Digital: NOW conference, it’s timely to remember of just how far we’ve come in the last 20 years.

It was 1995 when the BBC started digital broadcasts, testing the EUREKA DAB system. But listeners had to wait a further three years before they could buy the digital radios to hear the transmissions, and fork out a few hundred quid into the bargain.  The first model on the market, the Arcam Alpha 10 DRT, would have set you back £800.
In the summer of 1999 the Corporation issued its first Digital Radio Bulletin. I can’t track down a copy of that issue, but here’s the second edition from August.





The BBC’s national and local stations were all guaranteed a slot on the digital dial (well OK there wasn’t a dial as such), with the local licences for Greater London and Glasgow starting in the September, swiftly followed by South Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear and Cardiff/Newport before the end of the year. The first national commercial licence had already gone to Digital One, and was due to launch that October (in the event it was 15 November). The local licences for Birmingham and Manchester were awarded to CE Digital, a group formed by Capital Radio and Emap Radio, with eight services for each one. “We would like to squeeze on more stations but the quality would suffer”, said Tracy Mullins, spokesperson for the Radio Authority.  




In the third bulletin from November 1999 there’s news of a joint BBC/Digital One marketing campaign. Glyn Jones, the BBC’s project director, said: “Both Digital One and the BBC recognise that this is a time for co-operation to help deliver the substantial benefits of digital radio to UK consumers. Working together on a range of marketing initiatives will help each of us attract more attention and have greater impact.” There’s also news on Radio 5 Live Sports Plus and that Mark Byford, chief executive of the World Service, had his digital car radio stolen.


 
 
 


January 2000, and in this issue there are plans from the BBC for an “album and archive station”, plus services “devoted to the UK’s black music scene, a part-hours service for the Asian community, and another archive-based station – this one for the BBC’s extensive hoard of radio plays, comedy programmes and readings”. Page three announces that the “first portable digital radio will be available early in 2000” with news that Roberts Radio are to launch a new receiver. For those with deep pockets you could buy the TAG McLaren Audio Cleopatra at just £4000 plus £900 for the digital option.   

Monday, 2 February 2015

A Career of Happy Accidents


Ned Sherrin’s life and career is recalled on BBC Radio 4 Extra this Saturday in Side by Side By Sherrin, a career he described as one of “happy accidents”.

Sherrin’s abiding passion was for the theatre: later he would write for it, write about it, interview many actors and revel in theatrical gossip. Initially he trained in law, not for the theatricality of the court room but to placate his father. It was, however, a chance meeting in the street in 1955 with an old friend, which swayed him away from life as a barrister at Grays Inn to the glamour of show business as a producer and director for the fledgling ATV, in Birmingham.
An early ITV credit from the TV Times
4 September 1956 
It was another chance acquaintance between his friend and long-time writing collaborator Caryl Brahms (they’d met in 1954) and Cecil McGivern, Director of Programmes for BBC television, that led Ned Sherrin back to London two years later with a job working for the BBC. Initially it was as a Light Entertainment producer on such shows as Ask Me Another, a TV version of radio’s What Do You Know, the forerunner to Brain of Britain, a programme showcasing zither-playing Shirley Abicair and the panel game Laugh Line.


Soon Sherrin was working for the formidable Grace Wyndham Goldie – at the time Assistant Head of Talks but soon to head up the Talks and Current Affairs division – where he joined the influential daily show Tonight as a studio director.
By a stroke of good luck Tonight drew together a team whose reputations would be far-reaching: Alasdair Milne, Donald Baverstock, Alan Whicker, Cliff Michelmore, Julian Pettifer, Fyfe Robinson, Antony Jay, Kenneth Allsop, Magnus Magnusson, Jack Gold etc.

In Deirdre MacDonald’s history of the programme she observes that Sherrin was “a brilliant studio director … who added a visual sparkle to every interview with his eye for detail and speed of observation. When Dame Edith Sitwell was interviewed by Cliff Michelmore, Sherrin kept the camera on her beringed fingers for the closing moments of the item. When one actress was sounding pompous and boring to Sherrin, he focused on the sleeping dachshund she had insisted on bringing with her.”  
One of Ned Sherrin’s major contributions was also in bringing new talent to the screen. MacDonald goes on to say: “He was an avid searcher, a conscientious theatre-goer – from the West End to the end of the pier in seaside towns. When he was studio directing Tonight, he was frequently an immaculate figure in a dinner-jacket: by the time Tonight came off the air as 7.30 the curtain would have gone up and the first act of plays and shows that Sherrin was attending would have got underway. ‘Grace Wyndham Goldie once met me in the corridor and asked whether I always directed Tonight in a dinner-jacket.”Yes, Grace”, I replied. “It’s an old BBC tradition.” I’m afraid she swallowed it hook line and sinker. “very nice sense of tradition Ned has”, she used to tell people. “Likes to direct in a dinner jacket.”’

By the summer of 1962 the Tonight team were working on a new programme called That Was The Week That Was. The first pilot was fronted by Manchester Guardian columnist Brian Redhead and David Frost, whom Sherrin had spotted at the Blue Angel nightclub in Mayfair (although at the time Frost was contracted to Associated-Rediffusion).

It was again pure chance that production of TW3 was handed to Sherrin. Roger Wilmut writes that it was Director-General Hugh Carelton-Greene’s decision to take the programme away from Light Entertainment “when a programme featuring the American satirist Mort Sahl was mounted by Light Entertainment, in which introductory remarks were made along the lines of ‘Fancy Auntie BBC putting this on’. This so annoyed Greene that he gave the new idea to Current Affairs to mount; Light Entertainment Department never forgave him.”  

That Was the Week That Was didn’t get an immediate go-ahead and the circumstances surrounding this sound a little bizarre. Wilmut recalls this in From Fringe to Flying Circus:
One of the highlights of the recording came in a debate between drama critic and political columnist Bernard Levin and a group of Conservative ladies. According to Sherrin, writing in the Sunday Mirror in 1966, the debate took on almost surreal proportions, with one of the ladies reiterating, ‘Mr MacMillan has always satisfied me’ and asking: ’Mr Levin, how would you like it if your daughter was out in a dark lane at night and nothing done about it?’

The recording was played back to a group of television executives, who felt that it was hardly suitable material for broadcasting. However, Sherrin says that the programme was saved, strangely enough by the Conservative ladies; they protested to the Conservative Central Office, who complained to the BBC, as a result of which Kenneth Adam, the Director of Television, had to see the recording. He saw the potential in it, and the programme went ahead.   

TW3 was, of course, a huge success not only for its satirical humour and for launching of many careers too long to list here, but for the way Sherrin’s direction changed the grammar of television production: no attempt was made to hide the paraphernalia of the studio. 

Sherrin went on to make Not So Much a Programme, More A Way of Life with David Frost and then BBC3 with Robert Robinson as the front man, before being lured to Columbia Pictures UK operation as a film producer. Those films were, shall we say, of varying quality; from The Virgin Soldiers to Up the Chastity Belt and Rentadick.
Other TV shows of note are the adaptations of Feydeau farces in Ooh Laa Laa, the translations and adaptations by Sherrin and Caryl Brahms. Two long lost shows produced by Sherrin in 1969 were Eleanor Bron and John Fortune in Where Was Spring? and a parody of current affairs shows such as Panorama and World in Action from the pen of N.F. Simpson titled World in Ferment 

Illustration for the second series of Medium Dry Sherrin
(Radio Times 1980) 
Ned Sherrin didn’t entirely move away from topical comedy and he presented what was perhaps a forerunner to The News Quiz and Have I Got News for You in the late 60s Quiz of the Week on BBC1. There was also Terra Firma on BBC2 (1976) with his old TW3 colleague Donald Baverstock as editor, We Interrupt This Week for PBS in the States (1978) and Friday Night…Saturday Morning on BBC2 (1979/80).
Whilst all this was going on Sherrin was also writing plays and musicals for the theatre and in 1976 was asked to produce and narrate the phenomenally successful Side by Side by Sondheim, bringing along former Tonight and TW3 singer Millicent Martin. 

Meanwhile on the radio we had yet to hear much of Ned Sherrin the broadcaster. He was making only occasional appearances in the 1960s and early 1970s on programmes such as Any Questions? and the odd panel game such as the World Service literary quiz Chapter and Verse and the movie quiz Ask a Cine Question for Radio 2.
Regular radio work didn’t come along until 1976 when Nigel Rees was looking for panellists on his brand-new show Quote…Unquote. Sherrin was in an inveterate collector of the quotes, particularly from the world of theatre and would edit several volumes of them, so he seemed a natural for the panel. When producer John Lloyd phoned him to invite him to take part Ned roared with laughter for no apparent reason. It later transpired that Ned had some time before already recorded a pilot for a TV quotations quiz, Who Said That? – indeed a six-part series was broadcast on BBC2 that summer.

Billing for the first Medium Dry Sherrin
Radio 2 5th September 1979
Ned’s first star vehicle for radio was the late-night Medium Dry Sherrin, the start of a run of pun-laden titles. Essentially this was an excuse for Ned to chat with actors and entertainers, and not from the comfort of the studios, but from Quaglino’s Restaurant in Mayfair. Running for two series on Radio 2 in 1979 and 1980 the guests included Diana Rigg, Joan Collins, Reginald Bosenquet, Bernard Levin, Gerard Kenny, Dennis Waterman and Andrew Sachs.
Working with producer Ian Gardhouse there were a number of programmes on Radio 4: several weeks on Midweek, which acquired the subtitle Sherrin After Breakfast, another late-night cocktail of music and conversation in And So to Ned – I warned you!- in 1982 and Extra Dry Sherrin in 1983.  

January 1986 saw the launch of Loose Ends, a Saturday morning talk show to fill the gap when Pick of the Week got moved to a Sunday. Planned for a 13-week run it’s still going some 30 years later. It had its genesis in an earlier show, also co-produced by Ian Gardhouse, The Colour Supplement, a Sunday lunchtime magazine show hosted by Margo MacDonald.

Ned chaired the proceedings on Loose Ends surrounded by, according to Paul Donovan, “a group of laughing acolytes.” The list of regulars included Emma Freud, Craig Charles, Carol Thatcher, Robert Elms, Richard Jobson, John Walters, Victor Lewis-Smith, Stephen Fry, Victoria Mather, Jonathan Ross, John Sessions and Arthur Smith.

Author Sue Limb described the programme as “a bit like Plato’s Symposium: a forum where bright young things are encouraged to show off by a disreputable old philosopher with a penchant for saucy questions.”
Here’s another chance to hear how it all started with a recording of most of the first edition from 4 January 1986. You’ll hear contributions from Angela Gordon of The Times, Robert Elms of The Face, writer Antony Jay, who’d worked with Ned on TW3, author Martin Barker plus writer and comic book aficionado Denis Gifford. In the early shows there were pre-recorded features which here are John Walters on the satellite TV choice, Nigel Farrell (who’d also been a regular on The Colour Supplement) talking a bus trip in Farrell’s Travels and Mat Coward taking a course in self-improvement. Credited with providing ‘additional material’ was Alistair Beaton, essentially he was providing the script to the opening monologue always delivered at breakneck speed by Sherrin.  



This is another early edition of Loose Ends from 4 July 1987, the date when the show also got a late-night repeat at 11 pm, billed as Even Looser Ends. In this truncated recording you’ll also hear Carol Thatcher, Emma Freud, Craig Charles and Robert Elms. There’s also one of those breathless freewheeling comic monologues from Victor Lewis-Smith, proving you can always get a laugh from Thora Hird, a busload of Germans and the mention of Money Box presenter Louise Botting.   


At the start of the 1988 series Loose Ends received the ultimate accolade, a Radio Times cover and an article, St Ned’s School Report, written by Alistair Beaton.  


In the summer of 1986 Sherrin started an association with another long-running Radio 4 show, Counterpoint. This is a music quiz that covers all musical tastes, but with more of a leaning to the classical, devised by Edward Cole who was well-known to listeners as a continuity announcer.
This is the final of the 19th series of Counterpoint from 1 August 2005.


Ned had to give up broadcasting in 2006 when throat cancer took hold. He died on 1 October 2007. The following day Alistair Beaton delivered a personal tribute in a special programme broadcast at 6.30 pm.  


Ned Sherrin 1931-2007

Additional Tonight and TW3 information and quotes from:
Tonight: A Short History by Deirdre Macdonald (BFI Dossier 15 1982)
From Fringe to Flying Circus by Roger Wilmut (Eyre Methuen 1980)


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