The life and times of Thames all-rounder Daphne Shadwell, revealed in 1969
Daphne Shadwell has been associated with the Entertainment Business throughout her life. Her father was Musical Director of the Hippodrome Theatre in Coventry and as the Hippodrome Orchestra was frequently featured on the radio. Daphne grew up constantly overhearing conversations about “balance”, “plugging” and “running orders”.
The family moved to London when her father was appointed Musical Director of the B.B.C. Many subsequent moves, especially during the war, continually interrupted her education. “I didn’t particularly care for school any way – except for end of term plays and concerts. I wanted to be an actress or musical comedy star and irritated my school friends beyond words by taking over rehearsals and bossing them unbearably.”
After taking a secretarial course, on parental advice, she joined her sister in the Near East Department of the BBC. Another sister. Hazel, was in the Variety Department and the eldest, Joan Winters, was doing several radio shows. “It was rumoured that the Board of Governors were considering changing the Corporation’s name to the Shadwell Broadcasting System!”
“As an outlet for my theatrical ambitions, I went in for amateur dramatics in a big way and also took private tuition for the L.A.M.D.A. exams. Appearances at the New Lindsey and Fortune Theatres tempted me to go fully professional but regular pay cheques and a family conference dissuaded me.”
Daphne’s first job in Television was as a Production Secretary on Children’s Programmes. “There was no training scheme. I just arrived at Lime Grove one morning, was introduced to a poor, unsuspecting Producer, who handed me a stop-watch, led me into a dark room and said, ‘You did know I had a programme today?’ I’d never been in a Television Studio in my life, let alone a gallery, and had no idea what to do. The programme was called ‘Simon, the Simple Sardine’. The only simple thing about that day was me but it led to two productive and fascinating years with BBC Television.”
Daphne joined Rediffusion Television in 1955 as Secretary to Lloyd Williams. She started directing in 1956 on Women’s Programmes under Mary Hill followed by a wide and varied career embracing almost every department – Children’s, Advertising Magazines, Light Entertainment, Drama and Outside Broadcasts. One of her most horrific memories concerns the Drama Department. “Towards the end of a ‘live’ play, confusion arose in the action. Trying to save the day, my leading lady leapt to the telephone and improvised a speech, completely forgetting we had just finished a traumatic scene about the telephone wires being cut.”
Shortly before the changeover of companies, Daphne started directing ‘Do Not Adjust Your Sets’, which won the Prix Jeunesse at the Munich Television Festival. The series gave birth to ‘Captain Fantastic’, with whose life she has been closely bonded since the start of Thames. “There is no shortage of variety in Children’s Programmes and in the last year I have also directed ‘Sexton Blake’, ‘The Paper Bag Players’, ‘Once Upon a Time’ stories, not to mention twenty-six ‘Sooty’s’. As long as there are good professional people to work with and I can continue working as a team with my crews, I shall remain happy in my work.”