Fortnightly for the staff of Thames Television22 October 1971

Designers get together

One of those joint conferences between ourselves and the BBC in which rivalry is forgotten for a while has recently taken place at Teddington. Members of the Guild of Heads of Television Design accepted the invitation of Patrick Downing to a meeting at Teddington on 7 October to discuss points of interest and mutual problems within the industry and to exchange ideas.

(Patrick is founding chairman of the Guild which came into being at the beginning of this year).

Those present were: Michael Yates, Head of Design, London Weekend; Peter Alexander, Head of Design, Scottish Television; Richard Levin, Head of Design Services, BBC; John Dilly, Head of Design, Southern; Eric Briers, Head of Design, Tyne Tees; Geoffrey Martin, Head of Design, Yorkshire; Richard Greenough, Head of Visual Services, ATV; Peter Roden, Head of Scenic Design, ATV; Alpho O’Reilly, Head of Design, Radio Telefis Eireann; Malcolm Beatson, Head of Design, ITN; Peter Ash, Head of Design, Granada; Clifford Hatts, Head of Scenic Design, BBC.

An added reason for the meeting was that it was the last opportunity all the members had for a meeting with Richard Levin, before his retirement. After the meeting Patrick on behalf of Thames, entertained members of the Guild to dinner on the MV Iris.

No floods

The time of extreme flood danger from the Thames early this month has now come and gone without the river bursting its banks – though some newspaper reports just before the danger time talked of “the gravest threat of floods in one hundred years”. Sighs of relief everywhere – including Thames studios at Teddington where the Admin Department had taken precautions.

Inevitably there is a sense of anticlimax and some people have wondered: was there unnecessary panic? As far as Thames was concerned there certainly was not. Flooding on a serious scale could have occurred. That it did not was due to a combination of three lucky factors: little rain to swell the rivers; very high barometric pressure; and a wind blowing against the tide.

John Edwards with the prize awarded to “The Hardest Way Up” at the Trento International Film Festival for Mountain and Exploration Films. The documentary on the ascent of Annapurna, screened in March, won the award for The Best Television Film of the Festival. Mick Burke, one of the climbers on the Annapurna expedition, who received the award in Trento, tells me: “The two major prizes were won by a French film and an Italian film. When the awards were given out I think that the audience showed where the main prize should have gone. The clapping for Annapurna lasted two or three times longer than any other film.”

Report — Munich

Photo shows the Report team in the Hall of Portraits, Residenz Museum, Munich, when they were filming for the documentary. l. to r. Nino la Femina, lighting supervisor, Mike Fash, cameraman, Mary Horwood, P. A., Peter George, camera assistant, Jolyon Wimhurst, director, Des Williams, sound assistant and Sandy Macrae, sound recordist.

Director Jolyon Wimhurst, reporter John Morgan and a Report film team have just returned from Munich where they were completing the new dramatised documentary on Munich which will be screened in the Spring of 1972. Munich, the Bavarian capital, has always had a weakness for extravagance and a reputation for laissez-faire. This attitude gave birth to artistic and political excesses – from its Baroque architecture to revolutionary ideas, culminated by the rise of Adolf Hitler. In the year of the Munich Olympics Report tells the story of the city from the beginning of the 18th century to the present day.

EMI contract

EMI Electronics has won a major television equipment contract worth almost £200,000 to re-equip a Belgian television studio for colour broadcasting. The contract, which includes the first export order for the company’s new ‘2005’ three-tube colour cameras, is for the replacement of existing EMI monochrome equipment at the Brussels studio of Belgium Radio Television’s Flemish Service.

Still winning

As already reported in the Newsletter, the Thames Vauxhall Firenza at its very first appearance at a race meeting scored two out-right wins and broke the class record twice. The car continued its winning ways on its second outing at Inglistone on 10 October. It won the first saloon car race of the day, after Gerry Marshall had clocked the fastest lap in practice. Incidently the win was achieved despite the fact that the opposition was “formidable” to quote Bill Blydenstein. Before the final saloon car race (in which the Firenza was entered) the organisers gave each of the previous race winners a lap of honour. The unfortunate result of this was that the Firenza’s engine oiled up its plugs and although the plugs were changed the car went on three cylinders again during the race and finished seventh overall. But for the lap of honour it might well have come away with a double victory again.

Photo shows Gerry Marshall cornering the Thames Firenza at Llandow in the first race on 26 September. (Photo by courtesy of Vauxhall Motors).

U.S. Rivals

“Variety”, the U.S.-published, international show business magazine has a unique vocabulary. For those of us who don’t see it regularly, the following review of Rivals of Sherlock Holmes may be amusing:

Thames TV, the London independent, has whipped up a promising ITV network series meant to redress at least some of the balance with regard to the great detectives of Edwardian fiction. Hence the overall intriguing handle for this series of 13 hour long colorfilm mellers which has already sold in a number of off-shore markets.

The initialer featured John Neville as a smoothie forsenic scientist – a bit too smooth, in fact, since Philip Mackie’s script (from an Austin Freeman story) portrayed the hero as a man of immaculate gee-whiz intellect as well as urbanity. It was, in short, no contest from the start in this tale of a brothel murder. Never mind the plot cliches – the producers couldn’t be faulted for being faithful to the original text in that respect. And include among the cliches a compliment to the Baker St. hot-shot, in that Neville, too, trailed a Watson-type sidekick.

The seg was, however, nicely paced and sharply cast, and the Edwardian flavor came across effectively if economically. In notable support of Neville were James Cossins as his acolyte, Terence Rigby, Bernard Archard, Paul Darrow and, in particular, Eve Pearce as the madame-cum-innocent-landlady.

Fast Workers

Records were broken at Euston on 29 September to get a Daily Express ad on screen in the shortest possible time. The story began at 8.45 pm, when advertising duty officer Tony Clemens received a call from the Express asking if we had a spot available that night. We hadn’t, but one was cleared at 9.58 pm. By 9.45 pm, the script and artwork were ready and cleared, and were taken to Presentation for taping, and the commercial duly went out one hour and ten minutes after receipt of the first enquiry. John Robertson, the Publicity Manager of the Express, came to see the transmission, and expressed his gratitude for the co-operation we had given his organisation at such short notice.

Armchair for Armchair

There’s a neat compliment for the Armchair Theatre series in a glossy magazine campaign by Parker-Knoll at the moment for their Buccaneer suite of chairs. The ad shows three photographs of a man watching telly while sitting on a Buccaneer armchair. The captions read: “It’s an armchair for ‘Armchair Theatre’”…, “A knees-up for ‘Come Dancing'”…, “And an escape from the fifth repeat of the ‘Wooden Horse’”… Fortunately for our reputation the man is sitting up keen, alert and vigilant for “Armchair Theatre”; very relaxed for “Come Dancing” and sound asleep for the “Wooden Horse”.

Out in front

At the end of the first 39 weeks of 1971, Thames has established a clear lead over the BBC and all other ITV programme companies in numbers of programmes in both the Network Top Twenty, and the London Top Ten. Up to 3 October, we had had 169 programmes in the Top Twenty (21-5 per cent) compared to Granada’s 153 programmes (19 4 per cent) and the BBC’s 149 programmes (19 0 per cent). In the London Top Ten we had screened 244 programmes (55-8 per cent) and originated 127 programmes (29 1 per cent). Full tables:

Network Top Twenty


London Top Ten Screened


London Top Ten Originated



No, not quite! Ciss Stapleton, lady cleaner with Thames, gets a big smile from the local traffic warden, Ciss had just collected her new trolley from Bob Hurley, so she decided to invest in ‘L’ plates until she feels ‘qualified’. Ciss, by the way, has been with Rediffusion and Thames for 15 years.

About the author

Newsletter was a fortnightly A4 staff information sheet for Thames employees

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