Where to start?
In the French Section?
Well I could start in the French Service in Bush House circa 19?? – no that will date me. Let’s just say I worked my apprenticeship working all day in French, in a desperately boring job… in French. But I stuck at it because one day I hoped I’d become..
Or in the Studios?
A Studio Manager! This was a magical time for a youngster, making lifelong friends amongst an army of studio operators. People who would go onto have stellar careers. this where we learnt how to become the best speech editors (with razor blades, yup) and how to keep a cool head when you are 30 seconds away from air time and your tape is still in 2 pieces.
And then onto Production..
Eventually it was time to grow up (really?) and although I never particularly wanted to become a radio producer, it turned out that is exactly what the BBC wanted me to become. It was one of those heady periods which you think will never end… until it did.
I worked for BBC World Service– the overseas arm of the BBC which for some reason the rest of the corporation seem to ignore. My personal view is that because English was (at the time) only one of some 42 languages, the eccentricities were just not understood, because it wasn’t in well … English. What linguistic snobbery. Thankfully things have now changed, ever since World Service moved into New Broadcasting House. This I think gave us some freedoms but all that is another story.
And eventually into the Freelance World
I went freelance many years ago, mainly because I didn’t want to be restricted to one department and I seriously wanted to get on the air and interview people. Oh and what interviews. I know, I know any BBC producers reading this (oh I’m sure you are!) will say that they too had famous people, yes we all did and the trick was, not to get star struck. It was terribly non-u to get excited if you were going off to interview Marin Alsop, but of course the kid in was screaming “hey Daddy!! I’m off to interview the greatest female conductor in the word”. You can hear the programme in which she appears here. It was in an edition of In the Studio for BBC World Service
And all those wonderful people to interview
I often get asked who was the most famous person I’d interviewed. Without doubt for me it was Arthur Milller, American playwright of Death of a Salesman, All my Sons and my favourite The Crucible. (with Dame Judi, three times, a very close second). I was making a documentary of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and met him at his home in Connecticut. Of course we talked about the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s I still have the interview tucked away somewhere in my archives. What wisdoms I did take away (and which sadly didn’t it into my documentary)? He spoke very wisely about Nazism and the rise of fascism. Our Interview happened in the 1990s and he just warned .. be careful it could happen again. I really ought to get these interviews online.
PS – if you want more stories, you’ll just have to get in touch.