Remembering the good old days at Anglia TV - 60 years on
PUBLISHED: 20:14 03 November 2019 | UPDATED: 20:14 03 November 2019
Paul Barnes had reason to celebrate last week as he was reunited with former Anglia TV colleagues as the station marked its 60th birthday
So many faces, so many stories, so many grins and waves from across the crowded room: over 200 of us Anglia Relics, relics of the real Anglia TV, marked the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast last Monday.
There were lots of grey hairs, or acres of pink flesh where the hair once was.
Some of the relics had worked in the early days on Anglia's famous dramas with big names. The original board of Anglia had included Sir John Woolf of Romulus Films, and from the word go he pushed for a significant part of the company's output to be drama.
And he had the connections to make it happen. He beckoned and the stars came out to Norfolk, stepping from the big screen to the small one. The likes of Margaret Leighton, John Gregson, Edith Evans, Susannah York, Diane Cilento, Kenneth More, Telly Savalas, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and many more took trains from Liverpool Street or trundled up the A11.
They found a definite quaintness about their destination, the one-time Agricultural Hall, dating from 1882. The Anglia studios were built inside the shell of the building with its Victorian girders visible, painted blue and gold. People tagged it "Nineteenth Century Fox". Everybody thought David Niven coined the description but the real credit goes to Bill Brennan, the floor manager who murmured the words to Niven as he sat in make-up.
Day two saw the first edition of The Midday Show which took liberties with the clock by actually going out at two minutes past one. It was a breezy mixture of chat and light music fronted by young Susan Hampshire.
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Seventeen-year-old June Kenny had joined the company a week earlier as a junior cashier. "My job was to go and watch the Midday Show," she says. "Musicians had to be paid every day. I handed the money out and got them to sign the paperwork. It was fantastic. I can't believe I'm here watching shows and they're paying me money to do it."
Later, as June Wright, she became a production assistant, making sure the right equipment and the right people were in the right place at the right time, skills she applied to helping organise this anniversary shindig.
We worked often together on Portrait of a Village, the region's Sunday teatime treat. That was in the seventies when a crew of twenty-two took to the road with three cameras, a truck full of cables and a recording van. The vehicles were grey and yellow, rather insipid colours; the word was that nobody would want to steal the paint.
Once, this small army and all the kit were set up for an interview beside the level crossing at Downham Market. We were just going for a take when a Land Rover slowed down and the driver leaned out. "I 'ope this isn't another repeat," says he.
My first day at Anglia in 1977 brought convincing proof that I'd arrived in Norfolk. The assignment was an item for that evening's About Anglia, coverage of the Norwich Union stagecoach's journey between Eye and Ipswich. In the back of the Volvo estate Dave Atto, the unit's electrician was doing the Sun crossword. All was quiet until a broad Norfolk voice wondered "Are there two oo's in igloo?"
News and features were shot on film in those days, and cans of exposed footage were processed and edited in double quick time. Sometimes there could be a hitch, like the time we turned up at Elveden to do a piece on the latest Bond epic, including an interview with Pierce Brosnan. We opened the camera case. It was empty. Waiting for one to be sent from Norwich we had a pleasant time making the most of the catering truck. It could be a tough life.
As the Anglia Relics gathered and milled around the room was noisy with squeals of recognition, a bit of a trial for deaf-aid wearers; so many bridges, so much water gone by, so many hugs and kisses, so many memories. And afterwards many more stories will have been remembered, ones that we forgot to tell on the day. Ten years from now, perhaps? Dave, one of the organisers is already considering reserving the car park for Zimmer frame races and a mobility scooter rally.