Studio manager Graham Bunce retires after 42 years

Graham in the gallery Graham Bunce joined the BBC in 1971

Listeners to Chris Evans' breakfast show last Thursday will have heard the Radio 2 DJ pay tribute to his studio manager Graham Bunce, who has retired after 42 years at the BBC.

At a time when BBC management is drawing criticism again, it was a reminder of the unseen programming talent who enable millions to enjoy their favourite shows.

In Evans' surprise 10-minute This is Your Life segment, Radio 2 colleagues from "Whispering" Bob Harris to Tony Blackburn lined up to share their anecdotes of working with "Professor Bunce".

Ken Bruce praised the studio engineer for always going the extra mile, balancing the music for four decades on Friday Night is Music Night, while former breakfast presenter Terry Wogan woke up especially early to describe him as a "constant source of delight", adding he "never let a sandwich go uneaten".

Had it not been for a scooter smash, Graham told Ariel, his BBC career "could have been even longer".

Showbiz standouts
Graham and Chris in the studio Chris Evans surprised Graham with an on-air tribute

He was due to start his first job at Broadcasting House in 1967, but his injuries prevented him from doing any training and having to decline the role.

With experience in the music industry, including in pirate radio and at London's Haymarket Theatre, he eventually joined the BBC in August 1971, when Diana Ross was topping the charts with I'm Still Waiting and George Harrison had just hosted a charity concert for war-torn Bangladesh.

The BBC's network stations - 1, 2, 3 and 4 - were in their infancy and Graham recalls: "Our department handled drama, serious music, light music and light entertainment, so it was across all those programmes, which finished on all networks."

While day-to-day duties involved operating studio equipment and sound trucks for outdoor broadcasts, he was also miking up performers, meeting "anyone and everyone that's been in showbiz, really".

Having built up years of experience, Graham was promoted to senior studio manager and branched out into TV, working on the Queen Mother's 100th birthday celebrations and concerts at Buckingham Palace.

So what were his highlights? "It would be a very long and boring list but Bing Crosby would be one.

"I also worked on the last Goon Show, which was a particular pleasure, simply because I'd grown up listening to it on the radio and thought the cast were very funny. They had finished broadcasting in the 1960s but suddenly decided to get together for a reunion show, by which time I was working at the BBC."

Wired for sound
David Jacobs David Jacobs died this September at the age of 87

He is also a fan of live music and has fond memories of working with the late broadcaster David Jacobs, having first met him behind the scenes on TV show Jukebox Jury.

"My cousin Roger Bunce was a cameraman at Television Centre working on Doctor Who, and was able to get me backstage. I met David in the BBC canteen and he was an absolute gentleman. Then I ended up working with him… and he continued to be that perfect gentleman. He was a lovely man, and I have nothing but praise and good memories of him."

Graham adds that technology has changed "beyond recognition" during his career.

"I still have a head full of valve types that used to operate, and microphone amplifiers that lived in boxes bolted to the wall because they produced so much heat. We've now gone to almost mixing big complex shows on laptops. So it has moved from what was known as analogue sound to digital sound.

"But it's not the technology that matters, it's the quality of the programmes, because they still have to sound good and be entertaining, and the sort of thing the listener actually wants. It's only the way you achieve them that has changed."

Granddad again

He signed off on Friday, at the end of a week that started with a round of applause from the band Franz Ferdinand, after he studio managed their session on Dermot O'Leary's show.

His first day of retirement coincided with his 65th birthday this Monday, when his daughter was in labour with her second child. No wonder Evans rounded off his tribute with Clive Dunn's Granddad.

It's no mean feat to have survived at the BBC for 42 years and Graham adds modestly: "I don't think I got anything so hideously wrong that people stopped wanting me to do it - I was quite lucky really.

"I would certainly say it's been a fabulous job, where you're paid to listen to music all day and work with nice people."

  • You can hear the tribute, which aired at 8.20am, here or on AutoROT.

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