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Tears in Perivale - Feedback in the archives

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 13:45, Friday, 23 September 2011

The Savoy Orpheans in an early BBC radio broadcast of dance music in 1926

What is the best way to recapture one's childhood?

My memory is notoriously selective and needs a prod if I am to venture off the well worn paths. Often that is provided by a smell. Whenever fresh tarmac is being laid on a road I linger half-intoxicated by the smell and the memory it evokes of my first day at school aged 4 and three quarters.

I even remember the precise point where the tarmac was being laid, the corner of Norfolk Road, Carlisle, in the year of our Lord 1951. An even more powerful stimulant is sound, which is why I found myself in tears this week in an industrial park in Perivale, Middlesex.

Where once the poets talked of flowing cornfields and John Betjeman lauded the Metro Line there is now the ever present smell of petrol fumes and the frequent noise of planes heading for Heathrow.

Across the Avenue, Perivale's 14th century wooden church, lying on a bank just above the River Brent, is a reminder of gentler days. In the nineteenth century its cemetery was a fashionable place for middle class Londoners to bring their loved ones to lie in rural seclusion.

The BBC's new archive centre is unlikely to win awards for architectural merit. Indeed to me it looks like an aircraft hanger, or a large shed. So why the tears?

Because inside is almost everything the BBC has ever broadcast including those programmes which lit up the rather grey 1950s, Hancock, Educating Archie, and a little later, Round the Horne, and to which I listened with my now dead parents.

Long-dead voices live here, together with those of present-day presenters like the author, whose early ventures into sound are worth forgetting.

At the archive I met Sarah Hayes, the BBC's controller of Information and Archive and Peter Skinner, the head of operations there. Typically I put my foot in it straight away by called their spanking new home a shed.

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By the way in Feedback we also played some extracts from the archive including some of your requests. Here they are:

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In case you did not recognise them, they were:

  • Listen with Mother - , Julia Lang
  • Brown Eyes Why Are You Blue? - The Savoy Orpheans
  • John Reith
  • Outbreak of war - Rt Hon Neville Chamberlain, 3rd September 1939
  • Launch of Radio 1, Tony Blackburn, 30th September 1967
  • The Falklands War, Brian Hanrahan, 1st May 1982
  • Brian Johnston and Jonathan Agnew, 9th August 1991

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

  • Listen again to this week's Feedback, produced by Karen Pirie, get in touch with the programme, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Read all of Roger's Feedback blog posts.
  • Feedback is on Twitter. Follow @BBCR4Feedback.
  • The picture shows the Savoy Orpheans during an early BBC music broadcast in 1926. It's from the BBC's picture archive.


  • Comment number 1.

    Why didn’t Feedback play an extract from an edition of the programme that featured the mighty Chris Dunkley? A genuine radio enthusiast who always stood up for listeners and was always prepared to challenge Radio 4 controllers.

    On a more positive note, I received a most thoughtful email from the Americana team (within minutes of receiving my email) after I thanked them for such an outstanding programme and expressed my sadness that Ms. Williams had chosen to bin them. They even asked me to keep in touch!!! Contrast that with the way R4 Messageboard contributors were treated.

    So Matt Frei, David Schulman, Sarah Gilbert, Jocelyn Frank et al. you’ve made a good radio friend with this northern working class lout engineer who attended the Maurice Gupta Mechanics’ Institute (off Allerton Road).

    P.S. I’m wondering if David Schulman is related to either Ray, Phil or Derek Schulman who sang with Simon Dupree? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbS2KmEecTo ) and Gentle Giant ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzDCfnBhinw )

    P.P.S On the subject of Archives, I would like to hear the edition of ‘In Concert’ that featured John Peel introducing Colosseum. John joked that he taught Mr. Hiseman how to play the drums correctly (hee-hee). I have often wondered if the lady featured on the front of this album pulls funny faces when reminded of the clothes that she wore for the pic. Boys loved the album cover!!!!!

    Colesseum played a fab version of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyaiXcJpws4 (does drumming and sax playing get any better?)

  • Comment number 2.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 3.

    Apologies, Ron_Postscribe A technical glitch is currently preventing me from replacing my own mug with Roger Bolton's at the top of the post. I'll soon disappear, though, to be replaced by the post's actual author!

    Steve Bowbrick

  • Comment number 4.

    "What is the best way to recapture one's childhood?"

    Phrases from the old days such as "in the year of our Lord" do it effectively, no matter how inappropriate they are. I am saddened but not surprised that the BBC continues to allow its programme presenters to use religiously biased and divisive language. Listening to Feedback, one would be forgiven for thinking that Roger Bolton took the reins in 1999 BCE and not 1999 CE!


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