Celebrating the lives of great entertainers: Radio 4 Extra's May anniversaries
With Union Jack flags fluttering the length of Regent Street, London, you can certainly tell that there's some sort of celebration in the air.
At Radio 4 Extra, we aren't planning to broadcast any weddings, royal or otherwise, but as an archive network on which comedy is a high proportion of our output, we do like to fly the flag to celebrate the lives of great entertainers. Throughout May there are several anniversaries which we will be marking:
On 16th May, it will be the 75th birthday of comedian Roy Hudd, and in a tribute to Roy, we have scheduled a 3 hour Roy Hudd special, I Did It My Way, in which Roy chooses six of his own radio comedy programmes. These include: The News Huddlines, The Newly Discovered Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, Huddwinks, It's a Funny Business and Like They've Never Been Gone.
The brilliant humorist/writer/musician Miles Kington died 3 years ago. On 13th May this year, it will be the 70th anniversary of Miles's birth. To commemorate his contribution to entertainment, we will be broadcasting a selection of his radio work: Instant Sunshine, Playing a Dangerous Game and Kington's Last Tapes (poignant recordings of Miles made only days before he died).
There are two centenaries to celebrate in May:
28th May is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thora Hird and 27th May is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vincent Price. On Radio 4 Extra, you'll be able to hear work from both of these great entertainers.
And finally, the last of our May celebrations - on Saturday 28th, it will be the 60th anniversary of The Goon Show.
The Goon Show Preservation Society has planned a "Grand Day Out" to celebrate the first ever broadcast of The Goon Show. This will be held at the pub known as Grafton's which, in the post-war days, was a watering-hole for the younger generation of comedians and comedy writers. And it was in Grafton's that "The Goons" were born. The pub is now re-named The Strutton Arms, and there, on 28th May, a commemorative Goons plaque will be unveiled. Goons fans will mingle, share Goons anecdotes, read scripts, and apparently a message from possibly the best-known Goons fan, HRH The Prince of Wales, will be read out.
Radio 4 Extra's celebration will be more modest: on the actual day, we will be broadcasting Goon Again, a 2001 re-recording of Spike Milligan scripts broadcast to mark the 50th anniversary of The Goon Show. Harry Secombe's part was played by his son Andrew; Jon Glover and Jeffrey Holland took on the parts played by Peter Sellers and Spike; vocals were performed by Ray Ellington's son, Lance, and the announcer was Andrew Timothy's son, Christopher. All very much kept in the family. This will be followed by Eric Sykes introducing The Affair of the Lone Banana, and the 3 hour special will end on The Last Goon Show of All, which, as part of the 50th anniversary of the BBC, was simulcast on radio and television in 1972. Sadly, it was indeed the last time those three comedy geniuses were to work together.
The Goon Show is one of what I call The Big Five classic comedies we regularly broadcast; the others are Hancock's Half Hour, Round the Horne, The Navy Lark and Take It From Here. These shows are regularly scheduled alongside many other classic comedies, which on Radio 4 Extra, we have kept in the same comedy zone, and at the same time as they were on Radio 7: 8.00am, 12 noon and 7.00pm.
Unsurprisingly, these are our peak listening times. I hope you enjoy the shows.
Mary Kalemkerian is Head of Programmes at BBC Radio 4 Extra