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History
GREAT LIVES
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Meet the team behind Great Lives, Radio 4's biographical series.

Humphrey Carpenter (1946 - 2005)

Picture of presenter Humphrey Carpenter.Humphrey Carpenter joined the BBC from university as a general trainee in 1968, and worked for several years as a local radio producer and presenter in his home city of Oxford before leaving the BBC staff to write the authorised biography of J R R Tolkien.

This proved to be the beginning of a busy career as an author - among the other lives he has written is that of Benjamin Britten - and he also wrote the highly successful series of Mr Majeika children's books.

Humphrey said he was 'gradually lured back' into radio to present various arts programmes; he introduced the very first edition of Radio 3's Night Waves in 1992. Soon afterwards he found himself presenting the occasional edition of In Tune - 'a very daunting experience at first,' he said, 'because at the time I felt I knew next to nothing about classical music.'

In fact he had played the tuba in school and student symphony orchestras, not to mention dabbling in percussion, double bass, trombone, piano and even organ ('but I can't pedal properly with my feet'). He also ran a 1920s and 1930s style dance band, Vile Bodies, from 1983 to 1990, which was resident at London's Ritz Hotel for many years - Humphrey wrote a large proportion of the band's arrangements.

He still lived in Oxford, and convened a band now and then - 'for bar mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, that sort of thing' - himself chiefly playing the bass saxophone. 'My elder daughter caught the musical bug,' he said, 'and nearly became a professional double bass player. Wisely, I think, she's now decided to keep music as a hobby.'

According to Who's Who, Humphrey's own hobbies were sleep, and 'exploring decayed railway junctions'.

Humphrey died on 4 January 2005 after a long illness.





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