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  • Coming to You Live - The Origins of Outside Broadcast Television

    Andrew Martin

    BBC Genome

    BBC technicians set up one of the three cameras used to cover the 1937 Coronation procession - the first true BBC television outside broadcast

    Television outside broadcasts began with a bang on 12 May 1937, with the Coronation procession of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

    Although the coverage was limited to a group of three cameras on Apsley Gate, at the corner of Hyde Park, it was a start – and was followed by an ever-widening range of outside broadcasts over the next two years, before television closed down on the eve of the World War Two.

    BBC Television had been transmitting as a full service since 2 November 1936, and until that point, broadcasts emanated from the studios at Alexandra Palace or its grounds - from the terrace of the Palace and parts of Alexandra Park. The Coronation was the first time a transmission was achieved at a real distance from BBC TV's headquarters.

    To be strictly accurate however, even these experiments were not the first television outside broadcasts. As with many innovations, it comes down to "it depends what you mean by..." John Logie Baird’s experiments with 30-line television,…

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  • Patrick Troughton at 100: A Television Actor

    Andrew Martin

    BBC Genome

    Patrick Troughton was the Radio Times cover star in January 1968, in a still taken from the recent Doctor Who story The Ice Warriors

    Patrick Troughton is perhaps best remembered for a role he played originally for just three years – Doctor Who. However, he had a successful career that lasted over four decades, encompassing radio, TV and film. 

    Troughton, who was born 100 years ago, on 25 March 1920, was much-respected character actor. The bulk of his work was in TV, but he also worked in radio and films. He was less keen on the stage, referring to theatre acting as "shouting in the evenings".

    Troughton’s interest in performing began while at school, inspired by hearing actress Fay Compton on the radio. After drama school he won a scholarship to study in Long Island, New York State. When war broke out in September 1939, he was nearly an early casualty when the ship in which he was returning to England was sunk. In 1941 he was called up into the Royal Navy and spent most of his war on motor torpedo boats patrolling coastal waters.

    In the 1948 production of RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots), Troughton played the rebellious robot Radius - the original 'robots' were organic, not mechanical...

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  • Tales from bohemia: The making of Arena’s Chelsea Hotel

    Maria DiFranco Gregg

    For five decades, the BBC’s flagship documentary series Arena brought to light unheard stories from outside the mainstream; tales of avant-garde artists, LGBTQ icons, feminists, civil rights activists and more. We spoke to Bafta award-winning Anthony Wall, who - as Editor between 1985 and 2018 - was instrumental in shaping the series. Wall talked to BBC Genome about his favourite Arena episode: Chelsea Hotel.

    The historic Chelsea Hotel in New York City has been a magnet for creativity since its construction in 1884. Some of the 20th Century’s most acclaimed artists, musicians, and writers have called the Chelsea Hotel home, including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Twain, and Stanley Kubrick, among many others.

    Anthony Wall went on a fact-finding mission with then series editor Alan Yentob to the United States in 1979, and returned with the concept for an Arena film about the Chelsea Hotel. By coincidence, director Nigel Finch had had the same idea. As then-researcher on the film, Wall,…

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  • From Band Waggon to Barnacle Bill - a short history of theme tunes

    Andrew Martin

    BBC Genome

    Programmes don't always stick with the same signature tune. After running six years, Match of the Day introduced a new theme in 1970...

    They’re rarely mentioned in the programme schedules, but theme tunes are a vital ingredient in programme-making. We take a look at the evolution of signature music, and think about some best-loved examples.

    So you’ve got a new television (or radio) series to produce. You’ve got the scripts, the performers, the studio and the designs for sets and costumes. But hang on – what about music? You may…

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  • Radio Times - the 1950s pages

    Andrew Martin

    BBC Genome

    The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was celebrated with this rare 1950s colour Radio Times cover, designed by Eric Fraser

    Following the release of the magazine pages of Radio Times from the 20s, 30s and 40s, the full pages from the next decade, the 1950s, are now available on the BBC Genome website.

    The 1950s was a time of expansion for broadcasting, especially television. The decade saw a wide range of new BBC programmes and technological innovations which took television throughout the UK and beyond. The scope of…

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  • It's... Genome's Monty Python 50th Anniversary Quiz

    Andrew Martin

    BBC Genome

    Picture quiz question: Palin and Jones's 1976 pilot show Tomkinson's Schooldays led to which series?

    To celebrate half a century of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Genome indulges in a little light quizzing - how well do you know your Pythons? 

    1. Which Python presented a Radio 1 series called Radio 5?

    2. Which Python wrote linking material for the 1967 series This is Petula Clark?

    3. Which Python co-founded the training film company Video Arts with Yes Minister’s co-writer Anthony Jay?

    4. Which…

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  • Stars of Genome: Norman Bailey

    Norman Bailey is a dramatic baritone singer of international renown, who has headlined in the most famous opera houses of the world – including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, La Scala in Milan and Covent Garden in London. In BBC television performances in the 1970s, he brought the magic of opera to living rooms around the UK. He spoke to BBC Genome about his career. 

    A cursory glance through…

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  • On Your Own - One-person dramas

    Andrew Martin

    BBC Genome

    Dot Branning (June Brown) records a message to husband Jim in her 2008 EastEnders solo performance

    The number of performers in a drama can vary from the cast-of-thousands to the two-hander, but one of the less frequently used forms is the solo drama or monologue, where only a single actor is present. 

    Perhaps the best known example of single character plays is the Talking Heads series by Alan Bennett, itself inspired by his 1982 play A Woman of No Importance. The two series of Talking Heads,…

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  • Apollo 11: Listening to the landing

    Helen Randle

    BBC Archive

    A clip from the BBC's Moon Special radio simulcast, which began on the evening of 20 July 1969. Presenter Arthur Garratt and studio guests Professor Lionel Wilson and Eric Burnett discuss Buzz Aldrin's re-entry to the lunar module. Source: BBC and NASA.

    BBC Genome looks back at the nail-biting hours before the lunar module successfully landed on the surface of the Moon. Professor Lionel Wilson of Lancaster University was one of the broadcasters relaying the events as they happened, to a radio audience. 

    On 21 July 1969 the world was watching as US astronaut Neil Armstrong descended from the Eagle lunar module and made his “small step” onto the…

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  • Jon Pertwee at 100

    Andrew Martin

    BBC Genome

    Jon Pertwee (1919-1996) was an actor and entertainer known mostly for work on radio - until 1970 when he was cast as the third Doctor in Doctor Who - he's pictured here in 1960

    John Devon Roland Pertwee was born 100 years ago, on 7 July 1919. He was part of a dynasty who all made their mark on the British stage, screen and radio: his father Roland, his brother Michael, his cousin Bill, and his children Dariel and Sean all feature in the pages of Genome. Jon has the largest number of credits however, due to his roles in The Navy Lark and Doctor Who, as well as a host of…

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