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Meet Helen Clare, wartime BBC star

Of all the letters we get from people who have found themselves through the BBC Genome listings, one of our favourites is the one that brought us to the attention of wartime BBC star Helen Clare, who will be 100 in November and was a regular broadcaster with the BBC through the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

You might have just seen her at the BBC's The One Show, as she was visited by Petula Clark.

Helen Clare on Calling Gibraltar

Her friend Simon Robinson wrote to tell us about her past, and she subsequently featured in a Radio Times article and was interviewed by the BBC. We were also able to play her some of her old recordings we found in the BBC archive.

She thinks efforts like BBC Genome are vital to the history of broadcasting.

"We didn't think of a programme's significance at the time of making it, or that people would ask about it years after. Now there is a permanent and accessible online resource to benefit not only historians but the public in general. In my time with the BBC from 1936-1960 the world changed a great deal and the BBC programmes were part of that change and history."

"Now it is possible to see not only what was popular in a specific year but what was actually broadcast on a particular day. I could look and find out for instance what I was broadcasting on this day in 1938, 1944 or 1954, it's unbelievable", she added.

Helen Clare on the Radio Times cover, third from the right

One look at the BBC Genome listings shows you the scope of her career. She is first listed in the 1930s making frequent appearances on radio singing with Jack Jackson and his Band at the Dorchester Hotel. Helen Clare was also one of the pioneers of early television broadcasts appearing in Cabaret Cartoons in 1937. During the Second World War, she made it to the cover of the Radio Times in September 1940 as one of the "three heroines of salvage".

She was a well-known voice on radio shows broadcast to the forces abroad. She sang and compered It's All Yours, a programme featuring children sending messages and songs to their fathers, uncles and brothers serving with the British Forces in remote areas around the world; she sang soldiers' requests on Calling Gibraltar.

Helen Clare was shown the more than 900 BBC Genome listings that mentioned her and said it was a surprise to see just how many programmes she had been on.

"It really does bring back memories and recollections of all the people I have worked with in the past. So many wonderful performers and most of them are gone now, but they live on in this. I'm currently contributing to my biography due out in 2017 and it has been wonderful as an aid for checking details of key programmes I was involved in."

You can find out more information about Helen Clare on her website, helenclare.com

The recording of It's All Yours, 1944

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