Opening up the You & Yours Archive
Editor's note. Clare Walker's post about the You & Yours archive starts with a complete episode of the programme from 1971 which you can embed on your own web site. Click 'embed.' - SB.
Last month I took the train to Reading, hopped on the bus to Caversham and in a white bungalow in the leafy suburbs discovered a hidden realm - the BBC written archive. With the 40th Anniversary of You & Yours coming up, I'd been searching for archive material but very sadly discovered that no one had kept the first You and Yours broadcast on 5th October 1970 and that a mere five editions had survived from the entire 1970s.
As Simon Rooks the Head of the Radio Archive explained to me, space was limited back then and programme makers didn't keep a comprehensive record of what went out on air: "The idea was more to select programmes, extracts of programmes, and sometimes commission new recordings itself that were either of clear historical value or would be of likely repeat or re-use value to future programme makers."
So highly topical content of the sort broadcast on You &Yours although a precious record of social history now, may well have been seen by producers then as ephemeral.
So it was time to do some digging in the written archive - to find out how the programme came about and whether we could, at the very least, find the script of the first show.
The BBC written archive is a tranquil, soothing place. I had to sign a piece of paper agreeing to keep quiet, treat all items with care, leave my water bottle, mobile and pens outside - and proceeded with my stubby HB pencil to a table with files of highly confidential correspondence about You & Yours.
I discovered that the programme was the brainchild of the then controller of Radio 4, Anthony Whitby, but that his idea of having a live magazine programme at noon every day was not met with universal approval. Some producers worried that the name You and Yours was too "twee", others that we might have less time to cover subjects in depth.
"I can see dangers in the suggested "two-way letters and telephone calls" section. Advice given on the air, as you know, has to be accurate. Can it be done under "rush hour" conditions?" wrote producer Barbara Crowther in the June of 1970.
What was incredible reading this correspondence was that the same concerns we have now as producers of the programme, were being discussed back then. "I emphasised I hope rightly," wrote editor Steve Bonarjee, "that we should avoid this becoming a gloom sequence concentrating on miseries and woes. There should be a strong constructive element concerned with opportunities and aspirations and people's concern to make the most of things - even happiness has its problems."
But what about the first programme? Archivist Jeff Walden led me to the microfiche room, reeled up the tape and we whizzed through until we found the running order and script of the first programme.
Topics in that first week included titles such as: 'How to buy your first house', 'Do it yourself trends', 'Pensions for the over eighties', 'Pangs of Parting', 'Tomorrow's Living Rooms' and 'Firework Hazards'!
But have a listen to the first programme we have from the archive. It is only fifteen minutes long as they used to have government announcements on a Friday which meant it was a shorter programme with a leisure theme. Jeanine McMullen is presenting and they are celebrating the fact that Arsenal is aiming at the double in the Cup Final, and interview Danny Blanchflower, former Spurs captain. You wouldn't hear a modern footballer commenting about the game on You and Yours now!
There are also tips for the cheapest ways to experience London for free: Punch and Judy shows, watching people "coolly spending thousands" at the auction rooms of Southeby's and Christies, fishing in the Royal Parks, or tucking into a kipper breakfast in Billingsgate Market.
In the next month we will add the other four programmes from the archive to this page. Just to whet your appetite we get to go behind the scenes at the fire brigade, hear about care homes for the elderly (where one woman discusses coming to terms with sharing a room with five other people!), and there's a discussion about whether it's possible to turn your children into geniuses by bringing them up in a special way! Enjoy!
Clare Walker is a producer on You & Yours
- Listen to today's telephone-themed episode of You & Yours on the Radio 4 web site and to Friday's fascinating look at forty years of You & Yours here.
- The picture shows page one of the script from the first episode of You & Yours. There are more pictures from Clare's visit to the Caversham archive on Flickr.