The Story of the Light

Ep 1/2

Monday 18 September



Ahead of Radio 2’s 50th birthday on 30 September, Paul O’Grady takes a look at life before Radio 2 with the first of a two-part series on the history of The Light Programme.

The Story Of The Light looks back at more than 20 years of ground-breaking variety from 1945 to 1967 – a time when comedy and light entertainment mixed with music and drama to create a truly British take on the post-war world.

Two Way Family Favourites, Housewives Choice, Dick Barton, Hancock’s Half Hour, ITMA – It’s That Man Again, and Mrs Dales Diary were among the seminal gems that graced the airwaves in those halcyon times. Among those remembering their part in the story are Dame June Whitfield, Judith Chalmers, Nicholas Parsons, Petula Clark, Pete Murray and the late Brian Matthew in his last interview before he died. Others remembering the Light with affection include Dame Esther Rantzen and Denis Norden and the late Paul Hollingdale who became the first voice on Radio 2.

Paul O’Grady says: “We’re looking back at the way we were. Taking you back to a time when wireless meant tuning a dial on a wooden box filled with glowing valves, to find a world of great orchestras, unforgettable voices and timeless comedy. And just wait till you hear Esther Rantzen sing the various theme tunes!’

In episode one, Denis Norden talks about a shared sense of relief after the war and the new wave of comedy that followed, including Take It From Here, the BBC’s first ever sitcom. Paul remembers how a ventriloquist’s dummy became a huge hit on the radio, Dame Esther recalls listening to Ray’s a Laugh, Judith Chalmers tells listeners what it was like to present the iconic show Two Way Family Favourites, and we find out how children’s entertainment thrived on ‘The Light’. Meanwhile, singer Petula Clark remembers how she’d rush home from school to hear Dick Barton Special Agent, Tony Blackburn reminisces about Journey into Space and the programme looks at the emergence of great comedies like Hancock’s Half Hour and the Goon Show.

Presenter: Paul O’Grady
Producers: Derek Webster and Ashley Byrne for Made in Manchester

BBC Radio 2 Publicity