The first ten years

Studio 2 at Wembley photographed this month during a transmission of ‘Notre Ville’, a programme for second or third year students of French. This studio was converted for television from a film studio when the company took over the former 20th Century Fox premises at Wembley.


This website has been produced to mark the first annual report by our chairman, Mr John Spencer Wills, of Rediffusion Television Ltd, the successor of Associated-Rediffusion Ltd.

It is now appropriate to look back at some of the highlights from the past 10 dramatic years. This is done, not with a yearning for the past, but as an indication of all that we have put into the development in this country of television for public entertainment and information.

Nothing is so dead as last night’s programmes. (Naturally we are gratified when they bring us praise. Equally when we make mistakes – and we are human so we have made mistakes – then we aim to learn from them.) But if last night’s programmes, and last week’s, and last year’s, and the last decade’s show a willingness to tackle the challenge that our appointment offers, then they can be taken as an indication that those to come in the future will be of the same mettle.

We could have filled a dozen booklets this size with our memories, but we would prefer you only to flavour the past and to know that we intend the future to be even more rewarding to our public.

Scroll through the pages of ‘The First Ten Years’ to see how the years that have gone have equipped us with the experience and know-how to deal with the next ten years.

Rediffusion Television Ltd, Television House, Kingsway, London, W.C.2. HOLborn 7888

Wembley Studios, Wembley Park, Middlesex. WEMbley 8811.


1965 … current affairs, a State event, light entertainment and drama … four moments from a crowded year. 

Top left: Mr Ian Smith from Rhodesia, in the ‘This Week’ studio.

Top right: Studio 9 in Television House was the control room for the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill for which nine ITV companies provided men and equipment. Peter Morley (left) was the producer of this, the largest TV operation yet mounted in the United Kingdom. Graham Watts (right) was the senior director. Other Rediffusion personnel involved were Ray Dicks as executive producer, Basil Bultitude as engineer-in-charge, and Robert Everett in charge of administration.

Bottom left: Joan Hickson and Donald Sinden in ‘Our Man from St Mark’s’ [sic].

Bottom right: Diane Cilento and Gary Raymond in ‘Cut Yourself a Slice of Throat’ a story in the ‘Blackmail’ anthology series.

Five men and one woman with various awards

1965 … The Guild of Television Producers and Directors awards. Left to right: jeremy isaacs and the production team of ‘This Week’ received a Craft Award for the production of factual programmes; peter morley received a Craft Award for his work on ITV’s coverage of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral and for his documentary ‘L.S.O. – The Music Men’; alan badel, Actor of the Year, among the plays for which he received his award was Rediffusion’s ‘A Couple of Dry Martinis’; gwen watford, Actress of the Year, among the plays for which she received her award were the Rediffusion productions ‘Take Care of Madam’ and ‘The Rules of the Game’; charles squires, a Craft Award for documentary production for his work on ‘The Grafters’ and ‘Paradise Street’; cyril coke, a Craft Award for drama for his work on ‘Crime and Punishment’, ‘The Rules of the Game’ and ‘Four of Hearts – Tilt’. 

The Golden Star award winners

The Golden Star award winners

Outstanding creative contributions to the TV programmes of Rediffusion, London during the last year have been recognised by the Board of Directors. Four £1,000 Golden Star Awards have been made for the first time following a secret ballot. The winners who contributed to programmes produced by the company during the year ended October 31 are: 

Sound recordists Basil Rootes and Freddie Slade jointly (they receive £500 each) for their work on the sound recording for the documentary ‘The Grafters’ which dealt with street traders; Programme director and producer Cyril Coke for his work on ‘Crime and Punishment’ and for his production of the ‘Four of Hearts’ drama series starring Patrick Wymark;

Writer Robert Kee for his script for the ‘Children of Revolution’ Intertel documentary about young people growing up in Czechoslovakia and for his script contributions to ‘This Week’; Actress Philippa Gail for her part in ‘Summertime Ends Tonight’, the last play in the ‘Four of Hearts’ series (she appeared as Lyn, a 19-year-old girl with whom Patrick Wymark as a Q.C. fell in love).

Each were presented with their cheque and their Golden Star trophies (based on the company’s symbol and trade mark) by the chairman of Rediffusion Television Ltd., Mr. John Spencer Wills, at the company’s annual general meeting at Wembley Studios on Tuesday, November 16.

The Board decided last year to introduce the awards scheme to recognise outstanding contributions to the company’s programmes, based on personal viewing observations and opinions of the directors of the company.

They were assisted by a preliminary selection committee which considered nominations for the awards by members of the staff of Rediffusion, London. The members of this committee were: Mr. B. C. Sendall, C.B.E., deputy director general (programme services) of the Independent Television Authority;
Mr. Leonard Marsland Gander, television editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph’;
Mr. Clifford Davis, television editor of the ‘Daily Mirror’;
Mr. Paul Adorian, managing director;
Mr. John McMillan, general manager.

The classes in which the four awards were made were:

— staff in the fields of camera operation, engineering, filming, graphics, lighting makeup, scenery, sound, wardrobe or any other fields in which the exercise of special skills contributed to the success of a programme;
— a producer or a director;
— an author or composer;
— an actor, actress or other performer.

Philippa Gail

Robert Kee

Cyril Coke

Basil Rootes

Freddie Slade

Philippa Gail

Robert Kee

Cyril Coke

Philippa Gail starred with Patrick Wymark in ‘Summertime Ends Tonight’ in the ‘Four of Hearts’ series. Aged 23, went to the Webber Douglas Drama School at the age of 17. After two years, left to go into repertory at Chesterfield, Cheltenham and Guildford. Highlight was playing the lead in ‘Salad Days’ at Chesterfield. Three small parts in TV followed a year in repertory, then the film ‘This Is My Street’. Appeared in the ‘Triangle’ experimental TV drama series. Was in ‘Giants on Saturday’ and a ‘Riviera Police’ story for Rediffusion. Single, likes reading a lot. Lives in a Knightsbridge flat.

Robert Kee, writer. Born 1919. Served with Bomber Command as a Fit. Lt. during the war. Afterwards worked for the ‘Strand’ magazine and ‘Picture Post’. Started to freelance in 1951. Was ‘The Observer’s’ correspondent at the time of Suez. Also wrote feature articles for ‘The Sunday Times’. Became the literary editor of the ‘Spectator’ in 1957. Worked on feature programmes for BBC TV from 1958. Contributed first story to ‘This Week’ in November 1964. Also worked for Television Reporters International for two years on documentaries. Wrote and narrated script for Intertel documentary ‘Children of Revolution’ and has also visited Ethiopia, Vietnam, America. India and Rhodesia for ‘This Week’ during the past year.

Cyril Edward Rigby Coke, producer and director. Son of the late Edward Rigby, character actor, and Phyllis Austin, authoress. Served in Italy with Eighth Army during war. From 1946 to 1955 worked on films with Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat as assistant to the producers and casting director. Joined Rediffusion, London in April 1955. Has produced and directed more than 50 plays including ‘Dead on Nine’, ‘House of Lies’, ‘Darkness at Noon’, ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘Four of Hearts’. Married to Muriel Young, children’s programme presenter.

Basil Rootes

Freddie Slade

Basil Rootes, sound recordist. Born 1921. Served with Bomber Command during war as flight engineer. Went to Shepperton Studios in 1946 as a sound assistant. In 1950 became a freelance boom operator on feature films. Joined Rediffusion, London in 1956 as a sound recordist. Has travelled on documentary programmes all over the world. Notable programmes were ‘The Quiet War’ (Vietnam), ‘Living with a Giant’ (Canada), ‘America – on the edge of abundance’ and ‘America – the dollar poor’; the first two series of ‘Crane’ (Morocco) and ‘The Grafters’. Married with four children. Breeds pedigree dogs.

Freddie Slade, film dubbing mixer. Born 1919. Joined the Odeon cinema chain at the age of 15 as a page boy, then trainee projectionist. At 20 went to Denham film studios as a projectionist. When Denham closed down, he became a sound camera operator/recordist at Pinewood studios. Joined Rediffusion, London in February 1955, becoming an assistant dubbing mixer in 1956. Worked on dubbing the sound for such documentaries as ‘The Two Faces of Japan’ and ‘The Quiet War’. Has been responsible regularly for the sound dubbing on ‘This Week’ as well as ‘The Grafters’.

1955 – ten exciting months

Now back through the first ten years …


Never before in the world had a major television organisation started from scratch and got its programmes on the air in much under two years. In October, 1954, the contract for London’s weekday Independent Television programmes was awarded to Associated-Rediffusion Ltd, a combination of the resources of Associated Newspapers, The British Electric Traction Company and Rediffusion, the broadcast relay company. The first board meeting was at the end of November. That left 10 months before opening night on September 22, 1955. It couldn’t be done and if it were done it would be a flop said the Jeremiahs. It was done and it wasn’t a flop. Key personnel were recruited (January). Work started on altering the former 20th Century Fox studios at Wembley into TV studios (January). The lease of Adastral House, H.Q. of the Air Ministry since 1919 was obtained and the building renamed Television House (February). Future Productions Ltd was formed to make filmed programmes for the future (April). And from 4,000 applicants for jobs, 100 were picked for the first of two 10-week training courses at the Viking Studios (June). So right on time, on Wednesday, September 22, master control at Television House said ‘fade-up Guildhall’ and the joint opening night programme with Associated-Television was on the air. Next day, the company became the first to be responsible for a complete day’s Independent Television programmes. The start of ‘Take Your Pick’ and ‘Double Your Money’ right from the beginning attracted much publicity. Something else which did not attract so much attention was the formation of a special department of specialists to handle programmes for children. One of their creations was ‘Small Time’, which, like the quizzes, is still running.
Glenn Melvyn, Corinne Gray and Arthur Askey

1955… Arthur Askey, Glenn Melvyn and Corinne Gray appeared in ‘Love and Kisses’, a domestic comedy series. Other programmes during 1955 included a serial – ‘Sixpenny Corner’, 18th century melodrama – ‘The Granville Melodramas’, human problems with Godfrey Winn – ‘As Others See Us’, a feature series – ‘Our British Heritage’, talent spotting with Ralph Reader – ‘Chance of a Lifetime,’ a series on sport – ‘Cavalcade of Sport’, and ‘Dragnet’.

1956 – losses reach £3¼ million

1956 – losses reach £3¼ million

Pioneering proved to be a pretty unrewarding business financially. The lack of any other ITV area with whom to network, slowness in the conversion of sets to receive the ITV signals and caution over the new advertising medium in some circles, combined against the new arrival. By December, the chairman had to report to the company’s general meeting ‘substantial losses’. By the end of one year’s operations the company had lost £3¼ million.

Despite this, Associated-Rediffusion continued to set the pace. On January 6, a bright news magazine programme was launched to create a new standard in television journalism. It has been doing so ever since, for the name of this programme was ‘This Week’.

On the staff side, 1956 saw two major appointments – Paul Adorian was made managing director and John McMillan came in as controller of programmes. With Capt. T. M. Brownrigg as general manager, the management team was complete.

Then came a further major gamble. Losses were continuing to build up. Yet, such was the group’s faith in the outcome, a deal was concluded on August 23 with Associated Newspapers for British Electric Traction (on behalf of itself and Rediffusion) to buy four-fifths of the Associated Newspaper interest. Subsequently the remaining one-fifth was acquired.

In September, Studio 9 was opened in Television House. Little was it realised then that it would become the nerve centre for ITV’s coverage of general elections and Royal Weddings. Nor could anybody envisage how many of the world’s leading statesmen and politicians would appear before its cameras for ‘This Week’ and ‘Division’. Meanwhile, in February, the ITA’s Midland transmitter had gone on the air. This meant the setting up of networking with ATV. The audience was slowly growing and by October, a million sets could receive ITV programmes in the London area. But the losses mounted.

It was at this troubled time that the board – conscious of its responsibility to provide a comprehensive public service – took the decision to pioneer again by providing the first television programmes for schools in Britain and the Commonwealth.

‘A Show Called Fred’ pioneered in its own way in 1956. Among those in it were (left to right) Valentine Dyall, Graham Starke, Kenneth Connor and Peter Sellers, together with The Alberts (back and right). Spike Milligan added to the madness.

1957 – programmes for schools pioneered

1957 – programmes for schools pioneered

Despite the financial losses, there was no loss of the pioneering spirit. In February, an Education Advisory Council was set up to advise on schools programmes. The first of these was screened on May 13 under the banner ‘ITV goes to School’. Since then, the company has established the following ‘firsts’ in school broadcasting: the first science programme for primary school children (‘The World Around Us’, 1959); the first foreign language series (‘Chez les Dupre’, 1960); the first programmes for less able children (‘You and the World’, 1964); the first religious series (‘Crossroads’, 1964); and the first for infants (‘Finding Out’, 1964).

On September 19, 1957, the company also became the first to take out a £2 million policy on 2,000 guests. A galaxy of stars and distinguished members of the press, business and advertising worlds sailed down the Thames in a tribute to all those who had helped make the programmes of the first two years a success.

The company’s variety artists that year included Arthur Askey, The Crazy Gang, the Lyons family, Max Wall, Alfred Marks, Denis Lotis and Robert Dhéry. On the more serious side, the first screening of films made for television by the British Film Institute at the National Film Theatre in December included films made by the company’s features department.

There was a happier note at the second annual general meeting in November, when the chairman reported that the company was now operating ‘at a satisfactory profit’. Advertisement bookings were increasing and while the audience in 1955 had been under three-quarters of a million, it was now approaching 5½ million. The loss for the year was £1 million.

In 1957 Rediffusion gave 100 television sets to schools in the London area. Now 2,150 schools and colleges can receive transmissions in the area out of around 11,400 in the whole country. Here pupils at Greenhill Primary School, Harrow, watch a programme in the ‘Finding Out’ series.

1958 – to Russia (and elsewhere) with love


The company has always maintained that its job is to provide good programmes in every sphere of television entertainment without specialising, and 1958 provided some excellent examples.

In January a major documentary reached the screens after months of planning and research. Called ‘U.S.S.R. Now’, it was a 60-minute feature on Russian life. The night after transmission, it was screened again for M.P.s in the Grand Committee Room at Westminster Hall.

In contrast, the company had been screening a trend-setting light entertainment show of music and dance called ‘Cool for Cats’. Its director, Joan Kemp-Welch, was pronounced the best director of light entertainment by the Guild of Television Producers and Directors. Drama came into the spotlight in September, when ‘Women in Love’, a series of four plays with leading European actresses, was screened. On the news magazine front, a ‘This Week’ feature on American tourists in Britain was declared the best foreign production by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Hollywood. Finally, 1958 saw ‘Macbeth’ produced especially for schools … ‘Twelfth Night’ (1959), ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ (1960), ‘Arms and the Man’ (1961), ‘Hamlet’ (1961), ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (1962), ‘Medea’ (1963) and ‘Playboy of the Western World’ (1964) were to follow.

The entertainment as well as the education of children was not neglected. Indeed they were combined. In this year, it was decided to give children’s programmes a magazine flavour and ‘Lucky Dip’ was created for the network. As the years passed, the format for the magazine programme has changed to the ‘Five O’Clock’ series. Also introduced in 1958 were specially written dramas for children.

In 1958, too, the company was consolidating its policy of helping others. In March, scholarships were set up for pupils of the Central School of Speech and Drama, while in June £5,000 was given to the Friends of the Tate Gallery. The scholarships and gifts to the arts and sciences have continued ever since.

In July the shareholders received their first reward for their courage in supporting what the chairman had previously described as either a wild gamble or an act of faith.

Harold Macmillan visited the ‘This Week’ studios in 1958 to add his name to the long list of world figures who have appeared in the programme.

A scene from one of the six stories dealing with ‘Women in Love’ transmitted on Wednesday, September 24, 1958. George Sanders was the story-teller for this two-hour programme which marked the company’s third anniversary.

1959 – ballet, opera and crime


The company’s confidence in the future (despite having Pilkington round the corner) was demonstrated in May, 1959, when Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, then chairman of the ITA, laid the foundation stone of Studio 5 at Wembley. This million pound project was to give Associated-Rediffusion the largest studio built for television in the world.

The company’s willingness to try new things was further demonstrated during the year. In March, there was ‘Tyranny – the Years of Adolf Hitler’, a documentary which pioneered new techniques. From May 29 to June 14, the company screened an hour’s programmes over the Portuguese television network each night during a British Trade Fair in Portugal. In August, ‘London Morning’, a new musical by Noel Coward, was presented by London’s Festival Ballet. In September, there were new schools programmes for sixth forms and primary schools. On October 7, there was ‘Gala’, featuring Alicia Markova, Jose Iturbi, Maria Callas, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Tito Gobi. Then in December came Benjamin Britten’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’, the first full-length opera on ITV.

The year 1959 has also been described as a vintage year for series programmes. From other companies there was ‘Probation Officer’, ‘Four Just Men’, ‘Rawhide’, ‘Johnny Staccato’ and ‘The Deputy’. From Associated-Rediffusion, on September 16, Scotland Yard had a powerful addition to its ranks. Lockhart set out to prove that for murderers, thieves and gangsters, there was ‘No Hiding Place’.

‘The Turn of the Screw’, Christmas, 1959. Left to right: Janette Miller as Flora, Tom Bevan as Miles, Judith Pierce as the housekeeper and Jennifer Vyvyan as the governess.

1960 – the world and studio 5 opened up


At the 10th anniversary banquet of ITV, September, 1965, the Prime Minister, Mr Harold Wilson, pointed out that in 1939 a British Prime Minister had referred to Czechoslovakia as ‘that far away country of which we know nothing’ but that television now meant familiarity with the problems of Vietnam, Kashmir and Dominica. Back in 1960, Associated-Rediffusion had recognised this fact when the company had originated the idea of Intertel – an International Television Federation – to promote wider understanding of world problems. In November that year, broadcasting organisations in America, Canada and Australia – the major English-speaking countries of the world – united with Associated-Rediffusion to make and exchange documentaries with this aim in mind.

But entertainment and drama programmes generally require studios and in June the company’s directors and technicians were given the best equipped (and largest) studio in the world when the 14,000 sq. ft Studio 5 was opened at Wembley.

Before this, on March 22, British viewers were treated to something new in the way of television drama. It was called ‘The Birthday Party’ and its author was Harold Pinter. On July 21, they saw more of Pinter with ‘Night School’.

In September, ‘Rawhide’ was topping the ratings and ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ was captivating an average of 4,231.000 homes for Associated-Rediffusion.

In November, the high standard of the company’s sets for television productions was recognised by the Guild of Television Producers and Directors nominating Fredric Pusey the best television designer of the year.

In December, 1960, managing director Paul Adorian became the first Briton to be made a Fellow of the Institute of Radio Engineers of the United States. Also in that month chairman John Spencer Wills opened an extension of the Rose Bruford Training College of Speech and Drama. On the programme side at the end of the year, there was the Western ‘Wagon Train’ attracting floods of fan mail, the drama series ‘Somerset Maugham Hour’ attracting the country’s leading actors and actresses and the documentary ‘The Two Faces of Japan’ attracting ‘rave’ reviews.

‘Wagon Train’

‘The Birthday Party’

1961 – an ominous forecast and colour


‘Boiling up inside this little country is a situation that could make the quiet war into a loud war, shattering all our eardrums.’ … These words were used by the scriptwriter about the company’s first contribution to the Intertel series. It was called ‘The Quiet War’ and was transmitted in May, 1961. The subject was Vietnam.

Nor were domestic topics neglected, for in January ‘This Week’, which regularly brought the facts of life at home and abroad to the British public, entered its sixth year and so became the longest-running regular current affairs programme on British television.

Nor, indeed, were the staff neglected. In February, the company’s house magazine. Fusion, which is run by the staff for the staff, was placed first in its class in the world contest run by the International Council of Industrial Editors. Nor was adult education neglected. During the first half of 1961 ‘Chez les Dupré’ became the first adult education series to be transmitted in London. It was watched by nearly two million people a week.

In March, there was massive praise for ‘Laudes Evangelii’, a choreographic play in music and mime depicting the life of Christ. Also in March, ‘Jim’s Inn’, the most famous of all the advertising magazines, notched its 200th performance.

May saw Television Audience Measurement reporting that the London ITV audience had passed the nine million mark, and another Harold Pinter play – ‘The Collection’.

General manager, Tom Brownrigg, had created a motto for the company to live up to. It was ‘never baffled’. And in June, 1961, the staff were not baffled when they became involved in the first regular series of radio broadcasts by an ITV company. These were made from Television House to Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica during the West Indies Constitutional Conference.

To underline this ability to tackle anything – and to learn for the future – the staff mounted their own revue in Studio 5 in December, televised it in colour and screened the results nearby for other members of the staff to study.

‘The Quiet War’

1962 – ‘Laudes’ goes coast-to-coast


Music featured prominently in the highlights of 1962.

In January, the Hallé Orchestra, in conjunction with Associated-Rediffusion, gave the first major orchestral concert in the new Guildford Cathedral. Then in April came two triumphs for the music and mime production of ‘Laudes Evangelii’. It won first prize in the drama section of the Fifth Roman Catholic Television Festival and it won a coast-to-coast screening on CBS in the United States. A different form of music – that of a hot gospelling negro company – was featured in ‘Black Nativity’, a religious programme transmitted on Christmas Day, 1962.

In the summer, something new in the shape of international communications flashed across the sky. Telstar had arrived and naturally Associated-Rediffusion took part in the first British transmission via this satellite on July 10.

Something new in the shape of programming came, too, when the Piraikon Greek Tragedy Theatre Company’s production of ‘Electra’, in Greek, was screened on November 28

The previous month Giles Cooper’s adaptation of Constantine Fitzgibbon’s novel, ‘When the Kissing Had to Stop’ hit the screen in two parts on October 16 and 19.

Some new ideas had also hit the world of industrial publishing and this was recognised when the company’s house magazine, Fusion, was given the award for the best designed house magazine in the country by the British Association of Industrial Editors.

‘Laudes Evangelii’ featured The Ballets Européens, The Glyndebourne Festival Chorus and the Sinfonia of London.

‘Electra’ had Aspassia Papathanassiou as Electra. The number of viewers who saw this programme in Greek would have filled the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, for three years.

Top: ‘Black Nativity’ told the Christmas story and the spreading of the Word in mime and dance.

Bottom: ‘When the Kissing Had to Stop’. Left to right – Douglas Wilmer as the Prime Minister, Alan Wheatley as a member of the Establishment and Barbara Murray as a leading actress.

1963 – ‘The Lover’ scoops the pool


This was the year when Harold Pinter’s ‘The Lover’ won more awards than any other television play. It had had a background of controversy when it was screened on March 28, but there was no controversy among the judges in September when they awarded it the Prix Italia for TV drama in Naples. Then came the deliberations of the Guild of Television Producers and Directors . . . best script of the year – Harold Pinter; best actress of the year – Vivien Merchant; best actor of the year – Alan Badel – all for ‘The Lover’. On top of that, Joan Kemp-Welch, who directed the production, won the award for the most outstanding creative work. In addition, Peter Morley and Cyril Bennet, joint producers of ‘This Week’ at that time, won the award for the best production of a factual series. There were plenty of other excitements in 1963. They began on January 9, with the play ‘Darkness at Noon’ about which one critic wrote: ‘I have seldom seen the talents of cast, camera work and thought working so well together on television to mix horror and compassion so vividly’. This was followed by ‘Black Nativity’ winning a special U.N.D.A. award at the Monte Carlo Festival. The citation said: ‘The ecstatic performance given by the artists was made possible by brilliant camera work, lighting and choreography’.

In June, the documentary ‘One Man’s Hunger’, made as a contribution to the World Freedom from Hunger campaign, was shown to delegates at the World Food Congress in Washington.

Then on August 9, a new type of programme crashed into life to bawl lustily from the start. ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ had arrived to give television debuts to such groups and singers as The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Donovan, Manfred Mann, Dusty Springfield (as a solo artist), Marianne Faithfull and Lulu.

Next an audience of no less than 250 million had a chance to hear British voices raised in a different way when Associated-Rediffusion’s cameras covered the England v. the Rest of the World soccer match at Wembley in October for the match was relayed to 23 European countries. Finally at the end of the year, Capt. T. M. Brownrigg retired as general manager and John McMillan took over.

Alan Badel and Vivien Merchant in a scene from Harold Pinter’s ‘The Lover’.

‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ continued the pioneering trend set by earlier programmes such as ‘Cool for Cats’. Most of this country’s, and indeed the world’s, leading pop groups and solo artists have appeared on it. Left – Freddie and the Dreamers; top – the Applejacks; bottom – The Rolling Stones.

1964 – Rediffusion, London arrives


The new contracts with the ITA were made and it was decided to form a new company to take over the television assets of Associated-Rediffusion Ltd which was wound up. The new company was called Rediffusion Television Ltd. In this year – on April 6 – a new name for on-screen and publicity purposes was adopted – Rediffusion, London.

All this was swiftly followed by something new in educative programmes. ‘Towards 2000 – the Britain We Make’ traced scientific and technological progress from the age of Shakespeare, through the present and into the future.

A documentary, an entertainment show and a play followed to demonstrate the versatility of the staff of Rediffusion, London. The documentary was ‘Black Marries White’ and it took third place in TAM’s top 10 for the week, being seen in 7,606,000 homes on April 29. The entertainment show was ‘Around the Beatles’ on June 8. This programme helped the dollar reserves by being seen coast-to-coast in the United States in November. Then ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ on June 24 achieved the largest audience yet for a Shakespeare play on British television when it was seen in 3,855,000 homes. One critic described it as ‘the most profoundly satisfying dramatic experience given by television.’

To encourage these diverse talents shown by the staff, the Board set up a ‘Golden Star Awards’ scheme on November 1, under which the staff themselves could nominate for awards those who work on exceptional programmes.

To end the year, there were two more major programmes of contrast. Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ was transmitted on November 16, while Tommy Steele’s ‘Richard Whittington Esq’ went out over Christmas.

Above: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – (left to right) Alfie Bass as Flute, Benny Hill as Bottom, Arthur Hewlett as Snug. Bill Shine as Starveling. Miles Malleson as Quince and Bernard Bresslaw as Snout. The play was the company’s contribution to Shakespeare’s quarter-centenary. Below: The Beatles appeared in this scene from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ when ‘Around the Beatles’ was screened.

1966? Not for publication – yet


An empty studio, a disconnected sound boom and three cameras with caps over their lens – all symbolic for it would not be wise yet to talk about the programmes to be televised by the cameras in 1966. One thing is sure – the studio and its equipment will rarely be seen like this.