Tag: Saturday Night Theatre

‘This is the West of England Home Service…’

‘This is the West of England Home Service.’ Three voices, familiar to listeners in the Forest of Dean and the Channel Islands, in Penzance and Swindon, in Weymouth and Southampton. Daily the three announcers of the BBC’s West Region — Hugh Shirreff, Elsie Otley, and Douglas Vaughan — identify over the air the programmes which originate in the west country. Concerts, plays, and features, talks, news bulletins, church services, broadcasts from farm and factory and village hall, programmes for children: a complete radio service in miniature, reflecting the life of seven English counties and the bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey.

‘This is the West of England Home Service.’

‘THIS IS THE WEST OF ENGLAND HOME SERVICE’ – Douglas Vaughan launches a West Region programme on the air.

But what exactly, from the listener’s point of view, do those words mean? What have they got to do with the London programme and the other Regions, with the Light Programme and the Third? Which broadcasts are ‘regional’ and what is the point of them? The answer given by West Region’s Controller, Gerald Beadle, is that the regional contribution is ‘one thread in the whole pattern of British broadcasting’. A thread which adds distinctive colour and emphasis, is insufficient to stand by itself, but gives richness and variety to the whole.

How then is the pattern made up, and where do the several threads fit in? British broadcasting starts as a national service. London, as the capital and cultural focus of the country, originates a continuous service of programmes intended to have a nation-wide appeal, to be as intelligible and pleasing to Yorkshiremen and Cornish-men as to Highlanders or men of Kent. Saturday Night Theatre and Twenty Questions and ITMA are designed for all listeners who have in common the simple fact of being British (or, wider still, of understanding the English language). This London programme is fed out to a network of Home Service transmitters throughout the United Kingdom. With its allied Services, the Light and the Third, it is the staple of Home listening.

But it is not enough to satisfy all our needs. Few people are content to be undifferentiated ‘British’ all the time. We each have our national interests and our local interests. We want sometimes to be Scotsmen and Welshmen and north-countrymen. Even if we look a bit standardized it is no use pretending that a ‘Geordie’, a Cornishman, and a ‘Norfolk dumpling’ have identical ideas and hobbies and interests.

‘GIVE US SOME TONE, SOUTHAMPTON’ – Testing lines with outside broadcast engineers in the region. Hour by hour Bristol Control Room feeds out programmes to the transmitters.

Bristol’s Engineer-in-Charge, Gerald Daly.

As the ‘national’ programme spreads out from London, therefore, it is modified and adapted to local audiences. The thread of regional broadcasting is woven into the final pattern. In each region the programme planners discard those items in the national service which are of least value locally and replace them with regional material. If they plan well, they offer their listeners a blend of national and local interest—neither insipidly cosmopolitan nor narrowly parochial.

And so through the day the Control Room engineers switch to and fro, from the London ‘pipe-line’ to local studios in Bristol or Plymouth, or to outside points where West Region engineers have set up temporary microphones. The transmitters at Start Point and Clevedon and Bartley take up the result and spread it from Portsmouth to the Scillies. And what comes out of your radio when you tune to 307 or 217 is the West of England Home Service, addressed to you as a Briton and a westcountryman — as both.

Beyond the West

‘HELLO CHILDREN’ – Mollie Austin, organizer of West Region’s Children’s Hour.

Granted that west-country folk have a special interest in the subject-matter and the talents of their own region — is no-one else interested? Does the West of England Home Service address itself only to the listeners of the West? To that the answer is no, and a more emphatic and comprehensive No than is generally realized. West Region is not designed as a sort of Robinson Crusoe’s island, living to itself alone. Though some local affairs are rightly and truly of only local interest, there are others which have a wider currency. We have our distinctive contribution to make to the national audience, and to audiences overseas. Scarcely a day passes without a request from other departments of the BBC and from overseas broadcasting organizations. Saturday Night Theatre wants Bristol to contribute the play in week 17. Radio News Reel wants this morning’s Plymouth recordings. An American network is asking for a thirty-minute feature on the New Forest. The BBC’s European Service wants to see the script of the Tuesday Talk and hopes recordings are available. Overseas Programme Planners are placing County Mixture in Week 19 — publicity material for this urgently wanted. Looking at Britain wants to include Bodmin Moor and the Isle of Purbeck in its next series — can West Region undertake these?

MAKING FRIENDS WITh THE MIKE – In the Plymouth studios two children settle down before taking part in a hook-up broadcast with the United States.

WILTSHIREMAN and broadcaster, author of the Children’s Hour ‘Cowleaze Farm’ series, speaker in ‘Bird Song of the Month’, and farming journalist, Ralph Whitlock looks as he sounds, a friendly countryman.

And so it goes on, this ‘export’ business of which you will find no sign in your West of England edition of Radio Times. In addition to catering for its own audience, West Region is increasingly busy as a clearing-house for West-country personalities, artists, ideas. Whatever is outstanding in the West is disseminated abroad. This is indeed the national justification of a regional system of broadcasting — that it brings to a wide audience much that would otherwise have gone unnoticed or been imperfectly developed. We tell the story of the West, and present its people, to the world. Recordings made on Exmoor may revive holiday memories for a Londoner, and introduce an American to a beauty-spot of the English countryside which he will later visit as a tourist; while the sound of Exmoor voices may bring the loved atmosphere of his home to an Exmoor man in Kenya or Sydney or Athens.

‘MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK’ was played today by the West Country Studio Orchestra, conducted by Norman Brooks.

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