FORTY YEARS AT THE BBC
Jim Lloyd. Reproduced by permission. Not to be reproduced elsewhere without the
written permission of the copyright holders.
evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming. It’s a pleasure to be with
you but I have to start with a confession. Jim and I have called this
entertainment “Forty Years at the BBC”. Actually it was only thirty-nine and a
bit but somehow thirty-nine and a bit years at the BBC doesn’t have the same
ring to it so I hope you’ll forgive our little exaggeration.
Yes – thirty-nine
and a bit years… during which I rose from a clerk-typist to the Controller of
the Station of the Year – BBC Radio 2 – and I did this with no visible means of
support other than six O Levels and a swimming certificate.
months before Frances retired she received the Basca Gold Award for services to
popular music. The citation from Liz Forgan – then Managing Director, BBC Radio
Line has been more than the Controller of Radio Two. She has been its heart,
its soul and its voice. The knowledge of popular music Frances carries round in
her head is a benchmark for programme makers and presenters. All of us at BBC
Radio salute Frances’ contribution to musical life in Britain”
This is an
extract from a listener’s letter which I received a few days later:
Boiler. So now we know why we have to suffer such awful programmes. It’s all
been so you can get an award.
It’s a pity
you don’t produce the programmes most of us want.
and good music. Both are in short supply on Radio Two thanks to your rotten
taste. You are bloody useless”
To go back
to the very beginning:
On 20thAugust 1957 Frances received a letter from a BBC Establishment Officer:
We have pleasure in offering you a post on the unestablished Staff as a
Grade S.3 Shorthand Typist at a salary of Six Pounds Thirteen Shillings per
week. When you are regarded as fully capable of undertaking secretarial duties
on your own initiative and have passed the Proficiency Test you will be
eligible for promotion to Grade S.4.
Test in Shorthand and Typing was almost her downfall. A month after she joined
the BBC a report on Frances’ progress read:
A steady worker who wastes no time in getting down to a job and turns
out neat material though her speeds are not very high.
just a small selection from the memos about Frances’ Proficiency Test. They are
still on file at the BBC.
1958 her Establishment Officer reported:
Miss Line tells me that she does not, at the moment, feel qualified to
take the Proficiency Test. She will let me know when she wishes to do so.
26thSeptember. From Head of Training School to Establishment Officer:
This is to confirm that owing to illness Miss Line missed the second
part of her Proficiency Test. She will be attending next Thursday.
5thOctober. From Head of Training School to Frances Line.
The results of the Proficiency Test for Junior Secretaries are now
available – I very much regret to tell you that you were not successful.
9thOctober. Establishment Officer to Head of Training.
Thank you for your report of Miss Line’s recent Proficiency Test – she
was not surprised at her failure.
December. Frances Line to Establishment Officer.
I should be very grateful if you would arrange for me to re-take the
parts of my Proficiency Test which I failed at my first attempt. And there’s a
little addendum here. Please note that I am taking Bisque Leave on Tuesday, 9thDecember.
should explain what Bisque leave is.
Bisque is a
wonderful word, it actually comes from the game of croquet and it means “a free
shot”. In BBC terms it’s an odd day’s leave that you can take at short notice.
It was explained to me that it saved killing off your Auntie Flo every time you
wanted a day off for Christmas shopping.
to the saga:
17thFebruary. Establishment Officer to Head of Training.
Miss Line was most grateful for the Test Papers and I will let you know
when she wishes to have another attempt after further practice.
finally, the great day arrived – 14th June 1959. Head of Training to
The results of the Proficiency Tests for Junior Secretaries which you
took on 22nd September 1958, 2nd October 1958, 27thJanuary 1959 and 9th June 1959 are now available and I am glad to
tell you that you have Passed.
week her money went up to 9-5s-6d.
overnight success, but I got there in the end. In a BBC bristling with
graduates, I was almost always the odd one out. In the end I was running the
most popular station in the country yet I was the only Network Controller
without a degree. That’s not something I’m particularly proud of, by the way, I
just feel that my lack of higher education meant I was able to identify with
ordinary listeners. Largely I liked what they liked and that made the task of
commissioning hundreds of programmes a year that bit easier.
One of the
extraordinary things about Radio 2 is its breadth of appeal. On the one hand, I
am reliably informed that the Queen Mother favours Radio 2 – and on the other
we have many captive listeners. Among them the notorious Kray Twins who confessed
to being listeners in the News of the
Reggie Kray who wrote:
love to listen to Radio Two. We’ve learned to appreciate another side of life.
One of my favourites is Colin Berry of Radio Two… He’s a nice fellah.”
Reggie still listens, because he’s regularly in correspondence with Colin
Berry, and has quite firm views about Radio 2.
we should start at the beginning and share with you how Frances came to join
born in Croydon in 1940 and spent her early years in nearby Norbury, attending
Winterbourne Primary School where the school motto is – VINCAM:
Winterbourne Frances went on to James Allen’s Girls School in Dulwich, known to
the inmates as JAGS. She was a scholarship girl, the first to be accepted from
learned that JAGS girls were a breed apart. Hand-reared by dedicated staff who
placed as much emphasis on social graces as on academic achievement, they were
taught to mind their manners, to stand up straight and to speak properly.
that when the Queen visited Dulwich we were made to rehearse discreet “Hurrahs”
– JAGS girls didn’t shout “hooray”. It was common.
I’m sure we
all look back on our school days and the teachers who influenced us then. I
always remember my challenging relationship with the biology teacher, Miss
Fogg. She was given to telling little jokes which I didn’t find amusing and
instead of smiling pleasantly like a good JAGS girl, it was my habit to fix her
with a beady eye and solemn stare. One day she could stand it no longer. Taking
me aside she chided me for my “damned supercilious expression” which she warned
me would win me no friends in later life.
nearly ruined my career. In later life, when faced with a hundred and fifty
mutinous staff, my “damned supercilious expression” was often all that stood
between me and disaster!
time came to leave JAGS there was no thought of University for Frances. Miss
Skinner, who doubled Geography and Careers, suggested that she should
capitalise on her limited ability to draw neat maps and seek work in the
But by this
time she had decided what she was going to do.
I was going
to become a star of musical comedy.
ballet and piano lessons had gone to my head. In addition, I was a regular
visitor to seaside concert parties here in Eastbourne which I thought were wonderful. My family and I used to stay
here every summer with my Auntie Belle and Uncle Ernest in Windermere Crescent,
just off Seaside. The house is still there.
In fact I
made my first stage appearance here in Eastbourne. Perhaps you saw me? It was
in the theatre on the pier. I was the little girl who beat all the other
children up on to the stage to help Sandy Powell bake the magic cake.
Pier was followed by visits to theatres like Croydon Grand and Streatham Hill
Theatre where she got really bitten by the show business bug. And then one
evening her father asked Frances what she wanted to do when she left school. He
got an unwelcome surprise.
“I want to
go into Show Business, Dad” I cried and I leaped up, positioned myself in front
of the fireplace and treated my startled parents to an unaccompanied rendition
of “Some Enchanted Evening”.
enchanted evening – you may see a stranger – you may see a stranger across a
crowded room… “
a wily old Bank Manager, considered this proposition for a while. “What we
need, old Poppy” he said, “is SHOW BUSINESS WITH A PENSION.”
It had to
be the BBC. We wrote off and got one of those marvellous forms that asks so
many questions that it takes several hours to complete. It was more like
joining MI5 than going into Show Business.
actually started with the Corporation in 1957 but when she first presented
herself for interview she was still at school and arrived at Portland Place in
her school hat, gloves in hand and sensible shoes on feet. A shiny-faced sixteen-year-old,
devoid of make-up and not a bit like today’s confident young adults – but when
asked how she saw her long-term future Frances replied that one day she hoped
to be a producer.
provoked much mirth in the lady who was asking the questions. She made copious
notes and ended with a one-line summary. As she turned away for a moment to
answer the phone I used my highly developed skill for reading upside-down
(vital to all who would make their way in the BBC) and saw it read “A NICE TYPE
OF GEL ”. That was enough to get me in and I joined the BBC convinced that I
was entering show business.
it. She spent her early days in a building with the Dickensian name of Bentinck
House, Bolsover Street, filling out orders for bibs and braces for BBC firemen
and typing out records of disciplinary interviews with drunken commissionaires.
It was one
such record of an interview that found my spelling wanting. One New Year’s Eve
a BBC commissionaire had celebrated too well, had swung a punch at his manager
and sworn at him – all this on BBC premises. This had to be documented –
complete with verbatim quotes.
sent for me to take dictation. It appeared the commissionaire had told his
manager to “Bugger Off”. In those days, “NICE TYPES OF GELS” didn’t hear such
words and – in order not to embarrass me – my boss wrote that bit down in his
unreadable scrawl. I sent back the finished work with the offending word spelt
B-U-G-G-A-R and had to type it all over again.
days it paid to know how to spell. There were no word processors then and no Tipp-Ex.
It was all carbons, flimsies and good old fashioned erasers that made holes in
Frances ever got to a programme in her first year was despatching contracts for
potted palms for recordings of Grand
privately Frances was always in the studios. She has discovered something
called The Ticket Unit which doled out free tickets for audience shows and –
rain or shine – Frances was always first in the queue at the Paris, the
Playhouse or the Concert Hall… all famous BBC studios at the time.
It was also
around this time that Frances made her debut on Television. You may remember
seeing her. You don’t… Give them a clue, Frances.
Got it now?
Yes – in the audience of 6.5. special.
points, over the points, over the points, over the points…
The 6.5. Special’s coming down the line, the 6.5. Special right on time…”
Saturday Frances was to be seen hand-jiving at the feet of Wally Whyton,
Josephine Douglas and Pete Murray.
were the days, in my circular skirt with all the stiff petticoats underneath.
And my stilettos. I loved them and I’ve still got them.
wouldn’t have done for the office though.
days there was a strict dress code for women at the BBC.
trousers, never mind jeans! Skirts or dresses only – and they had to be of a
knelt down, they had to touch the floor and from time to time we were sent for
to do just that – to kneel and have our hemlines checked!
years later when I was Head of Radio 2’s Music Department, we had a heat wave
and the girls were coming into the office in the skimpiest tank tops and shorts
which revealed yards of leg. When I suggested that this wasn’t quite right
attire for the office, one of them complained to the Evening Standard and I found myself starring in a large article
about draconian measures at the BBC!
It was a
very different BBC in the fifties. Here’s a memo from 1959. It’s from a
producer to Frances’ Personnel Officer:
for lending me Frances Line last week.”
He made me
sound like a library book.
“She is intelligent,
adaptable, unfussy, has a poise beyond her years and ornaments the office.”
And I never
DREAMED of complaining to the Evening Standard!
days, Secretaries were seen and not heard and they addressed their bosses as
“Mister” – which they invariably were. The occasional women had scaled the
ladder during the war while the men were away but in the peaceful fifties they
were not considered to have set any precedents. They simply worked their allotted
span – and retired – to be replaced by fresh-faced young male graduates.
I escaped from Administration and netted a job as a Production secretary in the
old Light Programme.
more like it! I spent some time as second secretary on The Navy Lark and even did a short stint on the Billy Cotton Band Show.
At least I
was in show business! I watched the other – very senior and experienced
Secretaries – talking to the artists and calling some of them by their first
names. I thought I’d give it go.
vocalists with the Billy Cotton Band were Alan Breeze and Cathy Kaye and I
thought she looked the more approachable. “May I get you a cup of coffee,
Cathy?” I ventured. She looked me up and down. “It’s Miss Kaye to you”. So much
for show business.
Frances became Secretary to a man you may have heard of – Brian Matthew. In
those days he was a BBC Producer.
Secretary she clicked her stopwatch on the pop programmes of the day – Saturday Club and Easy Beat – and even worked on a series with the Beatles.
regret to say that when an eager young researcher from Radio 1 pumped me for my
memories for “The Beatles Story” all I could remember about those superstars
was that they made paper darts out of my carefully typed scripts and threw them
at each other. I resented it deeply!
not only have I got my stilettos but I’ve also got all my diaries across the
years and I checked the entries for the Beatles period certain that I would
find some amazing anecdotes. No such luck. Listen to this.
3rd April 1963
Worked with the Beatles all day. Then Terry [current boyfriend] took me for a drive in Dulwich Park where I
had a nose bleed so we had to come home.
June 1st 1963
Went to the studio for Beatles recordings. Very
busy in the office. Very rushed lunch. Changed the ribbon on my typewriter –
what an effort.
Well – so
much for the Beatles… second string to a typewriter ribbon!
But back to
enjoyed working for Brian Matthew who – very unusually – not only produced
programmes but presented them too. This meant that he was kept very busy –
often trying to be in two places at once (behind the microphone and in the
sound cubicle) and this provided her with ample opportunities to offer to take
over some of his workload.
gained his confidence, he would, when particularly pressed, let me do things
which weren’t really part of the Secretary’s job – like talking to the artists
about what they were going to sing and picking the occasional record for the
programme. I loved that of course – it was very exciting for a star-struck twenty-year-old
– and followed him round watching his every move – just waiting and hoping for
him to delegate something!
really where I learned my skills, and I remember that on my twenty-first
birthday – 22nd February 1961 – which was a Wednesday and an Easy Beat recording night – that Brian
actually let me cast the whole show. That was a big thrill and I pored over the
list of artists for hours – trying to be veryprofessional and dispassionate in my selection…. although I was able to use one
of my favourite groups – Kenny Ball’s Jazzmen – as they were topping the charts
at the time.
in our relationship, Brian gave me my first broadcast. All week long I studied
the script and when the great day arrived stood at the microphone like a
seasoned professional. Perhaps you heard me. It went like this: “Ere, Mum, it’s
the Easy Beat Man”.
exciting, wasn’t it? Let’s ask her to do it again so we get the full flavour…
it’s the Easy Beat Man”.
JIM: A star
Frances rose through the Secretarial grades in radio but the time came when she
could go no further. There was no prospect of a mere Secretary becoming a
Producer. Frances had rather boldly put up one or two programme ideas which
caused a mild flutter at her audacity but there were no takers. So she took
herself off to television and became a Producer’s Assistant in Light
worked on musical programmes and some light dramas. My claim to fame from those
days is that I was the PA on the first ever edition of Top of the Pops. We brought the Rolling Stones live to the nation,
from a converted church in Manchester – with camera one going up and down the
should explain what a PA does in television. Of course there’s all the usual
administrative work such as making sure all the artists are contracted, booking
the studios, making the travel arrangements, typing the camera scripts,
ordering slides and captions, checking all the names on the closing roller, but
most important of all is the studio work.
The PA sits
next to the Director in the gallery, looking at anything up to a dozen
television screens – one for each camera, others for film, video and so on, and
the most important of all which is ‘studio output’ – or what the viewer sees.
the Director is watching the overall picture, it’s the PA who calls the shots –
telling the camera men and floor manager what the viewer is seeing on the
screen and lining up the next picture. All the cameras have numbers so you
address the cameramen by their numbers…. camera one, two etc. That sounds
pretty simple but what you have to remember is that while the PA is calling the
shots on a live programme – all hell is breaking loose!
you have to shout – something like this:
three – two next for the close-up – stand by four for the long shot, clear one…”
pretty used to this by the time I came to work on a programme which is very
much a part of television history – Juke
remember that, with David Jacobs and “Hello there. Tell us panel – is it a Hit
or a Miss?” I was the PA on that for quite a while at a time when the series
was used as a training ground for new young Directors. As the resident PA, I had
to hold their hand while they got their first experience of a real, live
programme. It was pretty hairy at times, I can tell you!
Through Juke Box Jury I met all sorts and I
particularly remember one fresh faced youth who came to the BBC straight from university
with a degree in biology. I took him through the rudiments of directing the
show and we became firm friends.
was Jim Moir and thirty years later I found myself taking him through the
rudiments of running Radio 2, because he succeeded me as Controller.
exciting times and I moved around quite a bit from show to show…. some of them
very famous in their time. For instance I worked on Z-Cars then on the P.G. Wodehouse series Blandings Castle which starred Ralph Richardson as Lord Emsworth.
He was quite marvellous and tended to turn up for filming on his motor bike! We
filmed it at Penshurst Place and feared for his safety daily – the Producer was
always relieved when the last shot was in the can!
From time to
time I had to telephone P.G. Wodehouse himself at his home in America and there
were very strict rules about that. He was a great soap opera fan and there was
a little list of times on the wall when he would or wouldn’t take calls.
Certainly he would brook no interruption during the American equivalent of East Enders!
television was exciting and full of variety. I had a great time on a series
called Meet The Wife which starred
Thora Hird and Freddie Frinton – two great troopers playing good broad humour –
and then, in contrast, I worked with the epitome of sophistication, Duke
Ellington, on Jazz 625. He was
absolutely charming and made me feel like a Queen. I remember he wore a very
distinctive perfume and when I shook hands with him it lingered for hours
afterwards. Very suave.
productions became my forte and I became PA to an American Musical Director
called Buddy Bregman who arrived at the BBC “hot” from having made several
albums with Ella Fitzgerald. We worked together on a series called International Cabaret which starred such
luminaries as Juliet Prowse, Nancy Wilson… and Mel Tormé.
And it was Mel Tormé who nearly brought my career to an untimely end.
major artists he had his own musical arrangements, which he had brought over
from America for the programme. After the show he flew straight off to
Copenhagen where he was due to appear at the Tivoli Gardens. His music was
supposed to go with him, but unfortunately it didn’t. Even more unfortunately
the only contact phone numbers he had were Frances’ office number – and her
a tip. Never, ever give an artist your home phone number.
he’d convinced himself that it was all Frances’ fault – or at least her
responsibility. And so the moment he arrived in Copenhagen he started ringing
her, first in the office and – as day turned into night – at home.
I had done all I could, he felt it wasn’t enough and said he was going to ring
every hour on the hour until I found his music. And he did, getting more and
more irate with every call: his language certainly wasn’t the sort of thing
that should be heard by “A NICE TYPE OF GEL”. By one o’clock in the morning my
family had had enough. My father took the call told and asked him to stop
bothering his daughter. I remember Dad said: “We’re going to bed now, Mr Tormé –
and I suggest you do the same”.
Mr Tormé told
my father that his daughter would never work in show business again.
Mr. Tormé was wrong.
Back in the
sixties at the BBC there were very few women in high places in television. They
were found behind typewriters, in the make-up and wardrobe departments and,
very occasionally, vision mixing. But women couldn’t aspire to be television directors
because directors had to have experience as floor managers. And women couldn’t
be floor managers because floor managers worked with scene crews and scene
crews used colourful language –
sort of thing that should be heard by “A NICE TYPE OF GEL”!
So – there
was no through road in television and I came back to my first love – to radio –
and I’m very glad I did. Radio was leading the way – as it so often does – and
was quietly giving all sorts of chances to women.
after years of watching male producers at work – and sometimes doing it for
them, female secretaries were being encouraged to train for production
themselves. Women studio managers were to be seen, balancing and recording
music sessions. And what’s more, as they clambered about, setting out mics and
moving loud-speakers, they were wearing trousers. These skirts “of a modest
length” were no good when you were up a ladder adjusting a microphone. A bright
new era was dawning!
went back to radio as one of the first of the new breed of women producers. And
although this was a step in the right direction it wasn’t quite the great
breakthrough that it seemed. She found that she was one of six new producers –
three were women and three were men. There were three permanent staff posts and
three temporary posts and guess what? The three permanent posts went to men and
the three temporary posts went to women. This wasn’t a coincidence, it was done
on the grounds that the men were likely to have families, while the women had
only themselves to support and anyway would probably get married!
I became a producer
in the last glow of the golden days of Radio. The old Light Programme – the
days of really funny comedy, of live music and massive listening figures. The
days when radio was king.
One of the
first jobs given to a new producer was a programme you’ll all have heard of,
I’m sure – Music While You Work.
hair-raising because it was live and quite early in the morning when you
consider that it all had to be rehearsed before transmission and musicians are
not exactly morning people. The slot was thirty minutes and you used to have to
work out with the Musical Director a cue which he could clearly see at one
minute to go so that he could get into the signature tune. Some experienced
band-leaders could do wonders and wind the whole thing up very elegantly into
“Calling all Workers” which was the name of the signature tune. Others would be
half way through – say – “Begin the Beguine” and they’d panic and crash down
the baton and the band would lurch into the closing routine and the programme
would come out early with subsequent reprimands from high places!
was fun though. Much of it is still live but techniques are so much more
sophisticated now that there are far fewer mistakes.
worked with all the big musical names of the time – Victor Sylvester, Edmundo
Ros, The Oscar Rabin Band, Cyril Stapleton, Acker Bilk –
she me. I expect you’d wondered what I was doing here.
Well – I’ll
tell you after the interval.
back. You’ll remember that before the interval, I was about to tell you how
Frances and I met.
to go back a bit before that fateful day… Jim started life as an actor. He
trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, which in those days was
housed in the Royal Albert Hall – whenever we go there he gets quite dewy-eyed
about the building. He spent three years there alongside enthusiastic young
drama students like Jeremy Brett, Mary Ure and Wendy Craig.
my fellow-students was Paddy Green – Patricia Green. You may not recognise the
name but I’m sure you’re familiar with the voice. Shortly after leaving Central
Paddy got her big break with what was then a new radio soap called The Archers. She joined the cast to play
Jill Archer, the young daughter of the family – and is still playing Jill
Archer – now the matriarch of the family.
probably know, The Archers is
produced in Birmingham, and when my programme
was moved to Birmingham about ten years ago I saw her in the canteen – after a
gap of nearly thirty years. I always remembered Paddy at drama school having
wonderful long black hair, so I was surprised to see that her hair was now a
very distinguished silver. I said: “Hullo, Paddy, remember me?”; “Jimmy Lloyd”
she said. “Your hair’s gone grey”.
left Central School he went and worked in rep, as young actors did in those
days. He even did a season here in Eastbourne – in 1957. With the Michael Gover
players … Does anyone remember him?
before I had grey hair…
found out that he’d been in rep here I went along to the reference library and
dug out the old copies of the Eastbourne
Herald. And sure enough, there were his notices. This for an Ivor Novello
play called I Lived With You:
– in Ivor Novello’s own part as the Prince – sailed through this terrific role
like an old stager, His approach to the part and his understanding of the
complex character he has to portray mark out Mr. Lloyd as an actor of quality.
A star was
And this –
on January 23rd 1957. The play was The Man Upstairs:
makes but a brief appearance – and very uncanny he is too.
lets me forget that word “uncanny”.
As well as
knocking them cold in Eastbourne I did various rep seasons, some films and
quite a bit of television, in shows like Emergency
Ward Ten and No Hiding Place.
Then I got
my lucky break. I went along to audition for a show that was being put on by
two big impresarios at that time – George and Alfred Black. And after I’d given
them my Chorus from Henry V and a bit
of Pinter they took me to one side and started asking me questions about
current affairs and politics – which I thought a bit odd. But it turned out
that they were just about to open a new television station – Tyne Tees
Television in Newcastle, and they were desperately short of an announcer. They
asked me if I would go up to Newcastle for a camera test.
those days you didn’t say “no” to George and Alfred Black, but the last thing I
wanted to do was go and live in Newcastle. So I went for the camera test and
did my best not to get it – I was very offhand about the whole thing. And, of
course I got it.
two years in Newcastle, then moved to the Midlands and went freelance, working
on everything from Come Dancing to Songs of Praise. I remember first seeing
him, long before we met, on Sunday nights while watching Sunday Night at the London Palladium with my family. Jim was the
in-vision Continuity Announcer and, if the programme (which was live)
under-ran, we had several minutes in his company while he told us all the
programmes coming up that night and – occasionally, when timings went seriously
awry – all the programmes coming up that week!
that time I was working on one of the first chat shows. It was called Gazette and went out from Manchester. It
was the height of Beatlemania when everything good seemed to be coming out of
Liverpool and we used to have a folk group called The Spinners on the show. And
it was The Spinners who got me interested in folk music. They told me there
were these places called folk clubs, so I started going along to them around
Northamptonshire, where I was living at the time.
I liked the
music but – coming from the theatre – I thought the way it was presented was
terrible, so I started my own folk club and did revolutionary things – like
standing the singers on beer crates so you could see them.
This was a
bad thing – selling out, degrading, commercial… However, people used to come
along every week, and soon I was running out of acts. So I started booking them
through an agency called Folk Directions, which I soon found out was run by a
former fellow-student at drama school – Roy Guest.
and Roy left Central School – while everyone else (Jim included) went into the
theatre – Roy took his guitar and went off to New York and started singing in
the Greenwich Village coffee houses.
met rising young singers like Paul Simon, Judy Collins and Tom Paxton.
he came back to England and set up Folk Directions, partly to bring over these
young singers to appear in the British folk clubs that were springing up around
came up to stay one weekend and by Sunday evening I found that I had bought
half of Folk Directions. It was the one time in my life when I was making more
money than I actually needed, and I knew what capitalists do. You put your
money into someone else’s business, sit back and let them do all the work, and
you cream off the profits.
didn’t work like that. Not having a wily old bank manager as a father, Jim
didn’t know the first rule of show business – don’t put money into show business.
he had to get actively involved in Folk Directions to stop all his hard earned
savings from disappearing. So Jim – the actor – Jim, the television presenter,
became Jim – the impresario.
Directions we put on the concert tours by people like Tom Paxton, Judy Collins
and Buffy St Marie, as well as new English bands – like Fairport Convention. I
remember we did the first tour by Simon and Garfunkel, just at the time of
their Sounds Of Silence album, which became a world-wide multi-million seller.
To tell you how little known they were then, they played to a full house at the
Royal Albert Hall, half a house at Birmingham Town Hall, and a couple of
hundred people in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. Word hadn’t got up the motorway.
At that time I’m not sure there was a motorway.
going to one of Jim’s presentations. It was the Theodorakis’ ensemble. Mikis
Theodorakis was the Greek composer who wrote “Zorba’s Dance”. I went with my
Dad – the wily old Bank Manager– and it was a terrific evening and we all ended
up Zorba dancing in the aisles.
because I knew a bit about broadcasting and a bit about folk music I was
invited to join a new radio programme called Country Meets Folk, which was hosted by Wally Whyton – now, alas,
no longer with us. He was a really good friend for over thirty years and we
both miss him.
Country Meets Folk ran for over six years, but soon after it
started the producer phoned me to ask if I could think of an idea for another
folk programme. I came up with something called My Kind of Folk, and after a few days he came back and said that
Radio 2 would take the idea but that he wouldn’t be producing it. The producer
would be Frances Line – a new, young recruit who’d just come over from
television. I remember him saying: “You’ll like her – she’s been working on Top of the Pops”.
last thing I wanted was some girl who’d been working on Top of the Pops interfering with my lovely folk programme.
last thing I wanted was some hairy folkie interfering with MY lovely folk
programme. But I thought the first thing to do was to meet him and see what I
was up against, so I rang Jim and asked him to come to my office.
So there I
was in Aeolian Hall in New Bond Street – a wonderfully historic building in
Mayfair – alas no longer owned by the BBC but by Sotheby’s, the Auctioneers.
Anyway, there I was and I found the office with her name on the door, knocked
and went in – and I saw two women sitting behind typewriters, an older one and
a younger one. Then I uttered the words that changed my life: “Which of you
ladies is Frances Line?”
I said it
just as well or I’d have ended up being Mr Joyce Sambles. Joyce was Frances’
I think the
early days of our relationship can best be described as “stormy”.
stand the sight of him and worked very hard to get him off the show. And you
were doing the same with me, weren’t you?
eventually we found we worked extremely well together and after that we created
a whole series of folk programmes for all four radio Networks, putting the
traditional music of the British Isles firmly on the BBC agenda.
did we WORK well together but we developed a harmonious private life. So much
so that we got married back in 1972 and shall be celebrating our Silver Wedding
later this year. I still have my wedding dress – along with the diaries and the
stilettos – oh, I’m such a hoarder!
think you’d have recognised us in those days. It was flower-power time. I had
rather elegant sideboards [FRANCES: and very black hair] while Frances had long
hair, huge horn-rimmed glasses and wore full-length flowing dresses.
your “modest length” – they went right down to my ankles. You won’t be
surprised to hear that I’ve still got one of my flowing dresses in the wardrobe
too and every now and then I pull it out and wish I could still get into it.
I think it
was quite a shock for “A NICE TYPE OF GEL” like Frances to get mixed up with
the folk scene. I remember on one occasion we were recording a session with The
Dubliners – huge hairy Irishmen. It was just after lunch when they came into
the studio – and they’d had a good lunch. Frances went out of the control room,
where we were sitting, and into the studio to try to get the titles of the
songs they were going to sing.
immediately turned into an argument among the Dubliners as to what they were
going to sing, and there was this great angry group of half-cut Irishmen
shouting and yelling at each other with Frances bobbing up and down on the edge
of the scrum, saying “Excuse me…” and “I wonder if we could get on…”.
they were about to come to blows, Luke Kelly turned and saw Frances, turned
back to the others and said: “Will you for f***’s sake shut up and let the
woman speak? What were you saying, Frances?”
time, Jim and I worked with Peter Sarstedt – an up and coming young
singer/songwriter who shot to fame with a song called “Where Do You Go to (My
Lovely)?” – I’m sure some of you remember it?
Peter’s radio series and Jim presented it.
was selling him as a moody – rather ethereal character – not really of this
world. Peter and manager arrived in Broadcasting House and Peter went through
to the studio to tune up. His manager told me that “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?”
was such a personal song that Peter had to have all the lights out when he sang
it. The studio was duly plunged into darkness. The manager then asked me to
come through to meet our star.
manager didn’t know was that Peter and I used to live opposite each other in
Norbury Crescent and went to Winterbourne Primary school together. When Peter
saw who was producing the programme all the lights were back on and we got on
with it, just like any other recording!
In 1970 we
felt there was room for a programme reflecting all the folk activity that was
going on at that time. There were over a thousand folk clubs, mostly in
backrooms of pubs all over the country. Folk dancing was enormously popular and
there were Morris dance sides leaping up and down all over the place.
We came up
with the idea of a programme which brought all these things together, it was
called Folk on Friday and thanks to
Jim’s immense knowledge of the folk scene it was a smash hit.
got a copy of a long feature about the programme which was in She magazine. There’s a wonderful photo
of Frances with those great big glasses and long hair half covering her face.
She’s staring soulfully into the camera and the caption says: “THE EARTH MOTHER
We did a
lot of touring round the country for the programme, and one occasion I remember
in particular was when we were going up to Bury in Lancashire to record at the
folk club there. Bury is very close to a large, desolate area called Pendle
Hill, reputed to be a centre of witchcraft.
As we were
a bit early for the club we stopped on Pendle Hill for a breather and my PA,
Judy, who was with us in the car, decided to go off for a walk. And she didn’t
come back. It was a very misty afternoon and beginning to get dark. So Jim went
off to look for her – and he didn’t come back either.
I was still
a junior producer at this time and my one thought was how I was going to
explain to the Head of Radio 2 that I’d lost my entire staff on a
witch-infested hill in Lancashire.
Folk on Friday became Folk on 2 – and twenty-seven years
later, it’s still running – and I’m still presenting it. Nowadays it feels more
like a pension than a programme. It’s still going out every Wednesday night
just after seven on Radio 2. Actually, what are you all doing here? Why aren’t
you at home listening? It’s a bit disappointing really…
years were some of the happiest of my life. But again I could get no further.
The BBC did not recognise specialisms in terms of promotion and, if I wanted to
get on, I had to get back into mainstream programming.
left me and went off in search of fame and fortune. She made steady progress,
rising from junior producer through Producer to Senior Producer while working
with a number of star presenters who, sadly, are mostly no longer with us –
like Sam Costa.
He was a very experienced broadcaster who went back to the forties and Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh. You remember?
sir, was there something?”
that he had a successful career as a singer – with Maurice Winnick’s Orchestra
and “the sweetest music this side of heaven” – but he still needed a lot of
support. He liked to SEE the people he was talking to… And you can’t do that on
radio, so the team in the control cubicle became Sam’s substitute audience and
we were required to smile at all times as he looked anxiously at us through the
soundproof studio glass and to laugh visibly when the punch-lines came.
was not the most generous of men and often managed to miss his turn to pay for
the tea and I can’t say that the technicians liked him. In fact they would
delight in looking glum and un-moved by his efforts which would throw Sam into
a frenzy. I would be left laughing for everyone and falling down in fits of
mirth to re-assure Same that he was slaying the nation. I was a nervous wreck
by the end of transmission!
was Joe “Mr. Piano” Henderson. Remember his signature tune, “Trudi”? Joe
Henderson was another broadcaster who like to do jokes with his gang – his
One of them
was a lovely lady called Pat Whitmore and he’d get her doing terrible jokes
you doing after the show today, Pat?”
to the library to change my library book, Joe.”
“Do you do
a lot of reading, Pat?”
“Yes, I do,
know, Joe, I’ve never Kipled.”
a lot like that and the engineers used to collect them and run a book on the
worst of the week. Joe was a very nice and gentle man though and was well liked
– that book was just a bit of fun.
women were breaking through on all fronts. Margaret Thatcher was in Downing
Street, Monica Sims in Radio 4 was the BBC’s first woman Network Controller and
Frances got her first hospitality cabinet – which was soon withdrawn as an
decided to forsake production and had moved into management, with the grand
title of Chief Assistant. It meant you were a Controller’s right-hand person
and that the network schedule was your particular responsibility.
was Chief Assistant Radio 2 and later Chief Assistant Radio 4. This was a most
stimulating period which I greatly enjoyed and it stretched me quite a bit – not
least because I had to schedule the Falklands War.
wonder how you can schedule a war. Well it was huge challenge and a
considerable responsibility because radio tended to be where the news broke
first and it was very important to keep the listening millions accurately
the Controller of Radio 4 – David Hatch – would gather his team together into
what he called the War Cabinet and we would examine the possibilities of what
the day might hold and try and plan how best to deal with them. It was our
proud boast that throughout the war we didn’t lose a single listener – indeed
we gained many hundreds of thousands, all coming home to radio as their primary
source of information.
seemed to spend quite a lot of time dealing with potential disasters. In the
days before the Thames Barrier was built there was a real possibility, whenever
the tide was high and the wind was in the right direction, of the river
breaking its banks and flooding London.
a member of the Committee whose job it was to run the emergency radio service
which would go on air if the disaster should happen. And it actually got quite
close on one or two occasions.
was that a few hours before it happened the Committee would assemble in
Broadcasting House, ready to broadcast instructions for the evacuation of
London. Of course it might happen at any time of day or night, so we were all
given a code word, and they were going to phone us and summon us in from our
living in Croydon at the time and the BBC gave Frances a bright red pass to
show that she was authorised to stay in London as a mass evacuation took place.
imagine? Nine million people, streaming over the bridges – hell bent on putting
as much space between them and London as possible –and Frances going the other way, waving her little red pass!
that’s the BBC for you. It always did put its faith in good documentation!
years ago I left Radio 4 and returned to Radio 2 as the first woman head of the
Music Department. Then, on January 1st 1990 – a proud moment for me
– I took up my appointment as Controller Radio 2 – only the second woman
Programme Controller in the history of the BBC.
does a Controller do exactly? Well the job description was full of fine words:
- Takes creative responsibility for running
Radio 2 within the strategic aims set by the Managing Director.
- Determines the editorial policy for the
network and the broad outline of the schedule.
- Commissions programmes to create an
appropriate mix of music and speech output for the target audience.
- Seeks out and secures the best talent
- Sets and maintains the standards of
performance expected from a national public service network.
words, Radio 2 was my baby. I ran the place. I worried about not only what came
out of the speakers but about all the artists and staff behind the scenes. I
spent a lot of time on dull but necessary things like budgeting meetings, equal
opportunities, meeting safety requirements, discussing pay and conditions of
service with the unions or trotting along to the House of Commons to explain to
the Parliamentary jazz lobby why they couldn’t have jazz all day every day.
was also a creative side to the job.
Radio is a
very immediate medium and my team and I could come up with an idea and have it
on air that day if necessary. In an intensely competitive climate, we all lived
by our wits and ideas were our stock in trade so there was plenty of scope for
everyone to contribute.
non-listeners, Radio 2 is a 24-hour service, one of the BBC’s five national
home of entertainment and popular culture and it’s the station of the stars –
Terry Wogan, Jimmy Young, Sarah Kennedy – and many, many more. Radio 2 has an
audience of some ten million a week. Breakfast is peak listening time but all
the shows play to very large audiences.
are mainly the over-fifties – and most of the presenters are in that age
bracket too, the most senior being Alan Keith who presents Your Hundred Best Tunes every Sunday. Alan is eighty-seven and
still going strong.
should say something about the art of the presenter. Let’s take the Radio 2
morning team – Sarah Kennedy, Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce. People often ask me if
they work from scripts – is everything they say written down?
certainly is NOT. They live by their wits and their wit.
Not a word
is written down. All they have to work from is a running order – a list of
records and an indication of where the news, weather and traffic reports should
come. Add a pile of listeners’ letters and that’s it, they’re on their own.
They sit in
a little studio in Broadcasting House with just a technician for company. The
red light comes on. They open their microphone and off they go into the unknown
– it’s like walking a tightrope for two hours every morning.
are other sort of programmes which are more complex – the sort of thing handled
by Jimmy Young and John Dunn with interviews and features, all invariably done “live”.
have some researchers working for them but they’re really thinking on their
feet the whole time and have the art of asking the question that the listener
wants to ask – of a whole variety of guests, some experienced – like
politicians – others who’ve never broadcast before but have a good story to
tell if you can get it out of them.
is arguably the best interviewer on radio and it’s because he really works at
it. If you’ve heard his programme you’ll know how good he is with the “mystery
voice” contestants – putting them at their ease, and every evening he’ll do
maybe six or seven interviews, including half an hour with his “after-six”
guest, and when he’s interviewing an author he really does read the book from
cover to cover the night before.
Jim and I
have been close friends with John and Margaret Dunn and their family for about
thirty years now. We used to live close to each other in Croydon and John and I
share the same star-sign
Pisceans – fishes – and we all go out every year without fail for a fishy lunch
for our birthdays. We have one coming up soon.
friendship came about because I used to produce John light years ago when we
were both new to radio, but a really close relationship between an artist and a
Controller is very much the exception rather than the rule. It’s impossible to
be close and to be the boss. For a start you never know when you’re going to
have issue a reprimand of some kind or indeed to fire someone – an unpleasant
duty that I’ve had to face many times in my career… and, without question it’s
much worse when it’s a friend.
Frances was always as close as was practical with her presenters. Visiting them
in the studios at all hours of the day and night and generally encouraging them
to give of their best. Sending them birthday cards – anyone who knows Frances
knows she’s the birthday card queen – and hand-written notes about their
performance. It was very nice for them but really boring for me – she always
had the radio on at home, listening with half an ear and making notes – even
when she had to get out of bed in the middle of the night she’d turn the radio
on for a couple of minutes to find something she liked – or didn’t, which used
to frighten the life out of the overnight presenters.
sometimes the Controller has to be even closer than a friend and had to keep
secrets too – as was the case with a much loved early morning presenter who you
may remember – the late Ray Moore.
used to get the early risers on their feet with his show which started at the
ungodly hour of 5.00 am and finished at 7.00. We always got on well and from
time to time I’d go in early and have breakfast with him but, other than that,
he didn’t appear much in daylight hours because he’d be finished and off home
by the time most people were just getting up.
One day he
rang the office and asked to see me. He didn’t say why. To my shame I kept him
waiting a few minutes because I was tied up in a meeting and when he came in he
was certainly not his cheery self. He didn’t beat about the bush. He told me he
had inoperable cancer of the throat.
It was a
terrible moment and we just put our arms round each other and stood holding
each other tight in the middle of the office. When we’d recovered a little, Ray
said he didn’t intend to take any treatment because chemotherapy would destroy
his voice and he was a broadcaster. Not to be able to speak was something he
couldn’t countenance. He intended to broadcast until the end which was likely
to be in about a year’s time. Meanwhile he didn’t want anyone to know – would I
keep his secret. Of course, I did. But it wasn’t easy.
doctors were right and Ray died almost a year to the day after our
conversation. He remains a great loss.
Frances, no two days as Controller were the same. And life was always full of
surprises. One day she had a phone call from a member of staff who wanted to
come into the office at eight in the morning so no-one would see him visiting
her. As there were a couple of vacancies at the time in which he might have
been interested – she assumed that he wanted to talk privately about his
Not a bit
of it. When Chris – who was in his late thirties – arrived at the appointed
hour one dark winter’s morning, it was to tell me that he had decided to become
a woman. He had a date for the operation and he wanted to warn me that next
time I saw him he’d be wearing a dress and high heels and would I please call
hm Christine! It takes all sorts and you get most of them at the BBC!
tended to be young and enthusiastic and full of ideas. They worked hard but
they played hard too and one day my Marketing Manager came to see me to say
that he’d found a particularly good candidate for a researcher vacancy and
could I spare five minutes of my time to meet this chap.
Well, I was
busy but I said I would – at which point my office door flew open and in came –
not a would-be researcher but Mr. Blobby! The staff had set me up and were hot
on his heels with a video camera filming the look on my face as Mr. Blobby ran
up and gave me a big hug and then ran round the office emptying my in tray on
the floor, throwing papers in the air and generally wreaking havoc! As you may
guess, I still have that video…
the main problem that faces the Controller of Radio 2 isn’t dealing with the
staff or the artists – (FRANCES: Or Mr. Blobby) It’s dealing with the
listeners… Radio 2 is hugely popular with a very conservative audience, utterly
opposed to any sort of change.
said that radio is the friend in the corner of the room – and that’s certainly
how listeners view Radio 2. They look upon the presenters as personal friends
and any attempts to move programmes or people meet with fierce resistance.
replaced two popular Sunday presenters – Benny Green and Allan Dell – with a
Gilbert and Sullivan season… just for a few weeks. Their elderly fans marched
on Broadcasting House with placards and formed a picket line. The pictures in
the next day’s papers showed a group of dear old ladies and gentlemen waving
banners which read “LINE IS OUT OF ORDER”. It was a sobering sight.
So I used
to grit my teeth and make changes from time to time and I was roundly abused
for my pains. Hate mail is common – the strangest people lurk out there in radio
land. I’ve lost count of the number of letters which began “You cow…” or “Are
You completely mad….” and I’ve received pictures of myself, cut from the
papers, with my eyes carefully poked out. You get used to it in the end.
I had a
very elaborate “with sympathy” card and – when I opened it – a listener had
written “with deepest sympathy on the death of your brain cells”… Another
assured me that “in our household, your name is synonymous with Bin-liner”.
It’s all charming stuff.
containing actual threats go to the Investigators Office (the Corporation’s
Security department). They take them very seriously as there are some real
nutters out there. However, it’s quite difficult to take the Investigator
himself seriously because he rejoices in the name of Protheroe Gotobed!! (The
Corporation’s Medical Officer at one time was a lady who rejoiced in the name
of Dr. Fingret.)
Frances became more of a target for insults because she is a woman. She had
trouble with a stalker for instance – a most chilling looking man who used to
send her flowers and long registered letters and would hang around outside the
building waiting for her to go home.
was someone out there who kept filling in small ads in her name.
Yes – it
started with the delivery of an unwanted hearing aid … I suppose sending a
hearing aid to a radio Controller of whom you don’t approve is quite funny in a
twisted sort of way. But then it went on and I’d get several calls a day from
insurance salesmen, double glazing firms and people who wanted to deliver
concrete to my home address. They never did find out who was doing it even
though the investigator tracked down the pillar box from which the requests
were posted. That felt a bit weird as this particular hate campaign went on for
more than five years.
One of the
problems with listeners is that they don’t always listen – and then they get
hold of the wrong end of the stick. An irate lady in Worksop sent Frances a
letter complaining at length about the lyrics of a song played on Radio 2 which
she found VERY offensive and racist. She complained vehemently that the song
contained the line “keep away from coloured boys” – a slur, she said, by the
BBC on today’s pluralistic society.
course I checked. No such words were broadcast. The song was an old twenties
hit – “Button Up Your Overcoat”. Do you know it? And the line to which she took
offence was actually:
“Keep away from COLLEGE boys when you’re on a spree”
care of yourself, you belong to me …”
I sent her
a nice letter with a copy of the words – but I never got an answer.
letters come under the heading of pitfalls – others are definitely pleasures.
who signs himself Norm was a regular correspondent.
he was Garfield, the cartoon cat. He used to cut out Garfield strips, Tipp-Ex
out the words in the balloons and make Garfield address me by inserting his own
texts. Garfield liked Radio 2 and often sent me Belgian chocolates which I
never ate, just in case he changed his mind!
regular who signed himself SCRIBE was of a biblical bent:
came to pass that the lowly listener took up his quill and directed a missive
to the High Priestess – Frances – being a woman of the tribe of the BBC…” and
so on. Scribe lives in Leeds – we stay away from Leeds, even now.
were the poets. Mr. S lived in Hull and addressed Frances thus:
doth teach the torches to burn bright
entertains me late into the night
harmony, and melody and mirth
On Radio 2
– the greatest show on earth”
he ain’t but he meant well.
occasionally smile at the listeners wilder excesses but the greatest pleasure
of all was getting it right for them. Seeing a new idea take off and become
part of national life. There are also great rewards at special times of the
year, like Christmas when the radio voices are family to those who live alone.
I’d like to
finish with one particularly touching letter that brought that home to me.
It was from
a lady in Ipswich who wrote “Since I became a widow I have Radio  on all the
time. You see Radio 2 is my friend – my best friend, next to my husband”
possibly ask for more than to be someone’s best friend?
Jim Lloyd. Reproduced by permission. Not to be reproduced elsewhere without the
written permission of the copyright holders.