Tuesday 31 August 2010

The Exhaustive Guide to the BBC Handbook #2

There's going to be a bit of a jump now, as the records are a little scanty for the 1945-1961 period. Basically, I don't have any of these editions, and the ones I've seen were all sans dust jackets so the earliest one I have post-war is...

...which isn't too bad really, is it? An uncredited design which highlights the brand and gives us a little Beyond the Fringe-era colour (unlike television itself). Five out of ten. Things get a little more exciting next year.

A bit of uncredited, proto-Vision On scattiness for 1963. I especially like the signal effect crackling across the middle of the page. It says 'white heat and activity', giving a bit of dynamism to the whole affair. Six out of ten. But then ...

Here we are in 1964, the year in which we got Harold and his New Britain. This cover shows the BBC becoming aware of itself as a brand. "Look, here's what we can do..." and there's a lovely mast on the right beaming it all out as well. This blocky, diagonally-divided look works really well - I can imagine this being used as the test card, or materialising through the snow just as close down begins. Seven out of ten.

The Exhaustive Guide to the BBC Handbook #1

The BBC Handbook is rather a dry read - some opening comments, mission statements, rules and regulations, addresses etc etc, enlivened only by the odd picture of a programme being made, or a promotional still. Or the cover. Using the Between Channels archive, let us have a look at the evolution of the BBC Handbook cover - who knows, perhaps it will uncover something about the changing nature of the Beeb itself, or how commercial art / graphic design has evolved through the years? Or maybe there'll be a photograph from the set of Cheggers Plays Pop?

Lets kick off with the earliest handbook I could find. Freed from its acid-free cardboard box for the first time in 15 years ...

Well, so far so Reithian, with a nice granulated cover and coat of arms. It looks like something a First World War officer may have taken into the trenches. The keyword is 'gravitas'. But its not all work, work, work ...

From the days when radios were put together by wealthy, handy men and listening to a weak signal from Fiume was the highlight of the listening day, this bookmark will help you convert metres to kilocycles. I'll bet none of the A* graded pupils of today would be able to do that. For that insert alone, I award the 1928 Handbook 6 out of a possible 10. Originally there were some rather flashy dust-jackets, which would probably give a higher final mark but I can only work with the tools I have available.

The Brian Wilde Season on Sheffield Cablevision #1

There's something about the sheer, visceral nature of old PIFs that make them truly compelling viewing. The piercing screams, the smouldering acrylic polo necks and anoraks, the murky backgrounds ... they have an artlessness that is jarring in today's era of viral adverts and marketing-driven blandness. In addition, it's good to see that someone cared about you - children today wouldn't be warned on prime-time television about the danger of power lines (although to be fair not that many modern children would attempt to launch their steel-masted yacht on a canalside - it's all carbon fibre these days).

The presence of the late Brian Wilde on narration duties adds a certain urgency to the message - as if Foggy was just off camera, vigorously jabbing his walking stick at the young yachtsmen and fisher-folk before regaling them with a made-up war story.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Apocalypse at Rotherham Station

The building with the wonderful chimney-tree is next to Rotherham station, and was part of a canalside bar which had a barge available for 'drinking and cavorting'. The barge is still there, playing host only to rats and weed-smoking urban fishermen.

VHS Guerillas

Thursday 19 August 2010

City Scene

The Cotswold Tape Recording Society

Cotswold Characters (Saydisc, 1972)

'In May of 1960, a group of amateurs formed the Cotswold Tape Recording Society and one of its earliest activities was the production of a programme of entertainment for local hospitals.

... In general there are two distinct voices: a high-pitched head-voice (exemplified here by Miss Amy Cook) and a more guttural chest-voice as demonstrated by Don Ellis.

With people like these an era will pass away yet, through the magnetic memory of the tape-recorder, their speech can still be heard and bring back the past."

Sunday 15 August 2010

Platform Guard

A buxom guardian found at Sheffield station, a Wilson-era Green Woman staring out at the commuters.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Municipal Library

'..the stone cliffs above the tideline of the Mall, the twisted steel skeleton that had been New Zealand House, the heaped bodies along Whitehall..'