Walking through Stourbridge Town Hall, dutifully following the arrows to my first Kaleidoscope event, I was amazed at how many dedicated people had braved the rain to attend.
But then again, maybe it wasn’t so surprising considering some of the rare TV gems featured in a packed program, themed around television continuity.
In the main room, the day kicked off with the screening of The Big Show, originally broadcast on the opening night of ITV franchise Tyne Tees Television on January 15th, 1959. The programme was a thoroughly entertaining one-hour showcase of what was to come from the broadcaster, transmitted from Newcastle Upon tyne, in the heart of the Tyne Tees North East region. Highlights included a wonderfully surreal sketch featuring “comedian’s comedian” Jimmy James and Eli, concerning an elephant in a box; a young-looking Bill Maynard introducing his new show, which was to feature local people sharing their best jokes; and a well-performed excerpt from Carmen. The only cringe-inducing moment was a deeply unfunny and affected sketch featuring British film star Bill Travers and his “wife”.
Meanwhile, in the second, smaller, screening area, attendees had a chance to watch First Night, a variety spectacular hosted by Bob Monkhouse to launch Yorkshire Television in 1968. Guests included singer Frankie Vaughan. This was followed with programmes including the sole surviving episode of Seventies YTV soap Castle Haven, two episodes of Playhouse and an episode of Dear Mother… Love Albert, starring Likely Lad Rodney Bewes. Unfortunately, with so many great things happening in the first room I had to pretty much sacrifice visiting the second area.
A core audience stayed in the main room to watch “Lift Off”, the pilot of Rest Assured, a Seventies sitcom spin-off from Coronation Street which apparently had never been aired, but there was hardly an empty seat for the next presentation – a 15-minute reel of BBC trailers made by Maurice Kanareck. Maurice, who was a guest at the event, had rescued the specially-made trailers, promoting shows such as Juke Box Jury, It’s A Square World, Detective and Murder in the Cathedral, from wiping and had kept them in his loft for over 40 years. Time hadn’t been kind and unfortunately some, such as the trailer for The Good Old Days, were highly unstable and had almost completely lost their soundtracks. Thankfully the real treat, a Western-themed trail for It’s A Knock Out, was in fine form. Starring the late David Vine and Eddie Waring and dating from the late Sixties, it incorporated actual clips from the fondly-remembered gameshow.
Following a short break came the first of the day’s guest panels, hosted by popular regional newsreader Wesley Smith who utilized his journalistic talents to interview Maurice Kanareck, continuity script writer and trailer maker for ATV and the BBC, and Norman Tozer, an invision announcer and occasional programme present for ATV, among many other things. Both guests offered valuable insights into the early days of TV and their (often humorous) reminiscences were illustrated with photos and recently recovered audio clips, including one featuring Norman Tozer interviewing Diana Dors.
In a change to the schedule, next followed the second guest panel, with Wesley Smith in discussion with announcer and newsreader Mike Prince, among others. Towards the end of the session, Mike lamented that the role of the continuity announcer was swiftly being consigned to history. A great shame, as listening to these TV veterans speak, one got a real sense of how they bridged the gap between broadcaster and audience.
What followed was a 15-minute selection of idents located in the depths of the Granada, YTV and Tyne Tees archives by Kaleidoscope. These included ITV’s 1969 Christmas promotion, produced that year by Granada, which was notably for being so visually unappealing as to be laughable. Indeed, the audience couldn’t contain their amusement and the laughter and sniggers helped make what could have been a very dull interlude quite entertaining.
The last big highlight of the event was a 15-minute presentation of censor clips from various 1960s TV shows recovered from New Zealand at the beginning of 2009. The clips were valuable for containing unique footage from shows long wiped from existence, including The First Lady, starring Thora Hird, and The Four Seasons Of Rosie Carr. For a full report of the censor clips, click here.
As an extra treat, the organisers gave a repeat screening of the Midlands version of Goodbye To ABC, the last programme ever screened by the Associated British Corporation, on July 28th 1968, before it merged with Rediffusion to become Thames Television. Two versions of the 20-plus minutes retrospective were discovered by Kaleidoscope last year, the other being an ABC North version, and are important for the number of clips they feature from missing shows. For me, the real joy was to get to see a lengthy clip of Kenneth Williams, fresh from making Carry On follow That Camel, on the Eamonn Andrews show.
By the time that finished, the day had almost gone and I left shortly before the 7pm close having enjoyed myself immensely. The next regular Kaleidoscope event is scheduled for September and though no line-up has yet been announced, I’ve already circled it in my diary.
To learn more about Kaleidoscope, visit the website here.