Did Anglians Dream of Electric Screens?

Working with the people of Norfolk to write a history of Television in Norfolk.

Tag: history

A brief update AKA I’ve bought some books!

Despite the silence on the blog I’ve actually been pretty busy with the project recently, hopefully the fruits of my labours will appear will be able to appear on here soon. It’s certainly the case that next week should be an interesting and exciting time for both myself and for anyone interested in the project.

A lot of my time recently has been spent reading and responding to emails from people who have heard about the project and wanted to tell me their short stories about what they can remember about television during the 1950s and 60s.

All I can say is wow! Everyone who has contacted me has had a fascinating story to tell, all of them have made me smile, reinforced my view that this is exactly the right time to being undertaking this research, and that if I write it in the correct way, then it really does have the potential to be interesting to a really wide range of people!

So thank you to you all! Hopefully I’ve managed to respond back to everyone who has contacted me, so please check your inboxes and spam folders; I’m really keen to interview you all!

In other news I also took delivery of a couple of books that I thought you might all be interested in seeing. The UEA library is a great resource, but I’ve developed a little bit of an addiction to having my own copy of some texts, not to mention that some of the books that I am most interested in just aren’t in the library and are becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of. These two weren’t super expensive, but even if they were, I consider money spent on good books to be money well spent!

The Setmakers and Radio Man

The Setmakers and Radio Man

At first glance ‘The Setmakers‘ and ‘Radio Man: The remarkable rise and fall of C.O. Stanley‘ might not appear to be obviously related to the overall aim of my project, but they’re both treasure troves of incidental information, that is both fascinating in its own right, as well as being useful in establishing the overall historical context that surrounded the introduction of television in Norfolk. Ultimately being an academic researcher is a bit like being a detective; sometimes if you want to find out what really happened you need to look for potential sources of evidence that others have overlooked!

As a fringe benefit both books also contain some amazing prints of the types of adverts and promotional materials used to sell TV to the British public – some of them are incredibly beautiful and I just love looking at them!

I’ll end this entry with a question for any media historians out there. The Setmakers was published by BREMA (British Radio & Electronic Equipment Manufacturers’ Association) and heavily uses material from their archives: Does anyone know where that archive ended up?

Do you know where the BREMA archive is? Did you or a family member or friend work for a PYE factory in Norfolk? Can you remember seeing print adverts for television and thinking that you really would have to get a set soon? If so then please get in contact with me via the ‘Get Involved‘ page!

Anglia Arrives (Almost!)

Having dealt with the build up to the arrival of the BBC Television studio at St Catherine’s Close in Norwich here, it’s only right that we also have a look at the arrival of Anglia Television.

The background to the development of Commercial Television in Britain is long and interesting (and the role of people from Norfolk in it will almost certainly receive a blog post of its own), but for now the important thing to remember is that whilst other parts of Britain received ITV in 1955, a service that originated (and that was supposed to serve) Norfolk and the East Anglia region didn’t arrive until 1959.

So let’s have a look at how Anglia Television originally presented itself to the world, in a film produced for the Eurovision scheme and titled Introduction to Anglia(click to watch).

Having watched it I think the following points are interesting to consider:

  • The voiceover acknowledges that ‘things are different in the country’ – This could be interpreted as a subtle attack on how the BBC had historically approached the East Anglia Region.
  • Anglia wasn’t just interested in telling stories about the region, it was more ambitious, particularly in respect of its drama output – probably as a consequence of who was on the Board of Directors.
  • Anglia House was, for its time, an incredibly advanced facility. In fact throughout its early history Anglia Television was a technologically adventurous company.
  • The fact that Anglia was based in Norwich did not dictate that attention was only focused on Norfolk, its franchise covered a much larger geographic area. Although my project doesn’t deal with the issue, I think its interesting to consider whether it did manage to serve this vast area and whether people from other counties had a different relationship with Anglia than those in Norfolk?
  • It’s easy to forget the scale of the task that faced Anglia Television and the ITA. The transmitter at Mendlesham was a huge undertaking and technologically complex due to issues of long term spectrum arrangements and the requirement to not infringe upon the territories of any of the other ITV companies – an issue that returned later in Anglia’s history too.
  • And finally, the cheeky nod to ‘a good play on the BBC tonight’ never fails to make me smile – it just seems to be a typically Norfolk thing to do!

Despite the fact that this snippet of film pre-dates the arrival of television in the region, as mentioned at the end of the film, I wonder whether anyone in Norfolk did in fact see it? If it brings back memories for anyone then please consider getting involved with the project!

 

Welcome

So this is the start of the Did Anglians Dream of Electric Screens? website, but it’s definitely not the start of the project!

In fact my research on the topic of the history of television in Norfolk has been officially taking place for around 18 months. I’ve been surveying secondary texts on the history of both British and international television, identifying different approaches, looking for gaps in the literature and most importantly looking for that special something that triggers a flash of inspiration. I’ve also been lucky enough to be able to visit, both in person and virtually, a number of archives, looking at primary sources that relate to British television in general and television in Norfolk in particular.

You can read about the overall aim and focus of the project here as well as finding out how to be a participant here, but I’m hoping that these blog posts will allow me to keep you all up to date with what I am up to, as well as giving a peak behind the curtain of academia. I’ll try to talk about where I’m going, what I’ve seen and what I’m thinking about and I’ll also try to share some of the material that I’ve been engaging with.

It’s been a fascinating journey getting to this point, and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences of researching the history of TV in Norfolk with those who were present at the time and anyone with an interest in local, social history. After a gap of nearly 60 years, isn’t it time we really talked about TV in Norfolk?