Did Anglians Dream of Electric Screens?

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

Tag: television history

An Exciting Week: Part One

As I mentioned in the last update this week is looking like being another exciting one in terms of the project. Starting off with another appearance on Radio Norfolk!

It’s wonderful, and not to mention a little surprising, to be invited back on air to talk about my research and discuss the history of television. Television is one of those topics that seem to have the ability to get people talking (and arguing!) relatively easily – everyone has an opinion on their favourite programmes, what they hate and whether television is ‘dumbing down’, having the opportunity to discuss some of those ideas within the context of the history of television in Norfolk is an absolute privilege and I can guarantee that I’ll learn something new from the process! (Hopefully one day I’ll learn to be less nervous about appearing on the media, but I’m not holding my breath on that one!)

Hopefully I’ll be able to surprise people with a few lesser known facts about the role that television played in Norfolk during the 1950s and 60s, but also the role that Norfolk played in the national history of television! Norfolk is often marginalised in the official histories but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t times when it played a really important role in guiding broadcasting policy!

It should be a fun discussion, so please listen to the Stephen Bumfrey Show on Radio Norfolk (95.1 and 104.4FM as well as online) at around 3pm on Tuesday 8th April and encourage anyone you know to tune in too!

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?