Monday, 28 September 2020

Cardboard Shoes


Last night - or, more accurately, in the very early hours of this morning - we said an on-air fond farewell to someone I've been working with throughout my entire professional career at the BBC. Keith Skues, "Cardboard Shoes", who retired after 61 years in broadcasting with us, Independent Local Radio, BBC Radio 1, Radio Caroline, the British Forces Network and more besides.

Yesterday was Keith's final regular programme, and I was fortunate enough not only to be working on it to help say goodbye to him, but also to have been able to pay tribute with another feature in the Weekend supplement of the Eastern Daily Press on Saturday. They've also put it online, where you can read it here.

My first ever paid shift at the BBC - after a few months as a volunteer phone answerer on the old Action Desk - was working on Keith's Sunday night show in February 2007. I was his regular broadcast assistant for the next two-and-a-half years or so, and have often deputised ever since, as well as working with him from time-to-time on assorted special broadcasts and documentaries. One of my own personal favourite memories in radio will always be getting the chance to produce a show from Broadcasting House, when we did his Radio 1 50th anniversary special from there in October 2017.

So I owe a lot to Keith, a unique character who inspires a great deal of fond affection in many who have worked with and listened to him down the decades. Thanks to him, and thanks to the EDP for allowing me to put some of that on the record.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Anniversary Antics

For the past three months or so solidly, and off-and-on since the beginning of the year, one major project on which I have been working has been the 40th anniversary celebrations of the radio station where I work, BBC Radio Norfolk. The big day was last Friday, the 11th of September.

It's been a lot of work but good fun, and entirely self-imposed. There was no need for anybody to do this, but as anyone who's read much of this blog down the years will know it's the kind of thing I very much enjoy doing. A three-part documentary series, one mini-documentary, eleven packages, two cue & qs with clips for lives, assorted news clips cut and cued and various photo galleries and archive clips for online. 

Plus - 1200 words for the EDP, who very kindly ran a feature of mine again in their Weekend supplement. With that amazing cover you can see above, too - I really liked that. I might get it framed, one day!

You can read the feature on the EDP website, here. And the 40th anniversary section of the BBC Radio Norfolk website, which you can find here, is likely to stay online for the foreseeable future.

Now - onto the next thing! Which is getting back to a non-fiction Doctor Who project on which I have also been working this year, but had to put aside to concentrate on the documentaries over the summer.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Lockdown Listening

A few weeks ago, near the start of the lockdown, I decided to upload most of the documentaries and a few other feature programmes I've made down the years onto Dropbox, to make them available for anyone who was looking for something of that sort to listen to.

It's not, I hope, that I'm so big-headed as to think that anyone was crying out for a "Paul Hayes Greatest Hits" collection. But as I just had them all there doing nothing, I wanted to do something

I messed up one or two of the links when I shared them on Twitter, so to put them out again - and just so I have the list somewhere all in one place for my own greater convenience! - here are all the links again. Most are to Dropbox, but a couple are to podcast versions of programmes still available on the BBC website. Either way, they're all freely available as MP3s for you to download and - hopefully! - enjoy.

It's a collection I am rather proud of, and also reminds me how very lucky I have been to have had the opportunity to make some programmes for the BBC about some of my greatest interests. Hopefully they will please anyone who shares any of those interests, too. Although I am also proud of the ones where I did a very good job as a producer with subjects I had no special interest in or connection to, even if I do say so myself!

The links are in the titles, so first of all back we go to the end of 2010...

I made this with Keith Skues in 2011, and it was originally broadcast on BBC Radio Norfolk on Boxing Day that year, although a few of the other BBC East stations also took it, and he later repeated it in his own show across the region. The story of some of the British rock and roll stars who emerged in the wake of Elvis's popularity in the late 1950s, Keith provided his own original interviews with Cliff Richard, Billy Fury, Marty Wilde and Vince Eager. I edited them together into a narrative, wrote the script, put it all together and recorded the narration from Keith to create my second ever documentary. Quite a good one too, I think!

Pirates on Parade - Part One and Part Two
My old boss David Clayton had and has an enormous passion for the pirate radio of the 1960s, and was forever trying to put on as many programmes as possible related to it. In 2011 he recorded three of our local pirate presenters from those days in conversation - Keith Skues, Andy Archer and Tom Edwards. He then didn't know what to do with it, so I cut it all up, wove it into a narrative of some sort and edited it together with relevant music from the 1964 to 1967 period, which we and Radio Lincolnshire broadcast over Easter 2012. One of those tracks would be unusable now, but fortunately I later edited part two for a possible repeat version on Radio Lincolnshire in 2014. That never in the event happened, but it does mean I have a version I can now share here.

The first part of which I rather tongue-in-cheekily like to refer to as my "BBC East Trilogy", telling the story of the old regional radio services from All Saints Green in Norwich in the years before BBC Radio Norfolk arrived in 1980. I've long had a great passion for broadcasting history - Doctor Who fandom often tends to act as a "gateway drug" into it for many people - and especially the little bits that fall through the cracks and aren't really chronicled elsewhere. I knew there'd been a programme called Roundabout East Anglia which had been broadcast from Norwich in the 1970s, and this is its story. Finding the relevant people to speak to and especially any archive was a fun challenge, and I think it came together really well. Originally broadcast on the August Bank Holiday in 2012, and one where I had several nice comments afterwards from people who work or have worked in the industry, which was nice. Here's the original blog entry I wrote about this one at the time.

Norfolk's Diamond Summer - Part One and Part Two
A mammoth two-parter I put together for Christmas 2012, looking back at Norfolk across some of the events of that memorable summer - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic torch relay, the Games themselves, and the Tour of Britain cycle race coming to the county. Narrated by Nicky Price and Chris Goreham, but all written and produced by me.

In October 2012, it was decreed that all BBC Local Radio stations should put together a strand called "My Beatles Story", to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the group's first single release. I was put in charge of the Radio Norfolk effort, recording various interviews with local people who had seen, met or worked with The Beatles and had a story to tell about it. There was also one archive interview, which David Clayton had recorded with Tony Sheridan back in 1997. The resulting pieces were then broadcast across a special day of programmes on Friday the 5th of October 2012. This compilation is one I put together for that Christmas, narrated by my colleague Matthew Gudgin.

Another one from 2012! I was a busy boy that year, although I think I can reveal from the safety of eight years' distance that David did give me a very generous bonus from a special pot of money which existed back then put probably doesn't know. (Not a literal pot, you understand. He didn't hand me a bunch of fifties!) This was another recording David had made which he didn't know quite what to do with - talking with Helen McDermott, Katie Glass and Tom Edwards about their regional TV continuity days. Once again I chopped it up, put it together and I think made a nice little programme for anyone with an interest in the history of television presentation and the days of in-vision announcers.

Undoubtedly one of the best things I have ever made, and one of the programmes of which I remain the most proud. My first really "authored" documentary, going out and about recording links and interviews at relevant locations. Telling the story of the connections between the county of Norfolk and the character of Sherlock Holmes, with some great readings by Look East's Kim Riley of excerpts from the original stories - Kim being someone I would go on to use more than once when I wanted a dignified voice with a bit of gravitas! Here's my blog entry on Far From the Fogs from back in 2013.

Something else of which I am very proud, although more of the individual elements than this after-the-fact compilation. For the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013, we were encouraged to do something similar to the "My Beatles Story" project of the previous year, this time with "My Doctor Who story" - tales of Norfolk people who had either some special love of or a particular connection to the show. There were features every day in breakfast leading up to the anniversary, and several through the day on the Friday. I was very proud of how I was able to combine my passion for and knowledge of the show and its history with my abilities as a producer to create a series of features which were - I think - open, accessible, enjoyable and accurate. I was very proud to be able to consider myself a tiny part of the BBC's own anniversary celebrations for the show, too. This compilation was originally put out on the Sunday of the anniversary weekend, and then repeated at Christmas. Here's another blog entry from the time, covering this and my other anniversary thoughts.

Another project initiated by David Clayton - although my colleague Edd Smith had also gone to him with the idea. David asked me to tell the story of the racing driver Ayrton Senna's early days in Norfolk, for a programme to mark the 20th anniversary of his 1994 death. I hugely enjoyed researching this and putting it together, and particularly going down to Broadcasting House to record the narration with ex-Radio Norfolk man Rob Bonnet. It was also a hugely exciting project personally, as it is - to date - the only one of my programmes to have been broadcast on a national network, with BBC Radio 5 Live taking a 25-minute edit which I made for them. Here's my original blog entry from 2014 about this one.

This was an interesting one, as it was a subject I didn't really know anything about or have any link to - the story of a late 1960s Norwich band called Eyes of Blond. Another David Clayton idea given to me to make, I enjoyed recording it and putting it all together and trying to give some flavour of not just one group but the Norwich music scene of the time. I think, or hope at least, that I managed to create something suitably evocative. "Craft" wise, as it were, I was pleased with myself for making what I thought was a coherent radio documentary without any narration - it's just the four of them talking, Beatles Anthology-style.

I'd seen the odd reference here and there down the years to Norfolk having been briefly considered as the launch base for the British space programme back in the 1960s, and I decided it was a subject worth having a go at. I can't pretend I was in any way the first to tell the story - Dean Arnett had done so for TV a few years before, for a start - but I do think I did it well. Trips to the Science Museum and the Isle of Wight were very enjoyable, and will always stay with me for having been on the day of the Brexit referendum result in 2016. I even ended up, because of travelling to make this, passing Downing Street at the moment David Cameron was making his resignation speech that morning - as covered here in my blog entry from back then.

When Sir John Hurt died in January 2017, I realised that we had done various interviews with him down the years while he was living near Cromer. I managed to put a few of them together, along with interviews with some of those connected to the various causes, events and institutions about which he'd been speaking to us. That included my own interview with him, a very enjoyable experience where he'd gently taken me to task over the idea that he always played characters with miserable or unhappy lives! I was also pleased to be able to clear the rights of him reading some poetry at an event at the Theatre Royal - getting involved in such rights clearances made me feel very grown-up! His widow, Lady Anwen, later asked for a copy to be sent to her on CD, which was quite an honour.

Not a documentary, but a feature interview I recorded for a May Bank Holiday show in 2017. Justin is the lead singer, songwriter and bassist with one of my favourites bands, Del Amitri, and he agreed to go into the BBC in Glasgow to record a down-the-line interview with me, ostensibly to promote his forthcoming solo gigs, a couple of which were to be in East Anglia. We did a wide-ranging interview about all sorts of aspects of his career, which I then broadcast in the first hour of my Bank Holiday show. On the basis that as it was a Bank Holiday I could do pretty much whatever I wanted, and it was nicer for the audience to hear an interesting, thoughtful interview with a man they could soon go and see in concert locally than just me chatting and playing records.

Part two of my "BBC East Trilogy", taking the story further back - to the establishment of the very first East Anglian radio service from Norwich in the 1950s. It also told the story of the BBC Local Radio pilots of the early 1960s, and was another huge challenge to find relevant archive and interviewees for. I adored doing it, however - the challenge of the research, dealing with finding and obtaining the archive, and having a reason to visit the BBC Written Archives Centre at Caversham, near Reading. The BBC still had the country house there as well then, where I went for lunch on one of the days I was there - a splendid bit of "old BBC" now gone. The programme itself is another one of which I am very proud, and a cut-down version concentrating just on the local radio pilots was almost broadcast by 5 Live - it was billed in the Radio Times and everything, but alas! Knocked off for live sport, as it happened. Here's a blog entry about some of what was going on with me that summer, including making this.

On election night in 2017 I presented the first part of our coverage, when I hadn't expected there to be a great deal to talk about. To help fill the space, I prepared some long archive packages on elections past in Norfolk, from the 1920s to the 2010s. In the event, after the dramatic exit poll there was a great deal to say, so most of them never got used. Not wanting to waste them, I came up with the idea of putting them together in their own programme, married with some new interviews I recorded about the experience of general election nights with three of our then local MPs - Chloe Smith, Norman Lamb and Henry Bellingham. The result is a bit cut-and-shut, but as a filler programme for the Christmas period that year I think it was perfectly acceptable and not too bad at all.

Marking ten years of the Treasure Quest show on Sunday mornings - I loved the chance to make the sort of programme I enjoy about a programme I myself had been involved in. The very first radio documentary I ever made had been about Treasure Quest, made as a test and an editing exercise really back in 2010. The challenge here was to try and make something sufficiently different, updating the story but still telling all of it, in an accessible fashion. With perfect access to interviewees and archive, it had no excuse to not be good, and I was pleased with the result - I had some very nice comments about it, too. Here are some further thoughts from 2018 about the tenth anniversary of Treasure Quest.

Another one for any fellow Del Amitri fans! I'd spent a great week-and-a-half following the band around the country on their tour in the summer of 2018, and when I got talking to someone in the queue for one of the gigs in Glasgow it turned out he knew that Ash, the drummer, also lived in Norfolk. I later emailed Ash for his website and asked if he'd like to be one of our Tuesday Guests, which he said yes to. As it turned out, I ended up standing in as producer that night, too - rather messing up my timings as I had so much to chat to Ash about, but this edited version for the Sunday "Gudgin's Guest" repeat ("Hayes Hosts" that week, obviously!) is tidied-up a bit! Ash also very kindly gave me a pair of drumsticks he'd used on the tour when he came in.

Up there with Far From the Fogs for the title of my favourite documentary I have made, I think. I knew we'd be marking the 60th anniversary of Norwich City's 1959 FA Cup run somehow, and I knew I wanted to use the extensive archive of the East Anglian broadcasts from the time which existed, and which the Norfolk Sound Archive had kindly transferred for me for The Network That Never Was back in 2017. I also knew it had to be sufficiently different to Gudge's 40th anniversary documentary from 1999, so I decided to make the broadcasting aspect the main thread - still telling the full story of the cup run, but hanging it on the framework of how the BBC covered it at the time. As with any good documentary it's the archive and the interviewees which really make it, all I did was bring together all the fantastic material that gave me. More than one person told me it made them cry - which must be a good thing! Also counts as the third and final part of my "BBC East Trilogy", and here's a blog entry from last year with more on how and why this one was made.

I hadn't expected to make another Norwich City-related documentary, especially not in the same year as Canaries in the Air. But by chance I became fascinated by the story of Arthur James "Jimmy" Jewell - a man who'd been an FA Cup final referee, Norwich City manager, the BBC's first ever regular TV football commentator and also, perhaps, the England manager too. Another one that it was great fun to go hither and thither across the country recording interviews and researching for, although I was chasing so much so close to the line that editing it became a real challenge. Two days before broadcast, it was about 50 minutes too long. I'm still disappointed about how much I had to cut, but it's one of those things where if you didn't know the material is missing, you don't notice. I even managed to do an even shorter version, which 5 Live took as a stand-by programme - you never know, maybe it will go out there someday! Here's my blog entry from last summer with more detail about the programme.

When Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis came to the east coast to make their Beatles-related film Yesterday in the summer of 2018, I did my best to try and get some behind-the-scenes access to make a "making of" documentary which could go out when it was released the following year. I had absolutely no joy with this, but fortunately our Great Yarmouth district reporter Andrew Turner - a much more forceful character! - managed to do a lot of behind-the-scenes reporting on the film. I decided to take all of his material, with a few other bits and pieces, and make it into a documentary which we broadcast when the film came out. Narrated by Andrew, who came over to Norwich to reach the voiceover script I'd written for him.

And that's it... for now! I do have another project currently in the works, however, which by good fortune turns out to be one of the few documentaries it would have been practical for me to make this year in the end. You will hopefully hear it in September - when BBC Radio Norfolk turns 40.

As for what else I have been doing aside from my shifts at work - I have written a nine-and-a-half-thousand word short story, and have resurrected a non-fiction project I originally started work on five years ago, which may now actually end up in a publishable state - fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Christmas Carolling

As I write, Christmas Day is drifting to a close.

It has been rather a nice Christmas. I have been deep into one of my favourite stories - if not my very favourite story - A Christmas Carol. I have another blog comparing and reviewing different adaptations of it for from film and television down the years, and this year I decided to revive it and have a proper go at it.

I wanted to try and have a new review up every single day from the start of December until today, and I actually managed it - by the skin of my teeth at times, but I did manage it. I'll have another go next year, if I can find enough other versions to do it with!

But I've also written my own adaptation of the Carol this year. Just a fun, jokey one for the radio station where I work. The script could have done with one more draft, but for what it is it was just about good enough, and seems to have amused a few people. It was another collaboration between myself and my colleague Emma, eight years on from when we made The BBC Radio Norfolk Nativity together.

Just a fun little thing for Christmas. But these fun little things will always be the bits you remember above the day-to-day work.

Anyway, you can hear the whole thing here if you're interested. The Eastern Daily Press also published another feature of mine to promote it, which was kind of them.

I even came up with an idea for a sort-of sequel to the Carol this month, too. But obviously only a complete lunatic would ever contemplate such a thing, so that's probably best left alone.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Writing and radio

I have been writing again.

Really, properly - since the 21st of February, I have done at least 100 words a day, and on one occasion as many as 7000 in a day, on a new novel project. Except for Saturday, when annoyingly I just plain forgot, and didn't write anything at all.

There is a reason for that, however. I was buried deep in the finishing-off of a new documentary, which went out today. In fact, I have made two documentaries since I started this new novel, which partially explains why the process has been slowed down a bit, when it really ought to have been finished by now.

The other reason the novel isn't yet finished is that it is, far, far too long. It's definitely unsalable and almost certainly unreadable. I still have a little way to go and it's already over twice the length it should be. I suppose part of the problem is making it like homework, making yourself do at least a certain number of words per day. Yes it gets it done, but on the other hand it makes it too easy to make the writing flabby, to write for writing's sake rather than because the words need to be there to tell the story.

But at least I've been writing.

The new documentaries have also bred writing - or rather, today's one has. The one last month was a fairly cheap-and-cheerful, but nonetheless quite effective I think, tie-in with a film that had been shot locally last year. The new one broadcast today - Jimmy Jewell: The Lost Voice of Footballwas much more of a researched and authored piece, the story of former top-level football referee, manager and TV commentator Arthur James "Jimmy" Jewell.

I hadn't intended at all to make another football documentary after Canaries in the Air, but I happened across a brief summary of Jewell's life on the England Football Online website and got bitten by the bug. Especially as it was doing something nobody else had ever done - his story had never really been fully told before.

I'm proud of it in the sense that I really dug this one out of the ground. There were virtually no easy sources of detailed information about him, no children or living close relatives of any kind, so I really had to hunt out information and interviewees. I was reasonably successful in that, even though I didn't manage to find anybody who'd met him. But this did mean I was still chasing sources and interviewees until very late in the day, resulting in a much more telescoped editing period than I would have liked. So I'm not sure it's quite as well put together as soon of my other efforts - but it's still not at all bad, and I think the licence fee payer more than got their money's worth.

The Eastern Daily Press once again kindly printed a piece by me in their Weekend supplement, and as there's a Sussex link the Argus also ran a piece. This was quite pleasing considering I used to deliver the Argus for a while in my teens. My colleagues at BBC News Online also put a piece up and generously gave me the byline, although really my colleague Zoe Applegate put it together from a kit of parts I gave them.

Even the BBC's live text commentary of Norwich v Chelsea joined in with the promotion on Saturday, after I cheekily emailed in to ask if the link could be punted out. I also felt quite proud of cutting six different preview package - one each for our Saturday Sport, Sunday Breakfast and Bank Holiday Breakfast shows (although Saturday Sport weren't able to use theirs due to the delayed King's Lynn kick-off), and on-spec pieces I punted out to London, Lancashire and Sussex due to their links to the story, pointing to the doc on BBC Sounds. I've no idea if they'll get used but London have said they might. Oh, and I also did news clips for us.

Rampant self-publicity! It feels strange for it all to be done now after how intensely I have been working on finishing it over the past week. Rather relaxing.

But oh yes, there is that novel to try and finish...

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Canaries in the Air - the story of a radio documentary

One night last summer, in all the excitement of the build-up to England’s first World Cup semi-final for 28 years, I was listening to one of the BBC’s Football Daily podcasts. This particular one was looking back at England’s previous semi-final appearance in the competition, at Italia 90. Tears, penalties, Pavarotti and all of that.

One of the guests on the podcast was Jurgen Klinsmann, and I thought how strange it must seem to him that we celebrate and look back with a wistful fondness on a team which lost a semi-final. We understand it – it was a special time, it meant something, it was an agonising disappointment but not seen as a failure. They were fallen heroes. But to the outside world, particularly to someone from Germany where they have won the thing four times, a semi-final defeat would be forgotten; one of those things. Shrugged off. You move on.

Not everyone has the option of course, because not everyone can be that successful. Your team has done what it has done, and all greatest successes are relative. Not every team can have won everything. Should teams not mark what achievements they have? Not celebrate nor commemorate their history as it stands?

I was thinking back on that again this week, as we came closer to the broadcast of my documentary Canaries in the Air, the story of Norwich City’s run to the FA Cup semi-finals in 1959 and how it was covered by the BBC back then. To those outside of Norwich or Norfolk, it may perhaps have been mostly forgotten, and seem an odd thing to mark. A semi-final defeat. But, like those losses at Italia 90 or Euro 96 do for England as a whole, here it really means something. The hope, the heartbreak… It seared them into the consciousness of a generation.

To fans of some rival clubs, you could no more explain it than an English person could explain to a German or a Brazilian why the achievements of Bobby Robson and his men meant so much in 1990. But there it is.

I can’t tell you for certain when I first heard of Norwich City’s 1959 Cup Run, but oddly it would have been – in a roundabout way – from my mother. Mum isn’t a football fan and doesn’t follow it to any real degree, but when I was first looking at possible places to go to university in around 2001-02, and had chosen Norwich as a favourite, she told me about how much she had liked Norwich City as a girl. I don’t think she remembered the details all those years later, but she certainly had a fondness for them.

A few years later, in 2007, I went to see the England Under-21s play against Slovakia at Carrow Road, and sitting just next to the players’ tunnel I saw the old locomotive nameplate with its commemorative plaque which celebrates the efforts of that 1958-59 team. I remember looking across and reading it, and thinking, “Ah, that must have been when they caught mum’s attention.”

Watching the England Under-21s at Carrow Road in 2007.

Mum would have turned 13 during the ’59 Cup Run. She was living on the south coast and has absolutely no connection to Norwich other than the fact that I now happen to live here. But they captured her imagination back then, in the same way they did with so many other people across the country. I compare it to how Leicester won the public’s hearts in 2016, with so many neutrals and even people who didn’t really follow football willing them to do well because it was so exciting and unexpected; so swashbuckling and romantic.

And it stayed with mum, too. In 2015, after Norwich had won the play-off final, I was on the phone to her a couple of days later, and she asked me if I knew anybody at the club.

“Um, not really,” I replied. “I see some of the former players, sometimes, if they come in on our programmes. Why?”

“I just wondered if you could pass on my best wishes to them,” she told me. It was rather sweet. All those years later, the spirit of ’59 still generating goodwill for the club.

Norwich have, of course, been in two further semi-finals since then, in 1989 and 1992. But both of those came at a time when they were in their own First Division pomp, and perhaps the FA Cup had already lost a little of its lustre. In 1959, it held more prestige than the league title did – that was certainly not the case 30 years later. In 1989 their defeat to Everton was rightly overshadowed by events elsewhere, and perhaps a feeling that it was somehow right and proper that it should be the two Merseyside clubs which faced one another in the final that year. The 1992 quarter-final win was described with great misty-eyed fondness by my colleagues Chris Goreham and Rob Butler on this week’s episode of The Scrimmage. But perhaps that run is soured by the fact it was Norwich themselves who were the giants felled that year, losing to Second Division Sunderland, missing out on a first ever final.

Speaking of Sunderland, Norwich’s League Cup wins are remembered fondly, of course, but it’s not quite the FA Cup. And oddly, despite leading the league and fighting for the title in 1992-93, Norwich somehow didn’t quite capture the public imagination in a way they had a generation earlier, and indeed even struggled to fill Carrow Road for some of the home games that season. I’m not sure even all of the UEFA Cup home games were sell-outs the following season, either.

So it all comes back to 1959, and somehow just that right combination of elements which means it still shines so brightly in the club’s history.

This weekend's Eastern Daily Press Weekend supplement front cover, promoting my feature piece inside.

Having worked at BBC Radio Norfolk for so many years now, of course I’d become much more aware of the history of the club. You can’t not have it become a part of you in some way when you work for a local radio station in a county where the only professional football team is so important, and when you have the broadcast rights to the games. I don’t work on the sports desk, but I do sometimes work on the coverage, and Norwich City transcends that anyway. If you work here for any amount of time, it becomes a part of your working life, to a greater or lesser degree.

That said, I still felt a little nervous when I first talked to my colleagues on sport about doing this programme. Still felt that I was something of an interloper. I’ve lived in Norwich for a long time now, and I always want Norwich to do well. I follow their progress and even in my free time will often, say, watch them on the TV if they’re on. But I’m not born to it. It’s not a part of me in that way. The only football team which grabs me by the guts and make me feel sick with nerves or sends me running around the room is England during a major tournament. (Yeah, I’m one of those people…)

But I knew there was a programme I could make about the ’59 Cup Run, and I knew that I could do it well. As anyone who’s read much of this blog in the past, or heard many of the previous programmes I’ve made, will know, I have a great passion for the history of broadcasting in general and the BBC in particular. I love being able to poke around in my little corner of it and perhaps tell some stories which might not otherwise have been told.

One of the reasons I’ve been able to make Canaries in the Air is because of a Norwich City fan called Frank Heyhoe. He had recorded about two-thirds of one of the games and almost all of another off-air onto reel-to-reel tape back in 1959. There are lots of nice bits and pieces in the official BBC archives which I’ve been able to put into the documentary, but Frank’s recordings are an absolute treasure trove, not just of the commentaries themselves but of pre-match build up, all sorts of material which would not otherwise have survived, and is almost without equivalent for any other matches of any type from that era in the official holdings.

One of Frank Heyhoe's off-air recordings from 1959, now held at the Norfolk Sound Archive.

It’s not clear how or why, but somehow in the 1990s Frank’s reels ended up in the old radio studio at Carrow Road. My colleague Matthew Gudgin was able to use them when he made his documentary about the run, The 59ers, for the 40th anniversary back in 1999. Subsequently, Matthew arranged for the reels to be donated to the Norfolk Sound Archive at the County Record Office, but he had mentioned them to me once, talking about how there was actual regional coverage broadcast on the nascent BBC East Anglian service from Norwich.

Remembering this and being absolutely fascinated by it, when I was making my documentary about the birth of the BBC in Norfolk in the 1950s in 2017, The Network That Never Was, Jonathan Draper at the Sound Archive kindly arranged to do a new dub of the reels and send me over digital copies – the only extant live output from the BBC in Norwich in the 1950s, as far as I know (there are a few pre-recorded programmes). Of course, I was only able to use a small amount of them in The Network That Never Was, but the seed, the idea had been planted, and I was already toying with the notion of a documentary linked-in with the cup run’s 60th anniversary.

Initially I had the thought that you could do something telling the story from the fans’ perspectives. Appeal for old letters and diary entries, that sort of thing. Voice them up and intertwine it with the archive.

I eventually realised we’d never get enough response to make that work, and after making a package for The Scrimmage in November last year when they marked sixty years since the run started, I decided to have a crack at making a full documentary out of how the run was covered – particularly as I realised it was the first time there’d ever been full commentaries of Norwich games live on the radio. Still telling the story more generally, of course, but using the coverage as the spine. That would also help to make it sufficiently different to Gudge’s The 59ers back in 1999, a fine piece of work that does a great job of telling the story when there were still more of the team left alive to speak to.

I’m luckier in some respects, however, in that it’s so much easier for someone working in the BBC now to access so much more of the archive that we hold. I’ve been able to use some TV material which in 1999 probably hadn’t even been transferred from film, and was simply sitting at Windmill Road not having come off its reel since it was originally broadcast. Now, I could call it up with a few clicks on the BBC’s intranet, and copy it across without any cost to the radio station.

I’m also very lucky in that the interest Norwich generated means there was more material around about them, and so more survives to use now. Looking at the closest equivalent achievements – in terms of a Cup run, York City from the same level making the same stage in 1955, or in terms of geography Ipswich winning the league in 1962 – then I don’t think I could have made a similar programme about either of them. Not from what the BBC hold, at least – by 1962 you have Anglia in play for Ipswich, who may have more.  But in purely BBC terms, we may not have anything like a complete record of the coverage of Norwich’s 1959 Cup Run, but compared to most other teams of the era, we have a great deal. Even odd little off-hand mentions and fragments and bits and pieces, which I have enjoyed being able to weave in and use where I can.

The challenge, as always, was to try ad make it engaging to a general audience, not just people who are interested in broadcasting history. That said, I have been able to use all sorts of little touches which might only please me – using some of the same music which was used on the original programmes in 1959, for example, or recreating one of the Light Programme’s announcements linking into their partial coverage. All of that, and quoting from some of the original memos from the time, is thanks to the sterling support and infinite patience of Matthew Chipping at the BBC Written Archives Centre. He’s changed role now; hopefully not because of my constant emails asking him to scan and send over just one more PasB document…

One of the BBC memos relating to the cup run coverage which is quoted in the documentary. The support and assistance of the BBC Written Archive Centre during the making of this programme has been hugely generous, as always.

I’m also indebted, of course, to all of the people who kindly spoke to me to share their memories or expertise. Rather stupidly, originally I wasn’t certain whether or not to approach Terry Allcock, the last of the team still living in Norwich, because I wondered whether, being about the coverage, the programme ought to be an entirely ‘outside’ perspective. However, I came to my senses and Terry kindly agreed to speak to me. I was hugely privileged to spend an hour in his front room talking to him last month, and his interview really makes the programme.

There was one point, when he was recounting the homecoming after their eventual defeat, which was one of those great moments you get occasionally when you’re recording an interview with someone on location when you know this is it, the golden material, and you realise you just have to shut up and keep your arm still as it holds the mic and not say a word and hope like hell that the recorder doesn’t for some reason choose to die at that moment.

(I am pleased to say my trusty little Zoom did not let me down!)

Originally, I had thought the programme might make half an hour that sport could perhaps put out on a Saturday when Norwich weren’t playing. It’s become a full-length programme in its own right, trailed and promoted on other shows and very generously given a Weekend supplement cover and three pages by the Eastern Daily Press for an article I wrote them.

My feature piece promoting the programme, which appeared in the Weekend supplement in the Eastern Daily Press and Evening News.

I’m pleased with and proud of it, and I just hope it goes down well with those who listen. Both the Norwich fans now, and those who want a nostalgic reminder of being there back then. I feel confident I have made a very good programme, but am more nervous about its reception than perhaps any other documentary I have made. I make programmes in, of and about Norfolk every day, and I never have cause to worry about the fact I am not from here. But this… This is important local cultural history. This matters to people. There is a real sense of responsibility in making something like this.

For me personally, it feels as if it completes a trilogy of sorts along with Radio in a Roundabout Way and The Network That Never Was – the story of BBC radio in Norwich before Radio Norfolk started in 1980, back to when the regional radio headquarters opened in 1956. A  history not particularly well-chronicled elsewhere, perhaps, but I like to think one I’ve been able to pay some small tribute to. Admittedly not covering the 1960s too much, but unlike the 1950s or Roundabout in the 1970s, there isn’t really much of a hook for that, nor indeed much surviving material.

Anyway, there we have it. By the time I put this up, the programme will have gone out on-air. I can only hope it went down well. If you’ve found this blog via me promoting it and the programme on Twitter – and you’ve made it this far in reading it, for which a big thank you! – do please leave a comment letting me know what you thought!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Goodbye to all that

Farewell to 2018 then, a year when I achieved very little and did almost no writing - but, I did manage to sneak something in under the wire.

I mean, I write all the time of course, and you could even call it professional writing. In my day-to-day job I am constantly writing cues and scripts for broadcast on the BBC, as well as associated online tie-ins. The most substantial bit of tie-in writing I did this year was once again doing the programmes for our Treasure Quest Live stage shows at the Norwich Playhouse in November.

Thanks mostly I think to the very talented Andrew-Mark Thompson doing those spoof annual covers for us we raised over £1500 in donations for the programmes alone, towards £5807 in total from the shows for Children in Need, which was rather nice. As usual I curated and designed the interiors, wrote most of the content and chivied along the contributions from the others!

Fiction-wise, however, I had an almost completely blank year... Until it came to Christmas Day.

I went out for a walk early that afternoon, around near my parents' house in Clapham in West Sussex, where I grew up. Instead of walking around Clapham, though, this time I wandered around the neighbouring village of Patching, and when I was passing Patching Pond I noticed how the sky was reflecting onto the water, so took a few photos:

When I posted these on social media, I mentioned that "The Sky in the Water" would be a good title for a story. One of my followers on Twitter, Lesley Harper, suggested it could be an Alice Flack story, so I decided to give it a go. I decided to write a short one that very afternoon, and not only that I randomly decided to record myself doing a reading of it, too:

It's probably not great, but neither is it awful. Certainly not bad for something started at 5pm, and all written, recorded and put online just after 9pm that same evening.

It made me want to go back and do some more Alice next year, anyway. I do have several stories in mind for her, but I find it so difficult to get down to writing anything these days. I need more discipline! I also have an idea for a novel I'd like to write in 2019, one that's been brewing for a while, but we shall see...

Happy New Year to you all, anyway!