Do you remember Reg Harcourt, ‘Crossroads’, Police 5, that great commercial TV mastermind Lew Grade with his enormous cigars, Jill Richardson (Jane Rossington) and her house Chimneys, all the fascinating commercial TV series and programmes broadcast in the 1950s-1980s and dare I say it Bob Warman, who still graces our screens today in Central Tonight?
Are you nostalgic for the great days of English commercial television? Maybe you are a media student, or an historian wondering how the modern tv landscape came about. Perhaps you’re an archivist with a gap in your record office or local studies library’s video collection crying out for some real media history? Or would you love to wallow in a bit of nostalgia from the days of your youth – especially if you are a Brummie or from the Black Country?
Then this double DVD box set of five 45-minute episodes, ‘From ATVLand in Colour’, will be right up your street.
When I started to watch this, all the old stuff tucked away in the attic of my mind from my youth in 1960s-70s Bloxwich began to tumble out, and I found myself remembering people and programmes, faces and places I hadn’t thought about in years.
There were the days before BBC2, and satellite TV, and digital this and plasma that. No computers in the home. No mobile phones. No Playstations or electronic gadgets. Just cinemas, the ‘wireless’, trannies, the stylophone and good old two-channel telly.
Do you remember Crossroads, with the wobbly sets, Noel Gordon – and Benny, whose name became associated with a particularly dodgy woolly hat? How about Jane Rossington, who played Jill Richardson? Her house, ‘Chimneys’, after which the 1980s wine bar in Bloxwich, converted from a row of cottages on Park Road, was named (latterly called the Carousel, and now the Lady Diana, would you believe?). And her brother Sandy, the ground-breaking character in a wheelchair?
All those people whom you recognise instantly but never see on the goggle box any more, all those theme tunes which still strike a chord but you can’t get as a ring tone.
ATV Today and Central News plus a wealth of regional programming, such as England Their England and Here & Now. Tinga and Tucka, the two little bears and their friend Jean Morton and their uncle Cliff Richard? New Faces, Chris Tarrant and Tiswas – the Phantom Flan Flinger and the dying fly… Sylveste McCoy in his bath of baked beans… Shaw Taylor and Police Five (Keep ‘em peeled – we still say that today!) The Golden Shot (Bob Monkhouse, Bernie the Bolt and Guzzle the Golden Grub!). Not to mention Spitting Image – don’t we really, really need them back today, in a world of politicians gone mad?
And the then futuristic ATV Centre, in the centre of Birmingham, affectionately known as ATVLand – where the late father, sadly missed, of an old friend of mine used to manage the cleaners… Oh gods, what wouldn’t I give for a time machine. But this dvd is not a bad substitute, you know.
A five part documentary, this ‘series’ tells the story of ATV and ABC and the birth of commercial television in England, and how the Midlands was the heart of its success. The Centre and the people who worked there, performers, reporters, cameramen, actors, editors, producers and so forth are looked at lovingly from its beginnings in 1970 to its ultimate closure in 1997, celebrating the great programmes that came from the studios throughout its working life.
‘From ATVLand In Colour’ includes a wealth – how often do we hear that, but it really is true – of unseen and newly restored archive film sourced from the Media Archive for Central England.
Jam-packed with rare clips from the 60s through to the 80s, it features remarkable behind the scenes footage and regional news and programming, much of which has not seen since broadcast, plus interviews exclusive to this DVD with those who worked at the centre, including Jim Bowen, Bob Carolgees, Gary Terzza, Peter Harris, Diana Mather, Wendy Nelson, Reg Harcourt, Debbie Shore, Jane Rossington, Chris Tarrant, Jo Wheeler, Shaw Taylor and Bob Warman.
The five episodes follow ATV’s birth and move to new premises, the changes in technology, from live broadcasts to recording, the 16mm film cameras for news reporting in the field, the huge three tube studio cameras (I used them at college!) and the preparations for the transition to colour broadcasting and for the eventual opening of ATV Centre in 1970. They show the story of the four studios in operation throughout the 1970s, in location film footage and in the fond memories of those who were involved, through to the 1980s and to the dawn of Central Television which brought changes in layout to the studios and more great programmes.
The double disc set’s second disc reveals how the studios look today and offers a nostalgic montage of behind the scenes archive footage from the ATV & Central days.
And as a fascinating bonus for computer users, the discs also include pdfs of archived studio booklets ‘This is ATV’ (28 pages) and the ‘ATV Year Book 1974-75’ (24 pages),
I can honestly say I love this package, ATV and Central were such a part of my life for so long, and I miss ATV in particular. I know many of you will too. I find it equally fascinating as an historian, and as a photographer who used the same technology at college in Wednesbury in the late 1970s. This production is clearly a labour of love by, and backed by, people who know their stuff and the value of history. Buy it now – and revel in the analogue, travel back in time to the days of 405 and 625 lines, the test card and the white dot. There’s really nothing quite like it in our modern digital world.
From ATVLand in Colour is produced by ATVLAND.productions for the Media Archive for Central England, in Association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment Ltd.
Available on DVD for £14.99 (reduced from £17.99 till 30 November 2011), this fascinating media history nostalgia fest is a real piece of OUR history in the Midlands – and a real bargain direct from MACE (see link below)
AND FINALLY, don’t forget to check out MACE, who now reside at the University of Lincoln: http://www.macearchive.org – their aims are admirable, and their website and collections an extraordinary resource.
Stuart Williams, 20 November 2011