Scout TV 

8 September 2002

Living in London, David Brockman didn’t particularly expect to end up on Northern Life or visit the studios of Border Television. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Never in my wildest dreams did I contemplate that I would ever see the inside of Tyne Tees’s studios in City Road, Newcastle, but such an opportunity came my way in 1976.

I had developed a keen interest in all things associated with TV presentation as a child, during in the late 1960s. Rediffusion and ABC were to be reincarnated as Thames Television. At the same time in London, ATV announcers bid farewell to viewers for their new seven day a week Midlands contract, to be replaced by London Weekend Television.

As a teenager in London, I would study the TV Times to see what programmes ITV would screen from the different regions. The smaller the company, the least likely they would have a programme shown. Tyne Tees Television programmes in London were in those days extremely rare, although LWT did screen Face The Press, a live current affairs show, for a time.

Another opportunity to occasionally see the Tyne Tees logo, presented itself on Granada TV’s inter-regional childrens contest, Anything You Can Do. This pitted different ITV regional children’s teams against each other, and competitors wore a tee-shirt with their regions logo on it.

Years later as an adult, I spent two years as national Press Officer for a small Scout Association that actually broke away from the main national body.

Eager to see our version of scouting in the public eye, and due to the fact we had many branches in the north east of England, I decided to do a regional publicity drive themed with the anniversary of the birthday of Lady Baden-Powell, wife of the founder, which occurred in late February.

As publicity officer for a London wide youth group, I had experience of dealing with the bigger Thames and LWT stations, and I was not sure what reaction I would get with Tyne Tees in Newcastle and Border TV in Carlisle.

The results were very pleasing, as I found that away from the metropolis of London, where of course much news is generated, it was much easier to negotiate news time on regional programmes.

Probably eager to film something other than jumble sales, fetes and society weddings, or new company launches and closures, Tyne Tees warmed to the idea of doing an item about scouting, and so I agreed to come up to the north, and coach local scouts and leaders in readiness for appearing on Northern Life, and also Border TV’s Border News and Look Around.

The date of the anniversary was 28th February, and both stations were keen to put out an item on that day. It was decided that I would bring a party of scouts and leaders to the Tyne Tees studio on Monday 27th February 1976. We arrived at the studios on the afternoon at the appointed time, around 3pm.

In those days, Tyne Tees would film the habit of filming a promotion for the following days Northern Life, in our case Tuesdays’ edition, for screening before News at Ten the night before.

The presenter and interviewer on Northern Life was Bill Steel. We wrapped up the filming of the promotion and the studio interview in about 45 minutes, and had a drink, then left the studios, to do an interview “live” for the BBC local radio station, Radio Newcastle, and then we headed for our regional home base in Darlington. Going into that very Tyne Tees studio – something I had often dreamed about – was quite an experience.

On Tuesday a party of scouts and leaders, were to travel from the North-East, across the country to Carlisle to to a live interview on Border TV’s evening regional magazine, Border News and Look Around. However, BBC Radio Carlisle also wanted a piece of the action, but a guest slot on their main morning show, meant a 5.30am journey from Darlington to Carlisle on cross country rail. It was decided that I would do this interview, and the scouts and leaders would follow me to Carlisle later in the day.

I was driven to Darlington at the crack of dawn and caught the train, and just about managed to make BBC Radio Carlisle in Hilltop Heights in time for their main morning magazine. After lunch, I arrived at the Border TV studios, sited on an industrial estate. I wondered, if by chance, I might get to see the one and only if by chance, I might get to see the one and only Derek Batey. Derek, was Assistant Controller of Programmes (production) at Border, but known to millions of ITV viewers as the presenter of the networked Border version of “Mr and Mrs” a day time and off peak evening ITV quiz show.

No such luck, not a view of Mr Batey in sight, though his picture very prominently adorned the studio walls in reception. I had no time to think about that, as a problem emerged. The scouts and leaders were having trouble getting across the country, and both myself and the studio staff began to panic. Would they get to the studio in time for the rehearsal at 5pm and the live show at 6?

At a push, I could have done the interview myself, but I was a London press officer, albeit a volunteer one, and in a suit. We wanted as much as possible scouts from the region or near to it to be on the show with their leaders, in their traditional short trousered uniforms. The Baden Powell Scouts had broken away from the main scout body as they disagreed with uniform changes introduced unilaterally in 1969. To demonstrate our differences, it was imperative to have the scouts and leaders there.

My goodness, the adrenaline flowed alright on that day, the scouts failed to arrive for the main rehearsal at 5pm, and the floor managers and studio crew got into a terrible lather. I was pacing up and down in the reception at Border TV, and not yet being the age of the mobile phone, we had no idea where they were, other than that they were on the way.

I was pacing up and down the reception area, like a dad waiting for the delivery of his baby in a maternity ward, as expectant dads did in those days. As the clock ticked by I got more and more worried and the studio floor manager’s face could not have look more like that of a ghost. The lo and behold a great sigh of relief all around, as at about 5.58pm the van rolled up, out piled the scouts and their leaders, and in they dashed to make-up at break neck speed.

By this time even Keith Macklin, then presenter of Lookaround had come out to see what was happening. It was nice to briefly meet Mr Macklin, also at the time a commentator for ITV sports, mainly football on the network. The lads and lasses, (ages before the main scout association allowed girl scouts, the B-P Scouts had admitted them) were rushed into the studio, at the very moment the studio clock ticked to 6pm. The chopstick logo and the Lookaround titles rolled out from Carlisle, and the show was “on air”.

Talk about getting on in the nick of time – phew. The interview was all over, and quite unrehearsed, although the scouts had done the Tyne Tees recording a day earlier, so in a sense had already had a kind of rehearsal. Shortly after about five past six, the scouts and leaders came out of Studio 1, and were ushered towards the canteen for a free meal at the expense of Border Television.

Then, at the end of a long and tiring day, it was back to Darlington area, and we were back just in time to join a local, “pea and pie” supper. It had been hard work, and a year or so later, I relinquished my press officer role with the BP scouts, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and that golden opportunity to do the double, seeing both the Tyne Tees Television and the Border Television studios, inside and out, in the space of two days.

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