See what the girls in the backroom will have… 

25 August 2014

In 1963, television was still something of a novelty for most people. It had been 10 years since it had become a mass-medium, but what went on in the background, how television was made and got on air, was a mystery to many – if not most – people.

Strange ideas existed in the televiewing population. That all TV was live or all TV was film. That a 45-minute filmed programme took 45 minutes to make. That the writers gave the actors ideas and the actors made up the words. That the actors brought their own clothes in to wear. That TV was just actors on a stage and one man with a camera. All this even before the true mystery of how the people were shrunk down and projected into a box in the living room!

ATV tried to demystify television a bit by publishing an annual “show book”, with pictures of your favourite stars and tame gossip from your favourite programmes. They also devoted pages to reminding viewers how much work television was – especially needed by the early 1960s, with the government in the throws of plucking television up out of the ground to study its roots again with the Pilkington committee.

Here ATV gives us a look into the world of what it patronisingly calls a “backroom girl”. Beyond that and the odd bit of sexism, the article remains fascinating – just as production assistants (PAs) remain vital to the workings of television today. They speak to Vivien Clements, a PA in the exciting world of Emergency: Ward 10, one of television’s most popular ever soap operas. According to IMDb, Ms Clements was to be found working for ATV in the 1970s as well, and then for Anglia in the 1980s. If anyone knows what happened to her, or can fill in details of her career, which must have been fascinating, the comments are open.

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