Children in Need 

18 November 2022


Cover of Inside BBC Television

From ‘Inside BBC Television: A Year Behind the Camera’, published in 1983

‘We were about to start seven hours of transmission and nobody could find Cardiff,’ says director Pieter Morpurgo, speaking about the 1981 edition of the programme, which opened with a contribution from each of the major BBC regional stations.

This wasn’t Cardiff’s fault. Bristol had finished Nationwide and then switched off its link with us in London and gone to tea,’ he continues. ‘Cardiff comes through the Bristol switching centre. We only got Cardiff ten seconds before transmission. There were a lot of shaky, white-faced people about and I was one of them. I aged ten years. I am glad to say nothing like that happened in 1982.’

This marathon charity appeal which in 1982 raised well over one million pounds [about £4m in today’s money, allowing for inflation -Ed], made use of the combined forces of BBC television, radio and local radio. For the first time in 1982 there was a radio studio working independently inside a television studio.

‘It’s the sort of thing I adore doing,’ says Morpurgo, ‘because technically it is extremely complicated. It is probably as complicated as any other television programme, including the General Election. In effect you are running the whole BBC1 network for the night.’

There were cameras at work in every BBC television station in the country. These included the national regions, the network production centres and local television studios which total 17. There were also three outside broadcasts at Radio Sheffield, Radio Northampton and Radio Medway. Altogether 65 cameras were used, some for the network and some for their particular areas, and 11 producers and 11 directors worked outside London.


Two men stand in front of an audience

Warm-up man Jimmy Perry keeping the audience happy.


At Television Centre, Morpurgo worked with the executive producer Mark Patterson who was responsible for the overall editorial shape of the programme, regional editor Mike Read who collated all the stories from the regions, radio coordinator Mike Gilliam and producer Hugh Purcell who looked after the stories sent in by phone.


Terry Wogan rolls up his trouser leg

Terry Wogan shows a leg for charity, much to the amusement of singing stars Lulu and Petula Clark.


But Morpurgo believes the man who really carried the programme was presenter Terry Wogan. ‘It lives or dies on Terry,’ he says.

The programme went on the air at 6.55 pm and the first five minutes were scripted, but after that ‘it meant making it up as you went along,’ says Morpurgo.’


A group of people sit around small tables

The first radio studio set up inside a television studio. In the foreground (left to right) Terry Wogan, Paul Daniels, Lulu, Petula Clark, Cliff Richard, Henry Cooper and James Hunt.


It is the kind of operation which brings out the very best in people who gladly volunteer their services. From those manning the telephones to celebrities who come in to the studio, they all willingly give up their time to work on it.


People work at banks of video tape machines

Throughout the evening, recorded items are inserted into the programme from the videotape area at Television Centre.


Temporary telephone exchanges sprang up in the most unlikely places. One was to be found on the Saturday Superstore set, another in the make-up room at Lime Grove’s Topical Presentation Unit.

Throughout the night there was a relay of information with stories coming in from London and the regions. When these were collated, ‘runners’ took them to Terry or Fran Morrison on the news desk or gave them to one of the celebrities.


People on phones around a board table

Volunteers man the telephones collecting pledges from callers.


Terry could also be alerted through his earpiece that a story was coming from one of the regions.

‘Really my job was that of a co-ordinator because I rely on everybody knowing their job without having to be told,’ says Morpurgo. ‘To get it right you must have the co-operation of everyone concerned. It’s an unusual sort of one-off event and we still get very excited about it. We all love doing things which stretch us, where we can use our inventive talents.’


Saturday Superstore set

The Saturday Superstore set in Studio Seven (above and below) became one of the temporary telephone exchanges.

Saturday Superstore set interior


Text: Rosalie Horner
Editing: Ruth Rosenthal
Pictures: John Timbers


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