Roger England: a career in cameras 

1 May 2023 tbs.pm/78971

 

Roger England

Courtesy of Roger England

Roger England was born, bred and educated in the capital city of Wales, Cardiff. He began a long career working as a lab assistant for four years at a research laboratory at Sully, and then as a technical rep at the British Belting and Asbestos Company, but found the work mundane and wanted to move to more interesting pastures. He was eager to broaden his horizons and had his eyes set on the fledgling industry of broadcasting, and to this end applied to the BBC as a technical assistant.

Roger’s brother-in-law, Ken Hill was a well known chap in the BBC in Cardiff and encouraged him to join the corporation. In later years Ken became Head of House and Office Services at BBC Wales, responsible for the day to day running of the whole operation in Cardiff.

Ken Hill let Roger know that a new venture was beginning in Cardiff, the opening of a brand new television station for West and North Wales, more widely known as Teledu Cymru. August 1962, a month before the station’s first transmission, saw Roger apply for the post of Technical Trainee and he waited for some considerable time before, out of the blue, he was called for interview. Roger got the job and found himself in the gleaming new television centre on Cardiff’s Western Avenue, near the suburb of Llandaff. He was given a 9 months trial and the policy at the time was to allow trainees to work in several departments before deciding which type of work suited the trainee best.

Thus Roger spent time in the sound and racks departments before joining cameras, where he remained in a long and illustrious career. Roger remembers upon getting his staff job as a cameraman that he was obliged to join the union, which was mandatory company policy at the time. He worked on the full range of WWN output, which curiously his friends and family could not see, as the station was only available in West and North Wales, and not in Cardiff where he lived.

 

Bob Geldof

Courtesy of Roger England

 

Teledu Cymru, though well equipped for their needs with purpose built studios including large scene dock, had a limited range of programmes and as Roger recalls he worked on an inordinate amount of programmes featuring choirs and harps (WWN had no agreements for working with Equity members). The station relied mainly on magazine formats with occasional filmed inserts, and ‘talking heads’ programmes. However at Teledu Cymru he worked with colleagues he remembers with affection, such as Roy Hayward (who features elsewhere on this website), Barrie Davies in lighting, and two young directors – Ieuan Davies (who went on to TWW and HTV) and Iwan Thomas (who became a velvet voiced announcer at BBC Wales).

During the spring of 1963 the clouds of uncertainty gathered at Teledu Cymru and it was announced in the main studio by Haydn Williams that local origination would cease at the end of May. It had been hoped that local programmes would be resumed at some point but it soon became apparent that this was not a viable option.

During the interim period, members of staff were hired out to other stations and Roger was called upon to leave the cosy atmosphere at Teledu Cymru and join the mighty Granada Television in Manchester, initially to work on a play about World War I. Roger relished the chance to work at a large ITV company like Granada and rose to the challenge of working on a major drama.

 

Holding a camera in a studio

Courtesy of Roger England

 

A mere three days later, Roger was called upon to work on another huge project for Granada, a Play of the Week, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, starring Doria Griffith. Directed by Silvio Narizzano, this was a major production to be followed by many others at Granada over the years. As a result of this, Roger received a telegram from Granada offering him a staff job. He remembers Monday 10 December 1963 as a red letter day, the day he joined Granada as a staff cameraman. Not only was Roger involved in major plays and series, but he also worked on staple Granada fare such as University Challenge and Scene at 6.30. During his time at Teledu Cymru he became very skilled at caption work on illustrated children’s programmes and Roger found these skills invaluable for a caption based programme like What the Papers Say.

During his time at Granada, Roger enjoyed working on some of the company’s most popular sitcoms, the first of which was Nearest and Dearest. Jimmy Jewel and Hylda Baker were well known adversaries in the showbiz world and indeed Roger’s experience working with them backed this up. They spent most of their time putting one over each other or upstaging each other, and indeed their antics would have made a great sitcom in it’s own right! He thoroughly enjoyed working on The Lovers starring Richard Beckinsale, whom he though was a great guy – as were the rest of the cast. Roger was shocked and saddened at Richard’s early death in the late seventies. He recalls that the rest of the cast were also great to work with. Roger also worked on The Dustbinmen and was shocked as was everyone else at the another early death, when Graham Haberfield passed away in his early thirties, a famous face not only on this sitcom but also of Coronation Street.

One of Roger’s colleagues in the camera dept was a fellow Welshman, Eric Prytherch, who later became a director and producer of Coronation Street. Colleagues who left Teledu Cymru and joined the company ‘from the North’ included John Muxworthy, the sound recordist, Melfyn Davies, a film cameraman, and Mervyn Jones, a racks engineer.

 

Behind a television camera

Courtesy of Roger England

 

He worked on BAFTA-nominated shows such as Granada’s production of King Lear and the Titan Crane which Roger guided across the floor for King Lear was the biggest that could be accommodated in Granada’s massive Studio 8. This was a notable event because, barely a month later, the crane crashed over a precipice at Clifton Suspension Bridge!

Another exciting event for Roger was a trip to the States on Concorde for a children’s programme. He also vividly remembers working on a special programme from the Ark Royal, when it was in harbour in Gibraltar, which included a tour of the area in a helicopter.

I met Roger whilst working a short stint on Coronation Street a few years ago, where his calm but friendly demeanour made me feel very welcome. His son Dave is also a popular television cameraman who began his career at HTV in Mold, another gentleman who maintains the family tradition of multi-camera work. Having now retired and still leading a busy life, Roger remembers his time at Teledu Cymru and Granada with affection and looks back at his career with a justifiable sense of pride, and thanks to him for sharing some of his memories.

 

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