Bill Ward

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Interview Date(s): 
21 Jan 1997
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Interview notes

Summary follows this extract:

Interview extract, on the early days at Alexandra Palace:-

You never went through a show in the studio without at least one camera breaking down. In Studio A you have four cameras and a producer planning his show would start with four and with a bit of luck end with four but in between all four cameras would break down and be repaired by the engineers. And the camera cables were the thickness of a man’s arm - at least. And they had connectors and they broke down - regularly.

    [One of] the early maintenance engineers who most of the time were repairing cables [was] Jimmy Redmond who later became the BBC’s chief engineer, Sir James no less - a lovely man - who, incidentally, was in the wartime film Western Approaches - the radio operator who is playing the radio operator in Western Approaches is Jimmy Redmond. 



Born Plymouth, local schooling, father master craftsman; joined BBC Plymouth 1932, moved to London to join BBC Television in 1936, trainee sound engineer; graduated to Gallery on sound control. Given a chance to become floor manager (FM). [Cecil] Madden encouraged floor managers to have a go at producing short items. He talks about his war years in the Royal Artillery (RA) and then in REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). Goes back to Alexandra Palace as FM, again with Cecil McGivern and by 1952 he was Senior Light Entertainment Manager.


He talks about Cecil Madden etc.; In 1955 does a Bob Hope Show, which was telerecorded for the [United] States which he produced because the BBC engineers refused to work with the Jo Jordan, and after that he was earmarked for the new ATV(ABC) commercial television. He then backtracks to talk about Duncan Ross, Fred O’Donovan, Eric Fawcett and the start of the TV producers Guild.


He goes back to the pre-war [World War Two] days, then onto New Year’s Eve 1951/52 when he was involved in producing a programme from St Thomas’s Hospital, tied in with Big Ben and traffic on the Thames (an OB – Outside Broadcast). He goes on to talk about Michael Barry’s I want to be a Doctor which used both stages at Alexandra Palace. He then goes on to talk about leaving the BBC, and his various productions: Sunday Night at the London Palladium, talks about Norman Collins and high-definition films at the Highbury Studios; then about Party Political Broadcasts, then about the early days of ITV, ATV, ABC, Granada and Rediffusion. John Wills and G.M. Brownrigg.


He talks a great deal on working with Lew Grade, then about James A’Court [?], the asset stripper. He talks about Val Parnell; he then talks about his area of authority and the way in which the organisation worked. He remembers many of the early names of ITV personnel: [Hugh] ‘Binkie’ Beaumont, Bob Heller, Phil Dorte, Reg Watson, Ron Rowen, Bernard Greenhead, Howard Thomas. Also, a rumour that circulated about Bernstein’s ennoblement.


[Alan Lawson wrote;] (It had been hoped that Bill would continue to record at a later date, but he finally told us, having listened to the four sides that there really wasn’t much more he could say).




Married to producer Sandra Hastie