Elizabeth Forty (Tofield)

Family name: 
Forty (Tofield)
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
20 Oct 1997
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 

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Interview notes


[Original note describes this as the first intimate one on the inner workings of the Corporation – the BBC – and very rewarding]

SIDE ONE [NB The original log sheet does not indicate where SIDE 4 begins and ends.DS]

Born 1926, family in poor financial situation. Brought up by grandmother, educated locally, won a scholarship but due to financial situation unable to take it up. Uncle paid for a secretarial course (one year) told her she must finish it in 6 months; got her first job with a Slough firm in 1940. Royal Star policies at Lloyds at £1 a week, of which 7/6 [7 shillings and 6 pence, 37 ½ p] to Aunt, 7/6 for night school and 5 shillings [25p] for herself. At 17 she decided to try for somewhere else, and asked for an advert for the BBC and another for the Daily Mirror [newspaper]; the Mirror offered £2 15 shillings a week [£2.75p], the BBC £2.10 shillings [£2.50p]. First she worked in the general office which she found boring, then Lines Department, then Overseas Programme Planning. She talks about 200 Oxford Street, and the various people she met there.


She talks about doing VAD work [Voluntary Aid Detachment, a form of nursing care] in the evenings. Later she moved to Audience Research, then applied for a job of secretary to the Duty Room, which she talks about in detail.


Still talks about the Duty Room work; she leaves the BBC because her mother had a nervous breakdown, while she took a part-time job at the Royal College of Nursing. Then back to the BBC to the Eastern Talks Department, then moves to Reception at Broadcasting House where she stayed for five years. Again, she talks about that in detail. Then she moved to the Secretariat with Sir Ian Jacobs as the new Director-General. Again, she talks in detail (part of this section has been deleted).

[Possibly SIDE FOUR?]

She then became secretary to Cecil McGivern, she talks about her time with him and the various people with whom she came into contact. After Cecil McG she moved to work with Sir Gerald Beadle and she talks about the relationship between Beadle and [Hugh] Carleton Greene.


Here she talks about Grace Wyndham Goldie, Joanna Spicer and Michael Peacock. Then she moves on to talk about Paul Fox [a section of this has been deleted]. When Sir Gerald Beadle retired, Ken Adams took over. “A very difficult start”. Stuart Hood moved from News to become Controller of Programmes with Adam as Director (Television). This situation, she says was not a success. She talks about difficult times, the arrival of AMPEX recordings, and the establishment of EBU (European Broadcasting Union) arrived at the right moment. The success of That Was the Week That Was, a programme idea that was inspired by Beadle; she talks about the purchase by BBC Enterprises of the RKO library, with its 50 feature films for £50,000 and the sale of the Langham sit for the same amount.


She talks about the role of Controller (Finance) in blocking a BBC Pension Fund purchase. She moves back to talk about Cecil McGivern.



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