Frederick Bentham

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27 Apr 1995
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BEHP 0353 S Fred Bentham Synopsis

[This synopsis primarily just lists names, with little context, and is taken from handwritten notes which in some cases proved difficult to read. DS 2020]

Born 1911. Father sculptor. Salisbury Plain RA to camouflage Hayling Island. Stage Lighting St Paul’s School. Collet Court. Harlesden. Model Theatres. No more religion.

Designed larger model theatres and at 16-17 put on shows. 1929 Oliver Barnard Art Deco. J Lyons Cornerhouses, overall designer. Nippies. Strand Palace Hotel. GEC opposite Stoll. Drawing Office. Art Deco; Central School of Arts and Crafts. Dept of Cinema Lighting. Basil Davis Winstanley. Regent Street Polytechnic Electrical Engineering; Davis Croydon; Shepherds Bush Pavilion; Louis Levy; Quentin Mclean; Talkies. Special Cinemas, Regal Plaza, started lighting about 1927; Amateur Theatre; Dean of Windsor; Strand-Electric. Scenery and Lighting Manager. GEC. CEA Trade Show. Arthur Earnshaw; Appleby. [?] demonstration theatre, Floral Street. Fred McCrae; £3 per week; Lighting changes to records. Bentalls, Kingston founder; Fashion show – 22 years old. Christie, Glyndbourne; Strand equipment primitive then. Robert Nesbitt, Stanley Earnshaw. B. Bear. Compton organ company, Christie organs; Taylor. £1000. Organ, switchboard colour music.

1936 public company, lease ran out 24 Floral Street; moved to 29 King Street. Designed new demonstration theatre. Pneumonia. Leslie Henson. War. Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition. Factory at Ealing, landing lights. Bombed King Street. Consul protected. Went to Palladium. Nesbit. Tommy Trinder; Joe Davies; Binky Beaumont.

Second World War. Glasgow exhibition; pneumonia just before war so not called up. Medical; TB operation. No role for demonstration theatre in war. Lisbon. Portugese ambassador.

Cassette 2:

Back in England; Percy Corry; Frank Weston. Theatre bombed. Adelphi. Simulator limb [?] trainer

Gangway at Palladium, bigger consul; TB returned; Wrote book while in bed; Edward via Midhurst [?]; married end of the war; Stanley Earnshaw; consultant to Royal Festival Hall; Drury Lane; Queen Wilhemina of Holland; Coliseum; c1955 B Bare Television Riverside Studio; Westminster Abbey; E8; Rediffusion Wembley; Remote control; BBC Lighting in studios; Mclean ABC electrical. Jxxx Trumb Wood; All electric thyristors; Thorns; Appleby; 1968 Rank Organisation


BEHP transcript Disclaimer

This transcript has been produced automatically using Otter,

It provides a basic, but unverified or proofread transcript of the interview. Therefore, the British Entertainment History Project (BEHP) accepts no liability for any misinterpretation of the content of this interview.

However, the BEHP wants to make every effort to improve the quality of these transcripts and would welcome any voluntary offers to proofread this and/or other interviews. If you want to help, please contact BEHP Secretary,

BEHP transcript Disclaimer

This transcript has been produced automatically using Otter,

It provides a basic, but unverified or proofread transcript of the interview. Therefore, the British Entertainment History Project (BEHP) accepts no liability for any misinterpretation of the content of this interview.

However, the BEHP wants to make every effort to improve the quality of these transcripts and would welcome any voluntary offers to proofread this and/or other interviews. If you want to help, please contact BEHP Secretary,

Frederick Bentham  0:03  
I have something different anyway.

Manny Yospa  0:08  
Interview with Fred Bentham said to make it

Frederick Bentham  0:13  
well, the equipment that strand had hives still don't know who designed it. But it was, in today's terms, very primitive, except for the battens and Footlights, which were these compartment type, with the gela teams as a verb in those days. And but the rest the spotlights were very primitive. And the switchboard I always regarded as great thing with these leavers working the demos on the back as primitive indeed. And in that course, I was in agreement with Christie to Napa pointed out to me, and somehow or other I found myself sitting out to get the equipment, right. It had not been my intention, as I Now recall, to stay in Stratton for all that law. What I wanted to do was to go out and do lighting on theatre stages, and above all, I particularly had in mind that somehow they will, please, I'd be finding myself seated at a switchboard that I had very much in mind, which looked like an organ console in some super cinema, performing colour music, interludes, it certainly wasn't my intention to stay at strand, I got a father figure of three years. And at that age, three years is a long time. Anyway, so I set about introducing new equipment. And fortunately, there was a man who liked you using it as new equipment. And there were these beam lights or pageant landers, as we call them were narrow beams of light. And there was these hectoring areas with the powerful beams of light coming downwards. And it was Robert Nesbitt that could see what could be done with these in spectacular shows. And the man who was largely responsible for getting Nesbitt interested was Stanley Earnshaw, who was the son of Arthur Earnshaw. The managing director and Stanley owned Joe was was very short, and once seemed you couldn't mistake him and he had a way of getting on with people. I've never been very good debt. And it was very useful to have Stanley in touch with all these theatre people. And he go to the special shows and first night and, and yet he wasn't keen on designing is couldn't do so if we were had been. later on. Somebody else joined us, my first assistant chap called be bear down to everybody is B. And he was extremely useful for the match the same reason he came as assistant in the show room, but he moved over after a bit, the hard department and then he was terribly useful in as a contact man. I'm trying to think of the word he used to use to express himself as what he regarded his role, but anyway, he was extremely useful and also is very much at home in the local pubs like the lemon flag and assault spray, but I won't go numerating all that there was a red line I think two which has long since demolished. Anyway, he was at home there whereas I was a TT No, cause

I didn't like pubs must have been a little trace of my religious of time, lingering Anyway, so I got this lighting equipment redesign and the real thing was, after that I had these three basic types of lenses and I had to somehow get stranded electric to make this switchboard. And I'd already decided there was only one could make the organ console for me. And that was the Compton organ company. Their action was why absolutely in advance of everybody else. It was all electric. Whereas people like Christie Christie oguns Incidentally, the The name comes from the same connection that Christie was managing director of Hill Norman beard. And he made sure his name appeared on the Auckland Council's as they came up. And that tells you something about Christie Isaac, anyway. And so on the call course, well, it was, I suppose, was famous and Mr. organ name, but condensates both straight organs, and cinema organs. And they were turning out cinema organs of rate of one a week, in those days. And when I went to see them about this organ console in its form, to control lighting, their technical director a man called Taylor J. Taylor, was fascinated and set out to everything to help me. Unfortunately, one of the three directors in strained when he sold it with the demo bank, Handy organ console, the prototype would work out or 1000 pounds, it doesn't seem very much now. I mean, we probably paid that for lunch, I imagine. But anyway, the somehow router I managed to wangle hit that they decided to go ahead and tell the title detail for him. One of my books anyway. And so there we were, with the this switchboard, which was just like a cinema or organ except keys were coloured. And it was a matter of selecting by putting down the stops, which might have been dad pays on flute or trumpet or whatever, on an old gun, or take them out of cinnabar, Oregon into Vietnam to VR and Vox humane and you put down the stop keys, foot light, and sport number five or active error number six or whatever, and then you went to the correct key board and you either switched them on directly or you raised the lights by just resting your fingers on the key and if you pressed hard to what was known as second touch, then the lights were dim and you work the speed with your foot and it was it with what was just like what was the swell pedal works shatters in hold and pipe organs. And so, there was an all connected up and ready to go. And of course, one can imagine that theatre elections, electricians was scared stiff of it, I mean reality should play something in order to bring up the lights. It was just hopeless. And of course the people owned theatre mainly in those days, West End theatres and so on. Of course, they are not the people who put the shows on in principle, which not unknown today. But anyway, the so what were the electricians feel scared stiff of mind.

We didn't manage to sell any. But that didn't matter to me because what I really wanted to do was to play catch Music. And that's what that was there. And I could do that with my demonstration by heart rhythm as we called it those days, those solemn vows music, Prelude Siegfried, and zone do Flying Dutchman Overture was tone clouds and all the rest. And that's what people would come and see. And what was interesting that they were so interested, that we were able to start up, it was an idea of this be bears start up, like console society, as was called. And they come to these regular recitals. Because I still meet people nowadays, who if they're pretty elderly, remember the those days, but also just round led demonstrations, it was almost the only place where you could learn about stage lighting in those those days. And particularly later on it came kind of well, john English called it about House of stage lighting. Anyway. So that was that. And the question was, I was perfectly happy. And we did do some quotations with a quotation for Drury Lane. And we did one for Monte Carlo of all places, from time to time. Meanwhile, stranded electric, I'd become a public company. And the two managing directors, Arthur M. Shaw, and Philip Sheridan had left that was at the end of 1935. So 1936, we were public company. And so eventually, the lease ran out on where the theatre was outside of flower Street. And we had to find other premises. It's amazing, we looked all over the place. because by then, even as a new board, at least one of new directors was completely empty me. And they realise they got to have this got to have a demonstration theatre, and quite why it took so long define, but eventually, the premises back the original strand premises at 24 floros treats were backed on to buy the building in 29 Kings Street. And why the hell we didn't look there in the first place, I don't know. But the chance came to build our own demonstration theatre, down in the basement. And again, it's an odd thing. I should rebound. Since I've always played all roles, except to Fremantle when the, I mean, for instance, when I done that new equipment and got that switchboard, I was the one that wrote the catalogue and sold it was published with Google sans lettering, and all up to date. And

then the next thing was to obviously some agile design is demonstrations is a set was me. So I designed it to done it was really could be described as a temp, column music, there are photographs around. But the auditorium had as many colour lighting circuits as the stage lighting had circuits, and they were automatically switched over from one to the other. And a few of them are shared in common in the footlight area. But we could put a whole recycling of colour music up in the auditorium. And then while they seem changed at the back, and then we go over to the back, and two shows were always done without actors, because again, although it was much bigger affairs and the previous thing above, particularly it had His height Gordon Craig always used to talk about and therefore be afraid of verticals is what he's supposed to said. And it had all this, you say, but the show always had to take for one more colour moving lighting, in other words. And particularly the thing that fascinated me was it's one thing you model with lighting and of course, you condemn it is now new could change its colour and you can mix it other colours and so on. But in particular, when the audience, when the audience sitting out in the auditorium, they're greatly influenced from where it came from. So you could do two, three colour lighting came at foot night level right around the audience. So you either had the light coming from below you. And then there were these spotlights and various effects, which shot the lighting up, there were these columns largely in this part, but the fact that we've got to hold the roof up somewhere, and it had absolute logic, and then you could do the colour lighting from the top, you could be sitting down, and this mysterious light could come over you. And of course, if you're playing jazz, you could. There were eight spotlights in where the, between the foot light and the house tabs, and they showed up the tabs and you could jazz them around and you could reply from the roof, so to speak. And anyway, there were 30 down circuits all in all in the auditorium. each with its own demo, the console was out front, of course. And then the stage, I largely use the same layout most of the time. Suppose Well, it looks as if

Manny Yospa  17:32  
running again, now

Frederick Bentham  17:33  
write it. And the only trouble was diabolus was being built on premise premises converted this way. And I have much to do as a showroom outside as well. In fact, every time that was altered, as it was subsequently, it was the I'm remember at the beginning of the tape, I said, when I say B I'm referring to that chap of long ago, who's not me today. I'm just looking at him and we wonder anyway. So eventually. The trouble was, while this was being built, I was early to hospital because I caught this pneumonia and pleurisy while doing the lighting for the fountains to Glasgow Empire exhibition. I've got a feeling it's the last of the Empire exhibitions we ever held. But we did have an empire then not just the Falklands. Anyway, so I was in hospital, but I managed to get out in time to play the console for the opening. And the theatre was out by Leslie Hudson and debris. And so that was that. Unfortunately, we hardly got it open, when of course the wall was going to break out. So it was hardly used. The mean time that being the Daily Mail, wanted to do colour music, and it's strange to do that. With this segment I had to sell to Australian the electric to get to DeBakey ended in needed as a stage switchbot its first sales were as colour music. So the this was for the Daily Mail ideal home exhibition for a month there was a 70 foot tower built in Paul let him at Earl's got, and there was a Compton, Oregon console to clean away with the claim playing it. And should have been Fred Benzema the other console except when he was in the hospital. So that was rather disappointing to say the least. And then, of course, hardly died come out of hospital and come back to trend when war was declared. And as I had to own and work part time anyway, that was that. And the second year in due course, the idea of having colour music demonstrations, and That's out of the question. I found myself down in the factory, which was then moved to Ealing because it will become much bigger and I was testing landing lights. So aircraft could come down on the these aircraft carriers. And that's a story which I think we'll bring up in another instalment and merely shut down the is part so to speak. We've had already suffered one big disappointment. And the next one was when Hitler decided we got long into the war I just seemed I'd been and

a second year of the war two small bombs were dropped in and one went on the stage of and blew the My beloved temple to basis so to speak.

However, there was one time to gel with it. We we'd placed the light console because we thought this sort of thing would happen underneath the balcony. And that protected it and Nesbitt learning fatigue was there available decided he'd have it in the Palladium for his show court was show called anyway, this couldn't have been gangway that definitely

Manny Yospa  23:05  
crazy gang

Frederick Bentham  23:06  
crazy gang we're out at that time it was this banjo all sorts of people in it. Bam lie on and all those sorts of people. I bet my brain at the moment. I still think it's affecting these coffees gambling. I can't remember anything. tickets. What a cool game. Nevermind, there was this show it is put on a put on us here is very strange sort of show. Because you see, he couldn't have seen repainted or made for purpose. He had to use makeup sets largely made of drapes are no longer used in some of the super cinemas. And I must say it was very Tommy trender was the comedian in it. And so the console was put up in this side of the Grand circle, just between the grand circle and just some boxes there. There's was this little balcony but it must have had about five seats in it. And so that's where the console was. And the sound control was put over the other side. Similar position. And Nesbitt performed his usual manner. We didn't need a mic for because he could just talk to me. We he was just down here. And that started up something And I think we've that we might just stop and that the ageing brain breast

Manny Yospa  25:15  
is doing you think that the sorts of things that you are experimenting and inventing, did you have any influence on other theatre lighting people?

Frederick Bentham  25:28  
I derived the I don't think ideally in that sense I certainly had influenced through the Landon's such as designed a net salty but after all the lighting man that was on the way up at that time was Joe Davis who was working for Binky Beaumont and signed and I really, and of course, the building's super cinnabar has come to an end. But I do meet people from time to time move, say they learnt a lot from my lectures and things. So whether they did or not. I can't think they're just being polite.

Manny Yospa  26:21  
Okay. So put it on pause again. Hello. This is Manny Yes. But receiving the interview on Thursday. The fourth of may

Frederick Bentham  26:40  
say something is what I was going to say that this is part of the talk was given us a few days later than the first bout. So

Unknown Speaker  27:06  
can you say some?

Frederick Bentham  27:07  
Yes, yes, sir. Right. Okay. We're recording are we

Unknown Speaker  27:13  
Yes, hopefully,

Frederick Bentham  27:15  
well, whether this will be a repeat of what I just said. But the moment when I have to start recalling the years of the last war, the Hitler war was celebrating or some people are celebrating the Fie day 50, which happened 50 years ago. The war is very troublesome time to recall. And I have a feeling that I must censor out strictly wartime non relevant stuff. Otherwise, we shall get to drift in areas that don't matter. One thing I have to mention that one of my big combinations that influenced my life was the fact that at the Glasgow exhibition, which the last Empire exhibition, which was about two years before the outbreak war, I got pneumonia while working on the fountains, the the lighting that I did on the north cascade, and Paisley road and South cascade. And it's not surprising because when you're up in Scotland, in March, I'm working late at night and through the night. It's asking or was then asking for pneumonia, and I got it very successfully wasn't identified for some year also what really was happening. And then the result of that was when the examinations went into grade two, I was grade four. So any call up was out of the question? I don't regret that of course. In fact, I couldn't imagine myself ever shooting someone and my brother was the same he went into the medical service is my sculpture brothers, not much for the role for a sculptor in that war. So I don't want to get that too much mixed up. But of course, this exercise difference because eventually led to my getting TB and spending about six years of bed rest and various operations, including the law One, which involved over a period of the taking out 12 ribs. That sounds worse than it well, it was terrible because you only heard local anaesthetics. You heard all the noise and all that. But the fact is, they take them out in such a way that unlike wiring, which once you've cut it out, it never restores itself. The ribs grow again, but on a smaller diameter, which is half the gain, to prevent you from activating certain parts, chest, remembering, that is the background height to take things very carefully all through the wall. And after, and, for some time, read the rest of the story of benefits seen against that as far as war time and for some time afterwards. So what happened in the war? Well, the first scene was that, of course, there was no role for my demonstration theatre, or like console. And so that story came to an end. And then the call, then, I was wondering what devil I was going to do, it was interesting. When suddenly there came this letter from Lisbon from the government, they're counting on the Minister of outbreath. public house. Anyway, he wrote and said, what about the piano. The point was, we are not my apple bit quoted for the

usual Grandmaster affair to go with the rest of the installation. And they'd seen in my catalogue, this beautiful picture of me seating, a seated as a young man at the my light console. And that was the piano as far as he was concerned, and they wanted it. Now, this completely changed the colour of things in the first year at all, first of all, we had to get out there and find out what the theatre was precisely like and so on, and then come back and get the zing made now that isn't so easy and more time for the john Compton company that made the organ and those parts was by then busy doing Harrigan the some of the wood work for hurry complains, but I must say wonderful their technical director was now we got an order that's make it somehow and there are photographs showing accidentally this console standing among the bits of Harry complains, which no doubt if the centre had known it, the that would have been chopped up. Anyway. So eventually, the problem arose getting it there. The thing went to London docks, and at that moment, Hitler decided to bomb not bombed the docks are three nights running. And the flames could be seen from my home, in Harrow. So I thought that was the end of that, but it wasn't so they were taken up to the Liverpool and went by see from there. And that was enormous amount of equipment because we're talking about the steam age as far as stage lighting control was concerned. And it said help for Lisbon. And after two months, we heard this boat was approaching those been men, we'd have to go out and put it in where the office personnel were had to go was myself. And then I needed someone at least nervous notice just the right chap, Bill peppers who remembers trend a long time and put in many installations. He should go with me that's just the two of us without an interpreter and so that's easy, who want two seats on the plane that a possibly easy because there was only one plane a week to Lisbon, it only had six places in it. And the government had claim on all of those places. So had this ghastly problem of how to persuade who that we were really necessary was like all governments government's in action. You see, there was the wired export department saying we must export or die. And the pilot of the enterprise saying what we must export these Empire officials. Oh, keep some money in order perhaps.

Unknown Speaker  35:48  

Frederick Bentham  35:51  
So what to do, I mean, it was just turned down out here. And we does tend to have the priority. So there's this pictures of stuff landing in Lisbon and in in my Porter to be correct. No, Lisbon, Lisbon bluesman, can't remember what the Pope was called? anyway. So what to do? Well, the idea occurred to me that AP Herbert, who was then a Member of Parliament, and of course was a man of theatre, he put on a number of shows were blooming bone want to put no and he wrote back to say, he, since it's the Portuguese that wants you out there, why not get there in but if so, to write, which he did. And we got the feasor from him and he permission from the British government or to go out and so my passport ahead of something about it the requests the extraordinary requests to the ambassador, port on so on, in Portuguese across it. Anyway, that person I was set to go. And of course, in those days, there was only one flight a week. And, of course, I hadn't flown anywhere. And we had to go down to Bournemouth hand, opposite big posh hotel there. Anyway, it's a man biography. And we put up there by promoting was calmed in those days, we had a bill probably Imperial airways. And to catch a flying boat in a couple of days time, the Royal Palace Hotel, they have sets. And so there we are, living in state. Prior just prior to that, going home the evening before, I had to cross this hill once I got off the bus to go down to her place in heroin, bottom of the hill. And you're completely exposed the other without buildings or anything at that time. And trapnell was banging down on the concrete road. And I only have I ever get there will be a miracle. But I did and it was but I didn't have a tip the handrail or anything felt terribly vulnerable. Anyway. So there we are in Lisbon. And in order not to spend too much time, Matravers is very manual console with 108 demos, and the adventures in getting the demo bank z to this room over all that sort of thing. And finding the relay, the key item but twitch join the console to the demo banks, which went missing and managed to find it by um, the pillar on board the boat. So brought the saying they didn't see it there. If we hadn't been careful. It might well have gone back to England, or to the bottom of the ocean, which is where a lot of things went in those days. Now the next thing that occurred you got to work papers was terribly efficient. And I got the thing wired up and of course, there was a date on He was to celebrate this special anniversary in Portugal history. And he was going to be Oh, by the President and the dictator Salazar was going to be there. And so is had to be ready. And he was one of the great advantages console here. It was placed in the orchestra pit. And one could see the stage. And although there's been only one rehearsal, not a dress rehearsal, no idea what the block was. I had to fame bit. And I discovered just before the the only dress rehearsal that

was, first name was an interior by night, with a couple of visions that had to appear. second scene was dawn on border, this ship. And the last scene was the picture setting of Lisbon with full daylight. So on the ship scene was extraordinary it they built the ship as if it was to sail, and both sides were filled in the other thing you knew didn't know until you saw where they put it on the stage, which Saif was going to face. Anyway, one of the great advantages of that position, you were close. And although you have no idea was going to sing this by keeping her eye alert, you could spot him moist, niggas lips or whatever, ready to burst into song and get appropriate lighting over there. It really all went well and and The only trouble was, when the three performances show being given. Then there was no other show to follow. Because it was supposed to come from Italy, and Germany from Italy almost or in world time as impossible now, so there's nothing for it, but both forms and colour music. And I went to the Massara national now and there I looked through their mouldy collection or a seven date gramophone records and pick the art things that I thought would work and it was there and after six months a blast of places been found for me to come back to England and by then to two flights. One was the flying boat which I went out on the Empire flying boat and and then the other one was the land one this country conduct chair craft. So back to England. Yes, a knapsack

Frederick Bentham  0:03  
Back in England, and it wasn't very welcoming, because being a land claim, this one landed at Bristol. And the room in my hotel, the window vanished and there was brown paper over the gap. So I didn't after living in Lisbon for six months, was full lighting and all, no war at all. If I found myself wondering what the devil I'd come home for, and then even more so this was when I finally reported the next day in Australian dielectric. And there was my beautiful demonstration theatre all held views, which have dust on it. And the light console looking guns on the balcony in the corner, sort of air raid shorter for I felt but the devil and I can make I just couldn't think what I was going to do in strand. But looking around the theatre to revive memories, there was this strange collection of optical equipment on tape on facing the stage. And at that moment, persicaria came in with some naval types and professor. Now Percy Korea, of course will be known to any body in the north of England, but and I've seen many places elsewhere. After all, he was one of the big names as the lecturer, writer, and manager of our Manchester branch. Anyway, he said, he said to me, turd trees, frayed or whatever, you'll be interested in this. And he died and invited him and I would have stayed also afterward was my theatre. And what they tried to do was to project a battleship, on the screen and to various angles. It was an epi dasco this three dimensional model and the optics and so on were very poor. And then he fiddled around and departed. Were upon our effects man for bamf got Frank Liston came in, said what he thought of the professor in charge of optics. Right now all week bedri had a lens that would, and so on. So he went vetches lens, and we rigged up but something different for this cause. And I went out to besut loks, they were still in Whoa, bump and bought a battleship, model battleship. By the time I'd rigged sufficient lights to light it and get a decent picture. I was surprised to see the guns firing. And this this things happened in war. But this was unexpected. Because the truth was there was so much light. I was millstein this LED model. And of course, as things dropped on the screen, they went the other way up. So they went up. Anyway, that was started that we got thoroughly involved in it. And at that precise moment when he had something to show it said Oh, I'll get rid of that strategy lecture theatre. And a couple of small bombs were dropped on it. And a whole lot demolish the offices above fell into the theatre. And curiously enough, the only thing was survivors like console underneath its concrete balcony. So and the the sum of this up to curtain got wrapped up in the curtains as the vom brasswind these drapes that were hanging on, on the stage wisdom to the auditorium and wrap See key lenses up.

So, the lot was moved down to the Adelphi in Australian which was closed at a time and we had those of that stage and rerigged it and demonstrator and the job was ours. Now this is what would be called a flight simulator nowadays. Then it was known as torpedo tech teacher, because it was concerned with training pilots to go in and drop torpedoes and sink warships whatever they were and so what do you doubt when they had to do was the lenses had to move in such a way and the projector in such a way that when the pilot in in his link trainer, the link trainer already existed for training pilots, the elements flying, but this time you see we had a picture around it. The cyclorama was 42 foot diamond. And the first one went into crale which is not far from where did they play all that golf up there? Sunday, Andrews is around the corner from Madison damn droves and he's still there. The actual flight training building is quite extraordinary or was still there when I went up to look at that couple of years ago. hadn't seen it since those days. And I was much surprised to find it complete with its plasters empty of all equipment except the main switch. But amazing anyway, so that was something really to get one's teeth into. And so I had that to occupy me at this virtually the same time was when this with declared since the console was there a heavy didn't the Palladium. So that gave me something on the other end. And I suppose one could sum up my wars on the one hand, the flight simulator on the other playing the console and training the whole operator woman called Hilda and that was that the show first show was gangway and then we mentioned it on the other tape and it certainly was gangway and then it was followed by bass bib and Tucker and so on. And that console stayed in till just after law when we replaced it with a much bigger one to take charge all the Palladium lighting the this first console being in a limited size. It cope with the key lighting equipment, not everything the battens were on the ordinary Grandmaster switchboard and so you were playing kind of do it but it was very successful thanks to Nesbitt whose type of shows suited lighting and sitting up there you could see what you were doing and that was always pretended belt this time the DB really took over and I had saved where I fell well although I did continue from my bed to supervise the research and development department the minutes and so on were all sent to me he and I make contributions is very strange. And looking back I've handed face change that how lying in bed like that I can both write my first book and Baba were index it with all these because you were out in the open air. The big doors were open. And all this was conducted from the head with the seven sanatorium Midhurst had been in other ones before getting there and that's where and this When booking me in my religion, I was sick of going to hospitals and having this religion thing. And usually the nurses were Irish. This one obviously wasn't. And I said agnostic, and mind you're writing down and she said, Why shouldn't I write it down on? And so we got married. Eventually, I had two sons. And we're still married.

Unknown Speaker  10:33  

Frederick Bentham  10:36  
end of the war, I suppose the key thing was, it will, it's as usual, you come back, although I've been in touch through these minutes, and all the rest of it, you come back, after, I mean, you couldn't even really after all that time in bed and, and so on, and static. Enjoy the car rides down the Earnshaw, one of the son of one of the founders, and the key person is getting on with one other theatre people. He came and collect up in his car. And I literally had to tell him, would you please keep the same speed I otherwise I basic, it took quite a long time and you, you come back, and then you're walking down the West End. And it's as if you don't belong, you're visiting from another world. And the experience I had later on when in in East Germany, going to the Berlin opera house, you see these people, they belong to a different world, you don't. And it's like being a ghost present thing. Anyway. So

Unknown Speaker  12:03  
back to the

Frederick Bentham  12:07  
Fortunately, the things so teach itself out, but it goes by one coincidence, and I found myself kind of combined consultant, and the supplier. So the Royal Festival Hall, which had on the idea was May May the edge had run in 1951. Before the day before the Festival of Britain opened. And that job was, again, it's been quoted while I wasn't there, for a very simple installation with just ordinary flooding. And unknown research brought presumed developed into a light console and travelling, lighting for ballet as well as concerts. Because after all, anyone with any sense knew that concert halls aren't used for concerts all the time. So that God did Han and it was extremely useful experience to get me back into the working area. to exercise a bit of authority and so on, it was very curious. And it did not only was helping me here mentally devising the scheme and supervising and, and designing the circuits and all the rest of it. That in addition physically, because as I gradually bill the levels up, I'd find myself having to go up more stairs. And so it really did what I've been told to not do exercise is do violent begin. So well. That was that. And from that time level. It's rather interesting that those early consoles got mixed up with music and then there was through line to do. And Jerry line I had 216 demos. And that console still exists in Jim laws, his collection, we have it out from time to time and show it off. And he's also got the Festival Hall little gone so that had to be very tiny and special because I was determined to go out in the auditorium and the cross gangway room was made for them for it at the PreSonus fought back from the console and operator. So that was a very special and man, it's one of its visitors it was even more extraordinary. I was sitting up there on one occasion probably saying to myself how clever you are and nipah virus, and the phone went, and it was the manager for saying Queen with amener of Holland was there I would like to see it of all people. Manager as far as I know, we never supply ma'am dorland. But anyway, he in the end, we did 14 but and another very large one was the Colosseum. And all in all, it was reasonably successful, one could say. Then something came along. I mean, there we were in CSS, like the old stolen and, and so on. And abroad, some export ones. And the Elizabeth Mama's in love, had a few more demos, edits, and so on. Then, complete change really, in 1955 or 54. This friend colleague of mine, the bear had been getting in touch with television, which was about to burst out in commercial television and the BBC was also pulling the stops out. Because one day they were going to have Television Centre, and they wanted to use Riverside studios to still use it to CSR at the moment. Use Riverside studios, a beam film studios, has ferramentas television studios to work out what they would do in TV centre. And thanks to these cover cleverness, and keeping in touch and frequenting the right pubs.

We found ourselves have completely mixed mixed up in television. And it's very early days, I had no contact with it because with television because I tried to get them to have a decent lighting referral in early early earlier is on the palace in 1936. But Apple, we won, and it was a grandma covered grandmasters win in those two studios. And and then of course, there was the matter of the coronation of a with the eighth. When I was summoned by he can't remember his name. And I'm the Dean of Westminster. Oh, and there was a chap who's running televisions that I can't remember his name, easily looked up. And it appears in my autobiography. So why should I bother? Now? summon to go to Westminster Abbey, and devise lighting for the coronation of the king. It was only to be just a little while before while he was sitting in that historic chair. And the crown was put on his head and then the lights fade out. And what are the Rangers? Oh, a neat Ranger. We take 20 minutes to bring those lights up because they've been very bright in those days. And gradually the audience wouldn't see it. They'd sent something probably a tribute to the Almighty.

Unknown Speaker  19:23  

Frederick Bentham  19:25  
but that all came to nothing because he abdicated he had the crown put on his head. And George the six was determined not to be televised on education filmed Yes, but not televised. Because of show they could crop cut. Hold the film. As another part of back to we'll know I think anyway, that was that and then where are we at The very first job I had to be the conversion of two television studios for redo the Rediffusion company when zing certainly stopped my car park house

Unknown Speaker  20:23  

Unknown Speaker  20:25  
that was

Frederick Bentham  20:28  
the that theatre while I'm green, Frank Maxim's, and he made all that Mark was terrier cutter into was the cold there's something more than green anyway. Could have been Granville, I'm receiving a distant prompt the tape Anyway, it was opposite while in green underground station. And we did that we put in a switchboard and some lights. And then the all the big jobs came along. There were going to be several of them. And they were all in the business of various companies that can all be looked up historically, one way or another. The key one really was some that were false studios to be done at Wembley for Rediffusion. And greatly daring BMI put forward, this remote control system I devised, which cost a lot of money. And much to our surprise and relief. Did the Rediffusion man a great, that's what he must have. And so there we were putting in this Compton piston memory action. And really, one could say that television controls in those days, of course, still in the steam age, the electromechanical drive and motor drive. But we we've instead of the keyboards, we fitted these demo leavers to presets. And that became the fashion in various forms. Some of them were in the shape of the organ cancer. Some of them were spherical shape, some news, the luminous stop heads instead of the stop keys. Particularly the BBC wanted that because they had their sound control alongside. And so Wembley was first of those. And then key one to concentrate on was the to Riverside studios, and that could be said to be the real masterpiece. So became a fashion for the BBC.

And some others. outfits for some time. There was these two rows down it took a moment to talk.

Anyway, the only trouble with Riverside pause. I mean, it was a fascinating job and was this business of

the second studio, Riverside, one would have thought to call and control I wanted to do and that was the bigger of the two studios, but Riverside two had to have an electronic control man called McLean who was head of PVC engineering at the time. I got on and ahead because Bishop was really in. And he got this idea into his head because he's seen it in America. And we didn't want to supply we already had supplied some of these electronic controls with vowels, you had to use valves in those days to generate a lot of heat, about 10 kilowatts, whether you had the lights on or not just heating up the vowels. And it also I hate that other technical troubles. And one of the jobs we did was the Savile theatre. And another was the new theatre. The first electronic was the new theatre. All the old barriers is now known. And Donald over greed tell us what do you do next parametric that was designed invented by woody or would James Templeton would do less who ultimately became our export key for many years, and he was an electronic engineer, but the whole scene was too early. It was like the comet aircraft the first jet passenger aircraft, it was before its time and it had to be dropped overboard and better in spite of having done the Stratford on even 144 demos, the so there was e cigs the new theatre has already been taken out and had a substitute electro mechanical one with position control relay which to become available. And so the sensible thing was if the claim must have an electronic in studio to lithium have the one that was slung out the by an old Bray No, Laurie and Dan O'Donnell was the was Donald all Raiders seen it on Ian's prison one? Yeah. Anyway, so we did that up. And it went, and it was trouble from the moment it went in. And the BBC have made it even more troublesome because they'd ordered the country control desk, the racks with to hold the valves on from the ground electric, but they've ordered the valves direct from either Maillard or stand. I can't remember. But anyway, so remember, whenever anything went wrong, there was this. argument, Wayne's honours, who's for you pause, the BBC engineers had to work it out. And I'd find myself going down there first thing in the morning and then going off to our ganas pre works, do other work of stuffs have really worked and leaving the BBC engineers have all fresh full of ideas. You come back at five o'clock, and you'll find this pair in the air and smoke and all the rest of it. They smoked a lot in those days, if overthinking. And it was terrible. Anyway, after months, there came a time which had to real lesson daily all this time with engineers. On one occasion I set out probably for the low went down this passage Riverside and they came up towards me her girl wearing virtually nothing because in terms of those days is she ramps she will be fully clad in today's terms really, I suppose. But anyway, she there, she was nice, she sees out of place, what the hell's she doing? And then I realised it was one of the course girls and therefore the whole place was for putting on show we got so mixed up with the engineering side that we'd forgotten that anyway.

Then we the television system was also put in the theatres with the console with preset demand leavers instead of keyboards, and the first one of those went in to the Palace Theatre rightful place really to put it in because ml littler had it put on the perch backstage refrozen. The idea here or my injury had a good operator there. And then he had no sound system, believe it or not, when he had his first dress rehearsal, I went around to see how they were getting on. And there was this orchestra playing away in the orchestra, it was lighting instructions being shouted across the orchestra. And to switch forwards, I wasn't even found out front house. Anyway, the show went on corner, or it was and we put in a large, large number of hosts, they were known as CDs, system CDs, the the more elaborate bond vvc was the system See? And so that's really that. And I think we Well, of course, in the mean, time, spotlights were dealt with the die cast, 23, and so on, and use modern techniques to mass produce stuff. But I don't normally go into that detail. My r&d department came quite large. And we have 14 people in it isn't started as one my own is my own the saga low self. And so what next? Well, there came a time, when I realised, one I got to go all electric. The key was, instead of valve theory, clarity, Valve thyristors were invented. And they were introduced around about 1962. And they was a signal that one had to go all electric, because that's the way development was going. Not only did you have the thyristors, who had all this

lab, elaborate electronics, mind you, when didn't realise how small it was going to become one day and penny on the top and about the stuff that goes in matchboxes or even saw with the one wouldn't believe it. But it was goodbye to the steam age. And whereas I've been fully in command, steam age, or lighting control, you could say, because I could draw the circus, I knew what doing an old wrestling, I'd reach the stage where all I could do was to devise the controlling how you were you played an influence that but proper engineers had to do the other end. And since trained electrician be believe in paying very highly. For such engineers, we had some very poor ones. And so I quit or become very unreliable these memories are early memory systems. They will devise by me as far as the controllers, but the circuitry was terrible. And memory systems for the bad memory are not very good. So the real jump forward came from thorns with Tony Isaacs and he only flow with songs they didn't really know about stage lighting. And date the Guardian on the BBC with not just television as it were just television controls. And we were in a rather a desperate position. Except our Managing Director wouldn't believe it. And he had been so used to things appearing you know, without any boardroom discussion manager I've been on the board since he was 1956 somewhere around there, and towards the end of the 50s had become the fifth director or one of them are retired content guru he was retired University on they didn't create it new one, there was a vacancy. I can't remember all cause it was time for Appleby to retire from the board. And he particularly said that I should replace him with took some of them back because we went in the way kind of enemies because I wanted remote control and he wanted the direct route, right. But no, we got very friendly in time. Appleby and so there was higher up on the board, but the influence I could exert was not a left much to be desired, because so it was such faith in the team, the research team because it always coughed up the right thing, the years and now we were out of our depth.

Unknown Speaker  35:59  

Frederick Bentham  36:01  
then the next thing that surfaced towards the end of the 1960s 68 was the Rank Organisation. And the we fought off first takeover scheme. But eventually, in 1969, the ultimate 69

Unknown Speaker  36:24  

Frederick Bentham  36:27  
power to the Rank Organisation, the audio visual section, which is the main part was based out of Brentford in water been a toothpaste factory McLean's to space factory, and Art Deco building of considerable merit. So, that was that now what rank brought, which was marvellous, was money was real money to spend, and we could really start employing the proper type of engineer.

Unknown Speaker  37:02  

Frederick Bentham  37:04  
what they also brought was his blessing business, we're looking at the balance sheet, as about the only indication. And if they had didn't sec, the top level, once a year or so on, I mean, the number of managing directors we have his own belief. And the money spent on counters. I told them over and over again, in the we used to have a public meeting in the Royal Lancaster. So Bob, we didn't want was accountants, we wanted engineers, and to leave us alone and get our equipment, right. Anyway, one way or another came, right. But by that time, of course, I was clearly past See, techniques. With the applause sounding of the one thing I've remarked, we had the rank our entertainment and drinks bill. And we had this wonderful Blue Room and we're able to re equip the theatre and so on. So they were a good thing in one way. I can't regret it. And then in 1973, they decided holding then current Managing Director, who had only been managing director for six months or six weeks, and he decided that we should get out of Covent Garden and go down to the toothpaste factory, will the rest of the audio visual thing. So I said to him, What do you mean, you would like me to resign. And that's was the end of my career there at the end 1973. And it was very pleasant, and I was very lucky. And I was even very lucky, in my own luck. what went on in the ward type. So now, this is where my looks back on a career. There are these curious things, some of them very bad, some of them, which turned out to be just the job. And so with those, and of course, I was able to take over the theatre at a peppercorn rent for the abt is sociation of British theatre technicians, which I've been among the founders of in the early 1960s. And I got very mixed up in that side of life, sitting on umpteen committees and enjoying them. Whether the members of committee enjoyed by being there is another matter. But anyway, and I, I am still on some other committees Indeed, the first type of this was recorded after

Unknown Speaker  40:27  
I'd been rid

Frederick Bentham  40:30  
of the theatres Advisory Council in the theatre museum. So one way or another, and above all, by membership to the art workers guild show, I'm now the oldest living member, which began way back with my demonstration to them in 1936, at which Bernard Shaw had been, who was a member I had attended. So there we are, I think we all in all, my career amounted to 60 years of live work. And if you don't like the noises all you can go and buy a copy of my autobiography.

Manny Yospa  41:19  
Thank you very much.