Richard Levin

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3 Sep 1991
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Born 21 Dec 1910. . Father a dentist. Ambition to be Film Director. Got job in local boat house. Went to Whartons looking for film job. Apprentice with Gaumont British. 1927 first Motor Car. 1928 talkies came in went to decorating Gaumont Dance Halls with Herbert Mason. 1932 started freelance working. Applied in Baird Studios to be designer visited the early set of Television. Then went to BBC Radio Times office and designed the cover for 10th anniversary of the BBC. Visited BBC publicity and designed exhibition set for BBC .  His design was approved by Lord Reith in his office after brief interview. Continued freelance work for BBC. Joined Air Force as civil attachment in 1939 as camouflage officer. Joined MOI as designer . After war joined BBC .Designed sets for BAFTA Awards . Discusses problems at the Albert Hall and other venues. Left BBC 1958 and joined Crown International as a Producer. Back to freelance as designer and portrait photographer. 


Norman Swallow  0:04  
The copyright of this recording is vested in the ACTT History Project. Richard Levin, head of television design for the BBC interview on normal swallow, recorded on the third of September 1991. side one okay. First of all, when and where were you born?

Richard Levin  0:32  
I was born in Stamford Hill 31st of December 1930And schooling ? at the age of seven declares war, which was located in Winchester, it moved to service to news and I was there for about five years. Okay, anyway, your your listeners assume for the moment you're at school, your favourite subjects and the relationship between obviously what you studied at school and your future career. There is some connection. I don't think so at all. I had no idea of going into art or architecture. I had no particular interest that way. It was just kind of football collective butterflies, you know, the usual schoolboy stuff, perhaps fishing. No, that was too early for me to I hadn't got near any water. What were your subjects of school? What's the usual thing? Please? Well, of course I was in the junior school. I was only seven. I left there at 12. And because I was getting awful reports, I think I probably got fed up with it. I think he was being involved and I was 60 pounds of term and I rub that in. And I was then removed from that place and put it another school prep school called golden passtures?. Which I didn't members about, I had to change rugby to a soccer which I've said quite a lot. And I was I think only there for about three or four terms. And I then when I was brought home to Richmond where my father was a dentist, he had a practice. And I was into the local school of thought this quarter enrollment is halfway up the hill of victories or something. And by this time, I was getting up to matriculation stage and my father wanted me to be a dentist I said categorically is no way to be a dentist because it to lecture you about he said well, he could be a doctor. And he kind of put me down to Guys, which meant that I had I was looking forward to getting through my matric and then going on to pre medicals. So for about seven years of study, which didn't please me  one little bit. And I was though can we up the age of 16 I think I set the metric about three times you know, fairly nice policy everything else passed in English failed at maths, you know, kind of thing eventually got enough to get through and decided that I wanted to be a film director Believe it or not. And I was living living Kingston at the time and  I decided to run away runaway which I did by getting over 65 bus okay to to Kingston and just kind of moving around there and those are great big barge that'd be bad as it were way off days and we're done going down the river. I said Can I come with you can if you work for right and did with sleep. So I thought it'd be a good idea. He said we'll come come in tomorrow tomorrow morning at eight o'clock and we'll go off. So I went down to this barge master. I need to find how can we ship the birds in the night? So I thought well, this is good. And I thought well, I would go work on the river. I was very fond of the river that time I had a little boat at Richmond which may fall around. And I went to Walton and applied for a job in the local boathouse. I said like good advice. You can do anything you like and they said no, no. Too young can't take you on and this method I had to sleep rough for the first time in my life. walked out the front and it was an empty bungalow with a veranda so I got onto this veranda and kind of curled up with sleep of cold and realising that I was then at Walton Ah, I will go into the film business. Therefore films which I've heard, I walked into dental schools in draggled. And that I, my job is it will give you a job in the editing room as it No I don't want to be near the time I want to be on the floor when the action is busy. This is Sorry, no job out by which time I was hungry and broke. And I took another 65 bus. And that was that I was about 17 and my father then saw that I was serious about this. He thought he could do what he could for me, which was a little bit it wasn't it wasn't much but it sparked the whole business off, you know, and he's got me a job. As an apprentice with Gaumont British that the Shepherds Bush Pavilion, which was in the largest in modern Europe.

And 3000 seater, and I worked for the UN I put out in the care of the art director for local Cedric White. bless his heart, he's still alive. He's 92 we still exchange Christmas cards and waiting for the awful Christmas when there isn't one.

However he took me on and I used to fill in where he marked out, I might say, particularly as your AC TT goes right back to there. Because I was working quite hard for 12 and sixpence a  week, I might say the pattern of work was Tuesday was your day off. Every other day it was 11am till 11pm except for Sunday, where you worked. You had worked all night on Saturday night doing a set for the following week. I was doing the seizures. You know we had the tiller girls, missed a whole bit out and I'm sorry, I just go back. My father had a patient called Louis Leavy he was conductor of the orchestra. Oh, yes. Yes. And Louis Leavy talked to the manager of the theatre. One, Reggie Forsyth and Reggie Forsyth he was a terrible man, really, terribly Jewish man by God Himself. And through that I got this job that took six weeks anyway, come back to the pattern of the week, which was in worked out if you kind of analyse it knows it was an 88 hour week, including one statutory all nighter that's a second on the Sunday night if you hadn't finished on the Saturday night. Then you started on Mondays eight o'clock rehearsal and finished at 11 o'clock. This was a theatre and a cinema was of cinema and cinema comes with a huge stage, added Louis Leavy. The orchestra there was 66 Tilller girls, which was great attraction on the Brixton films were shown as well. Films, shows and three stage shows afternoon, kind of five o'clock, nine o'clock one more or less in the interval. Well, this was fascinating because I had to do messages and all kinds of things and half the stuff we wanted for props and things around the corner at Lime Grove and a fellow called Andrew Metz. He was at that time, and he befriended me a little, not much. He was busy man. Anyway, I got very interested in bought books on design. Gordon Craig's started copying this and making the four models in this office. When you said you were making models, he began to design their design over I mean, I was following Cedric White he was you know, being helpful. He used to get me to do my own jazz stars was three thing and it was a way of doing that has to do with gold and silver. And every kind of job I got there, I decorated the the tea lounge I rememember with him. Anyway, the interesting job. In fact, I was fascinated with the fact that it was 88 hours a week wouldn't make the difference between 100 hours a week. I wouldn't have wanted to be doing anything else at all.

My father at that time bought me my first little motorcar a two seater at a minimum of 1927 seven. In fact, it was a kind of coincidence what got you involved in design and Don't ask, Ah, yes,

it was tonight with from the corner, then I got permission, you know, to disappear between I think six and half past nine in the evenings, which was a quiet time because, you know, the show's over I went to Hammersmith art school round the corner. And I think that's pretty good students. I think I was just doing drawing far as I remember, this went to the art classes. I mean, I don't think they have a design course or anything like that going. There wasn't any design courses going anywhere anyway. So I also had to do every other job, including what was known as supering. One week because of course, the next week I was a policeman, even mind Pinkerton in the white suit is really good for a 17 year old if you think about it. The most terrible things happen to watch, you know, you're caught on the stage. And I was very enamoured of the theatre organ. And I was a great friend with the organist. McClean? though it was really one of the great organist of all time. And I used to sit down with him on the organs with a revolver. I remember doing Peter Lorien?  pie or something in a critical moment and go bang let this gun off. This was interesting, and I did. I worked with the electricians I worked with the carpenters, I made flats. I did everything I came to do until I got to television. You know, 100 years later, I was fully prepared. I knew all about the workshops. You know, when you said earlier you had been interested in as an ambition when you were very small in the cinema. Yes. Yeah. We've always had that wonder why why the cinema? Why not of course, the birds and I found 66 birds sitting there standing, kicking their legs paradise over then of course, though, there was a momentous occasion in 1928 talkies. And the stage shows closed and with the stage shows closing of the stage shows Cedric White I was first he went to some other theatre or something, do some job and I was just doing the alternates. And eventually, they put me on to decorating Gaumont Dance halls all around the country. And I was raising experiences. It literally was a producible Mason, Herbert Mason, yes, famous name me Well, when the films he gave him to became attached to Herbert Mason, kind of close to him and he became he was in charge of all Gaumont British theatres scenery. And I got set out to Luton, Hippodrome or something together, design, three from paint. Three backlogs was the other night, go somewhere else. And then after that, we ran out of theatres, they put me on to dance halls and I went to Birmingham, Birmingham, dancehall, then to Wimbledon. And I think I was down at Wimbledon. And Mason came down, had been doing decorating murals and things. And they were I think, 400 or 400 plus bentwood chairs, which they had from the tables used on the silver. Okay. They started doing these things. silver you know, we'll say he was painting a tidy room about this size. I'm guessing myself. And I started getting bolshy at that stage. And I said to Herbert Mason capes, yeah, this was this was yet to do over. And I said, you know, this isn't right. I shouldn't be having milk and a mask and all kinds of things. And I said, anyway, this is the job for an artist, this a job  for a painter. He says, Well, we haven't got a job for a painter to collect your cards on Friday. And that was the end of that. How much were you paid being paid in this time? Remember, probably about three or No, I don't think I'm getting a week. Oh, yes.

No, no, I

don't think so. I can't remember getting paid. I suppose I think it paid him something more than two pounds.

And you are now in your early 20s or still late? No, I was about 19 Yeah. Get married. And Bill Pepper who had been manager of the Shepherd's, Bush P avilion had moved off. And he was now managing modelafterpiesce??`. And he gave me freelance work. And I went up once a week do his things for him. And I did something at the Marble Arch. The regal Marble Arch, he was the reward for him. And then over the road, the Marble Arch wanted some scenery, because they hadn't got those dropcurtains it all had to be made in metal actually never forget. wasn't my scene at all, anyway, and I was doing this. And I had lunch with my father, who will actually do for the field, Mr. FOSS who had a shoe business. I think you just sold shoes. But he was getting fixed a fairly big way of business. And he said, you're an artist, why don't you do a standard horticultural show? will never. I said, What's the snag?

And so he showed me photographs of his last one, he said, but what I'll do is, at the moment, this is done for us by a firm called Greenleys advertising and they've got a display department. And I'll talk to him. And obviously it gets it to the you know, if you take on my young friend, you'll get I was taken on by Mr. Gibson, who ran Greenleys? display. And I might say I then had a drawing board chair, which obviously does design I had to go out to see clients get information to see what they want the button size, sizes, dimensions. And Gibson helped me a lot and I started designing. And I flourished. I did very well I started getting business from all over the place, doing better than old Gibson did in point of fact. And you know, I was kind of growing up with my drawings improving and I became interested in architects like Erich Mendelsohn was designed to look at or be seen anywhere. But Eric Benson was great had a great effect on me Oh his superb structures and streamlined wizard I started doing this, you know, into exhibition. So certainly in local exhibitions around Olympia something quite different haven't seen before started appearing here and there. And I got quite busy on this. And at this time, I met my first wife who is an artist and we both lived in Chelsea. And I got married. And I went to the bank, I had'nt any money of course, just managed to scrape off 12 or six for a ring or something. Two pounds a week flat in Pembridge Gardens, Notting Hill, and went to the Nat Westminster bank said I needed some money and they said what for?  it was more or less to eat with. I said, Well, what do you do Isaid I'm  a designer? Oh, what do you design, I had my portfolio. he was desperately impressed with his stuff. He's all that's all very clever stuff. As if you said it, sorry, but I've just got married and so on. I also had a baby to add to the joys. And he let me have 12 pounds. It was more than nothing I can tell you. And I've stuck to the Westminster Bank for for 50 years. Thanks. Anyway, things move along when I was getting, you know, well known in the exhibition business. And at that stage, the job came up. No, when I got married, I decided what I really should have income. And in Chelsea was a firm called Arundel Clark limited. Have you really well Arundel Clark employed. He was he was a visionary in a way. I suppose some of the best designers or young talents because he paid nothing was three pounds a week was that salary the designer got but he would send them off to Paris on three pounds a week do get some ideas and come back. Anyway, I joined him and I joined up with Misha Black. Misha Black Francis Bacon. You've heard of the pretty boy. Indeed, he was with the same firm he was designing exhibitions and the fellow called Ronnie Dickins and that was us and We got, we worked with him and we were then moving in a much bigger way. I then became the designer for Wakefields he Wakefield's Castrol, who had lots of big exhibitions and Romery? biscuits and now forgotten who else now, a lot of quite large firms. And our friend Arundel, sent me off to Paris to get ideas to draw the 18 pounds I had in my post office savings  off to Paris, two days the pound had gone off the gold standard and he didn't pay your fare? No. Got my fare about going to the Kine weekly and said I wanted to cover the french, film studios. And I do them an article on design in France. They gave me an airfrance ticket. So you wrote as well. Well, draw a veil over that, I think I don't think I ever did. Anyway, sorry, back to Paris. back to Paris. Paris was fascinating, of course. And I hit

back. And at that moment, these kinds of moments, milestones or Arundel Clark, goes bust. So Misha Black, Ronnie Dickins Francis Bacon and I are out on the pavement I had Wakefield's biscuits. Misha had Shell Ronnie had Skefko ball bearings, we had something and we had portfolios with something to show and from that date, which would be 19 early 30s are very early 30s 3231 years and 3232 I think I came back and I said All I needed was a joint portfolio and you know I got in with all the building contractors who built these exhibition stands for me and for everybody else and you know, they used to pass work my way as well. You know, they would need to reciprocate anyway. At that stage I think I moved to the river. Move to Hampton on the river so I could fish off the garden

bought a little car. Austin 7 you could afford a car. afford it. I got one. And we had our house over three pounds a week. You were no longer in Chelsea, I had two children. No we left Chelsea. I'd only got a room. though. I had a studio Carlisle? studio. But it was

my 21st birthday. I remember how you even got to write up in the Evening Standard frozen gladiators and Chelsea wild parties

 So we moved up country and I took a studio in London in Clairville  Grove in Kensington and I acquired an assistant draughtsman and you know the business grew and flourished. Now this time. I was hawking my portfolio around and Oh god. I know my first office I'm sorry, was in Victoria Street in the basement. And up above me were various firms at this tall building. First one on the second floor on the second floor there was TELUS a vacuum cleaner people who I got all their exhibition work third floor was a firm called Bakelite Ltd? And I became the official designer they paid me a retainer. And I did all their exhibitions and started designing plastics and things you know for mouldings started going into industrial design as well as exhibition design. And I think it's not in date order but well we're in the middle 30s usually middle 30s we'll come to another I suppose a marker was in my travels if I thought I was hearing about television. And I thought that's interesting and I television that then was in something street in Long Acre. Yes Hey You're full of ideas about design, there must be some design, we've got the picture. And when I got there,

I went up to the Baird studio, which is my memory's a bit dim, one dark little room with lots of machinery pointed a small hole in the wall, I think to remember. And I said I wanted to some design for you well there's not much to design, there must be something is a picture. He said, we'll come and look he showed me the next room where there was a table chair and and a  hole in the wall camera box looked up all the flashing lights. And it was obvious that the the only thing that can be seen through the thing was a head anyway. Anyway, I did suggest Well, I mean, it is important that you have the right chair, please. They said it would be important, but we didn't have any money. So I said I see'l  what I can do. I found them a Sony? chair which had been imported by Arundel Clark or had been I found one I took it up. So that was probably the first bit of television design would ever have, I would suppose. Anyway. I also then decided I would try my luck. The BBC and I went to the easiest thing. The thing I used to follow was the Radio Times I bought, I'd like to do some of those drawings. And I went along, and I met the art director was absolute charmer. Fellow called  Maurice Gorham? he was the art director of the Radio Times. Yes. And he became he was an art director. And he I showed him my portfolio. And he said, Oh, this is very interesting is it this is gives me an idea because he saw a lot of isometric drawings. And they're all they're all the mechanical looking things, but they're fascinating and easy to do. We've just bought new machines for Radio Times. And they're out at so and so So do you think you could draw them and do a drawing like that? Because he was looking at my exhibition work? I said, Yes. He said, Well, it's the 10th anniversary of the BBC date. And we'd like to put the new printing machines on the cover. Could you do that? He said, Well, because it will drop to get home with some character in a play about South Sea Island. I did this little tiny drawing and sign living. Interesting. It's probably there somewhere. And I brought this cover up for the Radio Times. And he was freaky. And he said, you know, you really ought to go and see Sybil Vonderheide? who's head of the display department in publicity. So I went to see Sybil Vonderheide who's a charming lady called Leather Potter?. And she said, Yes, we've got an exhibition at Radio Olympia coming along. Would you like to do some designs for it? I said yes, of course. So she said we were just building. This was a we are building, Broadcasting House at the moment we'd like to feature that. So my first job is to feature the new home of Broadcasting and to do a separate stand for the overseas services. And to get this approved, it has to go before Mr Reith which everyone was highly scared. So I was pushed  over there in his office with the drawing is where was his office stage in Broadcasting House it was then open house was up Yes. And I was pushed in and he looked at me exhibition and it's quite obvious he's eyes wander but he couldn't he couldn't read it he could understand the middle and he just went huurrmp and I was tucked away, apparently approved.

Okay, so the exhibition was put up the exhibition was opened by Kingsley wood or something, the Postmaster General and I was now getting a lot of press in the in the various kind of display and art journals and beginning to do reasonably well. I was now moving up into Alfa Romeo's and Lagondas and have an improved  Studio. This went along quite happily. And I designed for a number of years and all BBC exhibitions

and all their very various anniversary exhibitions and everything. The last exhibition I did for him opened on What's the date today? The September 3rd today 45 years ago at 11 o'clock and I had three big exhibition and BBC exhibitions there. And at 11 15 the exhibitions was closed the was was declared

Funnily enough all these exhibitions really interesting. Actually must have been more than 45 years ago from 1939 or whatever it was 5050 5152 52 years 5252 was really was I was immediately out of work Right. I was out of working Secretary job. And I had a now have a couple of acres. A really nice house Maidenhead and the studio in Greville Grove and Bakelite kind of sustained me for a while. But obviously I wanted to get into the war effort somewhere. And I says I obviously quite obvious camouflage camouflage officer. So So did the running way he was I went down to see him down in somebody's beautiful house beautiful garden. He was the officer in charge. no, he had been involved in camouflage. He was in retired, I think it was the war before. And I wanted to know how to get into it, where to go and and he couldn't actually help me. He was too far out a bit. He said, But do you know

why don't you try the air ministry? So I tried the air  ministry. I had all the necessary qualifications, obviously to do this job.

Because I mean, I can draw if it is a question of drawing aerodromes. And they hummed and hawed and they wouldn't do anything by a roundabout way. I discovered that the humming in the morning was because my father was originally Russian. And at that period of the war, we were, we had a difference with Russia, just the beginning of the war. And it wasn't on. Although I kind of tried to explain that he'd been here since 1908. naturalised. And anyway, suddenly the Russians became our friends. And I got a letter from them to show myself at the ministry, Kingsway Bush House no less. So I started designing camouflage schemes for various stations all over the place, and then got a posting first to Grantham into a dreadful place called Louth, then to York to Bomber august where I stayed and worked as a camouflage officer. We were sorry to trouble you officially in the Air Force. We were civilian. I was I was a civilian. I became a civil servant. I was a civil servant in the civil works director, Directorate of works for one night I did in fact become a Squadron Leader because I flew out over Holland or something to look at something. Somebody this was a fascinating job. Who knows how many 1000s of acres of countryside with my own designs and also spent the money 1000s of pounds of public money paid  lovely  salary of seven pounds a week and having to maintain a family and in Maidenhead. Anyway, it was a fascinating job. This one got a lot of lunches out the paint. That's about all that went on for, I suppose, three years or so. And we look for retired. confusion and there was no more wobbly roads over Yorkshire. So the thing became a non event at which moment of time, another marker, I get a telephone call from Mr. Black, who was director of exhibitions division of the Ministry of Information. Dick, you can't be doing any camouflage now. Would you like to come and join me in the exhibition's division as a designer? I said sure, I think so. Somehow this this was arranged and I was posted away a package to Russell Square house Russel square, top floor and started doing exhibitions trying to think what for fuel economy and started And anyway, we cut a long story short, I got put on two exhibitions for the army. And this was another critical moment because all these expeditions were travelling. Now in the airforce I had learned I had been disguising bomb dumps all over the place because they were vital supplies and had to be camouflage camouflage well. And we used to do this with a very. Interesting system of structures of steel tubes. All held together with wires for container is the kind of container you make a round shape held up by poles anchored down. And then you've covered it with camouflage netting. And it didn't take me five minutes to see that this was easily convertible into a moving exhibition covered with Canvas, which I did. Anyway, the first exhibition was in in Oxford Street army equipment exhibition, as it was called is immediately called the army exhibition because the word equipment too long to use. And it was in the the john lewis bomb site. And we covered this in Canvas. Really nice and I also use another camouflage technique to cover this horrible old basement floor. We used to use cork chippings on the runways, put bitumen  on cork chips paint and green just had was matte and did the same thing done. This is just a funny story by the way, I'll be here all day. Anyway, he came the opening of the exhibition everything in place and all the equipment mayor

everybody declared the exhibition opened and the heavens opened at the same time. So these Canvas structures instead of kind of shedding the water off gradually got too much water at one time, but they could contain started going like that. And I was standing by there's only one thing to do as anybody got a knife and I grabbed a long aluminium pole Taped the knife onto slit it  through the result of this was that all the cork chippings the ones that were,'t actually stuck down floated, and you have never seen such a shambles in your life. So we all went to the nearest pub. And sods law the same thing happened in Manchester, unbelievable. Opening Ceremony. Cloudburst Anyway, so much for the army exhibition. The the the end of the army exhibition was in Paris, and I was sent over to Paris to do this. This was the war was still on. And after after the liberation, presumably, yes. For about Paris would be liberated then about a couple of three months. As a hotel receptionist could  still furnish a sample of everything else it'd be there. Anyway, this is an interesting lead onto what was to follow. Because the exhibition have been designed the whole thing it was in the Petit Palais? and we Usually we have the dimensions of even I designed the whole thing in London. And there was something we couldn't use. Overseas money had to be made in England. So the exhibition was built in England, and needed to be transported through Belgium and down to Paris. So we did everything, all the necessary preliminary arrangements in Paris, and for the exhibition to arrive, which was being opened by Montgomery and the president of France. So it was prestigious. And a week before the exhibition opened no exhibition had arived.. I was then getting extremely anxious. What about more mags? Tell me why you tell me if anybody, nobody could find this exhibition, anyway lost sank without a trace, bowler hats being issued all the way up the line. And so I thought that it might be to do and I said, I've got all the drawings here. We'll see if we can get it built over here. So I've got one little French contractor. So when we can you make this? Can you can you build this in time? Maybe is the problem. What's the problem? conflict. Okay. Okay, I didn't know. I didn't have to know how to fix with contractors, plywood. Hadn't got any plywood Can't do it.

So I rang up. We were then under the auspices of the British Embassy next door. And I discussed in the wake of the health support. So I ring up somebody in the middle. got any plywood. Yeah. Oh, I was introducing you. To I was I had a problem. Could you let me have some? Is it Well, yeah, how much do you want. One, two. So I said, I don't know. 1000 square feet? Quite a lot. There are well, what do you got? I said, Well, what do you want to whiskey? Okay. So I went to the officer's club. got myself. They said, receipt and I filled up with about 10 crates. And we've got about 1000 pounds worth of plywood. However, we were in the middle of a dangerous period in France that everything was stolen. And this plywood came over to the exhibition, and his process was unloading. God I went down there, so sadly, we'd have  lost the bloody lot. However, we saved three quarters of it from the board and the contractors started and they finished the exhibition on time. Misha Black  came over for the opening because she was my boss. And I explained to him what he did with his money he said I haven't gotten any money. I said, Well, how do you know you got a bit of contractors? I said, I just don't know what I've got the exhibition. I mean, do we have no exhibition? Should you be able to have a red face? Oh, well, I seem to mean so I mean, obviously you have to sort it out later.

And we were going around the night before and we came to the entrance hall there was the whole North Africa huge map about 40 foot long with all the mountains things named place names and we have a lot of red tape and pins to put on where the British forces the advance and we haven't got rifts so we started and did it for the mountains. You know it comes out here and through here through this one. It looks very pretty on the morning, and I was plain suited behind the dignitaries Monty for whom I had to build three lavatories at strategic points in the exhibition in case he wanted to go Yeah. Anyway anyway, he...............................................

Richard Levin  0:05  
Right, he said Suddenly, he turns around and looks at the map. And he kind of does a double take and looks at it. policy says we'll stick with him go there. He marches up and soft, pretty good. Right? Anyway. The van had been stolen a lot. And it wasn't enough to go around like the full bottle so we can get it. Anyway, we got the exhibition opened. And we've set at which moment there's a small deputation comes from London. From the Treasury. There's

a Mr. You won't believe this. And Mr. Arrow and Mr. quiver. wanted to see me and Mr. Campbell. And I saw them  I might say that time, they'd come as about a week after the exhibition and opened`

and peace of being all over Germany is. And I'll just go back to I said before, because this is the important part.

This is oh Levin. See the tools come in for building the sixth question over here. I said yes. So he said, Well, I don't know whose authority I said it was on my authority, because I was in charge, which is what you haven't any authority from us to do it I said  well. It was either that or no exhibition. embarrass the government, I think, Oh, you know, very, very rude words. I said, Well, I said don't lets worry because my resignation is already in would you ring me up at  home later to wait for it for the rest of my life?

any way short period about a week in time, which was VE day VJ Day, which VJ? VJ is no, it wasn't to be VE. And we were all  jumping in the fountains. And everything was all that it was an all American show. There was no British was not represented exhibitors one little exhibition. And I had a Churchill tank in the forecourt, you see? And as he goes, Hey, can you run this tank? Can you get it, go take it up the Champs Elysee Leave it with the rest? He said, Yes, we could. But we've got no authority I said well. It's one of my exhibits, and Its in  my charge, I'll give you this authority. And I had the green jacket. So I didn't really worry, there will be green uniforms, army. And so they lumbered  this bloody tank out. When I got it out there, I suddenly realised it was really hazard because the chap looking at the front could only just see a spot there. And then people milling around. So there's somebody walking in front of the tank. And I got the union jack, thanks for the great work, we took a drive. That was the comebacks on that one. There was a quite a nice thing, which is to my friends? because it was an idea as I've always been clever with light. And what I did, I got two search lights and and the search crew and built myself a round table which can be turned around and put the generators and everything on the round table and the two search lights. And I put them up so they went up in a V. Now the interesting bit as soon as you turn the turntable around, it moves the V becomes a pencil of light, and then opens up again. This kind of went on, it marked the position of the exhibition to me. Anyway. Nice idea. So I had resigned, I went back home and all went quiet for two or three years. I went back to doing my exhibitions which after all this commotion, I had to kind of rebuild. One of the nice things was that about the third day I was home the phone goes and somebody rings me up. Is that Dick Levin I said yes. Chap says, You seem to do our exhibitions for us. I said Who's that speaking to you then My name is Kenneth Adam I'm the ex public? of the  BBC. said could you come and see me because we've got an exhibition. In Prague and I'd like you to design it  Oh, click that and I go up to see, Mr Kenneth get the information. design it. And right. Yes, Ken Adam was head of publicity worked in the Langham with Gerald. And I designed this thing and I was told to take it up to general somebody. It was too soon. Okay, General, you became director general Ian Jacobs Ian Jacobs go and see Ian Jacobs at Bush House has to trundle back to Bush House and use a different suit on. And he Ian Jacobs approved this thing. And I then went out to tender to have it built. And I just got all prices in which were quite satisfactory. And I get a phone call from Kenneth Adam. Could I have lunch with him? I said yes. We go. So go down to Scoville? We have lunch and he said, Well, look, Dick. I got a bit of bad news where I'm terribly sorry about this. But it's scrapped to scrub it I said they're just about to start building he said never mind nothing else I can do. So we finished our drinks. The next day, I read that the Russians have moved into Czechoslovakia. Pretty good reason for scrubbing the exhibition. Anyway, years rolled by a bit I forgotten where we were about 45. I've got a nice new assistant who's been an army despatch rider knew his job job. And he was quite good, efficient jobs. And he'd been the draughtsman before the  war and went on very well. Getting back on my feet and suddenly get a call from

Dutch television no no no no. All right, I then designed I think the 21st anniversary exhibition for the BBC as a Paris Theatre in Piccadilly is quite interesting. In it's way ? pulling remember Pulling. He was working on it working on the recordings there. And next thing I got Gerald Hoffnung, I used to design one of the murals they're fascinating stories Hoffnung started really as a broadcaster, because I have arranged with him to do this mural about about the orchestra because he was good at things. And he'd done this magical mural thing at the time the exhibition opened because he hadn't finished and he was the biggest draw in the exhibition this fellow up there and he was a great talker he would talk to the crowds Pulling heard him you know started recording him would he do recordings he did the recording and that started him off the broadcasting recording career without a doubt with anyway after that kind of thing went on for a bit and those are gonna come up quite nicely when wrapping up awesome Campbell's BBC again, no, no, no. We've come to the festival of Britain now. I knew Hugh before the war. Hugh Grang? rings up. Dick We know you go this experience about travelling structures and you do this Paris thing. Would you be interested in doing the the land travelling exhibition festival? Going to five cities? I said yes. So we're delighted. So he said right, or come up on the centre so and we'll get you a contract. So I go up to the offices and go along to go along on the door with Scott original Campform OBE?`. This is the Treasury man. That's it. So knock on the door my boy so good to

see you know, he must have got an OBE. He likes a ????. Anyway, all went well. And I did this exhibition and I got myself an OBE And should 1951 was 1951 5152. And that was a successful exhibition toward satisfactorily. I was then pulled into try. They had commissioned a whole lot of Polish architects to do the ship for the seaborne exhibition which was the  Ark Royal I did tell us that he was really good, could I go into straighten it out okay. Yes, I did a few 1000 pts or something. Anyway, come the end of the exhibition, it was you know, back home back to the drawing board and life has suddenly become a bit lack lustre of that's all myself trudging around for the rest of my days. And I read an article in The Times that a feller called  Peter Back's has died. And the television service is without a head. And somebody was waxing rather, they really wanted a kind of a young fellow kind of one of these Festival of  Britain designers, you know, it would be ideal, I mean, head of design, the head of design jobs would be ideal. So interesting. For a year or so. So, I rang up. They said, Oh, I said, I just wanted to know about the job. What was involved? They said, well, we'll, we can tell you that if you come to the Redbourne hotel, or somewhere, I said, we'el tell you all about it. In the meantime, we want to know about you before, would you fill up some forms? So they send me? Before I fill up wanted the job. I just wanted to know about it. So I go along to the Redbourne Hotel and I waiting there and I see three or four designers, Festival of Britain. And I go in this extraordinary thing. I go into this board. Cecil McGivens? is in the chair. Then head of programmes. Director, yes, yes programmes for the control, programme control

there was Hugh Casson was there. So somebody from the civil service very important to me? And yes, it was basically Page, who would really somebody senior to him? Because he was the CEO until

Anyway, it was somebody there could be somebody like me, I don't know. Anyway, Givens looking at me over a file that thick. He says, I've got your file in front of you seem to be doing quite a lot for us to look past it. Yes. Exactly. So it was a FAT file. And you can do what you're doing. You don't want to go into employment do you your'e doing all right. I said, I was interested in what the job was about it sounded, you know, an exciting job, because Huw Weldon had written up that piece, which made it sound rather good. A challenge you might say and they  queried that I wouldn't know anything about chronic mild amount I'm very interested in myself a One Belt radio was and I love photography, I think pictures and have a designer. And of course what about builders, houses I've dealt with contractors, all my all my life is part of my background. Then I had a book of photographs. The example that I read was I had to compare notes. Sorry. And this was passed around. And it was a golden arrow train which I designed for pullman and the Bournemouth Belle railway trains anyway, the man from the civil service was a railway buff, believe it or not. We talked about trains for about 20 minutes. Anyway, the next thing I heard was, could I go and see somebody called George Barnes in broadcasting house room, so and so 8 am must be a wizzer. So I turned up at eight o'clock. George Barnes was  sitting, the window wide open in February. And he said, Well, they seem to want you glad hear that. He said, it's a very tough job down there. I think you will be squeezed dry like an orange in three years. or something to that effect? And he said, Well, I think we'll give you a three year contract. See how we go. So I disappear again. And the next thing I get is Felicity Page would like to see me at Lime Grove Studios, and I go alomg to Felicity Green's office. And she drones on about the administration and about the establishment department of this as well. What about the job? What about design? That's what I become here to do. Standards are just non existent, its appaling Oh, she said, Well, that's not my concern. It's about the workshops. I see what you're talking about workshops. This is where you are in charge of the workshop. So I said, well, nobody's told me that yet. This is the first I've heard of it. Oh, yes, you are Head of Designs and  supply. I said, oh, let's do this. All right. So I go away, and I'm told to report to Alexandra Palace. And I go to Alexandra Palace. I mean, founded. Chelsea, I found my office. It says on the door, Head of Designs and supply I go in. And there is large Alice, you know Alice my inherited secretary, the large, tough lady. So

this is your office? Who is head of design and supply? Maybe we should change this to him. I think we have to speak from some of them out there.

So it Oh, you must meet so she was who's who's the head of library? Thornley Miss Thornley? Yes. Miss Thornley  had an office because she kept all the designers references which were opposite the backseats office. So I said no, where are the studios? She said, Well, this little one. Yeah, but the studio is Lime Grove oh, but I think we should be at Lime Grove, not herer on a mountain. So she said, Well, you haven't got an officer. So I said, I will go there tomorrow. So I went to Lime Grove The next morning, and to find out where design department was. And all I could find was all the storage areas and a little place under the canteen, which was this for the scenic emergency scenic studio is there you know where they kind of painted last minute jobs. You know, it's quite a nice size room same size as the canteen upstairs and I met there Mr. Roy Oxley, the acting head and still there and Mr Seaman? the construction manager and they looked at me at a start didn't know what I was talking about design. Anyway you know, the cameras can't see this stuff, you no, good doing beautiful things in the studio camera systems can't register it. So I said where shall I  have my office. I said what about putting a partition around that window and getting a phone put in? And another one here for my secretary said what do you have to go and see separately given no No, no, you see something worse? What do they call themselves central services? services? Yeah, I said well, I wanted tomorrow. I haven't got time here but departmental stuff I said you've got flats here, put up some flats and give them give me a desk so they did just that and I moved Alice down and  we moved in. We got we kept having the phones put in of course. There aren't in the offices that's not office again with that that's part of design and supply and you have been using programme money to build yourself an office. You see, this rubs us the wrong money again all this money. And it was ironed out. Remember Andrews? Yes. Andy came down, sorted that out. And he was quite helpful to me in a way because I didn't know how to do these makeup cases you know, BBC went to making cases not good enough to say I want so there was a feller called Nott remember  Nott yes Jack Nott Jack Nottt really helped me he was a very nice man I didn't know where he ever went to he suddenly vanished out until he was most helpful to me, preparing cases for staff this kind of stuff. You were in, say you were in, you're now, in the job. Oh, I'm in the job. week after I've been in the job, I'd found my designers and I had been pretty routine. Because I hadn't been there a day and I got a memo on my desk, which is what we're given in red. This set was a dog's dinner. Period. And it was 12th Night or something designed by Steven Bundy. And it was in the studio and I went up to have a look at it. Kind of for costumes of different heights. And I told Stephen Bundy that he designed himself a dog's dinner. We wanted better work from I want to better work with that kind of thing. Oh, camera was especially getting people in the right position. Anyway, the result of daring to tell Steve, a very senior from the original trio resulted in the designers getting together to deliver a vote of no confidence in the new head of design. And I heard the fact later but Stephen to remember Stephen. Stephen said, I don't know I think he's got ideas, I think we should get a chance. So there was no vote of no confidence. And from that period onwards, I was in a lot of trouble with the television service because I had a three year contract. And I could go absolutely nowhere. With design as I head on, my guy had to have new designers and I just can't talk to anyone stop putting the service or halt. In fact, that meant I had to have more. And everything was geared to drama.

I don't want to know about drama if you want drama go to harrod's hire and get the bloody lot far as I'm concerned. It's news current events stage entertainment. This is this is a BBC drama is drama. He was really upset about this boys are all drama designers. Essentially exceptionally good talents. Anyway. I'd been at about six months and I think I put my neck out. Put myself down to do a show. The Alexandra Palace. What was the woman's name? Somebody's got to sit design for it now. Ginger haired woman. She presented it. Yes. She remembers Joan Gilbert. Yes, Joan Gilbert Joan Gilbert's diary. I put myself to redesign to Joan Gilber's diary and then did a very nice job on it. And agreed to but it was it looked really good in the studio. And I remember being a floor manager on it. You briefly is really at that time it AP briefly Yes. You must be

suppose Yes. I remember the programme and I remember the set. I remember being a

floor manager, trainee floor manager actually. While I was a trainee designer, as you might say I had Steve Taylor as my assistant. Go to wildly wrong. Trouble with an engineer's I haven't either, because I got some vertical walls the glass door with with horizontal Glass Bead chaps it you can't use that door why not because it was already swizzle. But you can't do that. As a designer, you're such orders. You can't stop listening. For black is too black. It's too thick. It's not your fault at the time. That's for contractors. But I think you should have looked at it. So we can look at it Because it's so you learn the hard way. Who isn't it producers and Gilbert Gilbert? Yes. Jimmy Gilbert, you're not doing it for him on the old producers on the original he was on the show. He said he has to pick up as much later. Anyway doesn't  matter. So I settled down into the, into this job of design and started redesigning it. redesigning the design department, in fact, the whole structure and which meant, you know, getting a lot of new stuff, which I managed to wheedle through this whole new release, which never left and was kind of caught pretty quick for a while. And I became a bit of a maverick, because I still was under the threat three years. I had to do my job in three years with my lifespan, but I saw it but I hadn't put it right by then. I regarded I hadn't succeeded. Anyway, the the dividing the there was always a space travel into the room to sit down, expansion, expanding design department, this building was full of everybody. And I think one evening, I'd been with Andrew, and we'd sorted out some massive problem of staffing. We've doubled everybody up and we've got them in anyway. We got to tidy and we drifted along in the scenery, box to the hospitality room have a drink for me to drink while we're having a drink? The phone goes, and I pick it up. Hello. We're giving it whose that Dick Levin. What are you doing? I said, I'm having a drink with a stranger as we've just done. I won't have you hobnobbing with the administration. I

just won't have it.

 bang down goes the receiver. He didn't want me to become BBC eyesore` Maybe he was happy for me to be doing the wild things on the side and getting them done. They wanted you to remain creative. Think he wanted to change you somewhere. Anyway. After we've had a drink over this. There's a bit much I'll go over and see Cecil So I go over Lime Grove, walk down the alley. Open the door. Cecil. shall I chuck my hat in first.

Which isn't think one citizens expression. I think he was tied to when he misheard the Dick my boy come in because he I realised he had heard me say, I've come to chuck my hat in. sit down sit down

have a drink. Tell me how long your contract was 18 months? What's your salary? It was all of £1600 a year. I still have my own practice going allowed to do that. Because I think three years and then I couldn't go back to nothing.

So he said Well, look, we just say for like we're making a five year contract now the next bill 3000 a year or something? increments. Thank you. Thanks. have another drink there and then I don't think I don't think I wouild have thrown my hat in right where he was gonna jump anyway. But first, anyway, From then on, we'll see. Things went on. I mean, I found the job. absolutely fascinating. You know, for a designer, you know, this sudden death kind oof eleven times a day I mean, you can't go wrong. And it didn't really matter in the end. If something flopped on its face, something else went in instead, you know, the screen never went black. And of course, they were in my job where everything came up, panics. I mean, the first three months I was, I was constant state of panic, which I didn't panic anymore. And Roxy? said, I've been there a few days.

You shouldn't make decisions. Why ever not?

So it might be wrong. Let's It was very true. First, you will make a wrong decision occasionally. Maybe make three right ones the one wrong one you get better at it. as you go on. anyway I did make decisions. And I think I turned the department round quietly. I've got it world renowned with the various exhibitions and promoted international exhibitions of design. Do you remember those? I'm quite interesting, in a way. And then there was the Colour conference, which was a big one. That was kidded headlines. Last thing, he was a great friend of mine, he was pretty good to me, would be 32 other kinds of pre television in a way. we've now moved in into the 60s. Where are we chronologically? I mean, kind of about 67 now? Yes, colour. Yeah, just coming in. Yes. And as he went out, and this colour conference, of course, was a barmy thing, we spent about 9000 pounds. And before the we get this before the accounts, were settled. Agreed bases were agreed. And Cecil Mc Givern had gone long before 35 years before he left. He is settled and was the originals.

So we come up to 1967.

And then we trickle on to 1967. my wife that, of course, was mentioned. do mention it now that you must mention it now. I must Well, no do

Oh well Alice again, my beautiful Secretary introduced me to Miss Thornberry. I had moved into Lime Grove was sitting in that office, being there for about two months. And Alice said, a Miss Foy has been on for music department, she would like to consult you about her programme. As to I can't help anybody only been here five minutes don't know how it  works. She said, Well, I think could help. And she said in her case, she was very pretty. I said, Oh, that's different. Seven years later, we got married what about, we weren't really named any any precise programmes, which you thought in designs in them, which should be remembered. And when people look back on the history of television, you know, what marvellous designs this particular production had and who the designer was working to you? Obviously? I mean, can you think of a few? Well, this becomes a gigantic blur. I can think of the studio design unit, you know, as an effort, which includes, you know, just about everything that went on the screen, except the programme programmes. And to me these important is you know, all the tonight's it was the home the BBC at home with their own ambiance you might say, or supposed to be the ambiance was really kind of kapok filled, horrible grey walls. But then, of course, the rest is camouflage. What about light entertainment? We were mentioned earlier that I sorted out yes, we were pitching in most of those dreadful worst producer we had bless his heart is gone now. One, but nobody would work for him because he was really such a bastard was Dickie Dickie, what's your name? Well, contrary. All contrary, yes. However, it'll come back. It'll come back later as a particular recording. No, that's all right. It's this kind of recording. Because I really need Paddy or something. She's a she knows every now. Ridiculous. Shall I stop? Shall I go very well? Yes. And we go, yeah. Richard Attenborough, but not faced with any what you might call, taste in fact quite the reverse

and nobody would work with him. So I said, All right, then I'll take you up.

So I took on Dickie Attenborough and worked on Civel war contrary???, which were interesting for me. Because I kind of I slotted because I was really doing, you go get one free stuff. And he loved it this and one gradually weaned him on to better things, something nasty. Anyway. That is the occasion I remember when I had the first vertical orchestra, which is quite a classic way. Do you ever hear about the vertical orchestra? Remember, in my mind, yes. Well, it seemed to me that we had this orchestra in the studio, it occupied a third of the studio version of GE For a start, which left you very little room to operate. And if you couldn't see anybody in the back rows, just people's back, so I thought it would be marvellous, we had them up that way you get the picture frame. So I designed the thing on ground floor first of all and say, three tiers and steps off the sides of the orchestra could get up. And the orchestra leader conductor brought out in the front and had him on a very high podium with a ring around him like the conning tower of a submarine so he didn't fall out. So everybody could see it.

And fine, the orchestra come in what is this I'm not going out there Why not? My fiddle? worth 500 pounds. I not climbing up there up there with one hand needed. I

said, you put he said you put in stairs? Well you've been going in. So I knew we could put the stairs in because we were up against the dock doors into what we call live. Probably the source you know, shifting. So I also knew that you couldn't have a studio running with it also. So I was in a mess. And so I sent for Basil Adams, who was not my best friend in fact design departments mortal bloody enemy, because we had a common knowledge that we make it they break it the studio broken cracks or stealth or worse. Anyway, I called on Basil is also trouble as in this is a trouble can't get away. They won't go up unless we run with the dock doors open Thankyou Basil

so on it went so on it went to incidentally to go Go back to your career. You said not so long ago when you threw your hat in the ring or didn't throw it in your contract I think was extended five years. Yes. We're now much farther beyond that. So you obviously you stayed on? Yes, I stayed onuntil I retired It was renewed and renewed on stage one or did you join the staff? No, never. No, Your Honour. I was a smart guy. I was on Schedule D. I lived on a rolling contract. Is that the phrase a rolling contract it was just renewed?

And 61 they took me out on my 65th birthday. And then what happened to you? We finish with a actually what the BBC finished with the BBC

I wrote a book on it nobody's ever finished with the BBC. Well anything you want to say you think you should have said and didn't mention

about your during your BBC days I've been hauled in  Jim? one day we're doing the Eurovision Song Contest. And the first one will be held at the South Bank Festival Hall I want you to design it. Better be good. Oh, you're out. Simple, simple directive. And it was good. Presumably. It was obviously good. Well, it probably weren't out anyway. I wasn't out I mean Cecil McGivern, I know you. You mentioned him a lot. You admired him a great deal and you've got on with him. Good good controller of programmes very good do this well, I mean, he got the whole bloody face with it. But I do. The only people you can get broadcasting house and the bottle. He got all the creative people behind it. Yeah. That's right, the programme makers. You see

the programme with McGivern.

You could overspend and you weren't touched if you had a success. But if you had a failure wasn't good you've had it. Interesting. I mean, he was he was. So it was, I mean, I do want to put my list of programmes where they do least harm. You haven't said very much about drama except early on when you probably wasn't your particular territory was quite a lot to be said about drama and I mean select because production some famous, very difficult area, and I made a lot of song and dance about it while I was in television. Because I found that I remember going up to Scotland and I looking over the operation one of the I was taken out to lunch with one of the biggest Scottish furniture manufacturers, who had forever made horrible reproduction, Jacobean furniture, stuff with boneless legs this kind of dreadful stuff which everybody thought and of course we will beginning use Festival of Britain splayed legs all this guy. I don't say it's any better but this is what was happening. And the interesting business interesting was interesting to me whether this chaps said to me  I don't know what you do. What do you are ruining our business? We can't sell a thing though. They everybody wants splayed legs on the other and it brought home to me you know that we were having a tremendous influence. The point of sale at home you know, people comparing like with unlike, and they all that's what we want one of those. And we used to get lots of inquiries and design department you know, where was the patent of it couldn't come from me that was a cocktail bar or something. And I realised if you use bad stuff in television, people would even want bad stuff. really awful stuff. And you had to use a lot of awful stuff in drama. You know? You get some sleazy little city girls. Yes. In the back of beyond you had to ut in rotten furniture furniture, naturalistically. naturalistically. That's a word you have to people liked it. Yes. I tried really hard. I killed the goose, personally, to do tell us about it. Because I decided this couldn't go on to this dreadful stuff coming up every week.

Horrible and I said, That boy with the fair hair He's got to have taken the design course there's got to have decided he's going to refurnish the place. So this became a big deal. And Mrs. Grove and Mr. Grove went up to the design centre with me. And pick out furniture for their new room, which was duly selected, published and photograped for Groves and design centre. And set was built and it looks like the barren wastes I might say, within three weeks. I got to change................................................

Norman Swallow  0:03  
Side three. So you're killing everything. What else? What else did you kill?

Richard Levin  0:13  
I killed the myth about the Albert Hall. Because I started doing other programmes only like the ones with the real audiences like

Miss World BAFTA Awards or something like that, which I used to do all these because nobody else seems to know teh Albert Hall, which is

a really interesting place. Because it isn't, it isn't the proper oval. If you take the line down the centre is one size one side, one

size the other. I know how it happened too. The Irish labour that buit the place somebody marked it out. And if you mark out a noble?, well, you will have to

anyway, somebody had marked out` the end. On the end, they'd have used a big post about this wide and in going round that they had lost about 18 inch out. Anyway, so point so I became Mr. Albert Hall. And the dreadful things that happened to me there but

Norman Swallow  1:22  
what go on Sorry, I

Richard Levin  1:24  
can tell you that all things can happen to all things.

The first one I could get out of the second one was difficult. But we got to

the first one was it was a BAFTA Awards. And the dining tables were not to be on the floor. They were to be up on the first terraces They wanted them all floor. Too many people's. Anyway, we got to

Norman Swallow  1:55  
put the tables out. And for some

Richard Levin  1:58  
reason I went and sat down at the back of one of these tables. I suddenly realised that I can see over the table or other people sitting on the other side. Nobody on this side could see the stage at all. This was the day before the show. walks in Dickie darling Dickie he said don't panic you've  only got to move tables. Anyway he then showed me nice side of his nature I must say.

Norman Swallow  2:33  
But it worked out. Oh yes, of

Richard Levin  2:35  
course it worked out. The second one nearly didn't work out. There was

Norman Swallow  2:39  
no sorry.Dickie Attenborough

Richard Levin  2:47  
Anyway, he's great. But he was hopping the second time was another BAFTA Awards when I had left the BBC.

For the programme had left the BBc and gone to Thames Television 

Norman Swallow  3:06  
Thames Television

Richard Levin  3:07  
was every other year, I think it changed Thames one year BBC the next And when I tell you everything, I want to be still desired

Thames and I couldn't see no bloody red lights.


come the day. That was funny enough, sweating on the phone all day, bits of stuff trickled in. And there was a huge, proscemium?  had to go up in the middle of the stage, you're really high up about 20 foot off the stage. And by the time I got around to it wasn't up there was nobody there to do anything. And I had a long way to go up, take this

thing off the table.

And the ladder wouldn't reach. Now the only way the ladder  to reach was to put it on the tables. And I don't know I got somebody a fireman or somebody or a couple of firemen to put it on for two tables and they then they disappeared which left me and a ladder

a BP street which which teams which are going to jump off the next


Norman Swallow  4:39  
So anyway, well, when you left the BBC, the BBC then what?

Richard Levin  4:43  
 I was asked by a production company called Crown International whether I would produce programmes documentaries for them  produced by BBC background, you know did the BBC with organised buy a car


I started making films for them 

Norman Swallow  5:07  
as a director as a producer, director. Producer Director no I can you name a film or two and a director or two

Richard Levin  5:20  
Yes, the Paris affair was one

I've gone to do in a minute and directors until the the directors there and fortunately Christian stuff in the car he was an expressive artist used to work a lot, filling for a couple of Box? in the road. Nice. All right.

Well, we'll

finish up on these productive crown International, who lived in Windmuire Street and had studios there 

just on film, two fashion programmes. One was called the Paris affair and the next one was called the London

affair and the next one was going to be called the Rome Affair So on that note until I've gone around the world I do need to do these were on film not video. And Tom Taylor was the director of the first one the my introduction into filmmaking producing was pretty hair raising I first days shooting my first film was in Paris and we thought we needed we need a picture of the Tour D'eiffel we want to do pan down from


the bottom no from the top from nothing into Tour D'Eiffel coming down and got into a van all the gear. And you can just see as far as the premier Etoile, and the rest is blanked out with mist. So we thought, Oh, well, we're gonna do the students fashions and the Boule? mission. It's a Monday morning, so we charge off to the borniche? usually, cafe, they're not a soul inside. It's a day off the students don't work on monday So we're doing very well. So the first bit of fashion work is that evening at Dior. So we go over to Dior, to set up the cameras find Mole Richardson failed to bring me some lights , no lights at all. So we should probably count with our flights. Get the girls back next night in some other place, do them get the fashions over, I began to realise that perhaps it's not my.

The agony agony too awful And then I want to just go back to television.

A couple of things. When I gave one receive the one thing I gave them he was he was a book on Television design, which was above the head book fast and never forget it was which was a lot in 1950. It's a big illustrated book. So nice book covers some of the subjects. And the other thing was when I left the BBC I was given the distinction of Royal designer for industry not for designing Miss World or anything but for the conglomerate

the whole of the BBC output setting it up and directing it which was a nice thing to happen was having to sell leading commercially.

There wasn't a BBC publication

Norman Swallow  9:13  
anyway, so now after

Richard Levin  9:14  
no after Dio after Dior I think I did with one film with Jeremy Iron and Attenborough which was so bloody awful. You're throwing away?

Norman Swallow  9:23  
I'm not a Richard Attenborough about him a profile.

Richard Levin  9:27  
However, you know. He's not an endearing character he wasn't during the film. Anyway,

Alan Lawson  9:38  
what's shown on television? No, one wouldn't buy it Okay, and then after that. After that,

Richard Levin  9:51  
I decided that I was going to work on my own again. That had been a photographer all my life. All the photographic antics of the BBC. In the studio's rather my responsibility and they had been extremely bad and I said about taking pictures in the studios and got very interested in it and in fact after I left the BBC then in 1978 Kingston Smith something to do with colours don't take you take a long time in television can you please put together an exhibition? Pay for pay for

Norman Swallow  10:35  
was he still was he still at the BBC though? 

Richard Levin  10:37  
Yes he was at broadcasting house and I did this big garden show to the gallery which is quite a nice thing to happen called the television scene? And I then took portraits.

Norman Swallow  11:04  
Everybody and these have been on display published

Richard Levin  11:09  
Not in a book no to the BBC they're bought all my pictures for the library 1000 pictures for like really? Did you have a studio? Or did you have yours in the closet in BarnesI shouldn't do that.

Norman Swallow  11:31  
So you're now living in Barnes I mean, chronologically.

Richard Levin  11:35  
We lived in  Chelsea I joined the BBC then moved to Barnes

Norman Swallow  11:43  
and so I mean you since then you've continued me knowing you

Richard Levin  11:47  
I continued as a photographer

Norman Swallow  11:49  
say no you can never stop work

Richard Levin  11:52  
no kitted myself with a  nice studio there. Put it off people.

shapes and sizes and you did did you have any commissions on Sunday new newspapers? You're the hip is no big published a lot of

people commissioned

Norman Swallow  12:14  
that was a portrait. Really? You still you're still doing that? Aren't you? Can't see it.

I'm out of date, because I'm sure I saw one not all that long ago. portfolio to me. It didn't seem long ago. No, no, no. Still don't seem like it's in a publication. It doesn't seem long since I saw it. That's all I'm saying. More than more than one.

Richard Levin  12:37  
No photographic magazines that sort of thing.

Norman Swallow  12:39  
Yes. It was in a magazine. Now, what was that a reasonable living, you know, working as well? If you like as a freelance.

Richard Levin  12:53  
Yeah, I love sculpture. Oh, Tom Merrifield, those two photographs, sculptures. Terrible stuff. But I used to make it smart

And very lucky they loved it and pay very well. And I did. This drinks sculptures for a while. Got to have trouble with processing. So you have a market.

Norman Swallow  13:16  
You did your own processing.

Richard Levin  13:19  
Just as the important thing is, it's all there.

So that more or less brings us up to date, I think.

I don't think I grow the largest leeks in the world now.

Alan Lawson  13:38  
What I was going to ask is, in terms of television, and we're concerned with television history, and cinema history, television history, is useful to think what you think now about the way things are in television now about the US about particularly about the future of the BBC, I think you're telling me what what are your views about this very important subject?

Richard Levin  13:59  
I don't think it will exist in the year 2000

Norman Swallow  14:02  
would you think it should

Richard Levin  14:02  
not as it is at the present not with the people who are running it

Norman Swallow  14:08  
go on say more.

Richard Levin  14:10  
It's very important that they shouldn't be but not the whole characters change. I mean, these people don't care about what standards without using the presentation rubbish that's going on now. Yes. Yes. It's a bloody disgrace.

Norman Swallow  14:25  
I don't understand it.

Richard Levin  14:26  
I don't understand it is a disgrace very clever. brass or something?

Norman Swallow  14:30  
cataloguing something off the shelf.

Richard Levin  14:33  
Especially that blue. I mean, a lot of crap really. Actually its gone into radio as well. It's not only television, it's gone into radio. You know, my logo, perhaps. You don't know my logo thing I bequeathed the BBC was BBC,

which originally started off as three squares, BBC and TV. Now you can't stop change. logos and the BBC by asking a committee to approve it. That's right. No. And I was in a very strong position about this, because I didn't ask anybody. I just started using it on the screen. Right. So that's what we do. And we went in. And I used to carry somebody or other with me. Nevermind, I don't think Weldon was interested. Well, it would have been either Peacock or David. David. I think I just kind of showed it to him as it

Norman Swallow  15:39  
has to do with David Attenborough

Richard Levin  15:40  
yes This is somebody that

Norman Swallow  15:44  
there were some very good people around,

Richard Levin  15:45  
but I used to talk to Stuart Williams about it.

Norman Swallow  15:49  
But there were good people around David Attenborough was good. Obviously, Huw Weldon was good, obviously.

Richard Levin  15:56  
What's obvious? Well,

Norman Swallow  15:57  
you don't think he was good? No. Oh, sorry. Good. If you're interviewing for not a good control of programmes or

Richard Levin  16:06  
directly telling me he could really could run them. He could do man, he was very good. He was brilliant. Yes.

Norman Swallow  16:13  
You don't think monitor was a good programme?

Richard Levin  16:15  
No, he didn't like art. You know, but he took it. He took it on controlled and find out something about it. But you know, it's kind of at the side of him Art dirty word. Gonna do with real people. But he was a good leader. People would follow him. Well,

Norman Swallow  16:45  
surely that is that.

Richard Levin  16:48  
BBC term does a good thing. Yeah. He was a spiteful fellow. You know, he didn't give us all for leaving speeches. People go. Can they play it straight? Or nasty turn to women embarrassing

when he was a wordsmith, you know,

Norman Swallow  17:14  
rewash but David Attenborough. I imagined you would mind David? Paul Fox?

Richard Levin  17:24  
Yeah. Good man.

Norman Swallow  17:27  
He was controller one, one. When I left when I left. Yeah. But now nobody for Paul went a couple of months ago was Bill Cotton Jr. What about him?

Richard Levin  17:47  
Well, I liked Bill a good companion. He was I did his first programme. His first designer

Norman Swallow  17:57  
programme it was called the Show Band Show

Richard Levin  17:59  
And now but I had this brilliant idea. There's a long story attached to this his pictures he was hanging in his office for years. Because I decided to have the orchestra on three levels. And the front of the music desk was still out here sh o w ba and d is H O. Show and show they lit up. They each each line of stands lit up from the top downwards. So read out Show Band Show taht's the opening captions when I went up the gallery to see this up came, how and how

Unknown Speaker  18:44  

Richard Levin  18:47  
he went up in the air . Of course.

Cameras banging up against the back of this

move the stands in a bit and you got your Show Band Show But when I left I found the still. Which said how and how. And I put underneath. We all had to start somewhere.

Norman Swallow  19:14  
But you're not all that cheerful about the future British television as a whole. You're not sad, and

Richard Levin  19:23  
it's gone. We had the best years. We had the years

Norman Swallow  19:28  
can't be saved you don't think?

Richard Levin  19:31  
I don't think is anybody going to be strong enough? I think it's got too complicated. It's got too big.

Norman Swallow  19:38  
You mean the BBC or the whole

Richard Levin  19:39  
the whole thing's got too big, huge networks are too big. I don't see how I mean, I mean if you've got 40 people who can communicate responsible for for output. It's possible. We've got 1000 I'm just talking out of the  the back of my head. I know that there is a limit to the out put, you can control you're not controlling the output. You haven't got a unified whole people doing things on the side, you've got all kinds of handwriting, whatever the

Norman Swallow  20:25  
thing is, you think it's a bureaucracy? If that's the

Richard Levin  20:27  
word, do you know? what I'm talking

about? This is not a big bureaucracy down on the creative channel  is that I mean, you know, each one has its whiskers with full of bureaucrats, you know, counting the pennies, the people and the copyrights and stuff. God its fantastic when money goes out to the BBC. Because petty founders know how one is we do this and it's taken away automatically contracts and organised things are signed, everything's done.

Oh, God,

you know, you start having to deal with that one by one on your own or

Norman Swallow  21:14  
something to be fair, I found the same thing. When I left the BBC, I went to Granada. And I found that they had the same virtues of the BBC has that you're talking about? I found myself with them protected in the same way? in all the areas we're talking about? Looking? Looking back,what would you like to be remembered for?

Richard Levin  21:41  
 WeLL just simply improving the standards, or creating the standards. They weren't aiming for

creating standard is best. Is there any particular thing where you, you know, you feel you fail? On the administrative

Norman Swallow  22:05  
side? mean, you weren't an account?

Richard Levin  22:12  
Because I know when the workshops are working,

and when they aren't working

go by the buzz?, you know, if they're going slack, you give him some more work. Going quiet, running, hammering, some, correct.

Here comes the hammer. If Firstly,

Weldon embraced the Kinsey report, in spite of, you know, terrible protests he got from many people, including myself, because this meant to me that I would have to double my staff for no reason at all. And I had my staff running on the on the life on a cycle, which was they were fully occupied, the time was fully occupied job to job job to production, they were finishing one starting another getting information about it all went along gently, and they're all very busy. And while they're very busy and getting to do shows, they're very happy. So what does this guy do? He says, Every producer has to have the full use of his designer at full 90 days, or whatever it is, what's his cycle of work? The designer must be at hand free of any other. So once you do, it doubles the number of designers and puts them out of work for two thirds of the time, which is happily engaged in working for other people or making trouble

Norman Swallow  23:40  
mean moonlighting. 

Richard Levin  23:41  
Oh, yes. They were all doing it won't work properly. Nothing I can do about it all industrious things  in the end, because we had ups and downs on the cost of productions, because you know, scenery costs are quite high to the general costs. And we knew that our costs are over spends and understands what plus or minus five 5%. And probably the end of the year equaled out. So what do we do to spend all this money on extra staff? So as a producer or director has got instant access to design, as interesting as the overspending or underspending, well its a fact Cancels itself out? Absolutely. So let's be clear on is always a swings and roundabouts.

Norman Swallow  24:34  
Familiar phrase very good. If you could start again would you want to change would you

Richard Levin  24:43  
with hindsight Yes. That is very difficult to say. Yes, I suppose i would

Alan Lawson  24:52  
But as you said earlier, your career like that of most of us is full of coincidences and if somebody rang you up You've told it many times right different people a certain thing happened the war broke out. this and that opportunity knocks Yes.

Richard Levin  25:07  
Absolute right place the right time. Yeah, right equipment. Otherwise the wrong I mean, you know how many people does it happen

Norman Swallow  25:15  
but looking back in your case it happened. No, I should be so lucky. Well see your point And I mean, it was it was a it was a job

that did provide a lot of enjoyment. More enjoy more enjoyment probably than politics. Yeah.

Richard Levin  25:34  
Harry Smith, remember Harry Smith? design organiser? Coming here, what are you doing now playing human chess again?

Norman Swallow  25:46  
Human chess game?

Richard Levin  25:48  
Well, I used to play human chess a lot, because I used to move the designers offices around. I used to change them. I mean, I thought you know, after six months or so, in one office, changing environment, change the company. They get embedded otherwise you live with?

Norman Swallow  26:03  
Why not? bricks and mortar?

Richard Levin  26:05  
Somebody's done really heavy on the system went down there. I believe its  still there. Remember the name of the chap? resident designer ideally?

Norman Swallow  26:17  
No, no, I

don't think we had

Richard Levin  26:22  
any issues. When?

Norman Swallow  26:23  
Well for kind of forever. I mean. Yeah. You mean at the film studio and the film. He will be technically in the film department, but he attached me the ability. Good. Thank you. Good. Thank you......................................................


Head of Design BBC.  Married to Patricia Foy, producer