Colin Thomas

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Interview Date(s): 
7 Mar 2000
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Born 1939 Carnarvon,[Caernarfon] parents Welsh speakers. Moved down to Cardiff for normal schooling, went to Keele University, where he produced for the University Theatre. Had a great desire to join the BBC. He applied to join the 2-year training course, was accepted, got attachments to various departments, then at the end of his training period he was accepted in John Boorman’s Department in Bristol where he first worked as a researcher, then he started to direct programmes for the South West Region – the work was later for network transmission. He said that 50% of his work arose from his own ideas and the other from various members of the production team. He talks about the lone Round the World yachtsman, Donald Crowhurst [Donald Crowhurst, Sponsored for Heroism] who turns out to have cheated and his whole story was a fraud. He was later transferred to London to work for Richard Cawston’s Department on The Trials of Life – he comments on Cawston’s attitude, and his claim that his ‘way’ was the only way to make film programmes. He started to run into difficulties with the Programme Management: two of his programmes out of three, The Irish Way were not transmitted. He was told at his meeting when he was given his annual report [annual review] “too often he would allow his heart to rule his head”, and in 1978 he decided he was wasting his ideas and his talents and resigned – then to join RTE [Raidió Teilifís Éireann ] for six months as a Director of Programmes and then began his freelancing, doing ‘party politicals’ [Party Political Broadcasts] working for Channel 4. Then in 1981 together with some other freelancers, set up, set up a co-operative, Telisian, making programmes for Wales.

He talks about equipment changes which have changed the way of working – and says that sometimes there are advantages of using smaller crews.

At present [2000] he is working mainly for Welsh television. The programme which gave him the most satisfaction was The Dragon has to Change – the most dramatic was the programme he made about the Kurds in Turkey.


He talks about working with different presenters, and is asked about his affinity to people such as Philip Donnellan and such like and relates his experience of working on the three films which were made about Ireland. He talks about his entry into animation, with two programmes called Animated Conversations for the BBC and the idea was later taken up by Channel 4. He also talks about his one and only adventure into drama, which he says was complete disaster. He is quite at home with drama-documentary; most of these have been made in the Welsh language, his most recent was the programme about Emma Goldman, in the series for Channel 4 [and S4C] , Real Truth.



Colin Thomas was born on March 21, 1939 in Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire, Wales as John Colin Thomas. He is a director and producer, known for "Donald Crowhurst – Sponsored for Heroism" (1970) a BBC film  written and narrated by Paul Foot. It used  the tapes, films, and logs recorded by Crowhurst and found in his abandoned boat on 10 July 1969. "Ten Years On” in  (1973), "Look Stranger "(1970) and “A View of the Islands" (1971). He also worked with Philip Donnellan on a documentary in 1978  the BBC “A City on the Border” about Derry in Northern Ireland.