Daphne Shadwell Page 1
BECTU History Project Interview no: 194
Interviewee: Interviewer: Duration:
Daphne Shadwell [with John P Hamilton] Roy Fowler
[Side 1 Tape 1]
The copyright of the following recording is vested in the ACTT History Project. The date is 1st May 1991 and we’re at the flat of John and Daphne Shadwell in Paddington and Roberto Champredanc [ph], this is your life!
Daphne Shadwell, long time radio and television practitioner. Daphne, starting at the beginning – when, where?
DS: Well, when I was born, I was born in Wandsworth Women’s Hospital in December 1927, which was the only time in my life I’ve been really, really early. I was born in Wandsworth because my father, who was Charles Shadwell...
John P Hamilton: You were born in Waterloo, Daphs, the York Lying-in Hospital, the York Road Lying-in Hospital, Waterloo. You were living in Wandsworth.
DS: Shall I start again?
No, no, no, we can’t keep doing that.
DS: No, John P will put me right.
JPH: Your parents were living in Wandsworth.
DS: Oh yes, yes. Because my father was Charles Shadwell, a musician, a musicaldirector. He was MD Musical Director at the Putney Hippodrome at that time, so that’swhy I was born in that area. But shortly after that, I think he was – I don’t know whether
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he was sacked or it was preference, I have no idea – he went to Brighton as MusicalDirector at the Brighton Hippodrome and that’s why I have a very fleeting memory of a long street with the sea at the end of it. I’ve never known why, until it was years later I found out that we moved to Brighton and lived there for a little while. And then wemoved to... we moved to... I can’t remember, was it the other way round? We started in... yes, he was at the Putney Hippodrome and got then... went to Brighton, and he was MD there and Brighton was part of the Stoll Moss empire, which included the Palladium. And in the early thirties, during the bad times, the recession or whatever, they had depression, they closed the Palladium, it must have been one of the few times that the Palladium was closed and the MD there, the Musical Director there was senior, he was the Senior House Musical Director, so – they were very, very sorry and very nice to my father– but they fired him, so that the Palladium MD went to Brighton. But it was of course like good comes out of bad, it worked for him because he got a job as Musical Director at theCoventry Hippodrome, so we moved to Coventry. That’s where I started school, in Coventry, St Joseph’s, Coventry, in the infants there. And it was good for my father because through Birmingham BBC they started doing broadcasts from the theatre of theCoventry Hippodrome orchestra, MD’d by my father and he became quite well known. In fact, John P, you remember that don’t you?
JPH: I do. Yes, I remember listening to the orchestras and [incomp – 0:03:07]. DS: Yes, on the radio.
JPH: It must have been about 1931/32.
DS: So he started becoming quite a name. So I started school there. But the best part was really that we were allowed, my sisters – I have three sisters; my eldest sister Joan Winters went, she was older than us so she was really rather away from us, but the three of us,Sheila [ph], Hazel and I, were allowed every Friday, because we didn’t have to get up forschool the next morning, it was the end of the week, we were allowed to go first house to the Coventry Hippodrome every week, and it was a wondrous time in our life, we loved it.We didn’t sort of get into theatre, but it was, well, all the music hall stuff and we becameterribly blasé, knew all the jokes. And either would say, oh isn’t he terrible, or isn’t thatterrible, what a dreadful singer. I mean at the age of nothing. But the great treat was,
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when the show was finished we would go down into the pit under the stage where all the musicians were with my father, with all of them having a beer, say ‘Goodnight, God bless you daddy’, and were taken home. But that was really the initiation to the theatre.
What are the acts that you remember, Daphne?
DS: Oh, I remember Sandy Powell, I remember Billy Russell who drove us mad because,as a child I didn’t take in the jokes really, but he used to just stand there. The workingman’s comedian, he was. And I remember, he always had a pipe and he struck a matchand he would just go to light the pipe and he’d go into a joke, and as a child I thought, well we all did, Hazel was the same, we thought we’d go mad because he never lit this pipe, and we became obsessed with this wretched man, every time they said Billy Russell wason we said, don’t really want to see him, can we go and have an ice-cream or something,please, when he was on. Oh, lots of... oh, it was the juggling, the dancing things I liked, the dancing acts, all the duos and goodness knows what, pantos we saw. But I became more enchanted with theatre because Joan, my eldest sister, became involved with the Coventry amateur dramatics, the Coventry Operatic Society, and they had shows at the Coventry Hippodrome and she had leading parts; she was very pretty and very talented. And I was enchanted, I thought it was wonderful and we used to be taken to – that was really the only other theatre that I saw, the Coventry Dramatic Society. So that aroused my interest and from then on really all I ever wanted to do was go on the stage and be adancer, singer, and used to put on either Joan’s costumes or my mother’s clothes and workout routines in front of the mirror and sing all these songs. I believe my parents were highly amused, then I used to come down and do these pieces for them. Then, because ofthe broadcasting, the...
Let me ask a question, if I may, looking back with adult eyes to those headline acts of your childhood, would they get away with it now do you think? It was an age of great innocence, I think, in terms of material and performance of the talent, do you think?
DS: Yes, it was, it was. I’m sure they wouldn’t stand up now, I’m sure they wouldn’t.
I don’t think Sir Harry Lauder would have lasted five minutes.
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DS: No, you’re right, that sort of act. But as a child, of course, we weren’t so keen on those sort of straight acts, you know, I wasn’t so keen. Who was that marvellous manwith the...? Clarkson Rose, I remember, as being wonderful and his group. I’ll always remember Clarkson Rose, Twinkle. And the man with the car, the exploding car.
DS: Harry Tate. Harry Tate Junior it was then, of course. I remember him being marvellous and ever so funny. But really, looking back, no, a lot of the acts were really dreadful. And we, of course when we got so blasé we used to send them up terribly, in later years we used to stand doing, you know, and all this, I can see now the drapes, the stage was always draped, I used to love it, with all those marvellous drapes, all the looped back drapes, you know, swagged drapes right up to the back of the stage and the lighting from the side with the piano and the singer, always the ladies had their long handkerchiefsleaning in the crook of the piano and coming forward and ‘ooooohhh’. [laughs]
Did you have a sense of a privileged childhood, that every child had the run of a theatreor...
DS: No, the extraordinary thing is, isn’t it, when you’re very young, you just take things for granted. That’s one thing how royalty carry on, they take it for granted that peoplelook at them.
They’ve known no other.
DS: They’ve known no other, no. I think we just took it for granted as a sort of right. I mean I suppose I am still a bit uppity about things; we got very uppity about things, youknow. You know, my father’s in the theatre and let us in please, you know, step aside, we’re to come in.
What, this was in the front of the house?
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Did you laud it over your schoolmates in that respect?
DS: I don’t remember doing so. I remember, I think I must have used it, because Iremember showing off at school when I was in the infants when I first started school, and in the playground – I can only remember vaguely – it was like gardens and there was a bigflight of steps and I used to do this routine up and down this flight of steps that I’dprobably seen in the theatre, the glitter steps, you know? And it must have been mydirectorial sense or my bossiness, I used to, I remember saying to the children, we’ll put on a show, come along, now you must all run up the steps here and I’ll walk down the...They were all the chorus, of course. [laughter]
Shades of Judy Garland and Micky Rooney!
DS: [laughter] Yes. And then of course because of the broadcasting, the success of it,whether he applied or was asked I don’t know, but we moved to London from Coventrywhen he became Musical Director for the BBC Variety Orchestra.
How long were you in Coventry?
DS: I can’t remember. I think it must have...JPH: It was about six years, wasn’t it?
DS: Would you have thought so?
JPH: It was about ‘31/32 when he first went there.So...
The end of the thirties.
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DS: I think ’37 we went to London.
JPH: Joined the BBC.
Was it disruptive for a child to be in that kind of ever changing and somewhat unstable environment?
DS: Well, I suppose it was educationally. My sisters are really on the whole better educated than I am because they concentrated more and, you know, I was shoved around an awful lot.
In schools or home?
DS: In schools. But I never really minded it, in a way. I don’t remember minding, but I’m sure it had a very disruptive influence on me.
Were you as gregarious then as you are now?
DS: I don’t know, I always had a lot of fun at school.
DS: Always had a lot of fun and friends. I hated all the school bit, hated it. I lived for the school concerts and the end of terms and the plays and things, which I was always in, thank God. I always took it for granted I would be, and I was, I was always in the plays and the concerts.
What sort of parts and plays were done?
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DS: Oh, they were mostly musical things. My first, biggest part, it must have been in ’37when Snow White came out and it was in London, my first school. The girls went to the big convent of Jesus and Mary in Willesden, very good education there, very good, but whether my parents couldn’t afford it or not, but I went into a junior school in Wembleyand I remember, they decided to do the big school play, the big year, and they went mad on it. And they did Snow White because the film had come out, and I was to be Snow White. And, oh I was a star, I thought that was wonderful, I was a star and I adlibbed parts in the middle of the play, took great liberties, what I remembered from the film. [laughter]
Were they all-girls’ schools?
A single sex?
DS: That infant school wasn’t, that young school, because I remember the boys being thedwarves and things, so that was a mixed school.
You mentioned a convent school before.
DS: But the convent school, all the convents schools had been girls only, yes. That’s whyI went mad when I came out, like all convent girls, you see.
You’d be playing men’s parts as well?
DS: Yes, yes. But they were nearly all, being convent schools, they were musical shows or concerts or things like that, or a lot of Shakespeare of course. Oh that’s right, because Iplayed Caliban, I remember I played Caliban. And I played Puck.
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What, still in your pre-teens, or in your...
DS: Yes, once. And then I played Puck again when John and I joined an amateur group, which was really, I went there for training when I was younger and then I joined a group, and we did Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a good production, wasn’t it John?
DS: And I played Puck in that, as an adult.
Well, Puck I can understand, but The Tempest would be a bit off-putting, I would have thought, for small children.
DS: Yes, yes.
What was a convent education like in the thirties from the child’s point of view?
DS: It was quite hard, but then John P would say anything would be hard for me. But it was, but I must go by my sisters because they, I mean Sheila [ph] especially, the one nextto the eldest, she’s always been intelligent and she has been scholarly, and Hazel was too, and they found it quite hard going, especially at the Willesden Covent of Jesus and Mary, it was a very high standard of education there and they had specialised teachers in there.
Were you a Catholic family?
DS: Yes, my father wasn’t but my mother was, so we were brought up Catholics andthat’s why we went into convents. But I remember somebody saying once that convents teach you nothing but good manners, so I thought... So somebody once said, well that’snot a bad thing to have, and I thought well, if you’ve only got that in life it’s not bad.
Did the Catholicism stick?
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DS: It did... yes, not with my elder sister, Joan, she practised it [laughter] when she wasvery, very young. My father, he converted, but my mother always said it was because hewas interested, it was curiosity, he couldn’t think why we kept running to church. But heonly lasted about a couple of months or so, got bored with that, that was the end of that. My two sisters have remained. Hazel dropped it, but she’s an all church type person now.I went away from it for a while - I think everybody does - I went away from it for a while,but I’ve come back to Catholicism now and the Church and enjoy it very much, because I’ve done it my own way and I’ve come back my own way. But we were convent bred, convent trained and had the thing of having to go. John was the same, he was... having togo to church on a Sunday, being very cross about it and coming up, fed up, being forced to go to church every Sunday. Think I don’t want to, but you’ve got to and it was just, you’ve got to go and that was it. And going there...
That’s what you said?
And still you married. [laughter] So what was your dad’s appointment? The BBCVariety Orchestra?
DS: Musical Director of the BBC Variety Orchestra, yes, and that was in ’37. So thatbrought us to London and the schooling then, and then my sister Joan had become professional, so she was tied up with the theatre, so I used to go a lot to that. But then we were invited, we used to go to the broadcasts sometimes – not in Coventry, I don’t remember. John asked me that, did we go, but I don’t remember anything about theCoventry broadcast, only it being on the radio. I remember my mother saying, ‘Oh look atthe time, it’s twelve o’clock, I must listen to the radio’, because I believe my father used tosay, ‘You will listen, I want to know your reaction’.
Was there a broadcasting studio in Coventry or would they all have been out...
JPH: No, they were OBs.
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JPH: No, they were OBs, from the Hippodrome. That’s why he made his name really, because it became...
Well, I didn’t mean just your dad, but when you say broadcasts, I wondered if theyoriginated plays or documentaries?
DS: I don’t think so.
JPH: No, no, no that a music hall, basically, wasn’t it?
DS: Yes, it was a musical programme. I think it went out at twelve noon, it went out during the day.
JPH: It was an hour of light music, basically, yes, from twelve to one, yes. DS: Yes, something like that.
Okay. So where did you settle in London when you...
DS: When we first came back – oh, in London – we were in Wembley Park, GrendonGardens, I remember it. 26 Grendon Gardens, and I’d been at the Wembley school, andthen I was moved into the same school as my sisters, into the kindergarten, into the bottom junior, and that was great, I enjoyed that hugely. It was, as I say, it was very hard education, but on the junior school line that we had, we had a wonderful time, we were treated and spoilt, you know, we used to carry our little chairs out – ‘It’s a nice day, we’lltake the chairs out and go outside’ – and we used to carry our little chairs out, sit in the garden and have a little lesson. And, ‘It’s time to go back, you’ve all got to have your milk now’, and all this sort of thing, so we were very spoilt in the junior school, in the kindergarten.
Was that still kindergarten? You’re now what, ten? Nine or ten, are you not?
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DS: No, it must have been the juniors then, because I know we were treated like the babies. We were very spoilt.
But you’re learning things by this time, surely?
DS: Oh yes, oh yes.
What were you good at, if any subject?
DS: Nothing really. Nothing really. I always liked history, I wasn’t bad at history when I started basic history, because it was stories, you see, it was stories and characters that Iliked. Oh, and we started, that’s where I started, we started algebra and geometry andeverything. But then it was very shortly after that of course that the war came, so we were evacuated immediately and we went to Bristol.
Because of your father’s work?
DS: Because of my father’s work, the BBC Variety Department. And drama, it wasdrama as well, all were packed off to Bristol. And my parents got a flat down there, Whiteladies Road, I remember that, not far from the BBC studios, just by the studios. And we used to, again, with great interest we were invited to the studio for audience shows and programmes. And when was Monday Night at 7 John, was it then?
JPH: Well no, that...DS: Was that later?
JPH: Monday Night at 7 and then 8, Monday Night at 8, were in the period ’37 to ’39while your father was in London.
DS: Before the war.
JPH: That was coming out of St George’s Hall. He was also doing a studio show, Broadcasting House from the Concert Hall.
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DS: Yes, that’s right.
JPH: Maida Vale, of course, was the big studio centre.
DS: Well that was my first contact with broadcasting, really, because we used to beinvited in. It wasn’t an audience show, but we used to go and see and hear Monday Night at 7 and Monday Night at 8.
JPH: And Music Hall.
DS: And the Music Hall, which I loved because that was like theatre, because they were all in evening dress and the acts were all dressed up and the MC was in evening dress and it was like real theatre, I forgot that it was broadcasting. And I always remember, I think one of the Monday Night at 7s or Monday Night at 8, and it was Ronnie Waldman who fronted it, who was the uncle of Brian Tesler, of course, and Ronnie Waldman was the... did he found it or was he the...
JPH: The quiz segment of it, yes.
DS: The quiz. And he, I remember once on air saying, ‘Oh well, it’s quite off-putting, the whole of the Shadwell family are sitting looking at me’. Well, of course I was over themoon, I was in a daze for days, the fact that we’d been mentioned on the radio.
Yes, your father was, as it were, a character, a participant in so much that went on in the shows, was he not?
DS: Yes, he was, he was. He became a name because of his, mainly his laugh became famous through music hall because he used to laugh so heartily and had a very distinctive laugh, and he became famous for that. And then the comedians used to start pressing their jokes at him.
JPH: He was a stooge actually.
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DS: And using him as a foil.
JPH: Most of the big comics. Like a fall guy anyway.
DS: Yes, and he used to laugh so much.
And was that a genuine laugh, a reaction to it?
DS: Oh yes, he had a very hearty laugh, a very funny laugh didn’t he, he could set peopleoff, because he laughed so much.
So it really all developed because he had reacted at some point to the acts?
DS: Yes, yes. And they all loved him. We were talking quite recently to Doddy, to KenDodd, and I said, introduced John and said hello and how do you do, we’ve come to seethe show, and we so enjoyed his performances, did he remember my father. Gosh, he said yes, and he said such wonderful things about my father, what a wonderful MD he was andhow helpful and how nice. It was lovely, wasn’t it John? He said a bit different from, and he named another MD didn’t he, which you knew. Stanley somebody was it? Stan somebody.
JPH: Yes, yes.
DS: Anyway, it doesn’t matter, but he made us laugh about the terrible things this other MD used to do and the rough time he’d give the music hall. But apparently my father wasvery patient and very kind with them. So that was nice to hear.
I wonder if your father were typical in that respect or the other characters, this unnamed Stanley was?
JPH: No, I don’t think he was, because as the war approached, of course, and in ’39 hebecame a character, almost one of the cast of ITMA, of course, the big wartime radioshow, because he’d developed this stooge thing and Tommy Handley of course played onthat and he actually, apart from being the MD, became part of the cast.
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JPH: And was known as The Hairpin, and other rude things, being tall and thin.
What about you at this time, your theatrical or stage ambitions, how were they progressing?
DS: My stage ambitions were still very much that I just wanted to go on the stage and be an actor and be a singer and dancer. And so I really, I was just pushing along being ineverything I could be in, either locally or dancing classes and things like that and there’dbe the usual big dancing class shows and things and I would be put in on that, and I would love it of course.
Your parents were benign about this were they?
DS: Oh, they liked it very much and I mean they’d encouraged Joan, they’d encouraged Hazel. The only daughter, Sheila, who loathed the stage, was terrified and wouldn’t wantto go on stage, and made one appearance once and was nearly sick and was rushed offstage and never appeared or walked on again. So it was strange, that. But the three of us were all mad about it. Hazel was very good, she was a very good actress indeed and in fact when we were evacuated up to, after Bristol everyone was hurriedly evacuated, the BBC Variety Department were evacuated to Bangor, north Wales, and of course there was not much going on there so the BBC had a lot of outside activities, you know, the clubthings, the golf... and they had a very good amateur dramatic society and Hazel appearedin nearly everything in that, she was always the lead and she was very good as an actress, especially in light comedy and sitcoms. But she got a scholarship to RADA and turned it down. I can never remember why. I was incensed with rage, I was so upset I was nearlysick. I wouldn’t speak for a week and sulked because she’d got what I would have liked more than anything and then just turned it down and didn’t go. It was a pity really, it was a waste because she was very good.
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This plethora of talent in the family, do you think that was somehow in the genes or thetradition, or was it exposure to your father’s environment?
DS: No. I think it was there because daddy was always a competent performer and hadperformed very young, and he’d had to, when he was young, jumping back to hischildhood, his father had been a doctor and of course they were much more revered in those days than they are now, and my grandmother was quite an eccentric character and they used to have soirées and musical evenings, and my father was taught violin and pianoof course, and he was always called in, ‘Charlie boy, Charlie boy, come and...’ and healways had to perform for these soirées in the evenings and things and either say something or sing or join in with the parents, or play the piano, whatever. So he was usedto performing. But my mother was a natural performer and I don’t think there’d beenanything in her family, she was just a natural performer and in fact when they first married, she went on tour with my father just after the war, Great World War, and appeared in a show, she travelled in a show and appeared in it for quite a while. But shewas...
JPH: [incomp – 22:27] or something, it was a Western, wasn’t it?
DS: It was a very famous show. It was an American producer. It’ll come to me in aminute, something like The Hayseeds. Something like The Hayseeds. Or it was Harry Hayseed, I think, who ran it. It was a very famous show which my father was part of and part of the orchestra and my mother was hauled in, they wanted somebody and sheappeared. So it was always there, she had a natural...
JPH: She had a good voice, she was a good singer. DS: She had a beautiful singing voice.
So maybe some of it was inherited.
DS: Yes, yes I think so. And then of course, I suppose being with showbiz and being imitative. Joan was very imitative, she could do voices. In her act, when she used to do an act, she used to do a lot of impression, impersonations. And Hazel’s quite funny in
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copying people and I used to be able to make people laugh with my imitations of people. Idon’t do it so much now do I, John?
DS: But I used to make people laugh. So it was there somehow, this imitative thing, I think.
JPH: Hazel was more practical musically, wasn’t she?DS: Yes, she was.
JPH: She used to improvise flute and violin.
DS: And piano, yes. Yes, she was best musically. Sheila hadn’t got anything in her.Joan sang very well, I had piano lessons, wouldn’t practise of course, behaved badly,always had something wrong with me. Always had burnt my hand that morning, or had the hiccups or something. [laughter] But really the nearest to broadcasting was after the war when we used to go to the shows and things. And then, when we came back to London, I went back to, funnily enough I missed all the middle bit of the convent at Willesden, I missed all the good education, the two girls were working by then. I went back to finish off my schooling and went into the – they had a marvellous secretarial training business class, they had about four or five different teachers in it, and my parentsput me into that, because they’d insisted with all of us that we trained ourselves before we thought of ever going to the stage or doing anything, and they insisted with me that whatever I did, I must first of all learn a trade, whatever it was.
So at what age did one go to a secretarial school in those days?
DS: Well, I suppose I must have been about fourteen or fifteen or something like that. Fifteen, I should think.
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JPH: They came back to London about ’43 from Bangor, the Variety Department cameback. Your father was still heavily involved in ITMA of course, which was the big show, all the team came back to London.
DS: Yes, that’s right. And then he had a lot of his own programmes by then. He used tohave – he thought up quite a lot of ideas.
JPH: Garrison Theatre of course.
DS: Garrison Theatre had been his big show, that was his idea.
That was his, was it?
DS: Yes, he’d thought of that. Yes.
That was at the very beginning of the war, was it not?
DS: It was. He’d thought of it, but it reminded him, because he had worked in the Garrison Theatre and had...
JPH: In the First World War.
DS: First World War, and had done a lot of music and...JPH: He played piano.
DS: ...played piano in the mess and for all the concerts, you know, and the colonel wouldsay, ‘Come along Shadwell, let’s get a bit of entertainment please’. And he did that, sothat had given him an idea of the Garrison Theatre in wartime and he and Harry S Pepperand somebody else, the Head of Variety then, John Watts wasn’t it?
JPH: John Watts, yes.
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DS: Thought of Jack Warner. And then it was suggested they wanted a girl, and I don’t know how my father did it, but he suggested Joan and...
DS: It was nepotism. But I think the producer knew her, had seen her in something, andthat’s how sister Joan became Little Girl Joan Winters.
JPH: Ernie Longstaff was it? Ernest?
DS: No, I can’t remember who it was. Oh yes, it might have been. So I went to secretarial school and they were doing all that. And then when I came out of secretarial school Joan by this time, when I finished secretarial school, Joan by this time had finished being Little Girl and Garrison Theatre had been over and all the stage show and all that,and she’d teamed up with a man who had a variety act. And that drew me very close tothe theatre because they always, [incomp – 26:35] used to say to my mother, ‘Can Daphne come for the week?’ or whatever. So I used to go on tour with them or go for a week to somewhere where they were staying, you know, in Blackpool and sit in the dressing room, stand on the side of the stage and get friendly with the young people. So I was very much involved in theatre again, which I enjoyed, with them, with Joan and Guy [Fielding]. Guy taught me the time step and all sorts of tap dancing things and so that kept me very happy, travelling about with them or going to see them. And through them, they heard of a job going and I went to work at Drury Lane at ENSA – Every Night Something Awful, if youremember, that’s what it was called. And I was a secretary in the, I can’t remember what the department was called, it was a very nice man and he had to set up the auditions for the shows going abroad for the concert, he was Concerts Manager and he had to audition hundreds of people to form a concert to send out overseas and package them. And I got the job and it all started falling to me to organise these auditions, but oh I loved it, I was so bossy and used to arrange all these auditions, and made them much too long, I was so inexperienced. We would start at 9am and go on till about 10pm and everyone was exhausted! But I loved it, I used to run round Drury Lane ever so bossily, up and down stairs, backstage, here, there and everywhere, and had a lot of fun there. But they werewinding up then, or something, I can’t remember why, but...
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JPH: Well, the war was over wasn’t it, virtually? It was only the remaining guys who hadn’t come back, that was about 1945.
DS: And they wanted the theatre back, of course, they wanted everybody out and clean up the theatre and open it up again. So my sister Sheila – Joan was still on tour – sister Sheila was working in the BBC, secretarial side, and she was working in the Near East Department of the BBC, and my sister Hazel was working in the Variety Department at Aeolian Hall, but she heard of a vacancy going for a secretary to the Administrative Assistant of the Near East Department out at Aldenham, near Elstree, and she arranged aninterview for me. I can’t think how I got that sort of job, which was so unlike me and I wouldn’t want at all, working in the Administrative Department of the Near East Service, looked after the Arabs, the Turks and the Persians out in the countryside. But I think it was, whether I was getting too wild or too cocky or something, I think it was a ruse by my parents and Sheila to go out there and work there in a good solid straight job with her to keep an eye on me, which she did very heavily.
Was this in the school at Aldenham?
JPH: No, no, no, at Aldenham House.
DS: Which had been a boys’ school.
It’s my nephew’s school so I don’t know what they were doing during the war.
JPH: Aldenham Boys’ School is a little bit further up the road. It was a private houseoriginally, a country house, which the Beeb had taken over at the beginning of the war and split some of the foreign services between there and Wood Norton in Evesham.
DS: But it reverted to a school again, because last time I took a drive out there it was a school.
JPH: Oh, it’s still there? The Latin American Service were there as well, and the Near East Service.
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DS: But they used to keep an eye on me, Miss Burton and Sheila, I know. Whether they thought the wicked Arabs were going to take me off to the white slave trade or something,I don’t know. But I remember, there were lots of young men there all coming back from the war and everything, so it was a grand time for me, I used to chat to these boys. But Iused to be whisked off at lunchtime: ‘We’ve managed to get a little garden plot and we’ve got one for you, so we’ll go digging and hoeing at lunchtime’. The boys used to fall aboutme digging and showing my knickers and bending over and all the stocking tops andthings. And John had worked there, but...
JPH: No, after you’d gone.
DS: ...funnily enough, I didn’t meet him then. So I got very tired of that and again, whether I behaved badly or got uppity or not, I don’t know, but I was suddenly told that itwas time for me to move on and I went to a much more fun job. I went up to 200 Oxford Street in the BBC and worked in Forces Favourites. I loved that, that was marvellous. All the records, used to sit with headphones on listening to these records and building upthese programmes. I mean the cheek of it, I hadn’t got any training or anything. You had to write the scripts, the links for it, and I met Jean Metcalfe there, they were the announcers: there was Jean Metcalfe, Sheila Stewart – who was on there with Sheila?
JPH: Barbara McFadyean.
DS: Yes, Barbara McFadyean. Oh, some marvellous names, marvellous names. That wonderful blonde lady that used to wear her coat over her shoulder, it was the new fashionand...
JPH: Marjorie, Marjorie Anderson.
DS: Marjorie Anderson. And we all took to this, we thought this was wonderful. She had high heels and wonderful blonde hair and just slipped her coat over her shoulder. But it never worked for us; it always fell off or flew off or it was the wrong shape or something. And Jean Metcalfe was lovely, we got very friendly with her, she was a great girl, lovedher. But she had the wit to take all the discs, which we’d marked up and timed, and our
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scripts, and chucked the script up and just read the letter straight off. But there was a lovely girl called Pat, she was either very nervous, she used to read the scripts absolutely verbatim and I remember her voice changing one day, we were listening – we used to listen to our own programmes going out, Forces Favourites, and she said, ‘That was so- and-so singing so-and-so. And now, a nice letter here from Bombardier Lance Corporal So-and-So in the Sudan’ or wherever it was. ‘And he says that he’s very fond of apple pie, well he doesn’t get much apple pie now, although they have apple pie sometimes inthere often, but his mother always cooked a wonderful apple pie, and to bring backmemories of the apple pie we’ve got, Ma, I Missed Your Apple Pie. So to give you somememories of those good cooking days of apple pie, we’re going to now play...’ [laughter]and her voice [speech obscured by laughter]... stunned and weakened as this went on and on and on. And the girl who was in charge, Mar... Marg... Margot...
JPH: Margot [ph] Richards.
DS: We were all sitting listening to this, and her head was slowly turning round andlooking at me and she said, ‘Did you write this?’ And I went, ‘Yes’, quite happily. And Ithink from then on she was told to vet my bit of writing, the script. But that was great fun, I enjoyed that job enormously.
What generally was the atmosphere of the BBC at that point?
DS: I thought very good. It was still very strict, you had to behave, you had to know your place and it was very strict.
When you say behave, you mean in the hierarchy?
DS: Yes. Well, you had to mind your Ps and Qs.
Or not bending over and showing your knickers?
DS: Not bend over and show your knickers. And you had to work to, I mean the Administrative Assistant, the AA, was very much in charge of the department, and the head, and you had to know who was the head of the department and you had to bow to
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instructions. I mean there was no argument or messing about, well you had to behave andI don’t think they liked people...
JPH: And you had to dress properly, I mean you couldn’t slop around in jeans or anythinglike that.
DS: No. And I remember sometimes in Forces Favourites we had to help out in the Schedules Department, a very busy department downstairs which, we came under Presentation, Forces Favourites, but we were a separate little unit, three girls runningForces Favourites. But when they were short staffed downstairs for typing up theschedules and things, we’d have to whip down there quickly. And we hated doing that, wehated it, it was a rotten job. These great long typewriters with these terrible daily schedules. And I did it once and hated it, then I was sent for quite soon again. Ooh, I gotvery snotty about it all. ‘I’m very busy upstairs, how long do you want me for?’ Whatabout this and what about that. And I remember Henry somebody or other, he was Head of Presentation then, administration. He said, ‘Look Daphne’ he said, ‘You play ball with me and I’ll play ball with you, this job’s got to be done’. And I said, ‘I don’t want to play ball with anybody’ I said. [laughter] And I came out saying, ‘Who is this man?’ Andthey said, ‘He’s head of the department’. I said, ‘Well, I don’t care’. So that’s how badlyI behaved. Hazel was as bad.
Did you see yourself as the little princess, somehow?
DS: Well, I suppose so. I behaved very badly, but we all did in the family, Sheila has said that before now. We were terribly high-minded. God knows why, we had no reason to be.
Was your father politically important at the BBC?
DS: No, not at all. And we kept it rather quiet, although I remember Ronnie Waldmansaying to somebody once, ‘Can’t walk through the corridors of the BBC without brushing Shadwells off your coat’.
It’s an interesting question, the fact that four sisters all got jobs at the BBC.
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DS: It was extraordinary, wasn’t it?
Now the extent to which nepotism was involved, not just on your part, but on theCorporation’s part in those days.
DS: I think it was because, you see, Sheila and Hazel were extraordinarily good at their job, their shorthand and typing was marvellous, their arithmetic was marvellous. I was thelucky one really because I don’t think I was as good at them at my work.
But would your father have made a discreet little phone call about it?
DS: No, not at all.
JPH: Oh no.
So it was on merit, but obviously not unaided by the fact that father was...
DS: He didn’t particularly want to know. And we never had anything to do with him inthe BBC, and it was really not long after that that he went out, he left the BBC, he decided to go out on tour.
JPH: He went out on tour in ’45 with his own orchestra, although he came back to ITMAagain, and music hall and so on.
But as a freelance, presumably?
JPH: But all the artists in ITMA went out on the road anyway, because...
It would be foolish not to have done, that’s right.
JPH: It would be mad not to, yes. But they all sort of went and came back, they drifted in and out of the series.
DS: But I’m not sure that I didn’t...
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Who used to be Mrs Mopp? I remember doing...
DS: Dorothy Summers, Dolly Summers.
Yes. I remember doing a television pantomime with her, I suppose ’48.
DS: How wonderful. She was a lovely lady. Lovely lady.
JPH: Yes, they were all very big stars.
Right, so there you are, rather peeved that the BBC hasn’t made you Director-General, probably, yes?
DS: No, I wasn’t really colossally ambitious, Roy, that’s the extraordinary thing. I’d never set my sights into, that’s the job I want to do or anything, certainly not then, I just thoroughly enjoyed it all and I think it’s this peculiar time in your life that you’re givenlike a gift, between sort of about eighteen and twenty-three, or whatever it is, you seem tohave no sense of responsibility. You don’t think about the future or what you’re going to do or anything, it’s just having some fun and a good time. But I went from there, I leftForces Favourites, because I think the programme changed because it was coming to the end of its era and they were going to have overseas Family Favourites.
JPH: Yes, it became, it translated itself into Family Favourites on the domestic services. It was purely overseas service when you were doing Forces Favourites.
JS: It was. I was outraged because it came to an end and they decided to have this new programme. Again, being so flibbertigibbet, you see, the other girls were getting married, the other two girls were leaving anyway, and they put it up on the board, you know, all the jobs were put up on the board at the BBC and everyone had to apply. And they put the job up, so I, hoity-toity, just sent in a very light note saying, well I’m doing the job, you know. So I applied for this job, I’m doing this. And I was astounded when somebody else got it, an older woman, you know. And of course they wouldn’t give it to me, this flibbertigibbetrushing about enjoying herself. And it was just as well I didn’t, because I went from there
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into a job called Recorded Programmes Bookings, and it was a very interesting... it wasn’tan interesting job, people rung in and said they needed – it was for the Overseas Servicedown at Bush House I was then...
JPH: European Service.
DS: European Service. And people rang up and said I need a quarter of an hour recording time to do something, or there were block bookings for radio newsreel and whatever, and you had to fill in all these charts and then people would ring up and say can you fit me in a quarter of an hour. And it became rather routine, it was shift work. But it was enjoyable, the people in the office were nice, a big group of women, and the Recorded Programmes Library was next door and we all worked very closely with each other. And of course, one got to know the boys and girls doing the work in the studios, and that was a job that John did, Recorded Programmes Assistant. So it was a very happy time for me, socially, I met a lot of people. And then when I was on shift, on night shift, I was supposed to be in the office and I climbed out the window, the boys came and collected me – that was with youJohn, wasn’t it – and I climbed out the window and went to the pub with them and then they took me back and pushed me back through the window half an hour later. Disgraceful. It was absolutely disgraceful.
This is not good BBC behaviour, obviously, no.
DS: No, I could have been fired when I thought about it.
Had you become a member of the permanent staff?
DS: Yes, I think I was from the beginning.
Ah right. They took you on board, as it were, and then they just...
DS: Yes, I was staff.
...shuffled you around, depending on your talents and what else was going on.
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DS: Yes, and what was going on, what... But I mean one was free all the time to applyfor jobs and it was after that in Recorded Programmes, I applied for a job and I got it, into which was a fascinating job I did for two years, the Duty Room at Broadcasting House, which was in fact, it was there for the Director-General to come in if he wanted to, for all the important talks people. We had a drinks cupboard. I didn’t drink then luckily, thankGod. And also, you had to every morning, you had to get the stuff out of Hansard, any reference to the BBC at all had to be typed up and sent round all the top people. You had to find the visitors of the day who were coming in, in case there was anybody important. When there were important people there you had to take the visitors’ book that had beensigned by Kings, Queens and everybody else, Emperors and Presidents, and have that signed. But you were mainly at the end of the telephone for people ringing up making any complaints and queries.
People did telephone in in those days did they?
DS: Yes, yes. And if something had happened, I remember one night the Duty Officer went for his supper and I was on my own, and the phones were jammed, something had happened, there had been a wrong programme or somebody had made some statement,and I couldn’t get on to a phone to get the Duty Officer back and I took something like113 calls in about, I think it was about fifteen minutes or something. He came back in the office, or somebody got him, I think the exchange got him, and got him back, and in theend we’d had about 380 calls within an hour.
What might it have been?
DS: Somebody had made a statement on the end of a news programme, I can’t remember,because there were so many things happening...
JPH: I remember the incident, but I can’t remember what the actual cause of it was.
DS: And then the calls, for instance, when the King died, I remember I was in there when the King died.
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JPH: George VI.
DS: Yes, that was very shattering. We had the first news of it, of course, the BBC, and somebody rang me and said, ‘I’ve just heard, I believe the King’s died’. And I said,‘What?’ and then I checked with whatever head office it was. But I got to know theDirector-General, that lovely Sir William...
JPH: Oh, William Haley.
DS: He was lovely, I got to know him quite well.
Were they expecting – I mean this is somewhat irrelevant – but were they expecting theKing’s death?
DS: I don’t think they were so suddenly. No.
I wondered if there were a protocol established, because these days apparently there’s ashelf-load of programmes about the Queen Mother.
JPH: Oh, I worked on the film level, played many a disc. The obit programme was there, but I mean he did go rather rapidly towards the end.
DS: I think they must have known, but we didn’t in the lower echelons, they must have known that it was coming up, but I think they didn’t expect it just as quickly as that. But...
I was in New York at the time and I always remember the headline, I saw it opposite on asubway car going uptown, and it said, ‘George dead, Liz Queen’. [laughter] That’s my recollection of it...
DS: Oh really? Really?
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DS: Who died afterwards? Did Queen Mary die after him?
She died after him.
DS: She died after him.
She didn’t make the Coronation did she?
DS: Because I remember, that had been such a shock, this call, you know, and all the protocol, everything was set in motion and we were quite involved in the Duty Room, and people running in and out. And I used to have to type things, people would open the door and say, quick, type this and type that.
Out of the frame store comes a memory of a very famous photograph of the three generations of women all in black with veils – do you remember that? It’s almost like aGreek tragedy.
DS: Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Princesses. But I remember shortly after that itwas that she died, because the phone went and it was a listener saying, ‘Excuse me, I’ve just heard a rumour, I’ve just heard that Queen Mary has died’. I said, ‘Oh, hold on a moment please’, you know, and picked up the phone, dialled a number in an office and I said, ‘I’ve got a caller on saying has Queen Mary died, ha ha’. ‘Yes, she has.’ I went, ‘Oh my God’. ‘But it’s not to be released.’ So I put the phone down and course, the viewer had heard me, and I said, ‘We’ve no news at the moment’. ‘Oh, I quite understand, thank you so much.’ So this person obviously rushed straight out to the newspapers or whoever[laughter], because I’d left the phone uncovered, you see.
That’s a bit like Brezhnev dying, when for two days nothing happened other than solemn music. I think we’d better flip the side.
[end of Side 1 Tape 1]
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[Side 2 Tape 1]
Right, we’re on Side 2, that first side was effortless, was it not?
DS: It was.
DS: Thank you very much Roy, thanks to you.Oh, je t’en pris.
JPH: Might it be a good idea to point the date? We’re talking about the death of the King, which was 1952, wasn’t it? The Coronation was ’53, I think it was about six months before she was crowned. So I’m trying to put our positions together.
DS: Where I was. John and I had met by that time, and having great fun with other boys.
At Broadcasting House or in the environment?
JPH: I think we met out at Aldenham, when I was based at Aldenham.DS: I had left Aldenham and John had...
JPH: New Year’s Eve 1947, to be precise. Sheila brought her to a party, because Sheila was working at the same place as myself.
DS: Sister Sheila was still at Aldenham then, so she took me out and I knew quite a lot of the boys anyway, but I met John for the first time then and that’s when we met. So fromthen on my career was very much tied up with John.
JPH: To some degree the, not lack of discipline, but the change in atmosphere in the BBC, particularly in London, was to a great degree because of people like myself whocame out of the services and went back there and were a bit slap happy, that’s why. We
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took you in and out of the window and said, ‘Come on, let’s go round the boozer’ and allthat, because we were sort of evil ex-service types and a much jollier atmosphere. We were still disciplined, you have to be in broadcasting as we all know, otherwise therewouldn’t be any programmes done properly. But I think that had a great deal to do with it,because nearly all the Recorded Programmes Department and the Programme Engineering Department, where they twiddled knobs, played records and so on, were nearly all ex- servicemen, but still relatively young, fortunately. I was nearly twenty-seven.
DS: Yes, I remember at Bush House, having to go from the Recorded Programmes Department down to the studios, which we often had to do to go and see somebody or whatever, and there was a marvellous staircase, I used to go down it sliding on the bannisters. And when I look back on it, nobody made any comment at all. I used to climb on the bannisters and slide down it, because I thought it was such fun, it was such a wonderful bannister rail.
JPH: They’d sussed you by then.
DS: And whether I’d been deprived of bannisters as a child or not, I don’t know, but I always went down to the studios via the bannister.
A lovely vision.
DS: Then I got tired of it, it was shift work, not very hard shift, I think it was six days onand two off or something, working either early morning or till ten o’clock at night.
JPH: Quite a late evening, yes.
DS: Ten or eleven. And I got tired of it and I started applying for – no, then I went to the Duty Room from there, which was a very nice job, but after two years it was quite enough, most people stayed about twelve months, eighteen months, but I did nearly two years thereand I’d had enough of it, and I started applying for every job that was going on the board.It was very funny, anything that I thought that was within my context. Because it was slightly stuffy in the Duty Room. The Duty Officers were very nice men, but very, very proper.
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Was there a sharp division between programming personnel and the admin personnel?
Yes? Right, so you were more or less with the administrative people?
DS: Yes, I was, yes. And it was very straight and very proper and you had to behave quite well. There was an Assistant Duty Officer who used to work when the other onewas off or sick or something...
DS: GP, Grays Pearson [ph], he was great fun, he used to make me laugh and he used to give me a glass of sherry in the evening when we were on or make me laugh. We had much more fun with him, but the other two were very proper and I had to be very proper. You never knew when the Director-General was coming in, or President of something or other, or the French President. They would come in, either wanted to make a telephonecall or be given a drink, or they’d just made a broadcast and they were given a drink andthey wanted to use the phone. Or like sometimes I remember the President of somewhere in Africa, it must have been Kenya or something, he was white, not a coloured person, he was a white man and he was ever so important, with an entourage. And they come,‘Would you type this, Miss Shadwell’. And I was in such a state and so nervous I couldn’ttype it at all, the keys became totally mashed up in front of me. Oh, and everyone was soashamed. And the man was so nice, he kept saying, ‘Oh don’t worry, it’s alright, it’s alright, don’t worry’, he was so sweet. But I started to...
JPH: It was probably Welensky, wasn’t it? From Rhodesia?
DS: Oh, it could have been. He was ever so nice. He could see how nervous I was. But I got a bit tired of it after a while.
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Before we move on then, one question about it I’ve often wondered about, and that is the extent to which working in the Duty Office one saw oneself as ‘us against them’, ‘them’being the audience, the listener?
DS: Well, it could be like that a bit. We were heavily told by the Duty Office you always had to be polite and right, but the other girl in the Duty Office, Diana Backhouse, she wasa scream, she’d been there a long time, she gave me all sorts of tips and things. And shesaid if they get a bit stroppy, any of them, there was one caller, a man, he was a bit mad,and she used to say, ‘Where have you been?’ and be very quiet, because he’d obviouslybeen inside for a few weeks or a few months. But she taught me, and I remember, I used it a couple of times but the Duty Officer was there once, a senior one, and this woman wasgoing on... no, it was a man, going on and on and getting very raucous with me and difficult, and I said, ‘Right’ I said, ‘I’ll make a note of all this. Could you just give me thenumber of your radio licence, please?’ And usually they’d throw down the phone, yousee, you could get rid of them that way. But this one went, ‘Oh, oh, I don’t know, it’ssomewhere’. And the Duty Officer went... I remember looking at him, and went, ‘No!’and banged the desk like this and screamed at me. Well, I nearly fainted with fright. Idropped the phone and went as white as a sheet because one thing you weren’t supposedto do, you had no right at all to ask anybody about their licence, but we used to use it, you see, sometimes. And then I remember another time getting very sharp with a man and, I think, and using that ploy, have you got your licence. And he started screaming at me, so I put the phone down, and he came back on the phone. And I went ‘Duty Office’ and he said, ‘Here, I’ve just been speaking to somebody up there at the BBC, a young woman, she was so rude and she asked me for my...’ I was deepening my voice as deep as I could, ‘How dreadful, I’m so sorry, I’ll make a note of this’, covering up that it was me. But weused to have fantastic calls. I won’t do it now, but I’ve got so many funny stories, haven’tI, some of the calls that we used to have.
JPH: What about, I remember one story of yours and that was working on Christmas Day.
DS: Yes, the Christmas Day. This man rang up – it was quite early on Christmas morning, oh no, no, it was mid morning – and he said, ‘My name’s Alf So-and-So’. I said, ‘Oh, good morning Mr So-and-So, Happy Christmas’ and he said, ‘Thank you. Now look, the BBC’s just thanked the police, they’ve just thanked all the nurses, they’ve thanked the
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drivers of the trains and the buses, they thanked the BBC, but what about the MetropolitanWater Board?’ [laughter]
JPH: I was actually in that day because I’d done this mammoth programme we always didon disc in those days, finishing with the King’s broadcast. Actually, one of the few days she was on duty on Christmas Day and so was I. And I’d just gone up to the Duty Room to collect her and the call had just come in. ‘What about the Metropolitan Water Board?’
DS: Oh, it was funny. And then I had a call one day from a man, I was on my own, theDuty Officer was out, it was in the evening. ‘Hallo, hallo, I’m ringing from Sweden.’ I said, ‘Oh yes, what can I do to help you?’ ‘We’ve been trying everywhere, we want to know, we want to know the Prime Minister...’ Who was the Prime Minister before the war? Stanley... Peace in our time?
DS: Neville Chamberlain. ‘Mr Neville Chamberlain, how long was he...’ I said, ‘How long was he Prime Minister?’ ‘No, no, how long...’ I said, ‘How long did he live?’ ‘Well, oh dear, how long...’ I said, ‘Look, give me your number or something, I’ll see what I can find out for you’. ‘We are Swedish Broadcasting and we need your help.’ So I said, ‘Right’. So I got the number. Well, it was in the evening, I tried to get hold of theReference Library, I rang the so-and-so, I rang the British Museum, I rang every... I wasages with the phones like this. And in the end I found out how long he lived, how longhe’d been Prime Minister, how long he’d done this, how long he was in opposition, howlong so-and-so and so-and-so. Anyway, I rang them back and I said, ‘Is that Mr...?’ He said, ‘Yes’. I said, ‘I’ve found this out, gave him...’ He said, ‘No, so kind. No, we’re trying to find out, we find out now what we mean. Not how long is he, how tall was he?’
DS: So I had many calls like that, wonderful calls. And I remember once, I was bored and I was sitting there and not much had happened and somebody came on the phone, a friend of mine, I was chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter. And now the phone went, I thought, oh sod it, and I picked it up and said, ‘One moment please’ and
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threw it down. Chatter, chatter, chatter. And the switchboard came on into this one andsaid, ‘Miss Shadwell, I think you ought to know the Director-General’s on the other phone’. I went, urghhh... picked it up.
How typical were you in your somewhat Bolshevik attitude toward the job? I mean was this how it went on?
DS: No, I think it was me. I think it was me, I think I was getting bored with it. It was a fun job really, I met ever so many interesting people and used to do In Town Tonight from up there in the top studio at Broadcasting House. And I used to go up in – of course they had marvellous people in, marvellous, I mean the world and his wife from Presidents down to an interesting dustbin man or something, anything – and I used to take this fabulous book, I could sit and look through that book for hours, this book to be signed by important visitors, passing visitors. It was a wonderful excuse to go up to the studio and watch it and listen.
So you had a hankering really to get on that side of things?
DS: I suppose I did all the time, yes.
Did you rebel in other ways?
DS: I don’t think so. I had a lot of fun. I belonged, by this time I had joined of course theBBC Ariel Players and I was busy with their productions. And we used to perform in that wonderful theatre at the top of Notting Hill Gate which got knocked down, the New Lindsey, and we did a lot of productions there. And we did them in the BBC. We did one in the Fortune Theatre. So I was getting great satisfaction from this work, I threw myself and my energies into that. And then, shortly after that, because I wanted to extend myself, I still wanted to go to RADA or somewhere, or train, so I decided to go to evening class training. And I found one of the best places was the evening institute at – where was it, John?
JPH: The City Lit, wasn’t it?
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DS: It was the City Lit I started with. I started at the City Lit but then I moved to Warren Street, the Stanhope. I started at the City Lit and did some work with them there, but I was recommended to go to the Stanhope Institute.
JPH: Now is sadly no longer there.
DS: Which was part of... to do evening courses. But I started off, I’d do all sorts of things. I took up French, which I’d do with my sister at Hendon Technical College, Ithought I’d try and make something of myself, learn French. So I took up French, cookery and drama, three nights a week at the Stanhope Institute. I’d only been there two weeks, I’d dropped everything else and taken up another night of the drama, of course, forgot the cookery and the French, and started doing productions there and it was a very good course because I did stage management as well as acting and I had to do stage management andwell...
JPH: You’ve had a bit of a time slip actually, because that was, I mean we talked aboutthe King’s death earlier, we’ve time slipped. In fact you started doing that in ’49 when Ijoined with you.
DS: For the Stanhope, was it?
JPH: At the Stanhope, yeah. ’48, ’49, ’50, ’51-ish, across that four years.
DS: Yes. And I got John to join and we did some marvellous productions there, they were wonderful. It was a good evening class and I learnt such a lot. Because you had todo everything, you couldn’t just be an actress, you had to do the course.
JPH: And we did the lot. It was a sort of amateur rep company really.
DS: The worst thing I was at, was props because I’m hopeless at making things. Well,hopeless at everything, but I was hopeless at making things. And they said, Daphne,you’ve got to do props. And I said, oh not on my own, they said so I could work withsomebody, to somebody. And they said, right, your first chore is, go and make a
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cornucopia. I didn’t know what it was. And then when I found out I was supposed tomake a cornucopia, I hadn’t a... so I just got some paper, and it looked like a bunch offlowers because I just stuck some flowers, found some flowers and some fruit, false fruit, and I just sort of wrapped this paper round it and papered it, so it looked like a bunch of flowers, nothing like a cornucopia. The producer was ever so cross with me, so of course I got out of it because somebody else made it quickly.
How long did you pursue this course?
DS: Well, the Stanhope, I must have been with them overall, and then I got John to join...JPH: Oh, about five years.
DS: Yes, a good five years, just stayed on and on and on.
JPH: Intermittently went back and did a lot of guest spots eventually.
DS: Yes, they kept asking me back to do things, which I loved. But they did do a lot of musicals and revue type shows, which I loved. But it was during that time, while I was in the Duty Room I started applying for everything else because I wanted to move on. And some very funny experiences. One board I went for, I walked in and there was this sea of faces. I was used to just the Administrative Assistant, the Head of the Department andwhoever the job was, and maybe one other. And there was this sea of faces and I’d put in for this job which I would have been impossible at, it was really more like John’s work, itwas like a technical assistant and playing things and everything. One man said to me,‘Miss Shadwell, would you like to tell us how you would go about balancing a small string ensemble with added flute as well?’ And I looked at him, I said, ‘I haven’t got thefaintest, but I’m perfectly willing to learn’. And they all went, ‘Ohhhh...’ [laughter],looked at each other. And another job, I walked in, I remember, into the room, and thislovely lady, the Boards Officer, she’d got to know me so well by now, she just looked atme, she said, ‘Daphne, what are you doing here?’ She said, ‘Did it say you had to be able
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to mix with people and look after people?’ and I said, ‘Yes’. She said, ‘That’s only part of the job dear, it’s quite wrong for you. Thank you very much, good morning’.
JPH: Was that Mrs Killen-Roberts [ph]?
DS: No, it was the other Appointments Officer. And then I applied for three jobs at the same time. I thought I will have a go at everything. And one, because I met her in the Duty Room or not, Anna Instone, who was Head of Gramophone Department, she used to bring her guests in after a show – nice woman, I liked her very much indeed, she obviously liked me. I applied to be her secretary, applied because I thought what fun, the two political correspondents who John worked with a lot, who used to go round the country and cover the Blackpool conference, the Torbay conference and all that, and Ithought, ooh, that’d be fun, going about all over the place with them and the boys. Very hard work, good thing I didn’t get that. And the third one was secretary to Pamela Brownin television, television producer. I thought ooh, that’d be quite fun, I’ll put in for that.Well, I put in for all these, got the boards, and I got the three jobs. It was absolutely extraordinary. Anna Instone wanted me immediately, I’d obviously made them laugh on the television board, because we hadn’t got a television set, I think I’d only ever seen one programme in my life on television, and why the political boys wanted me, I don’t know. Again, they probably thought it’d be good for a laugh. So there was a hell of a rowbecause I wanted to go to the political boys. Anna Instone was furious because she’dmade up her mind and said I want Daphne Shadwell and was absolutely furious, and Ididn’t want to do the TV job. And the Appointments Officer sent for me with the Administrative... and they were so sweet and they said, ‘Daphne, you must go to television, it’ll be a wonderful job, it’ll suit you down to the ground and you’d like it’. ‘No, no, no’ and I started to cry and bawl. ‘I don’t want to go there, I don’t want that job.’ ‘You wouldn’t like the political job Daphne, it entails this...’ So I went, ‘Oh, alright’ and off I went to television. And what it means, I don’t know, but they didn’t have trainingschemes then, you just went, you went in and you were in television, that was it. I was the last one of that batch. [laughter] From then on they started the training scheme and you had to go into a pool and be – they were secretaries then, you weren’t called productionassistants, they were production secretaries.
Can we fix the date?
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Fifty – five oh?
JPH: Fifty, yes.
DS: Was it? As early as that, was it John?
JPH: Yes. Because I went to the Variety Department more or less at the same time.DS: Ah ha. So...
And it’s still all based up at Ally Pally is it?
DS: No, they’d gone to Lime Grove. But they still did some things from Ally Pallybecause I went there, I did two programmes from there, which I’m ever so pleased aboutthat I actually worked in Ally Pally.
JPH: The news unit was still at Ally Pally, they eventually obviously moved to LimeGrove. But it was Children’s and Light Entertainment and a few bits and pieces were inLime Grove then.
DS: Yes, there was some drama there. There was some drama at Lime Grove. JPH: Yes. Oh yes, of course, yes, yes.
DS: But I mean whether it was my fault that they decided they should have a training scheme for PAs from then on, and a pool so that they could be sorted out. But I went inabsolutely raw and they said next, you know, gave me the starting date, when they’dreplaced me. That was always the trouble at the BBC, the moves always took so long to go round because they had the board, decided, and then they had to wait for the
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replacement and that had to be boarded and all that sort of thing, so it used to take ages toget shifted. So they said you’re starting on – it was a Monday, I believe – a Monday, so- and-so, and you’re going to work for Hazel Wilkinson, who is a producer, because your producer, Pamela Brown, is away having a baby. Hazel Wilkinson is working in herplace, she’s doing a production and you’re to go to the rehearsal room. I think I told youthis story on our last meeting. And that’s what I did, I had to find this rehearsal room and walk in and say good morning, there were these artists there, and this producer looked at me, she was very nice – we got to know her very well, didn’t she? But when she wasworking she became, whether she was very nervous or not, she became a different personwhen she was working. Horns came out of her head and she was like this, ‘Goodmorning, I want you to take this plan and these scripts and go to so-and-so and go backto... and take them to the designer and the so-and-so’. And I went, ‘I beg your pardon? Excuse me?’ And that... she said, ‘But we’re leaving this production because on Wednesday I’m in the studio and you’ll be doing it with me’. I said, ‘I see, thank you very much’. I got the bus, got on the bus – never thought to have a taxi – got on the bus with the model and all these scripts and bits and pieces and everybody staring at me, and got to Lime Grove and had to ask the way to the office and where I had to go. Anyway, I found a nice girl who remained a friend for a long time, who helped me and from then on waswonderful, a girl called Gillian, she was wonderful. And then they said, ‘Oh, you’re in the studio on Wednesday’. And there I was, I was in a studio at Lime Grove, and I shall never forget, what a suitable programme to start with, it was a puppet programme with voiceover and it was called Simon the Simple Sardine, and with my lisp it wasn’t the best programmeto start with. And I remember going into the studio and it was Ken Connor did the voices of Simon the Simple Sardine. It was very simple, very sweet. And I walked in that studio with a stopwatch in my hand and somebody pointed me to the gallery and I sat in thechair. I didn’t know what to do, what I was supposed to do, and of course I saw these monitors in front of me and this great big window and all these people, nobody had shown me round or taken me in or said what to do. I mean luckily I could work a stopwatch.
And that was my initiation into telly, I thought what do all these people do, where do I go, what are they doing, how does it work, why are we looking at this, what am I supposed to be looking at, what am I supposed to do.
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DS: It was absolutely incredible.
How about the producers? Did they have any kind of training or were they flung into it in that fashion?
DS: I can’t remember, Roy. I think they...
I mean did people generally seem to know what they were doing?
DS: Well, I was lucky in one way, because Hazel did, Hazel Wilkinson knew what she was doing. I think she had some technical training. She’d come from the theatre, PamelaBrown had come from theatre. Most of them came from theatre.
This is not Pamela Brown the actress, obviously, this is another one?
DS: No, the writer. Pamela Brown, the writer, who wrote the wonderful children’s books, there’s one called Swish of the Curtain, which is very famous, it’s been made intotelevision about two or three times. And another one she wrote called The Windmill Family, and she adapted that and we did that as a serial. And many other books she wrote,she was a wonderful writer, children’s writer. But they didn’t really have any training schemes as such, I don’t know how the producers – of course they were producers, notdirectors then, weren’t they – how they started. But I mean Hazel seemed to accept me. Idid make one awful gaffe. I’d only been there five minutes. I think it was the firstprogramme I sat down with or the second one I did with her. I knew nothing aboutanything, got my mouth open all the time, and she was... I just sensed that she was fussing in the studio; she was agitated, in a state, and somebody came up and said, you’ll bealright if you do so-and-so, so-and-so. It was a sound problem or something. And I thinkI really meant to be kindly to her, to stop her agitating, and I went, ‘Oh, it’ll be alright’. And I looked, and she turned her head very, very slowly and looked at me, and I didn’tknow what to do. I realised that she was thinking – and the whole studio went quiet – thatshe was thinking to herself, she’s been here two and a half minutes, she doesn’t know anything, she’s telling me it’s alright. But I had the wit not to look at her, I just keptlooking at the screen, looking down at my script and started writing something, it was
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rubbish, noughts and crosses on a bit of paper, and she let it go, thank God. But what a terrible gaffe. But I think, looking back, that I meant for her to be calm.
Yes, I understand.
DS: She thought I was saying, you know... But then when... but she was a good director. So we did the play she was doing, that’s what she was rehearsing, a play, and I just fell into it, you know, I suppose when you’re young, you know, and I was keen and Iliked actors.
Was there suddenly a revelation that this was it for you, that it was your future?
DS: I think I began picking it up, you know, and I liked it, because I was lucky in a way, when Hazel went and Pamela Brown came back to her job and then I was her production secretary, as we were called then, Pamela, she was a marvellous writer, and she used tohave a child’s exercise book and she’d start writing and she just wrote in this child’s... page after page after page, without looking back, and she’d do it in the office sometimesand she’d say, ‘God, I feel so guilty, I shouldn’t be doing this, but the publisher wants it’, or whatever. But, it’s a dreadful thing to say, but she really wasn’t, looking back, a very good producer, she really wasn’t. And I learnt as I went along with her on things, I could feel the irritation of the crews in the studio with her, I could feel it, I sensed it, they used to be very irritated with her. And I had to do a lot, she left a lot to me, or somebody would come in, the designer, and say, ‘Daphne, do so-and-so and so-and-so’, you know, ‘Give usa list of so-and-so’. Or she’d leave me to do all the wardrobe lists and all the make-uplists which I didn’t like doing at all, I hated all that, and when I became a director I used toleave that to my PA because I didn’t like it. But it taught me so much because I had to do it and she just expected me to do things, and that’s really how I learnt, by doing it and talking to the workers, as it were. Although I didn’t mix with them very much, which was a great mistake. I kept to her side, I was still young enough to know, you know, I shouldhave mixed with the crews more and chatted to them, I’d have learnt a lot quicker. But Ithink through her, because she did things quite simply, I learnt a lot with her, how to do it.
Was television still, as it were, an offshoot of radio or was...
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