Heather Armitage

Family name: 
Work area/craft/role: 
Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
20 May 2014
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 

Horizontal tabs

Transcription PDF: 

Heather Armitage interview.  Rough Notes

Bornin 1942 and brought up in Manchester. L.S.Lowry . sculpture.

Earliest memories. War. VE day. Playing in the air raid shelter. Father showed Chaplin films to the kids at home. Big sister dressing well. Listening to the radio. Goon show.Gilbert & Sullivan, Opera.

The coronation on TV. Andy Pandy, Arthur Askey, school days. Cinema on a Friday. Mario Lanza and Calamity Jane – Doris Day. 1958 West Side Story. Theatre. Dream Career love being at art school.

Drawing. Working at Kelloggs, space men. Post Office. Bobby Charlton 2/6 tip. Munich crash.


Art college, father against it. Ossie Clark at Royal College. Borrows the gold sandals – the first Ossie?

London. “Nothing in Manchester”. College. Sculpture enjoyed it, wanted more. Studied teaching at London University 1964 The work ethic. Teaching girls. No boys.

Theatre tickets £1. Glenda Jackson. Boutiques. BIBA (became friends). Opening of shop. Bed-Sit Earls Court. Buses with  Fleet Number. Heathrow job. Dead at night. No tube. Interviewing passengers. Mick Jagger.Chrissie Shrimpton. “3 cups of tea”. Paris for the day. No phone number.

Jackie Kennedy.

Italy job Naples. Travel. Greece,  all of Italy.

Lecturing at Hornsey 1968. Playboy Club Ad. “Would you like to be a Playboy Bunny?” 1st club. £14 as teacher, £36 as a bunny, killer heels, boned costume. The ears straight up. Brushing up the tail. Class Joint.

Coventry Cathedral, then Hornsey and Hackney ’68 Riots. “This college has ceased to function” Can’t be bothered with politics.

Manchester contact at BBC (London). H.Tel-Des. Hammersmith Design Assistant. Dad’s Army. Her granddad 1899 in WW1, ist impression of BEEB TV first designers from the theatre as the sets were flats. Architects and drawings in ink for  TV designers pencil. “Mother India” Buying props eg German food. Floor painting. “Are you being Served?” “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. Wobbly sets. Floor paint was water soluble. Problems. Dressing up locations. eg Paintings of different dates. High cost of insurance of real art props. Work hours 9-5 + overtime until very late getting things ready for next day. Getting food props that had to stand.

Job satisfaction. Getting items for props and the ingenuity of the top  designer. eg white boards and black tape for tropical windows. The hire firms building trust. Competition for props among the designers.

Chronology BBC “not long”. Free lance. Union ticket. The difficulty of getting a union ticket.  Assistant designer for 2 years to get (full) designer ticket. London Palladium. Kidnapped co-production with HTV and German and Dutch TV. Film-TV differential.  Everything laid on at the BBC for good basic training. Help her going freelance. Working at sea. The wild weather. Chasing the props? In a speedboat. The family of film people “everything an adventure”. The Curse of Tutankhamun. I was thrown into it, mugged up the info. Head designer went to Egypt before Heather went over. Shocking to see the living conditions. Hard conditions. Car going over the cliff. Losing one of the actors who was flown to London? With NBC

“Minder”. Marvellous. One of the best shows I have ever worked on. All filmed around Shepherds Bush. The dog and bone. They made me very welcome. The Guinness story. The Winchester Club. Euston Films £500 a week. The Woman issue “sometimes they’d look after you”. Being asked to furnish the kitchen for Minder. No Get well cards on the “Death” ward.


A quick eye for detail. Know your periods. Know how to improvise eg rather than food props, go to Tescos. The Miss World thrones. You’ve got to have luck. The bad taste flat.