Peter Montagnon

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Interview Date(s): 
31 Oct 1995
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Born 25th April 1925 Croydon/Redhill. Father an engineer. Whitgift School, at 14 years got a four-year apprenticeship with an engineering firm. He talks about his war years there. After the war his National Service was with the Royal Air Force and then transferred into the Army with Signals, commissioned. After demobilisation he had ideas of being a stockbroker or a broadcaster; after various interviews and failures he went to Bush House, BBC Overseas Service.


He then went on to be a general trainee. He worked at Bush House and then moved into administration, which he hated; then moved into Schools TV which he greatly enjoyed. There he met Michael Gill who had moved into Art Features; he followed in persuading Huw Wheldon and David Attenborough to take on Civilisation, having poached Kenneth Clarke from Lew Grade. He talks a great deal about the making of Civilisation. He then moved to become the first Head of Open University TV in 1969, where he remained for three years. Then he asked to go back ‘on the road’ as had David Attenborough.


He backtracks to talk about Anne James, who had looked after all the ‘benchwork’ for Civilisation, and the sound recordist Basil Harris (Peter couldn’t remember his surname) and Basil’s relationship with Clarke. Then in 1973-74 together with Oliver Hunkin (who had been Head of Religious TV) they put forward the suggestion for a series on world faiths,[ The Long Search DS]. They started with David Attenborough as the anchor-man, but it didn’t work, and then settled for Ronald Eyre. This was a three-and-a half year project. After that he made a programme about Tibet. Then he started to make a drama-documentary, The Tunnel, from a script by Elwyn Jones, but this had to be abandoned because of War Department requirements. He resigned from the BBC and started up his own company, Antelope Films, making a series of programmes on the Impressionists. He talks about the setting up of a series on China and the various probables [?problems DS] in making a 14-part series for Channel Four.


He talks about a deal his company was entering with Robert Maxwell, who had bought 49% of Antelope shares. He then talks in detail about working for the BBC.