Alexandra Palace

This tag is associated with 16 posts

In the beginning: two traces

Last night at BFI Southbank Simon Vaughan, archivist of the Alexandra Palace Television Society, presented a fascinating programme of film material related to the earliest years of television. There are no official recordings of any broadcasts before 1947, and the practice of ‘tele-recording’ (filming the electronic image from a monitor) was not widely used until the early 1950s. (‘It Is Midnight, Dr Schweitzer’ (1953) is the first tele-recorded drama to survive.) But there are a small number of the BBC’s own documentaries and demonstration films (including Television is Here Again (1946)), and there are also some fragments of film shot at Alexandra Palace by BBC employees. Continue reading

In the beginning: When We Are Married (BBC, 1938) 2.

My previous post outlined the production of a live outside broadcast from the St Martin’s Theatre of a production of J. B. Priestley’s comedy When We Are Married. This presentation on 16 November 1938 was the first such presentation of a full-length play, and as a consequence its successes and failures were much discussed in the days and weeks that followed. Both in public and in private the BBC was thrilled with the transmission, and indeed on the Friday and Sunday following a special announcement was broadcast. Continue reading

In the beginning: When We Are Married (BBC, 1938) 1.

Although 1938 is not exactly the beginning of stage plays on television (see my posts on The Tiger and Marigold for the first productions), the evening of 16 November saw a notable first in this story. That night the BBC television service mounted its first live outside broadcast from a London theatre. The evening’s programming was the whole of J. B. Priestley’s hit comedy When We Are Married direct from London’s St Martin’s Lane Theatre. Despite the technical complexities, the transmission was a notable success, and the approach was used on several further occasions before the war. Continue reading

In the beginning: Marigold (BBC, 1936)

‘I think we should have a play from a London theatre for the opening week of programmes,’ the BBC’s programme planner Cecil Madden wrote in a memo on 24 September 1936. Madden was assembling the offerings for the first days of the BBC Television Service which was to open on 2 November. He was anxious to fix on a production at this stage so that the title could be billed in Radio Times, and he had noticed that a revival of the Scottish comedy Marigold was about to open. The consequence of Madden’s reflections was that scenes from Marigold became the first drama to be televised officially by the BBC. Continue reading

In the beginning: The Tiger (BBC, 1936)

Scenes from Marigold, a Scottish comedy, are recognised as the first elements of a stage play to be broadcast by the new BBC Television Service after the start of its transmissions in early November 1936. But the extracts from Marigold, which was then running in the West End, were not the first drama to go before the Alexandra Palace cameras. At least two other current stage plays, The Insect Play and The Tiger, supplied scenes used in the experimental broadcasts during the month or so before the official opening on 2 November. Continue reading

Bookshelf: Television Jubilee (1961) by Gordon Ross

Gordon Ross’s Television Jubilee: The Story of Twenty-Five Years of BBC Television (London: W. H. Allen, 1961) was published in the run-up to the quarter-century anniversary of the start of the BBC Television service from Alexandra Palace. Exactly fifty years on, the book is valuable both as an outline history of the first years and as a kind of self-portrait of the medium at that moment. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace