Page 2 - Life in the BBC


                                            Radio Days

After working in publishing and as Production Editor of The Observer Colour Magazine Roger George Clark joined BBC radio as a producer and broadcaster. 'I started in local radio - BBC Radio London. You had to do everything - writing and reading news at the microphone (left), reporting, interviewing, and producing and presenting programmes. When I began I was determined to meet classic broadcasters who filled the airwaves - Alistair Cooke, Brian Johnston, Frank Gillard and Fyfe Robertson, and announcers Stuart Hibberd and Alvar Lidell.



'I produced about 100 programmes with John Snagge. He was head of the announcers during World War II - "D-Day has come" - and one of the great voices of the BBC. John was famous for his commentaries on royal events, such as the 1953 Coronation, and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, which he covered for 50 years.

'I recorded many archive programmes with John - modern history, the war years and royal events. And I produced the series John Snagge's London. Each week we'd visit somewhere interesting in the capital, such as Winston Churchill's secret wartime HQ (left) at Storey's Gate. You can see me in the centre of the picture, with John on the left. The Lord Mayor showed us round the Mansion House. We visited the Royal Mews and the Post Office underground railway. And John bounced sounds round the curved walls of the Whispering Gallery in St Paul's Cathedral. Another time we visited the James Bond film set with the giant tanker that swallowed up submarines. John was game for anything. At the age of 73 he went diving and broadcast from under water. He inhaled helium gas at the Royal Institution which made his voice sound like Donald Duck. Our programmes were instant period pieces harking back to the classic days of wireless. I still have the recordings.

'John let me accompany him on his Boat Race broadcasts. I was able to watch the maestro at work, record his final years and photograph him on the BBC radio launch following the crews (left). Peter Jones, the BBC's top sports commentator, was there and the boat was filled with electronic equipment. Some people thought it odd that I wanted to record on tape and film what went on. But I was aware when John completed his 50th and final race it was the end of an era.'



Documentaries about the Boat Race and other subjects, and John Snagge's London, were the fun side of broadcasting. But much of Roger's time was spent in news and current affairs, including two years reporting politics. 'I took on the job at the right time,' he says. 'The controversial left-wing politician Ken Livingstone seized power at the Greater London Council and created uproar. Later he became Mayor of London, but I met him in the early days. I lost count of the number of times I interviewed and photographed Ken.'

In addition, Roger presented a mass of documentaries, including the archive programmes The Way it Was, a weekly review of London newspapers - Hold the Front Page - and a regular interview programme Close Encounters. For over 20 years he was involved in the BBC's election coverage, both local and national.

Each year he described the royal visits to London's Ideal Home Exhibition. When the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977 Roger commentated live as she toured London (left). He also brought listeners details of the weddings of Prince Charles to Diana, and the Duke and Duchess of York. 'They were great national celebrations,' says Roger. 'The crowds came out in their thousands. Alas, those marriages broke up and caused years of turmoil for the royal family.' Roger witnessed the Queen opening the Thames barrier at Woolwich. And for a number of years he commentated on the Great Thames Barge Race (below). This was rowed up the River Thames from Greenwich to Westminster.



Although Roger spent much of his time covering news and current affairs his real love was, and is, historical documentaries - everything from the English architect Sir  Christopher Wren, to the ill-fated liner Titanic, royalty, Zeppelin airships, Russian history, the Brigade of Guards, London's major sporting venues, Sherlock Holmes, and  World  War  II.
 

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