49 episodes

Be informed, educated and entertained by the amazing true story of radio's forgotten pioneers. With host Paul Kerensa and rarely-heard clips from broadcasting's golden era.

The British Broadcasting Century with Paul Kerensa Paul Kerensa

    • History
    • 5.0 • 43 Ratings

Be informed, educated and entertained by the amazing true story of radio's forgotten pioneers. With host Paul Kerensa and rarely-heard clips from broadcasting's golden era.

    New Year 1923, Magnet House: ”Pandemonium Reigned!”

    New Year 1923, Magnet House: ”Pandemonium Reigned!”

    Happy New Year, 1923! And Happy New Season: 3, that is, as we tell the story of the BBC's 3rd-6th months. Formative times at Auntie Beeb, as the staff grows from 4 in one room to a new premises at Savoy Hill.


    Season 3 begins with this, episode 40 overall, on New Year's Day 1923. John Reith, Arthur Burrows, Cecil Lewis and Major Anderson begin work in the one-room BBC, like an Amish schoolhouse. Each day, the number of staff and visitors grow - and helpfully Reith, Burrows and Lewis all wrote vividly about the manic days of Magnet House - home to the BBC for the first four months of 1923.


    We're grateful to the books:


    Broadcasting from Within by C.A. Lewis

    The Story of Broadcasting by A.R. Burrows

    The Reith Diaries, edited by Charles Stuart

    Broadcasting over Britain by J.C.W. Reith

    Into the Wind by J.C.W. Reith


    Plus you'll hear from the 5th (or 6th) BBC employee, Rex Palmer in a rare clip of 1920s broadcasting.


    More up to date, 'Diddy' David Hamilton is our guest - the man with the greatest listening figures in the history of British radio.


    David's books, The Golden Days of Radio 1, and Commercial Radio Daze, are available at ashwaterpress.co.uk. 


    Part 1 of our interview with David was on episode 30, and part 3 will be on a future episode.


    Want to watch, in-vision, the full interview? Join our band of matrons and patrons on Patreon - the full video is here. And THANK YOU to all who support us there, and keep us afloat as a one-man-band of a podcast.


    You'll also find on Patreon, my readings-with-interruptions of Cecil Lewis' book Broadcasting from Within - the first book on broadcasting. Part 1 and Part 2 will be followed, of course, by Part 3 - and if you want it sooner, dear Patreon subscriber, just ask and I'll read/record/upload pronto.


    We also mention in this episode:


    Paul Kerensa's interview with BBC Radio Norfolk's Paul Hayes on Treasure Quest: Extra Time, about the making of this podcast. Available for a limited time on BBC Sounds: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0b8qc1d

    The first regular listings of London 2LO in The Pall Mall Gazette. See the full listing on our Twitter profile or in our Facebook group - and thanks to Newspaper Detective Andrew Barker for sending them our way.

    Paul's one-man play The First Broadcast, touring the UK in 2022. The first date's in Surbiton on Feb 2nd, then Leicester Comedy Festival on Feb 3rd, Banbury on March 3rd, Barnes on March 25th, London's Museum of Comedy on April 21st AND Nov 14th, plus Bristol, Blandford Forum, Kettering, Guildford... and your place? Got a venue? Get in touch.


     


    OTHER THINGS:


    Be on the show! Email me a written ‘Firsthand Memory’ (FM) about a time you’ve seen radio or TV in action. Or record a voice memo of your ‘Airwave Memories’ (AM), 1-2mins of your earliest memories of radio/TV. Get in touch!

    Please do rate/review us where you get your podcasts - it helps others find us. We are a one-man operation! We need your help.

    Archive clips are old enough to be public domain in this episode.

    This podcast is NOTHING to do with the present-day BBC - it's entirely run, researched, presented and dogsbodied by Paul Kerensa.


    Original music is by Will Farmer.


    Next time: The story continues with the first female employee of the BBC, Isobel Shields...
     
    www.paulkerensa.com

    • 28 min
    The BBC’s First Female Employee: Isobel Shields

    The BBC’s First Female Employee: Isobel Shields

    Episode 41 (aka Season 3 episode 2):


    On January 2nd 1923, John Reith interviewed Miss Frances Isobel Shields for a job at the BBC, to be his secretary. At the time the BBC had four or five male staff members. Miss Shields started work on January 8th, instantly making the BBC a 20% female organisation. It's been greater than that ever since.


    This episode's fab guest is Dr Kate Murphy: academic, former producer of BBC's Woman's Hour and author of Behind the Wireless: A History of Early Women at the BBC. Her book is brilliant and highly recommended for a deep dive into the subject.


    Hear Isobel Shields' tale, plus the women who broadcast before her: Britain's first DJ Gertrude Donisthorpe, 2LO's first children's presenter Vivienne Chatterton, and one of our first broadcast comedians Helena Millais. (You can hear their fuller tales if you go back to the earlier episodes on this podcast.)


    And hear about some of the women who joined the BBC soon after Miss Shields, like telephonist Olive May and women's staff supervisor Caroline Banks. Plus hear about some of John Reith's unusual management practices, from taking his secretaries to the cinema to his brutal firing criteria.


    But we dwell on his hiring not firing, as well tell the origin story of British broadcasting. 


    And Dr Murphy will return on future episodes! With tales of the first Women's Hour (not Woman's Hour) in May 1923, and the early female managers, like Mary Somerville and Hilda Matheson. To catch those episodes, you'll have to stay subscribed to this podcast. 


    While you're there, would you give us a review where you found this podcast? It all helps bring new listeners on board. And that helps grow the project.


    If you'd consider sharing what we do too, please do tell anyone who might like this - either on social media or in a real-world conversation! Just drop us in. You never know, next time you meet, you could be discussing the inner workings of Marconi House.


    If you REALLY like what we do, please consider supporting us on patreon.com/paulkerensa or ko-fi.com/paulkerensa. It all helps equip us with books and web hosting and trips to the amazing BBC Written Archives Centre.


    In this podcast I mention my latest Patreon video, going behind-the-scenes of my broadcasting history trawl, inc. a glimpse at my new (old) crystal set radio, 'on this day' on the 1923 BBC (with a nice surprise), and a reading about Reith. This video's available to all Patreon folks whatever their 'level' - www.patreon.com/posts/60853999 - so if you like, join, watch, then cancel. Or stick around for more videos and writings each month.


    You can follow us on Twitter or our Facebook page or join our Facebook group, and say hi, or share anything of broadcasting history.


    Paul's one-man play The First Broadcast tours the UK in 2022. There's now an official trailer you can watch here. The first date's in Surbiton on Feb 2nd, then Leicester Comedy Festival on Feb 3rd, Banbury on March 3rd, Barnes on March 25th, London's Museum of Comedy on April 21st AND Nov 14th, plus Bristol, Bath, Blandford Forum, Kettering, Guildford... and your place? Got a venue? Get in touch.


    We also mention the BBC 100 website - inc. the 100 Objects, Faces and Voices. Who's missing? Let us know!


     


    OTHER THINGS:


    Original music is by Will Farmer.

    Many of our archive clips are old enough to be public domain. BBC content is used with kind permission, BBC copyright content reproduced courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

    This podcast is 100% unofficial and NOTHING to do with the present-day BBC - it's entirely run, researched, presented and dogsbodied by Paul Kerensa.

    Be on the show! Email me a written ‘Firsthand Memory’ (FM) about a time you’ve seen radio or TV in action. Or record a voice memo of your ‘Airwave Memories’ (AM), 1-2mins of your earliest memories of radio/TV. Get in touch!


    Next time: All change! Mics, Callsigns and Phone-in Requests - w

    • 31 min
    Drops Mic, Drops Callsign

    Drops Mic, Drops Callsign

    Episode 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything, which in this case is: microphones. Or more specifically, the new microphones the BBC brought in, of Captain Round's design, in January 1923.


    In this episode, new mics, old callsigns, ambitious plans, the lack of an on-air interval: it all adds up to the start of professional broadcasting, as the two-month-old BBC moves away from its radio ham roots... 


    ...Not that there's anything wrong with being a radio ham! As will be revealed by our guest Jim Salmon, aka 2E0RMI. He's got plans for a celebration of the centenary of 2MT Writtle, on February 14th 2022. Full details of 2MT's 100th birthday online do at https://www.emmatoc.org/2mtcelebration. You can watch Jim's livestream (on the day only) at https://www.mixcloud.com/live/RadioEmmaToc/ - bring your own G&T and fish and chip supper to your screens!


    Or if you can get to Writtle in Essex itself, they've got celebrations on Feb 11th, Feb 14th and May 17th-22nd - https://writtle-pc.gov.uk/latest-news/writtle-celebrates-marconi-in-2022/ - maybe see you there on that weekend in May!


    All year, my play The First Broadcast is touring the land - details at https://www.paulkerensa.com/tour - or get in touch to book it in for your venue. It travels light! It's only me, playing Arthur Burrows and Peter Eckersley.


    Support the show at www.patreon.com/paulkerensa - thanks if you do!


    Find us on social media at www.twitter.com/bbcentury or www.facebook.com/bbcentury or www.facebook.com/groups/bbcentury


    And do subscribe, share, rate and review us. It all helps spread this little project, which is NOTHING to do with the BBC - it's just a one-man band.


    Next time: The first outside broadcast! A night at the opera...


    Happy listening!

    • 40 min
    The First Outside Broadcast: A Night at the Opera!

    The First Outside Broadcast: A Night at the Opera!

    On January 8th 1923, British broadcasting left the studio for the first time. William Crampton had the idea, Arthur Burrows seized on it, John Reith approved it, Cecil Lewis kept interrupting it with stage directions and synopses...


    Hear all about it here on episode 43, with the voices of Peter Eckersley, Harold Bishop, Arthur Burrows, A.E. Thompson and Percy Edgar. Plus Dr Kate Murphy tells us about the first radio 'aunt', Aunt Sophie/Cecil Dixon. And what John Reith did for the first time on January 6th. You won't believe it...


    This episode is drawn from over a dozen books and the like, including research at the marvellous BBC Written Archives Centre in Caversham. What a place! What a team.


    Cecil Lewis' book Broadcasting from Within is quoted from extensively, and I'm reading it IN ITS ENTIRETY for our matrons and patrons on Patreon.com/paulkerensa at the 'superhero' level. If you sign up, even for one month and cancel, you're helping keep this podcast afloat, so thank you.


    BUT I'm making part 5 of my reading of it available to EVERYONE. This is the except that's all about this first outside broadcast, so if you'd like to hear me read it and talk about it, it's all here for you, whether you're a Patreon subscriber or not: https://www.patreon.com/posts/63268433 - Enjoy!


    My play The First Broadcast is touring the land - details at https://www.paulkerensa.com/tour - or get in touch to book it in for your venue. 


    Find us on social media at www.twitter.com/bbcentury or www.facebook.com/bbcentury or www.facebook.com/groups/bbcentury


    And do subscribe, share, rate and review us. It all helps spread this little project, which is NOTHING to do with the BBC - it's just a one-man band.


    OTHER THINGS:


    Original music is by Will Farmer.

    Many of our archive clips are old enough to be public domain. BBC content is used with kind permission, BBC copyright content reproduced courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

    This podcast is 100% unofficial and NOTHING to do with the present-day BBC - it's entirely run, researched, presented and dogsbodied by Paul Kerensa.

    Be on the show! Email me a written ‘Firsthand Memory’ (FM) about a time you’ve seen radio or TV in action. Or record a voice memo of your ‘Airwave Memories’ (AM), 1-2mins of your earliest memories of radio/TV. Get in touch!


    Next time: The Birmingham and Holland stations. Yes, Holland...


    Happy listening!

    • 41 min
    Hanso Idzerda and The Dutch Concerts - with Gordon Bathgate

    Hanso Idzerda and The Dutch Concerts - with Gordon Bathgate

    For episode 44, we go to Holland and go back a few years, to hear of radio pioneer Hanso Idzerda and his Dutch concerts. It's not British broadcasting, but it's British listening - our ancestors could hear his regular broadcasts from 1919 to 1924 - at least if they had a radio set of quality.


    Gordon Bathgate is a radio history fan and author of Radio Broadcasting: A History of the Airwaves - he guides us through Idzerda's doomed story, in an episode that's less of me, more of him... plus the return of your FMs and AMs - Firsthand Memories of broadcasting in action and an Airwave Memory from Paula Goddard.


    Gordon's book is at https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Radio-Broadcasting-Paperback/p/17990 or in all good book places.

    My play The First Broadcast is on tour all this year (and bookable for your place): www.paulkerensa.com/tour for dates, places and tickets.

    Our 'Firsthand Memory' came from Paula Goddard, whose wine-/tea-tasting blog is at www.paulagoddard.com

    Email me at https://paulkerensa.com/contact.php for more info on booking the live show, or to send me a Firsthand Memory (via text in an email) or an Airwave Memory (record as a voice memo), or with any questions, comments or feedback.

    Support the show at www.patreon.com/paulkerensa - and as mentioned in the episode, you can see my video interview with R4 Today's Justin Webb here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/63833186 ...The audio will be part of a future episode, on Justin's career and his grandfather Leonard Crocombe, first editor of the Radio Times.

    You can also support the show at www.ko-fi.com/paulkerensa (effectively buying me a coffee) - or by simply sharing these episodes on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, fax, carrier pigeon, down the pub, on the phone, tell your friends, snare us future listeners, help build our little community...

    ...which includes www.Twitter.com/bbcentury and www.facebook.com/bbcentury and www.facebook.com/groups/bbcentury...

    ...because we are a one-man band, and NOTHING to do with the BBC. They do not endorse nor sponsor nor have anything to do with this podcast. Y'hear?

    (...That said, I do work for the BBC now and then - including co-writing the new series of Not Going Out which you can see on TV soon (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0015qdg), and guest-hosting Sunday Breakfast on BBC Radio Sussex and BBC Radio Surrey, which you can hear soon too, eg. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0brm15x) 

    Original music is by Will Farmer. Thanks Will!

    More on Paul's books, mailing list etc at www.linktr.ee/paulkerensa


    Next time: the Birmingham and Manchester stations, inc. an interview with Jude Montague, granddaughter of one of their first broadcasters Sydney Wright.


    Thanks for listening!

    • 26 min
    2ZY Manchester and 5IT Birmingham Calling... with Jude Montague

    2ZY Manchester and 5IT Birmingham Calling... with Jude Montague

    Episode 45 sees us still in January 1923, but on the move...

    First BBC Director of Programmes Arthur Burrows visits 5IT Birmingham and 2ZY Manchester to see the 2nd and 3rd BBC stations in action - so here's a podcast snapshot of what broadcasting was like in their makeshift studios in British broadcasting's earliest days.

    Our guest is Jude Montague, whose grandfather Sydney Wright was an early on-air musician in the 2ZY Wireless Trio. And you'll hear the voices of those who were there: Kenneth Wright, Victor Smythe, Percy Edgar, A.E. Thompson...

    Hear of singers toppling off platforms made of books, as they step back for the big final note. Hear of Manchester beating London to be first station to broadcast Big Ben. And hear of the Grenadier Guards Band, cramming 22 performers into a studio space fit for 3.

    Jude Montague's website - which will include details of her graphic novel about her grandfather Sydney Wright - is at www.judecowanmontague.com
    We mention Tim Wander's talk in Writtle on May 17th and the curry dinner he's hosting on May 23rd: https://cses.org.uk/events?task=civicrm/event/info&reset=1&id=368
    My play 'The First Broadcast: The Battle for the Beeb in 1922' is on tour all this year, to London, Salford, Devon, Chelmsford and beyond - and bookable for your place. www.paulkerensa.com/tour for dates and tickets.
    Email me at https://paulkerensa.com/contact.php for more info on booking the live show, or for anything for the podcast.
    For details of Paul's new novel Auntie and Uncles, on the BBC origin story, join the mailing list here: eepurl.com/M6Wbr 
    Support the show at www.patreon.com/paulkerensa - and as mentioned in the episode, Patreon superheroes can see my video interview with R4 Today's Justin Webb here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/63833186 ...The audio will be on the next episode.
    You can also support the show at www.ko-fi.com/paulkerensa (effectively buying me a coffee) - thanks!
    We're on social media at www.Twitter.com/bbcentury and www.facebook.com/bbcentury and www.facebook.com/groups/bbcentury - do share what we do, it all helps. 
    We are nothing to do with the BBC. Just talking about them.
    Original music is by Will Farmer.
    More on Paul's books, mailing list etc at www.linktr.ee/paulkerensa

    Next time: another grandchild of an early radio wonder: Justin Webb on his grandfather Leonard Crocombe, first editor of the Radio Times.

    Thanks for listening!

    • 41 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
43 Ratings

43 Ratings

m@xl@ng ,

Outstanding!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this podcast so far - really fascinating for anyone even remotely interested in the history of radio. It’s excellently produced and very accessible, and Paul Kerensa is a wonderfully entertaining host!

PaulRusling ,

Essential for media enthusiasts.

My favourite Podcast series ever (& I listen to about ten a week). Very well researched and highly entertaining, educational too. All about the formative years of broadcasting a hundred years ago - absolutely fascinating!

Glynsapple ,

Very well crafted Broadcasting History

Stumbled on this very enjoyable Broadcast Century Podcast. Very well researched and a good, funny at times listen. Thanks.

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