‘Dead Girls Tell No Tales’ – Why Grace Archer had to die

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last weekend I heard the Radio 4 play: Dead Girls Tell No Tales, Joanna Toye’s backstage drama of the story behind the death of Grace, in The Archers, sixty years ago this week. Grace had recently married Phil Archer, and there was talk about them starting a family, so the young couple were at the centre of The Archers world, when the decision was made by the editor, to controversially kill Grace off.

The momentous episode of the radio soap was transmitted on 22nd September 1955, which was also the launch date of the ITV network. Apocryphally, the death of Grace Archer in a fire in the stables, whilst she was trying to save her horse, Midnight, was designed to scupper ITV’s opening night, but Toye’s play shed new light on that theory. Grace’s death certainly resonated with the audience – around 20 million tuned in, and the BBC switchboard was inundated with distraught listeners, often in tears, after the programme. Press attention was definitely distracted from the ITV launch, but Toye poses that the real reason for Grace’s death was because the actress, Ysanne Churchman, was seen by series editor, Godfrey Baseley, as a trouble maker. Apparently she wanted equal pay for female actresses on the soap, as well as involving the actors’ union, Equity, and campaigning for professional actors to always be employed, as opposed to smaller parts being played by country folk.

The radio play was very evocative of the period, with RP accents and class distinctions, and was very convincing. Ysanne Churchman, in the drama, was played by Eleanor Tomlinson, a younger actress, but Ysanne herself appeared at the end, and explained what happened to her own career, after being forced to leave The Archers. The rise of ITV, ironically, provided her with a good living, voicing commercials.

One of the things that struck me about the drama, was that Godfrey Baseley, really could ‘play god’ with his characters’ lives. He wouldn’t even tell the BBC Press Office why the episode on the 22nd September warranted a Press showing – such a thing would never happen in today’s BBC, when the Press Office would be involved from the start, and micro managing the whole campaign.

The ghost of Grace Archer still seems to haunt Ambridge today, and the older female characters have recently been reminiscing about Grace’s death, 60 years ago.

Joanna Toye is one of The Archers’ regular writers, and Sean O’Connor, the series editor, produced Dead Girls Tell No Tales. The radio play is available on iPlayer for download – it’s well worth a listen: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06bcv9s.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Lynne Cullimore: ‘I heard the play and thought it very good. I used to work at the Beeb (when (I very first started) for Tony Ysanne’s husband who sadly died earlier this year. Lovely to bring back memories of Grace and well done to Jo Toye (whom I used to work with in Countryfile) for writing the play.’

John Bland

John Bland SO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from Shirley O’Mara of John at the BBC Club, no reproduction without permission

John Bland, film editor, died recently. He joined BBC Birmingham as a news editor in Broad Street, and later became a film editor at Carpenter Road, before Pebble Mill was built. John’s credits include a Play for Today called Packman’s Barn 1976, the police series Juliet Bravo 1980; Mavericks, a BBC1 series in 1984 about eccentrics, produced by John Kenyon, which Sharon Pemberton assisted him on; and Countryfile amongst many others.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

‘John Bland, a Film Editor at Pebble Mill for many years, passed away suddenly last week aged 78. His funeral will be held at Streetly Crematorium on Weds 26th August 2015 at 10.00am.’

Shirley O’Mara

‘I was John’s assistant for a while and he was very much part of my early years in editing at Pebble Mill. I recall being (pleasantly) surprised by his insistence that ‘Two Tribes’ (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) was the best single EVER and that Ruby Turner was the best singer to come out of Birmingham. (I think eclectic is the word!) I hope they’re both serenading you John. R.I.P.’

Sharon Pemberton

‘Great bloke! I ran the Run the World race with John, Ingrid Wagner and Geoff Dargue. We trained every lunchtime by running up all the flights of stairs at Pebble Mill. Judging by the state of us at the end of the race it didn’t do us much good!’

Mark Ray

 

 

 

We are BBC Birmingham – Resources & Drama

We are BBC Bham Drama, ResourcesCopyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This still is from a brochure produced when BBC Birmingham moved to the Mailbox, in 2004. The brochure was for staff and people elsewhere in the industry, promoting the services and departments within BBC Birmingham.

Post production took outside bookings at this time, from series like Fifth Gear, as well as internal bookings.

Drama, did not relocate to the Mailbox, due to insufficient space, the cost, and the inability to film scenes around the premises, and instead arranged accommodation for themselves at the University of Birmingham.

Thanks to Dharmesh Rajput for sharing the brochure, and keeping it safe for the last decade.

Factual and Learning – We are BBC Birmingham

We are BBC Bham Factual & LearningCopyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This sheet about the Factual & Learning department, was part of a booklet given to all staff when BBC Birmingham moved from Pebble Mill to the Mailbox in 2004.

The sheet lists various recent and current programmes made by the department, including: £1 Million Pound Property Experiment, SAS Survival Secrets, Casualty Saved My Life, All the Queen’s Cooks, Sylvia Young Theatre School, and Coast. Major series included: Gardeners’ World, Countryfile, Points of View, Call My Bluff, and Sky at Night. Daytime titles included: To Buy or Not to Buy, Houses Behaving Badly, Feather Your Nest, Trading Up, Big Strong Boys. Asian Programmes unit shows mentioned are: Nuclear Paradise, India’s Ladyboys, The Joy of Curry, Dating the Asian Way, Desi DNA and Malai Presents.

Factual & Learning was a prolific department, producing a wide cross section of shows for BBC1, and 2 as well as some for BBC3.

Thanks to Dharmesh Rajput for sharing the booklet, and keeping it for the last decade.

We are BBC Birmingham

We are BBC BirminghamWe are BBC Bham PeopleWe are BBC Bham, FinanceWe are BBC Bham Marketing
Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This, We are BBC Birmingham brochure was given to members of staff moving from Pebble Mill to the new Mailbox building in summer/autumn 2004.

There are other sections which name some of the then current productions, both radio and television, but I will post those separately.

The leaflet highlights the work of internal departments like HR, Finance, Marketing, Talent Rights, Libraries and IT.

Thanks to Dharmesh Rajput for keeping the leaflet safe for the last decade, and for sharing it.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Andy Walters: ‘I remember those being taken. I am on the first B. We were assembled on the grass at the back of the building with the photographer on the roof.’

Jane Green: ‘I’m on a B too. I miss Pebble Mill’

Paul Hunt: ‘Am on the bottom of C having dashed back from a meeting at the Mailbox!’

Claire Bennett: ‘Eleven years? Did I miss all the big ten year anniversary celebrations there must have been for a decade of glory at the Mailbox then?’

Steve Peacock: ‘I think they threw that party in Bristol’