Pattie Coldwell, Harry Greene, Gilly Love, Rick Ball
Steph Silk & Andy Meikle – On The House
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The On The House publicity shot includes Harry Greene on the left, Pattie Coldwell above with the wallpaper, Rick Ball with the tape measure and Gilly Love with the drill.
Harry Greene died in March 2013 after collapsing at home. He was in his ninetieth year.
Harry Greene is best known as one of the presenters of On The House, the popular late 1980s DIY television series. Harry made DIY popular and accessible. He began with a career in theatre and television as an actor, and was married to actress, Marjie, with whom he had three children. He wasn’t in fact called ‘Harry Greene’, until he changed his name by deed poll in 1950, from Henry Howard Greenhouse.
Harry was always keen on DIY, but became the first TV DIY presenter in the 1980s when he made a series for Greg Dyke at TV-AM, about the renovation of a neglected house. TV-AM bought the house for the series, and filmed the whole conversion. The completed house was given away in a competition.
Presenting on Pebble Mill’s On The House, was a natural extension for Harry. On The House was the brainchild of Andy Meikle, with Stephanie Silk the programme editor given the task of turning the idea into a successful returning series on BBC 2. The On The House, house was a timber framed building situated in the back garden of BBC Pebble Mill. The house operated as a TV studio, and demonstration area for the series, and you had to remember that there was no plumbing in the house!
For more information about Harry Greene see his son in law, Mike Smith’s blog: http://mikesmithinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/harry-greene.html?spref=tw. Mike is married to Harry’s daughter, TV presenter Sarah Greene, who presented Pebble Mill’s Good Morning Summer, although she’s probably best known as a Blue Peter presenter.
I worked as a researcher on the last series of On The House in 1989, and enjoyed working with Harry. I remember he kept changing his mind about the size of screws he wanted, and as I’d bought what he’d originally asked for, we didn’t have the right size on location!
The following comment was posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:
Julian Hitchcock: ‘What a nice man. The screw size anecdote rings true.
I worked on the first series in, I think, 1986. I’d proposed a DIY series to David Waine, on the basis of the then explosion in DIY shares following the Thatcher reforms and boom in home ownership. David told me that Andy Meikle wanted to do the same thing and that a budget had been scraped together. Stephanie Silk joined to keep order and give the programme glossy lifestyle values etc. Andy was, however, very much the engine of invention. I just gave it its name (prize: one bottle of champagne) and directed gripping items on the installation of damp courses, latest trend in door mats and hammers (leading to the slogan, “On the House, the only programme with hammer glamour).
My recollection is that Andy revered Harry Greene because of an ancient connection with the previous icon of television DIY, Barry Bucknell. Incredibly, Bucknell’s heyday was in the 1950s. There had been nothing in between at all, so we had the satisfaction of breaking new ground, but I think Andy wanted to show the baton being passed on. Our first programme, as I recollect, looked back to Barry Bucknell. We found old footage of Barry boxing in a beautiful spindle staircase (planing off the rounded edges the better to support his streamlined hardboard) and various others acts of vandalism. I’m not sure that Harry quite got the joke (surely Barry had done a good, professional job?) but he was a lovely chap. I also credit Andy, Steph and BBC Birmingham in giving the job to someone of Harry’s age and, frankly, inexperience. He had great warmth, which viewers plainly appreciated.’