Gwen Arthy obituary by Carol Churchill

Gwen Arthy smartening Brian Glover up on ‘Shakespeare or Bust’. Photo by Graham Pettifer, no reproduction without permission

 

This obituary for Gwen Arthy, by Carol Churchill was published in The Guardian 15 July 2021. Here is the link to the article: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jul/15/gwen-arthy-obituary?fbclid=IwAR0ps6b0vYMCqicmXcM5XFsZH3wQwyUkMuUr6SkrKtv2T7rErr68WLWmWfc

My former boss, Gwen Arthy, who has died aged 94, was head of makeup at BBC Pebble Mill from 1971 until 1985.

Gwen was born in Rochford, Essex, where her father was a baker.
She studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London, later to become Central St Martins. Her first employment was with a troupe of puppeteers, among whom was a young Ronnie Barker. She then moved to the costume-makers Angels, suppliers to film, theatre and TV, where one of her first tasks was to sculpt a nose for the baritone Tito Gobbi to wear in Tosca.

Gwen joined the BBC in London in 1964 to train as a makeup artist, before moving to the BBC studios at Gosta Green in Birmingham and then to the brand new Pebble Mill in 1971, where she became head of makeup. Programmes for which she designed makeup included Shakespeare or Bust (1970), The Brothers (1972), Nuts in May (1976) and Great Expectations (1981). When we worked on Who Pays the Ferryman? (1977), Gwen and I, as her assistant, were required to go to Crete for three months, where we shared many laughs, evenings in tavernas and midnight swims. As a result we became good friends

In 1985 she took early retirement and returned to her roots in Essex, settling in Leigh-on-Sea, where she found a lively artistic community in which she soon became involved. Over the years she became a prolific painter, in many different styles, and as well as having her own show her work was hung in many exhibitions, including the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy.

When ill health made her housebound she missed her art classes and her ability to put paint on canvas more than anything. Her interest in colour, form and texture was an integral part of her life. While she had still been able, she had travelled to many places to paint, in the UK and abroad, but her favourite, to which she returned many times, was the Isles of Scilly.

Gwen’s son, Tim, was given up for adoption in the early 1960s, but happily, in 2005, they were reunited and Gwen got to know her granddaughter, Amber.

While Gwen could be a demanding boss, she was very supportive of her staff and loved spending convivial evenings, and occasional lunchtimes, with them in the BBC Club, doing their best to empty the bar of its stock of Gordon’s gin. Gwen loved her home and garden and always had a cat, the last of whom was called Biscuit.

Carol Churchill

 

Dear Octopus 1959

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Dear Octopus was transmitted on BBC television on 10th January 1960. It was produced at Gosta Green in Birmingham. The drama is set at a reunion of the Randoph family.

Joyce Hawkins worked on the costumes for the drama. Thanks to her for sharing this publicity photograph of Michael Denison, from the production.

Chloe Gibson was the director, and the play was written by Dodie Smith.

Michael Denison played Nicholas Randolph and Gwen Ffrangcon Davies played Dora Randolph.

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

Colin Pierpoint: I think I do remember it. Each of the characters was a bit weird in some way or other. Now I think of it the son ends up behaving like a baby at the end, with the parents encouraged by this, even though he is about 40. It was so way out, I thought it worthy of a Pebble Mill drama!’

Mary Sanchez: ‘I worked with Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray on Howard’s Way too- lovely almost regal like couple! They didn’t mind being driven around locations in my massive mini bus and were always very appreciative!! Climbing in and out …They invited me to their house in Amersham for tea, I never did go but they were very sweet indeed!’

Jane Green: ‘Ah! Michael was married to Dulcie Gray who played Kate Harvey in Howards Way. When we were filming near Southampton they gave me a lift back to my hotel in their car – which he proudly told me he’d bought off Princess Diana’s dad.(Dulcie was friends with the Queen Mum and used to go to Clarence House a lot for tea) The Denisons were a lovely, giggly, fun couple. Photo is of AFM Alison Symington and me on location standing infront of ‘Jan Howard’s’ car. About 1986.’

The Dark Man

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Thanks to costume designer, Joyce Hawkins, for sharing this photograph of Earl Cameron. The Dark Man was produced at BBC Birmingham’s Gosta Green studios. It was transmitted on 8th December 1960.

Here is the entry from the Radio Times, from the BBC Genome project:

Synopsis
by N. J. Crisp.
Starring Robert Shaw with Earl Cameron, Barbara Clegg
From the Midlands
Contributors
Writer: N. J. Crisp
Producer: Don Taylor
Designer: Charles Carroll
Reg: Daniel Moynihan
Robert Smith: Earl Cameron
Alan Regan: Robert Shaw
Jean Forest: Rita Davies
Audrey Regan: Barbara Clegg
Ellen Woodward: Maureen O’Reilly
Basil Woodward: Reginald Marsh
Albert Watson: Denis Holmes
Mr Knight: Edward Burnham
Fred Crook: Edward Kelsey
Bill Jackson: Clifford Cox
Mrs Crosby: Nan Braunton
Potter: Jay Denyer
William Martin: Lionel Ngakane

Waiting For Godot 1961

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This publicity still is from Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, it was transmitted on BBC television on 26th June, 1961, at 21.50. The drama was produced in Birmingham’s Gosta Green studios.

Thanks to Costume Designer, Joyce Hawkins for sharing the photo.

The Nightwatchman 1959

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The Nightwatchman was a six part series of stories by W. W. Jacobs, adapted by Donal Giltinan, and produced by Peter Dews at the BBC Gosta Green studios. It starred Wally Patch as Bill, the Nightwatchman,  and Marjorie Rhodes as Mrs Gibbs. The series was transmitted in January and February 1959.

Here is the list of participants, from the Radio Times entry:

Author: W.W. Jacobs
Adapter: Donal Giltinan
Producer: Peter Dews
Music for the concertina composed and played by: Alfred Edwards
Designer: Stewart Marshall
Director: Terence Dudley
Bill: Wally Patch
Joe Gibbs: Victor Platt
George Brown: Hal Osmond
Bob Kidd: Douglas Ives
Landlord: Norman Pierce
Mrs Atkins: Hilda Barry
Mrs Joe Gibbs: Marjorie Rhodes
Mrs Briggs: Vi Stevens
First Customer: Charles Lamb
Second Customer: Anthony Sagar
Docker: Frank Sieman
Police Constable: Stanley Beard

Thanks to Costume’s Joyce Hawkins for sharing the photo.