A Change of Direction – Looking Back.

After 37 years with BBC TV mainly at the now late lamented BBC Television Centre and 10 years as a freelance lighting director I finally decided, in 2011, to gently cross-fade into the busy world of retirement.

Prior to joining the BBC I completed a 5 year student apprenticeship with EMI Electronics, subsequently becoming a junior engineer at the recording studio’s at Abbey Road. Here I worked on recording sessions with artists as diverse as Yehudi Menuhin ,The Beatles, Igor Stravinsky and Cilla Black.

In 1964 I achieved my ambition to join the BBC and was based at the Television Centre. I progressed through the various camera assistant stages before becoming a Television Cameraman in 1971 (promotion was slow in those days). After deciding that lighting was the career for me, I worked towards that end, gaining a place on the sought after BBC lighting training course. Finally in 1986 I was promoted to lighting director, a post I have held and enjoyed ever since.

My lighting career has been varied ranging from large studio productions such as Children in Need, Comic-Relief , 2000 Today the BBC’s welcome to the new millennium show and Big Ticket much of which was transmitted live from Shepperton Film Studios. I enjoyed working on entertainment and game shows such as Lenny Henry’s Christmas Show, Friends Like These and Big Break. I was also priveliged  to work on many of the early National Lottery Live productions where I was able to light performances by world class stars such as Whitney Houston, Madonna, Celine Dion, Elton John, Luciano Pavarroti  and many others. My diet as an LD also included many BBC regular shows such as Eastenders, Top of the Pops, Tomorrows World and Blue Peter. Unusually, before BBC staff worked on independent productions, I was able  to work on a number of Chris Evans’  TFI Friday shows, transmitted  on Channel 4, a very exciting show to work on.

Smaller scale productions included; Soul of Britain at CTVC studios Bushey, the series Weatherfront for Channel 5 at the TLI Kingston Studios Gerrards Cross and Surviving Life for Sky at Capital Studios Wandsworth.

One of the last productions I lit, as a BBC lighting director, was Blue Peter, a show I have worked on since the start of my BBC career and as live as ever, a fitting one to end it on and begin the next stage of my lighting experience.

In 2001 after retiring from the BBC, in the days when you retired at 60 I embarked on my freelance career. Experiencing the freedom of being my own boss was like a breath of fresh air. I continued working mainly in the area of light entertainment working on shows for ITV, Channels 4 and 5 and Sky as well as the BBC and many independent production companies. Also I was able to work in a variety of TV studios including the ITV studios on the South Bank, BBC Cardiff and Manchester Studios and Elstree Film Studios. During this time I was also recruited onto the committee of the Society of TV lighting Directors  for six years. I was involved in organising meetings and events for the Society and for a time I was responsible for liasing with our sponsor members. For two years just prior to my retirement, I was honoured to be asked to sit on the judging panel selecting the award winners for four disciplines of television lighting. The annual Knights of Illumination awards for professional lighting designers which includes theatre lighting and rock and events lighting as well as television lighting, are presented at an annual dinner organised by lighting manufacturers Clay Paky along with the STLD and the ALD.

The final programme I lit at the BBC TV Centre proved to be a family event. I was asked to deputise for the regular lighting director on an episode of Shooting Stars, which of course included Matt Lucas, who in childhood was a former near neighbour of ours. My wife and sons were guests of the production for the show and we enjoyed chatting to Matt over drinks after the show A pleasant end to my working association with the BBC.

I’ll be posting occasional articles that I have written over the years and some new material as well.