Memories: Geoffrey Manuel

Geoffrey Manuel's days at the BBC by Joe Latham

Geoffrey Manuel
Geoffrey Manuel outside Broadcasting House at about the time of his retirement.
Geoffrey joined the BBC in London in 1947 as a Recording Engineer and one of his early jobs was to do back-up recordings for the Royal Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. Soon after, he moved to Bristol and then, for a longer period to Glasgow. He did many recordings at the very first Edinburgh International Festival and was also the engineer recording the "Up Hellya" January Viking festival in Shetland.

His next move was to London where he was selected for training in specialist Engineering Departments. He worked in Engineering Information, Designs and was then selected for a permanent post in P&ID - Planning and Installation Department. Geoffrey specialised in the installation of Type "D" recording equipment and supervised the one in the Royal Festival Hall at the time of the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Following his time with P&ID he joined the teaching staff at the Engineering Training Department at Wood Norton near Evesham in Worcestershire and after a period of general lecturing to various Technical Operator courses settled down to run the regular Studio Managers courses with John Borwick. This is where I first met Geoffrey in 1953.

The courses were a mixture of lectures in the morning and practical work in the afternoons. Geoffrey's contributions were excellent and the whole course proved most enjoyable.

In 1954 Geoffrey moved to Staff Training at 27 Marylebone Road and set up the basic six-week SM courses for new recruits as part of their initial six months probationary period. I joined him there as Assistant Instructor in 1955.

White Network
I much admired Geoffrey's great enthusiasm and inventiveness. He organised the well-known White Network which imitated a day's broadcasting on one of the domestic networks with its own Continuity, live and pre-recorded programmes using the facilities available at Staff Training, and with all operations carried out by the SM trainees. He introduced the famous - to SM Trainees anyway - "HMS Unbroken", a programme exercise adapted by Geoffrey from the book by Alastair Mars. Lots of recorded sound effects were introduced which gave the trainees experience of working under pressure. He also asked my brother Christopher to perform on the piano for White Network as well as persuading him to write a couple of programmes about the clarinet. At that time Christopher was studying piano, violin and clarinet at the Royal Academy of Music just up the road. The fee for a recital was five shillings!

Geoffrey's next move was to Appointments where he undertook all the normal duties of vetting and issuing job advertisements, shortlisting and chairing selection boards. This was a particularly busy time with the big expansion in Television with the coming of BBC2. He held preliminary interviews at various universities mainly for SM trainee applicants and later chaired many of the final boards.

Following Appointments he joined Central Programme Operations, Radio as Organiser, Production Facilities with particular responsibility for staff involved in the booking of studios and recording facilities. Systems for computer scheduling were explored and special events such as the coverage of the broadcast of space flight programmes were set up.

Jean, Geoffrey and Sarah Manuel
In 1965 Geoffrey married Jean Reeves who had worked with Tim Eckersley in Radio and Joanna Spicer in Television. Daughter Sarah was born the following year.

On the retirement of Pip Porter he was appointed to the post of Assistant Head of Central Programme Operations (Studios) with Tim Eckersley as the other Assistant Head (Recordings). Brian George was Head of the Department.

Outside The Langham, 1972
During this time the BBC celebrated 50 years of broadcasting and a large placard on the front of the Langham Hotel (which belonged to the BBC in those days) advertised the fact. This group of Programme Operations staff includes Ben Clucas, Roy Maynard, Fred Climpson, myself, Derek Taylor and Geoffrey Manuel at the far right.

When Brian George retired the two sections were established as separate Departments and Geoff became Head of Programme Operations (Radio), a post he held until retirement in 1980.

Geoffrey did a fine job during his years at the BBC and carried his department through various re-organisations always keeping the interests and ambitions of the staff to the fore. It was my pleasure to work with him over a period of many years.

Sylvia Wredden
After retirement Geoffrey worked as a volunteer guide at the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and also studied for an OU degree when he was in his seventies. There's life after the BBC after all!