200 Oxford Street
In this section: Joe Latham describes the studios
Memories by Rita Jaye | Memories by Trevor Hill
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Memories of 200 Oxford Street by Rita Jaye, née. Barnsley

Reading the memories of dear old Joe Latham brought back so many of mine. I was an "H" group engineer like Joe. Then I transferred to studio managing at 200 Oxford street.

Joe gives the impression of a studious bunch of youngsters beavering away in those post-war days. Don't you believe it dearies! It was a complete madhouse! I was trained by Laddie Ladbroke with Sylvia Curran, Mickey Will and others landing at 200 Oxford Street. We were a mad bunch and things happened there never to be told!

Once we lost the King's speech to the Commonwealth. This terribly important speech, pre-recorded on slow speed discs, was coming from Green continuity. Unfortunately "Hobby" who for some reason was marking the schedule missed this and failed to cover it with a Studio Manager. Came the time when continuity checked with the announcer "have you got his nibs". Continuity announcer "no, BH". No dear you. From what I heard all hell broke loose ten minutes to go - no speech or SM. People scattered in all directions. I think the announcer froze. Fortunately Harry Cotterill was in the recorded programmes room and saw, to his amazement, on a pile of slow speeds marked for destruction was His Majesty. He galloped to Green continuity, set up the disc and, as those who know slow speeds will be aware, they take an eternity to set up.

The announcer managed to gasp "His Majesty King George the Sixth speaks to the Commonwealth". There followed an agonizing wait before the King held forth. BH phoned furiously to ask "why the two minute gap?" to be told it was a solemn pause!

Next day there was mayhem. Poor Hobby was on the carpet and so were the others who had missed this most important booking.

Some other little happenings. I once found, during a night shift, on going to do the news that someone had nicked the microphone. Another time I found a rat swinging from the mic leads. I asked control room to remove it and it was chased round the studio and eventually dispatched just before we went on the air.

Another time when we had pre-recorded the newsreel and retired for a bit if shut eye Goering decided to kill himself. The reel had to be re-written in a devil of a hurry. Unfortunately the narrator and a couple of speakers had gone home. Julian Holland raced through a couple of apartments ringing on door bells but after being told what to do gave it up. Bill Northwood and the announcers managed to get everything on the air quite well.

Like Joe I met many interesting people. Anthony Eden came in to give a short talk as did Field Marshal Montgomery. I recorded the parliamentary debates for North American service with all three Feet: Michael Foot, Hugh Foot and Dingle Foot! Lord Boothby drank all the scotch and Miss Burgess who had charge of hospitality carried on alarmingly. We only had one bottle to last weeks. A programme called "Curtain Up" saw featured celebrities who were amused at their huge fee of £25.

I remember an important programme which involved recording Churchill from America. Terry Gompertz produced and John Hill did the grams, he used to cook for NoŽl Coward in his spare time.

Funny things happened. Les Thompson and I with Aiden Macdermot used to have a crafty gin and tonic as he signed us in as Maharaja and Maharani of Karpootaler!

We were a lovely bunch. We used to make up a party to have trips to the theatres and have parties at home. Once it was decided to put the host's furniture on the pavement and go home. We had a great party at the very posh home of Tim Briton's parents and someone flooded the cellar with beer. Mickey Will and another had to go and tip the butler to keep silent.

The canteen was a meeting place. Two tables pushed together and we all sat round and laughed so much.

When 200 closed it was the end of an era. Not many of us left now but I met some of the loveliest and funniest people. I could go on about the exploits but you'd never believe me!

Those were the days.