Barry Bowmer’s memories of the productions in the early 60’s

I wanted to get into production and as there was a studio at Chelsea I applied and got a job there which started in the mailroom and shortly afterwards I went as callboy which obviously involved all the shows that were put on there. And there were lots of them.

Such as?

Massive productions. Well there were inserts for Granada in the North, I think it was called then, you know Scene at 6.30, that sort of era. Appointment with… which was with Malcolm Muggeridge interviewing well-known people, that was a series that went on for a good while. There were quiz shows, Take a Letter, Bob Holmes, oh there were others there. Chris Trust was another one with Bob Holmes so they were regular. Spot the Tune with Marion Ryan and Ted Ray. Bootsie and Snudge. I think I was call boy just after The Army Game finished and Bootsie and Snudge started with Alfie Bass and Bill Fraser.

That was another army-type programme, wasn’t it?

Yep. There was A Little Big Business, I remember it was a drama series that went on for numerous episodes. Chelsea at Eight and Chelsea at Nine, which were massive variety shows, which we used to do with an audience, you know, top stars from all over. I mean it was amazing, it was at Chelsea Palace, which was a theatre and it had the stage extended and they did all this more or less in one go! So it was amazing, you know, the amount of space they did it all in. Des O’Connor series; perhaps I shouldn’t mention it but he was good, certainly had international artists on it and Burt Bacharach, he had a series – Trains and Boats and Planes where he had artists, again international and English, who sang his songs. That went on for half a dozen hours.

That would be a Johnnie Hamp production.

I would guess so. I mean I knew Johnnie Hamp in London but I can’t remember him physically there. And Johnnie Dankworth and Cleo Laine, they had a long series, you know again with international guests. There was a lot came out of there from what appears to be a small space, you know.

I’m slightly confused here. The Chelsea Palace, that was a Granada Theatre, was it, where they did big productions from?

I don’t know if it was, it wasn’t a cinema, it was a theatre so as far as I know Granada had it from possibly ’56, I’m not quite sure about that.

And that was the same as the Chelsea studio was it? That was it? It was a big, old theatre?

Yeah, that was it. Yeah it was all in the confines on the corner of King’s Road and Sidney Street.

So they would do all the sort of Bootsie and Snudge and all the big theatre productions and the Malcolm Muggeridge all from there?


And was it just one studio?

Yeah it was just the stage of the original theatre and from memory it was extended into the seats at the front of the audience.

And they could bring an audience in for the big numbers?

Yeah, it was very popular. People would come and see the shows then. It had most of the popular shows at the time, Chelsea at Eight and Chelsea at Nine and the big variety ones.

And do you know why they were made in London rather than Manchester?

I think at the time – it sounds awful saying it – Manchester seemed to be, to Southerners, the other end of the world! I mean it sounds awful saying it but it seemed such a long way away and I don’t suppose transport and flights, trains possibly weren’t perhaps as good or as frequent as they are today so artists coming over were often in stage shows or interviews in the south and wouldn’t necessarily want to come to Manchester. And I think the Government or commercial television said that Granada couldn’t use Chelsea because they were a northern-based company.

Oh really!

So I think that’s what, as it were, finished it off in the end.

And when did it finish?

Well I finished there in ’65. I think it might have gone through to ’66 but I’m not sure what time or dates they were.

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