On this day in history….30th April 1947

On this day in history : 30th April 1947 – The birth of English actor Leslie Grantham; who amongst his varied acting roles was to play ‘Dirty Den’ in the BBC1 soap opera ‘EastEnders’….

Grantham as ‘Den Watts’ – Fair use

Leslie Michael Grantham was born in Camberwell, South London and in 1965, at the age of 18, he joined the Army – enlisting with the Royal Fusiliers…. He was soon to be sent to Germany but the young Grantham found himself in the situation of being unable to cope financially and he quickly fell into debt…. In desperation he resorted to crime….

It was on the 3rd of December 1966 that things were to go so catastrophically wrong – resulting in a man losing his lie…. Felix Reese was a taxi driver and Grantham attempted to rob him at gunpoint…. A struggle occurred and the gun went off; Reese sustained a gunshot to the head…. Grantham was arrested and charged with murder – he claimed he did not know the gun was loaded….

Grantham came to trial in April 1967 and was convicted of murder, receiving a sentence of life imprisonment…. However, because the sentence was greater than two years it could not be served in Germany and he was transferred to a British prison – Leyhill Prison in Gloucestershire…. He was also dishonourably discharged from the Army….

After serving ten years Grantham was released in 1977…. Whilst in prison he had become involved in amateur dramatics, performing in plays for other inmates…. One of his fellow prisoners was disgraced Labour politician T. Dan Smith, who was serving time for corruption charges…. He spotted that Grantham had a natural flair for acting and encouraged him to pursue it…. Encouragement also came from the actress Louise Jameson, known for roles such as ‘Leela’ in Dr Who, ‘Susan Young’ in Bergerac, ‘Rosa de Marco’ in EastEnders, ‘Blanche Simmons’ in Tenko and for Emmerdale fans she plays the part of ‘Mary’…. Louise Jameson and Grantham were to become good friends….

Upon his release from prison the encouragement Grantham had received from his friends led him to enrol in the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art…. It was at stage school in 1977 that Grantham was to meet his wife, Jane Laurie…. The couple were married for 31 years before divorcing in 2013…. They had three sons, Spike, Jake and Daniel…. Daniel plays the part of ‘Reggie Jackson’ in the BBC’s Call the Midwife….

Grantham’s TV debut came in 1982 when he played the character ‘Boollie’ in Jake’s End, a production for BBC2’s Playhouse…. A number of minor roles followed; he played ‘Frank’ in the short-lived sitcom Goodnight and God Bless, ‘Davros’ in Dr Who and the part of a signals sergeant in the series The Jewel in the Crown….

Then in 1984 Grantham’s big break came, when he auditioned for the BBC’s new soap opera EastEnders…. The original audition was for the role of market trader ‘Pete Beale’ (former husband of ‘Kathy Beale’ and father of ‘Ian Beale’)…. Grantham was not offered the part of Pete – but he was offered the part of ‘Den Watts’, landlord of the Queen Victoria public house…. His long suffering, alcoholic, onscreen wife ‘Angie’ was played by Anita Dobson…. Grantham’s character soon got the name ‘Dirty Den’, which was well-deserved with his long string of extramarital affairs…. One of the most memorable storylines being when he fathered the child of 16-year-old ‘Michelle Fowler’ (played by Susan Tully) who was the best friend of his own adopted daughter ‘Sharon’ (played by Letitia Dean)….

On Christmas Day 1986 some 30 million viewers (then more than half of the British population) watched ‘Den’ serve ‘Angie’ with divorce papers – delivering them with the words…. “Happy Christmas, Ange”….

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During 1988 his character began to be seen less of…. ‘Den’ had sold the pub and fewer main storylines were to come his way…. Grantham announced his intention to leave EastEnders, giving the producers of the soap a major headache – as Anita Dobson was also about to leave and they could not afford to lose two main characters in one go…. Therefore, intense advanced filming took place, enabling Grantham to move on in the autumn of 1988 – but leaving behind enough footage for his presence onscreen to continue into 1989….

The continuing plot of the soap saw ‘Den’ become involved with a criminal gang – imaginatively called ‘The Firm’…. The story unfolded over the summer of 1988…. ‘Den’ had to disappear from Albert Square after falling out with ‘The Firm’ – but was to ‘feel the heavy hand of the law’, landing him on remand in prison…. ‘The Firm’ ambushed the vehicle taking ‘Den’ to Court but somehow he managed to escape both the gang and the police…. But then, on the towpath beside the canal, he met his ‘demise’…. All we saw was a bunch of daffodils concealing a gun – and then with a splash ‘Dirty Den’ was gone…. No body was to be found – until a year later when a decomposed corpse turned up in the canal and it was presumed to be ‘Den’….

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We all thought ‘Dirty Den’ was finally pushing up daisies – but behind the scenes the BBC were trying to persuade Grantham to return to EastEnders…. In the meantime he had undertaken various other roles, such as Danny Kane in the TV crime series The Paradise Club (1989-90)…. He had a part in The Detectives in 1993 and produced and starred in the sci-fi mini series The Uninvited…. He co-hosted the game show Fort Boyard with Melinda Messenger from 1998-2001 and in 2000 co-starred with Anita Dobson in the two-part The Stretch on Sky One….

Then on the 29th of September 2003 – “Hello Princess”…. ‘Dirty Den’ had returned to Albert Square, walking into the E20 nightclub – now owned by his daughter ‘Sharon’…. It turned out he hadn’t died in the shooting but had survived and fled to Spain, aided by his mistress ‘Jan’…. The twists and turns of life on Albert Square continued, including ‘Den’ trying to get the Queen Vic pub back in December 2004 – which was now run by ‘Sam Mitchell’ – sister of ‘Phil’ and ‘Grant’…. Don’t mess with the ‘Mitchells’!

Photo credit : Matt Pearson – Flickr CC BY 2.0

It was in May 2004 that in real life Grantham became embroiled in a sex scandal, resulting in his three attempts at suicide…. It was confirmed that this time ‘Den’ would be leaving EastEnders for good…. On the 18th of February 2005 16.2 million viewers watched his second wife ‘Chrissie’ hit him over the head with a doorstop during a fight…. Grantham was bitter about EastEnders and spoke out against it – claiming it to be untrue to real life….

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After EastEnders Grantham appeared on stage in the Jeffrey Archer play Beyond Reasonable Doubt – and he also appeared in pantomime…. He appeared in a couple of episodes of ITV’s The Bill and did some film work…. In 2010 he played ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’ in A Christmas Carol at the Lincoln Theatre Royal….

Grantham was to play the part of ‘John’ in The English Neighbour – a series on Bulgarian TV – and Bulgaria was now where he had made his home…. In June 2018 he returned to England for treatment for lung cancer…. He died on the 15th of June 2018 at the age of 71….

On this day in history….18th April 1930

On this day in history : 18th April 1930 – During the evening’s regular scheduled news bulletin the BBC announces “There is no news!”….

Image : Pinterest

It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? How could there be no news? But it appears the BBC had decided that there was nothing worth reporting on that day…. At 8.45pm, as families all over Britain settled down and tuned in their radios to hear the evening news, they were greeted with….

“Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news….”

National Science and Media Museum via Flickr

Instead the fifteen minute programme was filled with Wagner’s opera Parsifal, performed on piano from the Queen’s Hall, London….

It is impossible to imagine that happening today….

On this day in history….18th October 1922

On this day in history : 18th October 1922 – A group of leading wireless manufacturers, which includes Marconi, form the British Broadcasting Company….

The first live public broadcast had taken place in June 1920 at the Marconi factory in Chelmsford…. It had featured Dame Nellie Melba, the famous Australian Soprano – and the British public loved it…. However, military and government organisations were concerned that such broadcasts would interfere with the airwaves and disrupt important military and civil communications…. The General Post office was responsible for issuing broadcasting licences – and bowing to pressure from the authorities they banned any more broadcasts from the Chelmsford factory….

But by 1922 the GPO had received almost 100 applications for broadcasting licences…. To keep control it decided to issue one single license – to one company, formed by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufacturers, among them Marconi….

Daily broadcasting began on the 14th of November 1922 at Marconi’s London studio, ‘2LO’, in The Strand…. John Reith was appointed General Manager of the BBC on the 14th of December 1922; having no rules or guidelines to adhere to he effectively began to ‘write the rule book’….

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Sir John Reith – Photo courtesy : Howard Coster – Public domain

September 1923 saw the first edition of The Radio Times and in February 1924 the Greenwich Time Signal – or the ‘Pips’ – was introduced, marking the precise start of every new hour on BBC radio….

It was in January 1927 that the BBC became known as the British Broadcasting Corporation and is established by Royal Charter…. Sir John Reith becomes the very first Director-General….

John Logie Baird began to experiment with the first television broadcasts using BBC frequencies in November 1929…. Seven years later, in the November of 1936 the BBC Television Service began – (Black and white of course, colour didn’t become readily available until the ’60s) – bringing a mixture of programmes to include sport, drama, news and cartoons….

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John Logie Baird (photographed in 1917) – Public domain

In May 1932 the purpose designed and built Broadcasting House opens….and in December of the same year King George V makes the first radio broadcast by a British monarch….

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King George V giving the annual Royal Christmas message in 1934 – Andy Dingley (scanner) – Public domain

The BBC may no longer have the monopoly over broadcasting – we now have a vast choice for our listening and viewing options (some may say too many) – but what a long way things have come….

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Broadcasting House (with the modern extension to the side) – Photo courtesy : Stephen Craven CC BY-SA 2.0

On this day in history….23rd June 1940

On this day in history : 23rd June 1940 – To help relieve the tedium of workers in the munitions factories and to increase their productivity, the BBC’s ‘Music While You Work’ programme is introduced….

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Music While You Work – Jack White and his Band – YouTube

The first show was announced in the Radio Times as a ‘half hour’s music meant specially for factory workers to listen to as they work’…. The programmes were scheduled for 10.30am, mid-afternoon and for a period a night shift slot at 10.30pm…. The first day featured Dudley Beavan at the theatre organ in the morning and The Organolists – an organ trio – in the afternoon….

The programme was piped to the workers through a tannoy and there were strict rules as to what could and could not be performed…. By playing non-stop popular music with an even tempo morale lifted and work output increased…. Mainly it was familiar music that workers could sing or whistle to…. Brass bands, military bands and dance bands were all featured – along with performers such as Joe Loss, Victor Silvester and Mantovani…. From October 1940 the programme always began and ended with ‘Calling All Workers’ by Eric Coates….

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Eric Coates c.1925 – Fair use

The music had to be cheerful; there had to be no over-loud drumming – as this could sound like gunfire! Nothing lethargic was allowed and nothing that would make people want to clap or bang tools in time…. Certain songs, such as ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ were banned for this reason….

In 1941 orchestra leader Winford Reynolds was appointed ‘Music While You Work Organiser’…. His task was to tour the factories of the country to get feedback on the programmes from the workers….

The night shift slot was reintroduced between 1947 and 1950…. Apparently during the time the programme aired production increased by around 13%…. Up until 1963 the music was performed live – but to free up BBC studios during the day they began to pre-record the shows – usually on a Sunday evening…. The programme ran until the 29th of September 1967….

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Music While You Work – Anton and his Orchestra – YouTube

On this day in history….20th April 1964

On this day in history : 20th April 1964 – BBC2 television is launched – only things don’t go quite to plan – as a fire breaks out at Battersea Power Station causing a major power cut….

Much publicity had surrounded the coming launch of Britain’s third TV channel – the two kangaroo mascots used to herald its arrival ~ ‘Hullabaloo’ the mother kangaroo and her joey ‘Custard’ ~ were a familiar sight….img_2998

And a right hullabaloo it was too…. The evening had been planned to start at 7.20pm with a news bullet-in and then continue with a programme schedule of music and comedy – including a special of ‘The Alberts’, a performance of ‘Kiss me, Kate’ and was to be rounded off with a celebratory firework display from Southend Pier….

However, just over half an hour before the launch was set to air a fire broke out at Battersea Power Station…. At the same time a 60,000 volt cable carrying electricity from the Midlands to the south of England developed a fault in Buckinghamshire – the result being a total blackout in the west of London and much of the city centre….

As it happened, news anchorman Gerald Priestland, who was to deliver the opening news bullet-in, was not broadcasting from Television Centre…. Instead he was in the north London studios at Alexandra Palace – which still had power…. Amidst the mayhem and chaos he bravely soldiered on – over the next couple of hours TV screens across the land displayed the words ‘Will Start Shortly’ – broken intermittently with news bullet-ins…. Eventually at 9.30pm the evening’s schedule was abandoned….

Power was restored for the channel to launch properly the following day…. At 11am the first complete programme to air was ‘Play School’….