Discovered In Congress
With the nights drawing in and the downturn in the weather calling for cocoa rather than cocktails, it’s that time of year for the annual Missing, Believed Wiped event at the BFI Southbank. Since its inception close to twenty years ago, the initiative has continued to track down and restore numerous television programmes wiped by the UK broadcasters in their effort to save on the high cost of videotape during the 1950s and 60s. The 2008 event saw the BFI unveil the first fruits of their acquisition of titles from the collection of the late Bob Monkhouse. Two years on the rarities recovered come courtesy of the Library of Congress’ holdings of over 100 hours of classic British television.
The first of the event’s two sessions begins with a presentation about the discoveries in the Library of Congress – described as arguably the most important find of the decade – illustrated with clips from some of the most important titles found. After that Session 01: Music & Miscellany features an episode of The Lulu Show from 1969 featuring guest singers Gene Pitney and Terry Reid who had been offered lead vocalist in The Yardbirds by Jimmy Page, replacing Keith Relf, but turned it down because he was already committed to supporting the Rolling Stones on their 1969 US Tour, suggesting Robert Plant to take his place. It continues with an extract from the Southern TV show, Day by Day, featuring Manfred Mann at the Concorde Club, the BBC documentary Bath: The Queen of the West from 1952 and, more importantly, Terry, an edition of the 1969 drama-for-schools series Scene, written by the recently departed television playwright Alan Plater and starring Bill Owen and Dennis Waterman.
After the interval Session 2: Comedy begins with one of the three editions of the hour-long Secombe Here! from 1955 in which fellow Goons Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers join Harry Secombe in his live National Radio Show from Earl's Court, an episode of the BBC’s The Frankie Howerd Show, first broadcast in January 1965, written by the celebrated partnership of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and featuring Yootha Joyce along with Julian Orchard and Hugh Paddick, before rounding off with a complete episode from ITV’s sketch comedy At Last the 1948 Show. Made by David Frost’s Paradine Productions and starring Tim Brooke-Taylor, Marty Feldman, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, and “the lovely” Aimi MacDonald, this sixth episode from the second series features the famous Four Yorkshiremen sketch that would later be performed by members of Monty Python during their live stage shows before being resurrected for Amnesty International’s The Secret Policeman’s Ball.
Both Missing Believed Wiped programmes take place at the BFI Southbank’s NFT 1 on Sunday 07 November with Session 1: Music & Miscellany kicking off the proceedings at 3:50pm in NFT1, followed by Session 02: Comedy at 6:20pm. Joint tickets for both the Missing Believed Wiped sessions cost £12.90/£9.65 concs, with BFI Members receiving a £1.40 discount. This offer is unavailable online, so call the BFI Southbank Box Office on 020 7928 3232 (open 11:30 - 20:30 daily) to book. I’ll be there with the Luminous Beauty so if you’re coming along we’ll probably be in the bar beforehand with the usual reprobates.