BBC Radio Norfolk presenter Keith Skues re-records his role in the old comedy show Parsley Sidings
PUBLISHED: 10:51 22 August 2012
From Charing Cross Playhouse in the 1970s to Radio Norfolk presenter Keith Skues’ recording studio in his Horning home in 2012 - the well-known voice of radio is helping to bring an old show back to the air waves by re-recording his role in the comedy Parsley Sidings.
First broadcast on Radio 2 in the early 1970s, Parsley Sidings was a BBC Radio sitcom about the antics at a sleepy railway station featuring Dad’s Army’s Arthur Lowe and Ian Lavender as the station master Horace Hepplewhite and his son Bert, along with co-stars Kenneth Connor and Liz Fraser who were well known for their roles in the Carry On films.
The show, written by Jim Eldridge, was recorded live in front of a London audience and ahead of each show Mr Skues, then a staff announcer for the BBC, would take to the stage dressed in his tuxedo to announce the programme and the cast to the audience, returning in the middle to do a imaginary news bulletin, and then finally close the show by announcing the credits.
Parsley Sidings ran for two series yet sadly most of the episodes were lost from the BBC archives until recently when a radio listener sent in their own taped versions.
Now the BBC Radio 4 Extra station is hoping to broadcast them once more, and asked Mr Skues to re-record some of his 1970s announcements which were cut in the listener’s recordings.
On Tuesday, BBC Radio 4 Extra producer Mik Wilkojc visited Mr Skues to do the recordings.
He described Parsley Sidings as a typical BBC comedy with a “stellar cast by the standards of its time.”
“It is about a tiny railway station that barely survived the Beeching axe and has just one or two trains come through a day, and if the slightest thing happens it is a big story for them.
“Arthur Lowe was the station master and Ian Lavender was the station master’s gormless son. In a way their Parsley Sidings characters have a similar relationship to their characters in Dad’s Army (Captain Mainwaring and Private Pike).”
BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcasts classic comedy and drama, and Mr Wilkojc said some listeners had asked to hear repeats of Parsley Sidings.
“In the 1970s because tape was so expensive the BBC would recycle tape. It would go from the air to the recycle bin so a lot of stuff was lost,” he said.
“Then somebody sent us about 15 taped copies of the show, 10 of which are useable for the radio, and Keith is kindly re-recording the intros and outros for us - we have the formula for them from the one complete recording we do have of The Secret Agent episode.”
Mr Wilkojc said he hoped re-broadcasting the old shows would spur more people to send in tapes of old programmes.
“There may well be recordings out there that are unique recordings now,” he said.
Mr Skues, who has also found up an old script from his days as the announcer for Parsley Sidings, said it was strange to hear the old recording of one of his announcements, and that it was an interesting project trying to recreate live recordings from the Charing Cross Playhouse at his home on the Norfolk Broads 40 years later.
This time around digital recording technology was used instead of the old Studer tape machines that would have been used in the 1970s - but on Tuesday Mr Skues spoke into an old STC 4038 (PGS) microphone to help create a sound that would seem authentic to the time of the original recording.
He said he was looking forward to hearing how well everything links with the original London recordings.
When asked how he felt his new announcements would compare to those from four decades ago, he said: “I would guess I have got a deeper voice now than all those years ago because I was only a youngster then!
He added: “Can you sound like what you sounded like 40 years ago? I don’t know because only other people can really hear your voice.
“It is a very strange thing to be asked to do. Mik is going to mix the recordings with the audience’s applause and the show’s music to give the impression we are in a big concert hall when actually here we are in my home in Horning. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.”
Mr Wilkojc said: “I have had a rough go (at mixing the old and new recordings) and it sounds very authentic - Keith is a real old trooper. He has done a really good job and I am very pleased at this early stage.”
• Episodes of Parsley Sidings are currently planned to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra in November.
• Anyone with tapes of old BBC Radio programmes they would like to send to the BBC should email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Parsley Signings episodes soon to be aired on BBC Radio 4 Extra:
The Market Special - Station master Horace Hepplewhite comes up with a plan to encourage more passengers.
The Postal Service – Horace tries to win an express mail service contract for Parsley Sidings.
The Beauty Contest - Horace puts Gloria forward for the Miss British Rail competition.
The 1890 Rocket - Horace restores his grandfather’s old train for a special exhibition.
The Excursion - Horace tries to stop the station from being closed down.
Cricket Lovely Cricket - Horace tries to stop the station from being closed down.
Who’ll Be Mother – Horace discovers his sister Maude has forgotten her baby son Cyril.
The Concert - Horace continues to try to stop the station from being closed down.
Pass the Parcel – A bunch of identical parcels are left at the left luggage office.
The Purity League - Horace becomes a member of the Parsley Sidings Purity League.