End of an era for Norwich TV productions

For people of a certain age they are beacons in their memory from the golden age of television.

The pioneering quiz show Sale of the Century, which spawned a host of pale imitators, and the pinnacle of wildlife documentaries, Survival, which ran for nearly 40 years, both had one thing in common: they were produced in Norwich.

Another innovative series to grace our screens for a decade, Tales of the Unexpected - originally adapted from Roald Dahl's anthology of stories - also emerged from the same Anglia stable to find success worldwide.

The 'wonderful buzz about the place' in that era of huge television audiences, before quality was diluted by multiple satellite channels, is fondly remembered by long-time Anglia presenter Helen McDermott.

And she is surely not alone in feeling a tinge of regret at the news that ITV Studios - the production company arm of ITV - is to close its base in the city.

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The announcement made on Thursday means that the only programme that will continue to be made in Norwich by the network is the Anglia news programme.

The bleak assessment of ITV Studios is that there are simply no longer enough programmes being made at Anglia House, in Agricultural Hall Plain, to continue funding the once shining hub.

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Ms McDermott said: 'I was very sad to read the small report in yesterday's EDP. I was there for 27 years and there was a wonderful buzz.

'The whole place was like a big TV studio - there were huge wardrobe and make-up departments - and you would often bump into very well-known and accomplished actors. For me, it was a real privilege to be there at that time.'

However, she confessed she was not surprised by its demise having seen the decline - accelerated by the proliferation of channels and soaring cost of productions - during her later years with Anglia.

She feels another factor in the ending of the Norwich production business is the direction taken by televison 'down the road of chat shows and game shows'.

Ms McDermott, who now has a show on BBC Radio Norfolk and is involved in running a successful drama company, said: 'I was only in my 20s when I joined and it was amazing to come face to face with household names in the lunch queue.'

Among the lexicon of stars she remembers meeting were Sir John Gielgud and Joan Collins.

'I borrowed a hat worn by Joan Collins in Tales of the Unexpected to go to the races in Newmarket,' she recalled.

Another household favourite she bumped into was the evergreen Nicholas Parsons, host of Sale of the Century, famously introduced as 'the quiz of the week'.

'It was one of the first shows of its kind and that was what made it interesting,' she said.

'A lot of others jumped on the bandwagon afterwards.'

Although inexorably scaled down over recent years, the Norwich centre has still been producing quality productions such as the popular wildlife programme Wild Britain with Ray Mears and Safari Vet School.

Recent productions for US television networks include Animal Cops, Bait Cops and Philadelphia Undercover.

ITV Studios has explained the decision to end the Norwich operation, putting 35 jobs at risk, as a strategic decision with investment going elsewhere.

In Leeds, a studio has recently been refurbished for the production of Emmerdale and investment is also being made in a Manchester studio.

A spokesman emphasised that the Anglia news operation would not be affected by the decision. There would also still be a commercial team based in Norwich selling advertising air time.

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