Studio ‘E’ was the pioneer in
intelligent programming for children. The Studio ‘E’ Scripts
Following Gilbert Davey’s death in April 2011, I was contacted by John Winter, a friend of his family, who kindly sent me scans of four Studio ‘E’ scripts that Davey had kept since 1957.   Mr Winter has recently sent me the original scripts themselves.   With his encouragement and the permission of the BBC and other rights holders, selected images from these scripts are shown on this page.   We may assume that Davey kept them for over 50 years through several house moves purely because the series had been an important event for him.   I am most grateful to have been given access to them.


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Extracts from the scripts preserved by
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There were six parts to the Studio ‘E’ one-valver series altogether, the first broadcast on 30 September 1957, and five more from 21 October to 18 November inclusive.   Gilbert Davey kept four scripts: those for 21 and 28 October, and 11 and 18 November.   The BBC Written Archive Centre holds copies of all the scripts for the series except that for the 30 September transmission, so were able to send me a copy of the script for 4 November.   This, while confirming that the 4 November programme included a part of the construction series, adds little to our knowledge, so I have decided to reproduce images from only the scripts that Davey preserved.

Each foolscap script, now dog-eared and yellowed, has a title page which carries a running order, rehearsal schedule, and transmission date and time.   Some also have a production personnel list.   Rehearsals for each Monday’s 5pm live transmission took place during that day, concluding with a late afternoon run-through.

Careful, luvvies!
    Health & Safety, 1957:
    Davey's warning notice on the back of his 28 October script.

The scripts will evoke many memories for those who remember the Studio ‘E’ programme and the personalities who took part; it served as jumping-off point for some well-known figures who went on to long-standing TV success.   These included Clive Dunn (later famous as Lance-Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army).   Tony Hart, the gifted artist and storyteller whose career in children’s television spanned five decades, and whom we will meet again below, was already a seasoned performer, having made his debut on children's television before Studio ‘E’ began.

The scripts also reveal something of the camera and production techniques of the time (almost all content was transmitted “live”).   The varying degrees of scripting detail for each item are also revealing.   Four cameras (Marconi Mk III image orthicons) were available in Studio ‘E’, plus inputs from telecine machines, turntables and tape decks, used principally for the opening and closing sequences.

In contrast to the necessarily detailed scripting for such items as comedy sketches, the sections for Davey’s items generally give no dialogue except Vera McKechnie’s brief introductions and wind-ups.   There is a little dialogue for Davey himself in the last part of the series.   This may seem disappointing, but it must be remembered that he knew his stuff; the rehearsals, together with a note of points to be covered, were clearly all he needed.   The back of the script for 21 October carries Davey's pencilled list of the components for the one-valver.   I doubt whether he learned his words or even read from an autocue.

On the back of the script for 28 October is a large notice in red ballpoint: "THIS IRON IS HOT!!" (picture above).   We may imagine Davey during rehearsals, concerned for the safety of the studio staff and guests who didn't know one end of a soldering-iron from the other, scribbling this notice before leaving his place for a momemt.

From the hints that the above annotations give, together with the scripted dialogue and Radio Times listings, it is possible to guess at the content of each broadcast as follows:

30 September Appetiser, perhaps with a complete demonstration set?   Instructions on sending for leaflet.   Advice on buying components?   (Series paused until 21 October, to allow viewers to send for leaflet and buy components.)
21 October Make chassis?   Identify components?   (Pencilled components list on back of script.)
28 October Mount components?   Discuss soldering irons and demonstrate soldering?   (Warning notice on back of script.)
4 November Start wiring up.   (Following week’s script refers to wiring having been started on 4 November.)
11 November Conclude wiring up.
18 November HT-LT test with torch lamp.   Discuss rigging aerial and earth.   Connect up.   Demonstrate controls.   (Scripted dialogue makes clear that the set was already complete or virtually so.)

Images from the scripts are below, with notes and comments.

Script for
21 October 1957
Script for Studio ‘E’ programme    
transmitted on 21 October 1957,    
kept by Gilbert Davey.    
Title page (right), and    
page 4 (below).    


Copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation;    
reproduced by kind permission.    
Images courtesy John Winter.    


21 October 1957:
Title page.
Vera McKechnie began her broadcasting career in children's radio in Manchester, moving on to be an in-vision TV announcer and a presenter of children's programmes including Watch with Mother.   Studio ‘E’ always opened with a film of Vera arriving at Lime Grove and ascending in the lattice-gated lift to the studio.   See an interview with Vera McKechnie at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g99kFlgtlrM.

Like its successor Blue Peter, Studio ‘E’ had its resident dog.   Kim the Keeshond (a Spitz-type breed from Holland) acted as “host” to various visiting animals and their owners.

John Hunter Blair, principal producer and editor, went on to produce early editions of Blue Peter, but his career was sadly cut short by ill-health.

Gilbert Davey was first up for the rehearsals, with forty minutes allowed.   Whilst his item probably lasted no more than ten minutes, the rehearsal would not only have been for his benefit; time would also have been needed to establish camera postions and shots, lighting, microphones, etc.

21 October 1957:
page 4.

After the title page, page 1 (containing the first 14 cues) is missing.   This almost certainly contained dialogue for Vera to remind viewers that the radio construction series was to begin in earnest after the three-week interval since the "appetiser" programme on 30 September.   This would explain the sparseness of her introduction to the item here on page 4 (above).

At Cue 49, Camera 3 is lined up for a medium shot (M.S.) on Gilbert Davey, and during Cue 50, Camera 2 provides close-up shots (C.U.) of the radio components - presumably under the producer's instructions.

"Over the points, over the points . . ."   If you're a certain age, you cannot have forgotten The Six-Five Special, whose theme tune, recorded by Don Lang and his Frantic Five, featured in the following item.   With the launch of this programme earlier in the year, the BBC had called an end to the programming gap between 6 and 7pm (the so-called "Toddlers' Truce") that had been intended to help parents to persuade young children to go to bed.

Notes on back of 21 October script,    
with one-valver components list.    

Components list

The back page of Davey's 21 October script (above) has, in the top half, a list of districts.   My guess was that these were perhaps musings in connection with some aspect of his insurance work.   Two correspondents (Alan Giles and Doug Brown) have suggested that most of them match up with component supply businesses advertising in the radio press at the time.   Doug Brown kindly researched this for me, and came up with an almost complete list from Wireless World for October and November 1957.   Adrian Hindle-Briscall has since suggested Bentley Acoustic Corporation for London NW1.   So a possible list is:

Leeds 2 Radio Supply Co (Leeds), 32 The Calls
Leeds 7 Alpha Radio Supply Co, 103 Leeds Terrace, Wintoun Street
Mitcham, Surrey Home Radio, 187 London Road
Eastbourne Electronic Precision Equipment Ltd, 66 Grove Road
London NW1 Bentley Acoustic Corporation, Chalcot Road
London EC4 Possibly Electronic Precision Equipment Ltd, Fleet Street
London W1 Includes Tottenham Court Road; numerous businesses, e.g. Clyne Radio (18), Lasky's Radio (33), Proops (52)
London W2 Henry's Radio, 5 Harrow Road; H L Smith & Co, 287-9 Edgware Road
London NW10 John Bull, High St Harlesden; Superior Radio Supplies, 37 Hillside, Stonebridge
London WC2 G W Smith (Radio) Ltd, Lisle Street
Nottingham Eddy's (Nottm) Ltd, 172 Alfreton Road
West Croydon, Surrey Radio Components Specialists, 337 Whitehorse Road
Weybridge, Surrey No match found in editions of Wireless World examined
Manor Park, (London) E12 Duke & Co (London) Ltd, 621-3 Romford Road; Electronic Precision Equipment Ltd, 520 High Street North
Thornton Heath, Surrey TRS, 70 Brigstock Road

My thanks to Doug Brown and the others for their work on this compelling theory.   It is possible to find other contenders for the list.   But with the BBC - then and now - being careful about advertising, perhaps the most Davey could have done was to name localities of suppliers rather than naming them specifically.   Possibly the suppliers in those places had undertaken to stock the parts, and the hints were given to assist viewers having difficulty buying them.

My correspondents would themselves acknowledge that this can only be a theory.   Many large towns at that time had radio shops prepared to sell parts, and the general advice on the leaflet about buying components is good.   The addresses might have been written on the script for any number of reasons - we all note down things on the handiest piece of paper!

Below the list of districts is a components list, possibly written as an aide-memoire during rehearsals.   It is not complete; the valve itself and the battery are omitted.



Script for
28 October 1957
Script for Studio ‘E’ programme    
transmitted on 28 October 1957,    
kept by Gilbert Davey.    
Title page (right), and    
page 2 (below).    


Copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation;    
reproduced by kind permission.    
Images courtesy John Winter.    


28 October 1957:
Title page. This edition carried a film item celebrating the 21st anniversary of the start of BBC Television.

Australian-born Shirley Abicair came to the UK in 1953, and was talent-spotted when her picture was published in a newspaper.   She became known for her Australian-themed stories and songs, often accompanied on her trademark zither.

Peter Butterworth appeared in Studio ‘E’ comedy sketches as a well-meaning bungler.   He went on to appear in numerous films, including many in the Carry On . . . series.

In the list of staff:
T.O.M. = Technical Operations Manager (or facilities manager);
Lighter = person responsible for lighting plot and placement of lighting;
F.M. = Floor Manager;
A.F.M. = Assistant Floor Manager.

28 October 1957:
page 2.

Once again, Davey's item (above) shows no scripted dialogue for him.   As before, two cameras are used to cut between medium shots of Davey and close-ups of items on his table.



Script for
4 November 1957
Davey did not preserve this script, but the copy sent to me by the BBC shows that the rehearsal time for the radio item was reduced from 40 to 30 minutes.   The item is scripted in the same way as before: "RADIO ITEM AS REHEARSED", with Veras's brief introduction and wind-up.



Script for
11 November 1957
Script for Studio ‘E’ programme    
transmitted on 11 November 1957,    
kept by Gilbert Davey.    
Title page (right), and    
page 5 (below).    


Copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation;    
reproduced by kind permission.    
Images courtesy John Winter.    


11 November 1957:
Title page. Charles Chilton became an expert on American Western history having researched and produced earlier radio programmes on the topic.   A versatile writer, producer and presenter, he is best remembered for the 1950s radio series Journey into Space, and as a one-time producer of The Goon Show.

In the running order, the radio item was followed by Clive Dunn as Charlie Quick, a genial stage-door keeper turned sleuth.

Rehearsal time for the radio item was again 30 minutes, split over the lunch break, perhaps indicating an increasingly relaxed attitude towards Davey's abilities as a presenter.

11 November 1957:
page 5.

Vera’s dialogue (Cue 54 above) establishes that wiring-up was started the previous week (4 November).



Script for
18 November 1957
Script for Studio ‘E’ programme    
transmitted on 18 November 1957,    
kept by Gilbert Davey.    
Title page (right), and    
pages 12 and 24 - 26 (below).    


Copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation;    
reproduced by kind permission.    
Tony Hart's dialogue reproduced with    
acknowledgments to R Renals and C Ross.    
Images courtesy John Winter.    


18 November 1957:
Title page. For this last of the one-valver series, Gilbert Davey got away once more with 30 minutes’ rehearsal.

18 November 1957:
page 12.

At Cue 55, Camera 2 is faded up for a “2-shot” of Assistant Announcer Caroline Denzil and Davey at his table.   She raises anticipation to fever-pitch with her introduction, with which Davey connives in the only scripted dialogue for him that the scripts show.   Then once more it’s “ITEM AS REHEARSED”, with Camera 2 tracking in for medium close-ups of Davey, and Camera 4 providing close-ups of what's happening on the table.

On completion of the wiring and having connected up, but before fitting the valve, Davey would undoubtedly have shown how to check with a torch bulb that HT was not reaching the filament connections.

Caroline rejoins Davey as the set springs to life.   “And perhaps we’ll see you again sometime”, she says.   We did - see the end of this page.

Ted Taylor’s scripted introduction to the next item, Don Lang’s Red Planet Rock, shows a typical period reaction to the recent launches of Sputniks 1 and 2 by the Soviets.   Other items followed according to the running order . . .

18 November 1957:
page 24.

. . . until we reach page 24 of the script (above) where we find Tony Hart, with his cartoon character Packi the baby elephant and his keeper Tipu.   In this story, Packi is trying to mount his own version of the Studio ‘E’ programme on his own TV channel.   He concludes a dance routine with Tipu as cameraman filming him.   Then at Cue 95, his next item is announced.

(Some modern readers might wonder at the name “Packi” which was quite unconnected with the slang term of racist abuse, usually spelled differently, but was derived from "pachyderm", any thick-skinned mammal such as an elephant.   I am happy to say that my 1957 world included only this intended meaning.)

Cameras 1 and 4 cut between the successive cartoons ("captions" in the script) drawn by Tony Hart.   Sadly, none of the artworks for this episode seem to have survived.

18 November 1957:
page 25.

Like many of Packi's adventures, this one ends in disaster!   No digital effects were available in 1957 - at Cue 99 (above), the camera operator provides them!

18 November 1957:
page 26.

For the goodbyes (above), the producer cuts between the four cameras as the guests say or nod their individual farewells, concluding with Camera 1 panning round the studio, then the closing film sequence (S/I T/C = Superimpose telecine: does anyone remember what this was?).

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By modern standards, the scripted dialogue, especially for introductions and wind-ups, seems quaint and stilted.   Staging was unadventurous, with Vera presiding from her desk, heavy reliance on studio sets, filmed items kept to a minimum, and the final round of polite goodbyes.   But Studio ‘E’ was the pioneer in intelligent programming for children, with the one-valver construction series perhaps its best-remembered achievement.   Before the era of instant results with washing-up bottles and sticky-back plastic, young builders of the Studio ‘E’ one-valver had to work with care and perseverance in order to succeed.   Not all did succeed, but that was life; I was fortunate in having my set built for me.

In March - April 1959, Gilbert Davey returned to appear on Focus, the immediate successor to Studio ‘E’, with a transistor radio design - see The Focus Transistor Set, where you can find downloads for this design, and other information.   For a wealth of information on current and past TV studios, see Martin Kempton’s excellent site at http://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk

My thanks to John Winter for making the scripts available, and to the BBC and the Tony Hart estate for permission to reproduce these extracts.