The Munro television archive the Alexandra Palace files
Lot 758W
The Donald Hunter Munro Television Archive: An extraordinary library of original files, scripts, letters, diary entries and photographs concerning the role of television at Alexandra Palace.
Sold for £3,000 (US$ 4,858) inc. premium

Lot Details
The Donald Hunter Munro Television Archive:
An extraordinary library of original files, scripts, letters, diary entries and photographs concerning the role of television at Alexandra Palace.
The collection comprises seven scrapbook-style folios, each bearing Donald Munro’s hand inscribed title to frontispiece or spine, enclosing documents in date and event order, the volumes are as follows:

1) “Some of my personal 'scraps' during my mainly B.B.C. career:- 1926, 26 March to 1948, 30 September. Date 25 September 1946, Aberdeen, and to be continued et adfinitum!” The folio begins with a command performance programme dated 5th September 1924, hosted by Harry Lauder, with Munro as piano accompanist, through to 1949 with a note of thanks from an engineer, the volume with mainly newspaper cuttings, pictures and letters both internal and external from A.P., most later annotated and by Munro, some with humorous comments.

2) “Radiolympia 1936, Aug 26-Sept 5”,
the inside front cover inscribed in pencil “TELEVISION COMES TO RADIOLYMPIA! IT CAME Veni Vidi Vici”, containing typed running orders, pencilled instructions, timing cues and reminders, both Baird and M-EMI system sets, rehearsal calls, telegrams, all-staff sign-in signatures for 'Baird' [Company], 'Marconi-EMI staff' and 'Staff'.

3) “Official Opening of the World's First Public Television Service at Alexandra Palace, 2 November 1936.”
A very important record of the opening, including; running orders, cues, speech texts, breakdown captions, beginning with a small sample negative strip of Baird I.F. film, clipped to page 3, the original typed opening text with three-colour annotations, hand-drawn maps of studio camera positions and lights, transmission-written notes in pencil with cues to the second, margin on original typed text frames marked Baird, the carbon copy marked M-EMI due to the transmission sequence, some large and hastily-written notes such as “SLOW MIX, GIVE WRIGHT "OVER TO YOU" and “STAND BY TO USE CAMERA 3”, running order for the Baird programme for 9pm the same day, until 10.03pm, checklist at the very back, crossed out in 'done' blue, the very last entry on the last page of the opening day, in pencil, inscribed hurriedly and boldly with the historical words “Full length shot CAMERA 1. FADE OUT SOUND AND VISION!! GIVE STUDIO ALL CLEAR”, underlined with a flourish.

4) “Retrospective from Commencement 1936 December to 1937 31 December.”
Inscribed in Munro's hand to first page “Alexandra Palace 1936-1937, Devised and Produced by [then full signature]”, some newspaper cuttings on broadcasting, telegrams sent from family members from Scotland to the Muswell Hill exchange, carbon script for 'Diary of 1937', 'End of Year 1937' programme running order, shot sequence list, artist appearance list and scenery change sheet, then the full pasted transmission order, including annotations for orchestral cues, telecine cues, mixing directions and floor and stage plans with camera track layout, running to many pages;

5) “The Little Father of the Wilderness - a costume drama - Prologue from "I Pagliacci", starring Margot Fonteyn, Percy Heming and Robert Helpman, transmitted Sunday 9th April, 1939.”
Studios A & B, floor plan with rather complicated scenery and camera track diagrams, routine, vision and mix running orders, photograph and stills from Little Father of the Wilderness, Interlude details, rehearsal sheet, and the full pasted transmission order with annotations.

6) “Studio Equipment Committee" - plans for the final resistance of the UK in the event of German invasion during WWII.”
The Committee Minutes - both actual and carbon copies of minutes held at Council Chamber of Broadcasting House, and room 334 of The Langham Hotel, dates from April 1942-April 1946, with Munro listed as being present at most meetings, the minutes discussing the need to keep the airwaves live by transmitting from various bunkers around the country should the UK become occupied, planning involves full equipment details.

7) “Misc”,
Drafts for BBC yearbook inclusions, ‘Television was Fun’, notes with transmission dates, television ballet notes by a critic and other typed notes from 1934 to the mid-1940s covering programmes to people, small folio.
A brown envelope, inscribed in pencil “Talbot O'Fannell Script, Mr. Munro, Rothwell House [crossed out], Alexandra Palace”, containing script, poetry sheets and handwritten musical scores for interlude songs;
A loose file of original photographs, most with the A.P. purple stamp on verso, and most capturing Munro at work, showing camera positions, rehearsal stills, off-stage moments, Munro at the control consoles, a view outside A.P. talking to a colleague, and a collection of letters to companies and agents from the late ‘40s and early ‘50s;
A loose file containing revues and production script for “Northern Lights”, 1929, dance troupe, cuttings, photographs and text, script annotated, stage plans in freehand, a Champs-Élysées show programme, signed by all staff and performers;
The last loose file containing a typed carbon sheet entitled “Organisation of Television Department”, the first known diagram from Director (Cock) to Call Boys (Grant and Hortin), list of clerical staff, various telegrams, letters, some modern letters relating the research of the files by M. B-L;
Major Eustice Robb - a thorough photostat file of his diaries, from 20 October 1933 to 29 January 1936, in his hand (the first few pages type-copied), detailing conversations and his honest feelings towards employees, together with a photostat script of a synchronising card, with captions, high and low frequency announcement captions and planned around production of a stage play, others - dated 23 January - 11 September 1935;

Three box-files;
Artists, May-June 1946,, ordered with performance type, full names, addresses and telephone contacts;
Television Staff Enquiries, dates from 1945-47, with producer, staff family members, performer booking agents and the like, all addressed to D. H. Munro, with replies;
Standing Instructions, 1937-1939, internal memos, letters on instruction for staff relating to backup plans in the event of breakdown, and many other orders and rules, including the banning of artists using a non-pay telephone;

The BBC studio records;
35 single-side 78-rpm records with the white and green labels, covering 1937 to 1948, including the 1937 coronation commentary, Britain talks to America, interviews with Munro, and other noted titles, some obscure, that D. H. Munro requested the BBC to copy for him in the 1950s for posterity.

Footnotes

  • As most of the material offered here is original typed or handwritten media, the archive gives a rare first hand account the day-to-day operations of the Alexandra Palace television studio, and the important role of production director, D. H. Munro.

    The photographs included here are offered without copyright and it should be noted that some of them were used for reproduction in internal and external BBC publications.

    M.B-L comments: Radiolympia 26 August - 5 September 1936

    "The regular television service was due to start in November 1936, but Gerald Cock (Director of Television) jumped the gun in August by transmitting at the Radiolympia exhibition in London. Cock told Cecil Madden, who had just been appointed senior television producer, that 'the radio industry have come to us, Radiolympia has been a failure, they can't sell the stands, they don't know what to do so they've appealed to the BBC – this new television which is coming later, if you can do it, it will save Radiolympia'. Madden had just nine days to put together a programme, which he called 'Here's Looking At You'. It was opened by Leslie Mitchell on 26 August with the following words: 'Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the magic of television.'

    The magic consisted of a couple of films – a Gaumont British Newsreel and a discussion about books with Rebecca West, T. S. Elliot and Somerset Maugham – as well as a 'live' variety show, which featured a Chilean tap-dancing duo called Chilton and Thomas, the Three Admirals (a singing group – 'big one at the piano and two small people round him'), a comedy act by Miss Lutie and her pantomime horse, as well as Miss Helen Mckay singing a specially written song:

    Here's looking at you
    From out of the blue
    Don't make a fuss
    But settle down and look at us.

    At least eight British manufacturers used the broadcasts to demonstrate the sets on their stands and additional sets were positioned and tuned in, in shop showrooms all over London."

    The huge success of this publicity demonstration is graphically illustrated in the excited title page of the album covering this event in the first photograph of this section. Radiolympia is covered in one large volume. It includes the autographs of all the participating stars, (together with a photograph), who took part in "Here's Looking at You", the BBC staff, production and administrative and the technical teams from the Baird Company and the competing Marconi-EMI system. All the production schedules, telegrams, BBC internal letters and memos, newspaper articles, photos, scripts and annotated production notes are present, including the planning and script of the first 'outside broadcast' put out as an experiment during the show on the Saturday.

    This archive material on the 1936 Radiolympia is unique and is not known to exist anywhere else including the BBC archives.
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