BBC Radio and Television between the Wars

The next Media History seminar features Amanda Wrigley & John Wyver talking about BBC radio and television between the wars. The meeting will take place at 6pm on Tuesday November 8 in Senate House Room 243.

Dr Amanda Wrigley, ‘BBC Radio as “a new and exciting means of education” in the interwar years’

Amanda Wrigley is Mid-Career Research Fellow in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University; she is also Research Fellow in the School of Media, Arts and Design at the University of Westminster, where she has worked with John Wyver since 2011 on the AHRC-funded Screen Plays project and its impact. She is a cultural historian working on the interconnecting histories of theatre, television, radio and the printed word in twentieth-century Britain, focusing on radio and television programmes which adapt and create dramatic and literary forms, especially those which engage with the literature and history of ancient Greece, with a special interest in the experience of the listener, viewer and reader and the educational dimensions of mass media. Her latest book, published by OUP in 2015, is Greece on Air: Engagements with Ancient Greece on BBC Radio, 1920s-1960s. She is writing a companion volume on the production history of Greek plays on British television from 1958. Website:

John Wyver, ‘The arts on early television and the BBC’s cultural mission in the interwar years’

Regular BBC Television transmissions began on 2 November 1936, and until the war forced the closure of the Alexandra Palace studios at the start of September 1939 there was a daily service of music, drama, dance and talks. Almost nothing of this extensive output was recorded but much of it is documented in Radio TimesThe Listener and the BBC Written Archives at Caversham. These sources allow us to explore the programme content in detail, including television’s extensive engagement with the arts in these years.

This paper offers an overview of the extensive and eclectic cultural output, which included several hundred dramas, numerous concerts of classical music and dance performances, and on-screen appearances by prominent visual artists, architects, writers and film makers. The programming extended the BBC’s mainstream understanding of its public service mission under Lord Reith but at the same time, perhaps because television was a marginal service with a very small metropolitan audience, it included a number of experimental broadcasts exploring themes and ideas often associated with interwar modernism in Britain.

John Wyver is Principal Research Fellow in the School of Media, Arts and Design at the University of Westminster. He was Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded research project Screen Plays: Stage Plays on British Television, 2011-15. He is Director of Screen Productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company, advising on its strategy for broadcast and screen versions of its productions, and he produces their Live from Stratford-upon-Avon cinema broadcasts. For the past thirty years he has also run the independent media producer and publisher Illuminations which creates and distributes innovative television. He has published widely on the arts, especially theatre plays, on television and his current book project is RSC Shakespeare on Screen for Bloomsbury’s Arden Shakespeare series, to appear in 2018. Website:

All are welcome. Further information about the seminar is available through the Institute of Historical Research ( and the Institute of English Studies (


Media History Seminar on the BBC and Pre-War Television

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Dr Jamie Medhurst’s talk ‘“A Very Tiresome Invention”: The BBC and Pre-War Television’. We’ll be meeting on Thursday December 3 at 6pm in Senate House Room 104. Full details can be found at:

You can find out more about Dr Medhurst’s background and research interests at:

All are welcome. Further details about the seminar are available from the Institute of Historical Research and Institute of English Studies.

May Seminar I: Sabina Mihelj on Socialist TV

All are welcome at the next Media History seminar for Sabina Mihelj’s presentation “Screening Socialism: Television and Everyday Life in Socialist Eastern Europe.” This will be the seminar’s first session organised by the Institute of Historical Research. We’ll be meeting on Thursday May 7 at 6pm in G34 on the ground floor of Senate House.

“Screening Socialism: Television and Everyday Life in Socialist Eastern Europe”

The post-1989 wave of research into Cold War history threw into sharper relief aspects of the Cold War contest that had previously received little attention. One of these was the role of cultural forms and practices, ranging from religion, literature and the fine arts to film and the media.  Despite this surge of interest, our knowledge of the cultural Cold War and, in particular, our understanding of the role of popular culture and media in socialist societies remains patchy. At least initially, much of the literature was focused on elite, ‘respectable’ cultural forms such as literature and theatre, while the study of media and popular culture has gathered momentum only in recent years.

This paper seeks to redress this balance by focusing on socialist television, a medium that functioned as a key source of popular entertainment and information especially in the period of late socialism. Building on preliminary results of ongoing research funded by the Leverhulme Trust, this paper seeks to identify some of the key traits of state socialist television, focusing on the involvement of television in shaping the perceptions and practices of private and public life, as well as the engagement with the passage of time. The materials presented span five countries – East Germany, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia – and draw on a variety of sources ranging from archival documents, programme and schedule analysis to oral history interviews.

The talk will be followed by brief screenings of selected television programmes across Eastern Europe, introduced by the three  Research Associates working on the Screening Socialism project: Alice Bardan, Simon Huxtable and Sylwia Szostak.

For more information on the project and publications, please see the project website:

Dr Mihelj’s profile can be found here:

Further information about the seminar is available through the Institute of Historical Research ( and the Institute of English Studies (