Heartbeat and Beyond: Memoirs of 50 Years of Yorkshire Television – Review

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Heartbeat and Beyond: Memoirs of 50 Years of Yorkshire Television

Book Review

by Sandra Callard

Heartbeat and Beyond is a book containing the memoirs of some of the people who worked at Yorkshire Television in Leeds over the past 50 years of its existence. Edited by John Fairley and Graham Ironside, who were both instrumental in the formation of the fledgling television company in Kirkstall, Leeds, the book opens the door on the memories of producers, directors, reporters and the endless artisans and craftsmen needed in the formation and production of this massively successful local television company.

The majority of the programmes they produced ran for many years, and some are still repeated and watched with great affection by viewers, some of who remember them the first time around. The huge and prolonged success of Yorkshire Television has got to be grounded on the hard work and talent of the people who worked there, many of whom are now household names, and this unusual book tells their stories.

This is a very large and impressive-looking book containing some 23 individually written chapters by those who worked at YTV, which contain personal memories of their time at Yorkshire Television. Much is of major interest, but many well-written pieces contain effusive adjectives in praise of somebody, and then somebody else, et al, and the repetition of it stunts the interest.

“Revealing and funny”

Heartbeat and Beyond Memoirs of 50 Years of Yorkshire Television Book Review coverAlso, the writers are surely not writing purely for the benefit of others of their ilk. Would the general reader understand phrases like “Technical walk-throughs, remember them?” or “Remember Production Meetings?” Well no, actually, we wouldn’t.

However, many of the chapters are superb, such as producer John Wilford’s contribution, where his flowing prose ignites the imagination as he recalls the poor equipment, the break downs and the panic to get the early Calendar programmes on the air.

I loved also David Green’s chapter about his time as producer and director for the wonderful documentaries, Wicker’s World. His memories of the great man are revealing and funny, as well as very emotive, as I still remember that Wicker’s World was always on our schedule at home.

“Flair and panache”

There are potent memories of many of the great events in Yorkshire, some tragic, and many joyful, which Calendar covered over the past 50 years. How can we in Yorkshire, who are old enough to have lived through the reign of terror that the Yorkshire Ripper engendered, ever forget those frightening days. Or the terrible fire at Bradford City’s football ground that resulted in the loss of 56 lives. Calendar covered news with a sure and sympathetic hand, and handled the good stuff with a healthy and proud joy.

This book includes many of the things we are most proud of, not least the long series of the eponymous title of this book. The Heartbeat series ran for 18 series between 1992 and 2010, and Emmerdale is still compulsive viewing for many viewers since 1972.

This is a book with great flair and panache. It recalls the days when television was still the great new phenomenon, even though practically every home had one. It buzzes with the excitement these young journalists and writers must have felt as they grasped this new tool of communication and managed to produce some of the best television of the age, much of which still finds its way onto our screens today, to our great pleasure.

Heartbeat and Beyond: Memoirs of 50 Years of Yorkshire Television edited by John Fairley and Graham Ironside is published by Pen & Sword History, £25, ISBN: 9781473896697

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