Monday 20 November 2017

Barrie Edgar

Producer of many popular BBC shows including Come Dancing, and the evergreen Gardeners' World

Barrie Edgar, who has died aged 93, produced many popular and long-running BBC Television programmes, among them Come Dancing, Gardeners' World and Songs of Praise.

As an outside broadcast producer based in Birmingham from the Fifties, Edgar worked across a variety of television forms, from horse racing (at Cheltenham) to motor racing (at Silverstone), from variety shows and circuses to live broadcasts and – on one occasion – from under the sea (the first ever broadcast from a submarine).

He produced Bob Monkhouse's first television appearance and worked frequently with the magician David Nixon.

In religious programming, Edgar produced the annual Christmas service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, between 1962 and 1968, and 76 editions of Songs of Praise.

Anthony Barrie Edgar was born on April 26, 1919 in Birmingham. When he was three, in 1922, his father, Percy, a music hall artist, actor and concert organiser, set up Britain's second broadcasting studio, 5IT. This became the Midlands station of the British Broadcasting Company, later the BBC, Percy Edgar remaining its head until his retirement in 1948.

As a child actor, Barrie took the title role in a radio adaptation of Tom Brown's Schooldays for Children's Hour, first broadcast by BBC Midlands. After Oundle School, and a spell as an assistant stage manager at Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre, in 1937 he joined the Birmingham repertory theatre as a stage manager. In this capacity he greeted a young acting student at the stage door with the words: "Joan Burman, you're late". During the war she would become a familiar voice on BBC Radio as a continuity announcer, and the couple married in 1943.

Having volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm, Edgar served in the Middle East (mostly in Lebanon) before D-Day and in the Far East from late 1944. During the invasion, he was on secondment to RAF Air Sea Rescue, locating and rescuing allied airmen in the Channel. He left the Navy in early 1946 with the rank of Lieutenant-Commander.

In June Edgar joined the BBC's television service, and was studio manager on shows ranging from Muffin the Mule to productions of Shakespeare from Stratford. He worked on the 1948 London Olympics as a production manager and – largely by accident – as a commentator.

In 1949 he became a fully-fledged producer, returning to Birmingham as head of one of the BBC's two outside broadcast units in 1951. His first Midlands assignments included coverage of the 1951 general election.

Edgar was part of the outside broadcast team which covered Sir Winston Churchill's funeral in 1965, and was proud to have covered the entire story of Basil Spence's rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, from the laying of its foundation stone in 1956 to its consecration in 1962.

As well as Songs of Praise, he produced 164 editions of Come Dancing and 225 of Gardeners' World, the programme that dominated his last decade at the BBC, and on which he worked with Percy Thrower.

Although he disapproved of Strictly Come Dancing, it gave him pleasure that two seemingly staid television stalwarts are still going strong (and, in the case of Gardeners' World, anticipated the lifestyle programming which came to dominate BBC Two).

Barrie Edgar was a BBC loyalist who refused offers to join ITV in the Fifties and retired from the corporation at the then compulsory age of 60 in 1979.

In the early Fifties, having inherited from his own father a talent for carpentry as well as a love of the sea, he had built his young son, David, a tiny but complete theatre in a garden shed; from the age of five David began to write plays for "the theatre in the shed", and subsequently became a prolific playwright. In retirement Barrie Edgar made picture frames, donating the profits to Arthritis Research.

He moved into residential accommodation after his wife's death in 2005. Their three children survive him: the playwright David Edgar; Sarah, a retired environmentalist; and Kate, a composer, musical director and teacher.

Barrie Edgar died on December 28 last.

Sunday Independent

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