Obituary: Brian Wenham

Click to follow
May I add a personal note to Leonard Miall's obituary of Brian Wenham [10 May]? writes Humphrey Burton. I was a departmental head at BBC TV for close on 10 years, and in my view Brian was the best controller of a splendid bunch that included Peacock, Attenborough and Singer.

Brian's special flair was to improve and enlarge upon the programme proposals one took to him. We were always collaborators (even gleeful conspirators on occasion) and never master and servant. Like his predecessors, he had a special feeling for classical music and opera. I would often receive enthusiastic calls requesting information about a pianist or a singer he had heard while on his duties overseas. Among his innovations was BBC 2's Opera Month in April 1980, which racked up 34 hours of programmes, about the same allocation of time as the snooker which Brian pioneered with equal relish. There were eight full-length operas and a vast number of documentaries, master classes and workshops.

The following year Brian mounted a three-month summer music festival (nowadays BBC TV is in thrall to the Proms). And virtually his last act before quitting the controllership for higher management was to devise a Sunday night placing for Wagner's Ring cycle, divided act by act into 10 weekly instalments like an operatic version of Upstairs and Downstairs. Given his love for Wagner, it is ironical that, only days before his death, Brian had booked to visit Bayreuth for the first time.

For broadcasters Brian Wenham was both our leader and our friend: his premature departure in 1987 was a serious blow to the BBC; they should never have let him go.