Dave Heather

Director of Glyndebourne telecasts

Dave Heather's career in television began as a 15-year-old, holidaying with his older brother John in Manchester, when he was given the opportunity to work in the studios of ABC. This experience persuaded him that his future lay in television and he joined ATV in London three years later, then moving in the early 1960s to Southern Television.

David William Heather, television director: born Tunbridge Wells, Kent 17 February 1941; married 1983 Annie Thompson (one son, two daughters); died Tonbridge, Kent 16 April 2005.

Dave Heather's career in television began as a 15-year-old, holidaying with his older brother John in Manchester, when he was given the opportunity to work in the studios of ABC. This experience persuaded him that his future lay in television and he joined ATV in London three years later, then moving in the early 1960s to Southern Television.

In 1966, aged 25, he became the youngest director in British television, working on, amongst many other programmes, the game show Wheel of Fortune (1969-71), with Michael Miles as host. In 1976 Heather wrote, produced and directed an innovative children's show - Get This - starring Harry Fowler and Kenny Lynch. It set new standards for anarchic entertainment and earned Heather the first of five Bafta nominations.

In 1971 Southern Television signed a long-term contract giving it the rights to broadcast two operas from Glyndebourne Opera Festival every summer on ITV (unthinkable these days). I was brought in as a freelance producer for these rather specialised transmissions but Southern TV selected one of their own staff directors - Heather - to be in charge of the cameras. This involved writing the camera script, directing the cameramen and working closely with the singers and the stage director.

Heather loved music and got on well with everybody at Glyndebourne - from the prima donnas to the stage hands. Hitherto telecasts of operas had generally been last-minute affairs undertaken by busy directors of outside broadcasts who had many other irons in the fire. Heather pioneered the planning technique of spending weeks in advance of the production date familiarising himself with every nuance of the production during its rehearsal period.

The first Glyndebourne opera he directed was Verdi's Macbeth in 1972. Later recordings (many of them now available as DVDs or VHS cassettes) include Peter Hall's vintage production of The Marriage of Figaro (1973, with Kiri Te Kanawa as the countess) and the David Hockney- designed Rake's Progress (1975). In 1974 Heather also directed the telecast of Welsh National Opera's world premiere production of Alan Hoddinott's grand opera The Beach at Falesa. He continued to direct opera relays when TVS took over the ITV contract later in the 1970s, but the new company was less ambitious culturally.

In addition to the nationally transmitted operas Heather was responsible for some notable regional arts programmes - the studio-based Music in Camera with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes, and Theatre in Camera, featuring television versions of new plays from different theatres in the Southern TV area.

But, perhaps to his own disadvantage, Heather also excelled as a journeyman director of live television. As well as numerous local programmes for Southern and TVS, he had a seven-year stint with Robert Kilroy-Silk's chat show Kilroy and also originated The General, later to be retitled City Hospital, a daily live programme from Southampton General Hospital, which continues on BBC1. This aspect of his career culminated in his award-winning overall direction of the ITV coverage of the funeral of the Princess of Wales in 1997.

His skill in these areas perhaps detracted from his reputation as a music specialist, although he continued to freelance in this area, including work in the early 1980s on the Judith de Paul video series of Gilbert and Sullivan productions.

Dave Heather's personal charm was of a no-nonsense, down-to-earth character. He and I attended the same school - the Judd School, Tonbridge, Kent - where Dave spoke at an Old Juddians reunion function on Saturday evening shortly before he was struck down by a fatal heart attack.

Humphrey Burton

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