Obituary: Alan Sleath

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Alan Sleath was one of the early pioneers of television, working for the BBC on a wide spectrum of programming in the late Forties and early Fifties. In drama, current affairs, music, documentaries and religious programmes he made his mark as Producer, Miscellaneous Programmes. Among these programmes was Picture Parade, the precursor of film review programmes in the manner of Film 95, the early natural history programme series presented by Armand and Michaela Denis, television plays, documentaries on Charles Chaplin and the International Red Cross.

In an era of increasing specialisation, Sleath was an outstanding all- rounder, with a varied background. After a six-year spell in the Royal Engineers he had joined the Old Vic Theatre School, becoming Assistant Director from 1947 to 1950. He appeared in a succession of small supporting roles playing opposite Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness. He subsequently joined BBC Television as a Studio Manager presenting Drama Programmes on Women's Hour. He became Senior Assistant to the Head of Features Group and between 1965 and 1973 produced the internationally acclaimed series of Royal Institution Children Lectures as well as On the Move, the first programme series tackling the problem of adult literacy. Finally he became Chief Assistant to BBC Enterprises and to BBC Further Education.

The wheel came full circle. In his retirement he became Chairman of the Associates of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as well as working on many projects for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

More in the tradition of an actor manager than television producer, Alan Sleath was a big man, generous in gesture and manner; the perfect staff officer whose presence ensured organisation, harmony and goodwill. More than others in his profession, he knew the value of publicity and public relations and co-ordinated to good effect the publicity effort both for the Outside Broadcast Group and for big series such as The Ascent of Man (1974), narrated by Jacob Bronowski, and large undertakings such as Civilisation (1969), presented by Kenneth Clark, and Alistair Cooke's America (1972), as well as continuing series like Horizon and Tomorrow's World.

Aubrey Singer

Graham Alan Sleath, television producer: born Wallasey, Cheshire 26 August 1917; married 1961 Jessica Gregory (three sons); died Watford 30 January 1995.