The day a chat with Arthur Scargill set Sue Lawley's heart aflutter

...and other TV foibles of the famous

The perils of Sue Lawley placing a microphone in her cleavage and the difficulty of getting the poet laureate presenter of Metroland to find his way out of a Tube station are revealed by a BBC executive tomorrow.

Foibles of the most famous television presenters form a part of the Royal Television Society Huw Wheldon Memorial Lecture to be shown on BBC2.

Will Wyatt, chief executive of BBC Broadcast and formerly managing director of BBC Network Television, devotes his lecture to "television presenters and their audiences". While he is lavish in his praise of the BBC's best- known names, he reveals some moments they might have preferred forgotten.

Chief among these is the interview Sue Lawley carried out with the miners' leader Arthur Scargill live on the Six O'Clock News at the peak of the miners' strike. "She had the mike attached somewhere near her cleavage," Mr Wyatt says. "The sound man came to her thinking there was something wrong with her equipment - there was a strange battering sound. It turned out to be her heart beating at 160 to the minute - twice the normal speed."

Sue Lawley's heart may have thumped at the prospect of facing Arthur Scargill. Producers would quail at the prospect of working with the late poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman. Mr Wyatt reveals that when working on the famous documentary Metroland, Betjeman had difficulties with the metro itself. He and his researcher planned to meet at a Tube station, but had not realised they could have more than one exit and each waited for more than half an hour before discovering each other.

When he was finally brought to the golf course where they were to film, Betjeman was in a foul temper, saying: "Oh, don't worry about me, I know I'm only the artiste and I'm the least important." And he went off and played golf.

Mr Wyatt remembers as a personal disaster a talk show he helped to produce called Friday Night, Saturday Morning. It was thought a coup to get Harold Wilson, shortly after he had resigned as Prime Minister, to chair it. "He had chaired the Cabinet," Mr Wyatt says. "You would think that he could chair a television show. Well, he couldn't and we should have known that, to save him, and ourselves, the agony.

"The guests included fast bowler Freddie Trueman and Tony Benn. After five minutes, I realised that this was the first time I had seen such terror in the eyes of interviewees. Terror, not that they would be asked something they could not answer, but that they would never be asked anything at all."

Looking back on one of the seminal documentary series in television history, Civilisation with Kenneth Clark, Mr Wyatt recalls that Clark could not memorise scripts and wanted to do the series from behind a desk. His producer, Michael Gill, coaxed him out on the road by taking with them an autocue and a new genre was born.

The greatest presenters had habits which they stuck to religiously. The late Sir Richard Dimbleby stayed behind in a darkened studio sticking bits of paper below camera lenses for the next day's programme - notes of names, facts and figures. He also used his cuffs.

Mr Wyatt reveals too what viewers write in to ask presenters. Delia Smith is asked not just about cooking, but how to fix viewers' stoves. Barry Norman is asked not just about films but about people's local cinemas.

Ironically, in view of the fact that so many of the BBC 60th anniversary awards went to contemporary figures, Mr Wyatt, who is said to have encouraged this, devotes nearly all of the praise in his lecture to the great presenters of the past.

However, he does quote an adage from one current star presenter, Desmond Lynam, who said: "If you're a sporting star, you're a sporting star. If you don't quite make it, then you become a coach. If you can't coach, you become a journalist. If you can't spell, you become a broadcaster."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition