Saturday, 6 October 2012

Out of Town with Jack Hargreaves

Dear All on the ‘informal’ JH Committee:
It’s been a while since I have sent out an email on the subject of my stepfather’s films and progress in recovering them. Forgive me if any of what follows is old news or I’m repeating myself.
I know some of you will have been following things via other channels such as the Facebook pages on Out of Town with Jack Hargreaves started a couple of years ago by his biographer Paul Peacock, and some of you will know more about the recovery of original episodes of Out of Town (OOT) via the work of Simon Winters and friends at Kaleidoscope - especially the amazing initiative of David King in finding and saving over 30 original OOT episodes. You know the different and invaluable contributions you’ve made, enriching things. Blimey we ought to have a big meal together some time!
There is more about this in a booklet commissioned by Charles Webster of Delta Leisure to accompany the issue of the ’new’ OOTs in a box set this October. Details can be seen at Delta’s OOT web page:
The booklet that comes with this set contains an article I’ve written about Jack and the search for his films and an excellent account by Simon Winters of how these episodes eventually came to light.
It wasn’t I that found them. As in good detective procedurals there were many leads. The combined interest, enthusiasm and support of different members of the informal JH Committee and their contacts set a search in motion that eventually led to a find and, for me, further learning about Jack and his approach to making 'Out of Town'.
There were disappointments but I’m so impressed by the difference between what I know now and what I did not begin to understand when, only 5 years ago Richard Hill in Havant, wrote me a letter asking if he and more important his family, could have a copy of the OOT episode made in 1975 that had him and friends fishing out of Littlehampton with Jack trying out Richard’s patent ‘exploding’ ground bait box. Richard and his wife Wendy and I are now friends. I look forward to seeing them when I’m back in England shortly.
In the process of helping Richard get that film (all I had to do was give permission) I learned about the archive of films and tapes at South West Films and Television Archive (SWFTA). As time passed I learned also how near impossible it would be, despite the wealth of material in that archive, to make even one complete episode of OOT from it, or even of its successor Old Country - also a book. It’s like having a mound of rich ore without the expensive kit and skills needed to turn it into gold. Jenny and Roger at SWFTA did a great job putting together Richard’s film, and in looking after the JH collection all those years. I’ve now brought that collection from Plymouth to a temperature-controlled lock-up close to my home in Birmingham, easily accessed when time, skills and money come together.
Meantime, the recovery from another place, of 34 original episodes of Out of Town, licensed by Endemol to Delta, means I hope, if they sell well enough, to release royalties that will assist me process the archive.
There has of course been the re-issue by Delta Leisure of the 28 episodes of Out of Town that Jack made with Steve Wade in 1986, long after the demise of Southern Television, at his home, Raven Cottage, in Dorset - using his real shed rather than the studio ’shed’ that was a mainstay or the original OOTs. These DVDs had become almost unobtainable except via eBay or table-top finds. They are now on sale again via Amazon, or direct from the Delta website and other Delta outlets - the Telegraph and the Express.
Vital to getting OOT back on the market has been the enthusiasm and persistence of Charles Webster of Delta who got in touch when the prospect of recovering old OOT programmes looked a little easier than it turned out to be. He stuck with me as we ran into a frustrating set of cul-de-sacs - not least the legal blocks surrounding distribution and copyright - some of which I have shared with you, and some of which remain sub-judice. That sounds pompous but I shall happily explain, if and when the dust settles!
We also now know that there is a complete set of Old Country episodes at the British Film Institute. How we can access those is something that I'm investigating - hopefully with help from the JH Committee. I was just delighted to know these episodes were there. The challenge now is to make them available.
To help sales, Charles Webster asked me, as you probably know, to remove various clips of Jack that I have streamed on the web. This has disappointed some, but I think all members of the JH Committee who have sent me material or indicated where I could get it have copies of these. I've mailed CDs to a few people who are not worried by pixilation and other oddities of image and sound. This is most fair given the help I’ve been offered by all of you and others involved with the search for JH.
I’m in Greece, returning in a few days to the UK - to Scotland where my mother Barbara  (who, with Jack, brought me and my sister up between 1948 and 1962 when I left home) is growing weaker and being joined by her family at her home near Inverness.
Mum married again in 1965 but she and I have always been able to share our memories of Jack. I am even more aware than I was when this search began, how fortunate I am that she and Jack decided, soon after the war after both had divorced, to share their lives and that he became my parent as I grew up. This search gave me the opportunity to reflect on how I’ve balanced my love for my birth father - my dad - and for my stepfather, Jack. My sister and I might be considered the children of 'a broken home’. In reality we gained two for one. Searching for a way of describing this circumstance I started the essay I wrote to go with the recovered OOT set:
'I’ve two parents on the paternal side, both fought in the war, but different as chalk and cheese. One I call my father. The other my dad. John was my birth father, but I have another kind of DNA from Jack Hargreaves, the man my mother came to love after she divorced in 1949…..’
Best wishes and many thanks. I am sure the JH Committee has more work to do, but I think we should be delighted with progress to date. Simon
'My' Wiki piece on my stepfather begins:
Jack Hargreaves OBE (London 31 December 1911 – 15 March 1994) was an English television presenter and writer. His enduring interest was to comment without nostalgia or sentimentality on accelerating distortions in relations between the city and the countryside.
He is remembered for appearing on How, - which he also conceived, a live children’s programme about how things worked, shown from 1966 on Southern Television and networked on ITV until the demise of Southern in 1981. He is better known as the gentle-voiced presenter of the weekly magazine programme Out of Town, first broadcast in 1963, following the success of his 1959 television debut with the B&W series Gone Fishing. His country TV programmes continued in the 1980s with Old Country. Other programmes he created for local viewers were Farm Progress and a live afternoon series Houseparty.
Most of his viewers were probably unaware that he was a player in the setting up of ITV, and a member of Southern's board of directors. From early in his life he acquired a sophisticated grasp of city life. He made his reputation in the heart of London, on whose outskirts he was born. Yet for the last 30 years of his life, while employed by the National Farmers' Union, serving on the Nugent Committee (the Defence Lands Committee that investigated which parts of the Ministry of Defence holdings could be returned to private ownership) and throughout his later career as a TV personality, he sought - in entertaining ways - to question and rebut metropolitan assumptions about the character and function of the countryside. A biography of Hargreaves by Paul Peacock was published in July 2006....

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