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Saturday, 7 September 2019

'Recalled to life'

Jack Hargreaves 1911-1994 with his stepson Simon Baddeley born 1942 (photo: Barbara Hargreaves)
My stepfather delighted in reading Charles Dickens. He could recite first lines of the novels
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...
"Opening lines are fascinating. They contain all that’s to follow”. I like the phrase 'recalled to life' from the first chapter. Dickens, after setting the scene - France and England in 1775 - for A Tale of Two Cities, describes the Dover Coach toiling up Shooter’s Hill. The night is stormy. To ease the horses, passengers have been asked to get out and trudge through the mud. Here's a place perfect for ambush and robbery. A lone rider is heard galloping in pursuit. It's Gerry Cruncher, messenger from Telsons Bank. Rider and coach halt, Jerry facing a wary driver's blunderbuss. Jarvis Lorri, banker, stands beside the coach. Jerry hands him an envelope.
He opened it in the light of the coach-lamp on that side and read - first to himself and then aloud; “ ‘Wait at Dover for Mam’selle.’ It’s not long, you see, guard. Jerry, say that my answer was, Recalled to Life.”
Recalled to life. Old 16mm film smells of vinegar. The cans in which it's stored are brown with rust - many over forty years old, films made by Jack's cameraman Stan Bréhaut for the Southern TV series Out of Town. at risk of wasting in our garage.
But by Christmas 2019, my licensee, Network on Air, will be publishing 6 episodes selected from the archive of recovered Out of Town material, sitting in our garage for ages, recovered by Jack from a warehouse some unknown time after Southern TV lost its licence in 1981. There were 100s of cans of 16mm film with added library sound effects and a similar number of flat cardboard boxes containing ¼” reel-to-reel sound tapes of Jack’s commentaries, which, left to Southern TV’s successor Meridian, had sat in their library, cherry picked as background – without Jack -  for country-themed programmes, becoming disordered. Jack had moved on, to do successful broadcasting on Channel 4 for three years, delivering sixty episodes of Old Country in the same style and format as OOT, using the same ‘shed’ – the set he’d used at Southern, set up in the Old Schoolhouse in Meonstoke. Jack Hargreaves - the invention of the camera from Simon Baddeley on Vimeo.
The recovered OOT material was stored on racks in his workshop beside Raven Cottage. When domestic DVD players proliferated, Jack selected 28 reels of film from this archive. The film had magnetic sound strips containing the sound effects – fish splashing, hammering, wind, atmos, and so on - added post-production. See Dave Knowles, Jack's sound technician, on the next clip between 00.47 and 1.46 explaining the characteristics of the film in the archive.

Although an executor of my stepfather's estate, I knew nothing of the ‘archive’ until 2009. Well before he died Jack had entrusted the unwieldy collection of film and tape to his friend Nick Wright, a media academic. Thank goodness! In 1994, when Jack died, such a collection would have burdened me. I might have discarded it and surrendered all rights –  a condition for gifts - to the BFI.
I remained unaware, until Richard Hill, filmed for an OOT episode on sea angling in the early 70s, wrote and asked if he could have a copy of the episode in which he and his friends appeared.

His computer literate neighbour, with a touch of OCD, had traced the archive to Plymouth, then to Jack’s stepson, Simon Baddeley, as the likely owner of rights.
Some time after Jack died Nick Wright had moved house. Lacking storage in his new home, he’d passed Jack’s gift to the South West Film and TV Archivewhere it had stayed over 10 years. Via Paul Peacock, who was writing Jack's biography, Paul and I met Nick in Leeds. Over a meal and a pint, Nick explained the unwieldy nature of the JH archive.
“These are not complete episodes of Out of Town broadcasts, Simon. They’re Stan’s location footage with sound effects. You’d first have to match film with sound tapes of Jack’s commentaries. There are no titles, no theme tune, no credits. Footage where Jack spoke from his studio 'shed' have vanished”
I learned later that, until the end of the 1970s, the only way such footage would have been recorded was on v expensive swiftly re-used Quad tapes.
The mishmash nature of the OOT archive had one positive – it was generally perceived as useless. Nick said he’d looked through it and could do nothing with it. His gift to me was a signed letter he’d sought from a senior employee, Cathy Meacock, of Endemol International, declaring, in writing, that despite Endemol’s ownership of so much old Southern media (bought speculatively, overriding, so they claimed, Jack’s informal reclamation of OOT film), they had ‘no further interest in the material’. Nick was free to do with it as he - and therefore I - wished. Nick was clear the archive at SWFTA, passed to him by Jack, was mine.
I phoned Jenny at SWFTA and gave permission for Richard Hill’s episode to be assembled and sent to me to take to him on a DVD as an MPG file. By train and cycle I took a day trip to the edge of Southampton. Richard now grey-haired was over the moon. We enjoyed Wendy Hill’s cups of tea and fish pie.
“If it hadn’t been for you, Richard, I’d not have discovered my stepdad’s archive”.
I learned from Jenny the work her husband Roger Charlesworth had done to make Richard’s DVD out of the archive material available, finding the sound tape that went with the episode, digitising sound and picture, splicing them, inserting stills of Jack in the absence of studio ‘shed’ footage; pro bono.
I took a train from Birmingham and met Roger and Jenny in the old naval yard in Plymouth, viewed the ‘JH archive’ stacked on dexion, and met the manager of SWFTA. He put out feelers about rights in return for SWFTA making more episodes. I said I’d think about it, taking home his blank waiver.
Time passed.
What could be done with the archive if neither Nick nor the archive technicians could spin this treasured straw into an episode of Out of Town? Would still pictures or random footage run as background to Jack’s voice? A friend suggested, with a clever example, of how Jack’s voice could be added to his animated picture. Not quite recalled to life though.
Meantime I was supporting publication by Delta of those full episodes of Out of Town that Jack had made for VHS in 1987, speaking from his workshop at Raven Cottage – not even Southern TV broadcasts, though they contained the location footage Jack had recovered from the archive.
In 2010 SWFTA wrote to say that without my waiver giving them rights to any work they could not afford to store the JH archive. With my neighbour, John Rose and the borrowed use of a van, we drove to Plymouth and collected the films and tapes to store in our garage.
In 2012 Kaleidoscope’s David King unearthed 30 episodes of Out of Town broadcasts made in 1980-81. These were published by Delta as “The Lost Episodes”. Endemol had been about to throw them out. Once they realised my hopes for them, they claimed copyright, as for all the Southern TV media over which they claimed ownership. After several attempts to contact them, their CEO emailed me “Simon. You can have all OOT material we own for £10,000 ‘take it or leave it’”
I found the cash. I co-signed a novation agreement transferring their licence with Delta to me plus an addendum rights transfer for the OOT episodes saved by David. I went to Endemol's HQ in Shepherd's Bush and put the masters I'd bought on my bicycle rack
Collecting my OOT master tapes
After Jack’s death his solicitor with whom I shared the executorship along with Isobel of the will, said he had no doubt that Jack wanted this material to belong to me, that it almost certainly did, but “their lawyers have more time and money than you can afford”.
For about three years I was making train visits to London, cycling around the city to meetings. With advice from Charles Webster of Delta, now my licensee, I got a rights lawyer. James Greenslade of Simons Muirhead & Burton in Soho. £600 an hour! He cut me pro bono advice, going through Endemol’s contract with his platinum toothcomb.
I was about to recover my outlay in royalties from Delta’s sales of two OOT DVD box sets, when Charles texted me that Delta had gone into administration.
Charles and I had been working enthusiastically on ways of restoring the archive but seeing the way the wind was blowing he'd left Delta. He and I had meetings at a fish and chippie near Victoria Station to continue exploring ways to restore the archive. I hired Francis Niemczyk up Kilburn way to start restoring the films Lin and I had matched with their sound tapes, adding Frazer Ash, Digital Transfer Manager of British Universities Film & Video Council off Oxford Street.
Charles and I drifted apart, he, vexed that I’d made an agreement he’d cautioned against, with Chris Perry of newly formed Big Centre TV based in Walsall, to broadcast existing OOT episodes on a new local TV station, in return for getting the services of a reputable film restoration company in Wardour Street, Soho, restoring the archive. The long and short of that embarrassing episode, drawn out over a year of constant emails and excuses, was that the OOT episodes were broadcast in the West Midlands, but Perry failed to fulfil his side of our agreement, got summarily fired from the company he’d started, whose new director, after some wriggling, agreed to pay me a symbolic £1500 of compensation.  So few people watched this local TV company little was lost. I was an irritated fool.
After turning down offers for Jack’s material from a couple of the companies circling Delta’s administrators, there came, a surprise approach from Talking Pictures that went nowhere, and another from Network on Air. I liked their CEO Tim Beddows.
I signed an Acquisition Agreement with his company in 2017. Tim Beddows was keen to republish all that Delta had published plus extras featuring Jack. Even more pleasing was Tim’s offer to restore and publish the whole archive if I would fill in for Jack where his introductions had gone missing. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t spent enough time humming and haa-ing over options for filling in where Jack was missing. With trepidation I agreed. Tim drove a first batch of old footage with sound tapes to be restored by his company in Canary Wharf  where, after tapes and films had been matched and digitised, they were stored as HD – “better than when Jack saw them” said Tim. I relayed a link to the first batch of restorations to Ian Wegg, Southern TV’s amateur local historian. Ian dated them and alerted me to footage already published by Jack when he cherry-picked location film for his 1987 VHS issue of OOT. From this base selection, I picked 16 suitable 12 to 6 minute sequences which, put together, would give us 3 hours viewing in 6 half hour episodes, made up of 15 parts.
Tim assured me “That’ll be enough to start. This will be Network’s Out of Town Vol 3, ready for Christmas 2019”. But there were more slips twixt cup and lip, not least a Pandemic, which delayed the publication until the start of July 2020 by which time the new DVD, also on Blu-ray, had been  renamed Further Out of Town.
Tim had contracted film-maker, director and producer, Paul Vanezis to make the film insets of me introducing each restored OOT episode. With the restored OOT footage, now digitised in HD, loaded to his hard drive, Paul and I met up on my allotment in Handsworth, where between my shed and fruit cage we spent two sunny July mornings filming introductions.
Paul Vanezis films inserts of me introducing Further Out of Town on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments in Handsworth

 I’d spent two months rehearsing after digesting Jack’s recorded introductions without picture and the location footage to be used - trying not to imitate Jack but to find a suitable version of Jack's relaxed style in front of a camera.

I practised for a day with my friend Michael Livesley at his studio in Liverpool ...
and spoke on my own to Photobooth on my laptop...
So, over 11 years after I learned of the existence of the ‘JH Archive’ we are lined up to publish the following films introduced by me.
Episode 1. Garden Pests/Red Squirrels/Country Flowers
Episode 2: Planting a Vine/Sheep Fair
Episode 3: Southall Market/Fishing in the Hebrides/Peeler crabs
Episode 4: Andalusian Horses with Brassy Searle and son
Episode 5: Mr Cuckoo/Sea Bream/Stocking a lake
Episode 6: Butterflies/North wind fishing/John Bass lake
Before they are scanned, Paul Vanezis checks old opening titles of Further Out of Town

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