This year we are gong to run a series of posts under the heading: ’70 years of Great British Entertainment’. Prior to running the first posts we thought we’s go back to around the time of World War 2 and just after, as we set the scene.
Workers’ Playtime was a British radio variety programme transmitted by the BBC between 1941 and 1964. Originally the show was intended as a morale-booster for industrial workers in Britain during World War II. Workers’ Playtime would broadcast live three times a week from a factory canteen “somewhere in Britain”.
The show, originally broadcast on the BBC Home Service (now Radio 4) and, from 1957, on the Light Programme (now Radio 2) was originaaly scheduled to run for six weeks and ent on to become one of history’s longst running radio shows.
Workers’ Playtime had the support of the government, as the shows were seen as supporting the war effort on the home front. Workers’ Playtime was a touring show, with the Ministry of Labour choosing which factory canteens it would visit.
During World War 2, Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour and National Service, appeared on the shows from time to time to congratulate the workers and exhort them to greater efforts (yes politicians even then liked to be in on the act).
With the end of the war it was accepted that the show had boosted morale and as Britain had a job of re-building to do the show should continue, the BBC were happy to oblige. On 1st October 1957, the programme switched to the Light Programme, a move which seemed to reflect that it no longer had the national sense of purpose that had made it so essential during the war and the post-war peace.
By 1964 Radio had moved on a pace with shows such as The Goons, Round The Horne, Hancock’s Half Hour to name but a few all having been outlasted by Workers’ Playtime. Of course now we had the TV.
Some of the country’s best loved artistes performed a selection of musical numbers, sketches and jokes.
Charlie Chester, Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Terry-Thomas, Anne Shelton, Betty Driver, Eve Boswell, Dorothy Squires, Arthur English, Julie Andrews, Morecambe and Wise, Peter Cavanagh, comedian George Martin, Janet Brown, Roy Hudd, harmonica player Paul Templar, The Stargazers, Bob Monkhouse, impressionist Peter Goodwright, Percy Edwards, Ken Dodd, Ken Platt, Gert and Daisy (Elsie and Doris Waters).
BBC Home Service (now Radio 4), BBC Light Programme (now Radio 2)
Originally Transmitted: 1941 – 1964