Sunday 7 August 2016

Carry On Blogging Interview: Peter Reed

I was recently lucky enough to catch up with Peter Reed, Senior Producer at the wonderful BBC Radio 4 Extra. I'm a huge fan of this station which broadcasts a terrific mix of both new and archive comedy and drama and features the likes of Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams, Sid James and Fenella Fielding on a regular basis! I asked Peter more about the background of 4 Extra as well as finding out about some of his favourite radio comedy.

Many of the people who read my blog are big fans of 4 Extra. Can you tell me a bit more about how and why the station was created?

That’s great to hear, thank you! Back in the distant days of 2002 digital radio was still quite a new thing in the UK – so BBC 7 ( as we were originally named ) along with BBC 6 Music and BBC Asian Network were created as digital only stations to encourage listening on DAB radio, digital TV platforms as well as online.  Our brief is to broadcast the best of the BBC’s deep archive of comedy, drama, readings and light features.  We were rebranded in 2011 as BBC Radio 4 Extra - the sister station to BBC Radio 4.

It would be great to hear more about your role at 4 Extra and what your job involves.

As Senior Producer, I head up a small team of producers who research, log and listen to all the old archive once it’s been digitised from tapes, and in some cases vinyl.  We check that it still sounds OK and make the odd technical tweak as required, as well as writing the online programme billings. We have to listen with ‘modern’ ears (using current BBC Producer guidelines) to a whole range of programmes from different times and attitudes, and need to keep a constant eye on topical news events to make sure our content’s appropriate. We also make some of the three hour Saturday showcase programmes. I worked with Barry Cryer on Comedy Greats, where we looked back at the best of the BBC’s comedies through the decades – he was great to work with.    


I really loved the day of special programmes the station broadcast back in February to celebrate Kenneth Williams' 90th birthday. Do you have any more special events planned that you can tell me about?

Yes, we try our very best to mark significant anniversaries and events.  It was very exciting to work with the Agatha Christie estate last Christmas to broadcast never broadcast excerpts of the author dictating her autobiography, 125 years after she was born. I got to interview her grandson Mathew.  Like Kenneth, Leonard Rossiter would have been 90 this year, so we’re hoping to mark that on-air too in the Autumn.    

As you know, I originally set up my blog as a tribute to Joan Sims. Joan worked regularly on radio from the 1950s right up until her death. Do you have plans to broadcast any more of her radio performances in the near future?

Yes Joan’s been popping up quite a bit lately in 4 Extra’s repeats of Floggits - and she’s currently in the first series of Something to Shout About which hasn’t been heard since 1960! I’m sure it won’t be too long before we repeat Stop Messing About which starred Joan, Kenneth and Hugh Paddick as the follow-up to Round The Horne.  


Many top actors and comedians still appear regularly in radio comedy shows and drama productions. Why do you think radio still holds such appeal to performers?

With audiences still enthusiastically queuing up to see BBC shows being recorded, radio is still such a great platform for performers to entertain and capture the listener’s imagination. Nothing like a studio red light to get the adrenalin flowing!     

I think my favourite radio comedy of all time has to be Round The Horne. Do you have a favourite character from that series?

Fiona and Charles always make me laugh, but you can’t beat Julian and Sandy for a good bit of cheeky innuendo!

How do you think modern radio comedy compares to the classic series from the 50s and 60s?

I think whatever the age of a programme, good writing and performers will always shine out.  That’s why - thanks to the wonderful BBC Radio iPlayer - we get the likes of Round the Horne, The Navy Lark and Count Arthur Strong topping 4 Extra’s playout charts, along with programmes starring Ed Reardon and Milton Jones.

Of all the comedy and drama 4 Extra broadcasts, what's your favourite show and why?

So much to choose from, but it would have to be Round The Horne for me.  I produced a 4 Extra special a few years back charting the inside story from Beyond Our Ken to Round The Horne. It was fascinating to look at how both series evolved and the bumpy story of writers Eric Merriman and Barry Took. We brought Eric’s son and Barry’s widow together in the studio.  All the anecdotes were fascinating.   

Who is your ultimate comedy hero or heroine?

Difficult to choose -  it would have to be a composite of Kenneth Williams, Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, with a dash of Linda Smith and Milton Jones!  


I have to ask a couple of Carry On-related questions. If you had to choose a favourite: Sid James or Kenneth Williams?

Kenneth Williams.  Embarrassingly, I once had to leave a recording at the BBC’s old Paris studio of Just a Minute right in the middle of a recording (way before I worked at the BBC) and not surprisingly Kenneth made a big thing of it during the recording.  He was so funny!

Finally, what's your favourite Carry On film?

I love their hospital capers, but it would have to be Carry on Camping for me!

Thanks again to Peter for taking the time out to answer my questions and thanks to Ruby at the BBC for helping to arrange the interview. 

You can follow Peter on Twitter here and you can follow BBC Radio 4 Extra here 

The 4 Extra website is also worth a visit and you can find that here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

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