Monday 31 December 2018

My Review: Carry On Up The Archive

I've just listened to the most wonderful hour of radio, the programme 'Carry On Up The Archive' on the BBC. It was first broadcast a couple of days ago and I blogged about the production earlier in the month. Produced by Richard Latto, the programme is hosted by Carry On legend Jim Dale.

Richard has painstakingly unearthed some extremely rare clips of some of our favourite, most cherished Carry On stars in conversation on radio stations up and down the land. It's always fascinating to hear our beloved stars 'as themselves' and this hour long special really didn't disappoint. All our favourites were featured - from Bernard Bresslaw and Kenneth Connor, to Sid James, Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor. 

Some of the clips were sourced from regional stations and hadn't been heard for decades while others were found in the most unusual of places; dusty cupboards and attics and possibly even a garden shed or two. Back in the day the BBC were perhaps not as forward thinking when it came to preserving programmes or interviews for future generations, either due to a lack of modern technology or just short-sightedness. Whatever the reason, this programme is a really important treasure trove of material for fans old and new.

So what were the highlights for me? Well before we get to the headline act, that special last interview Sid James ever gave, there are lovely moments from Barbara Windsor as she discusses the routine on the Pinewood Studio floor. It was very evocative hearing the down to earth pursuits of these comedy legends as they killed time between shots. It made them seem life size almost after decades on the big screen in outlandish costumes, cracking innuendos in comedic tones. I also loved hearing snippets of Barbara and also Jack Douglas fielding calls from fans on local radio stations. The love from the ordinary man and woman on the street still strong after decades of Carry On capers.

Another highlight was hearing from two of my absolute favourites, Joan Sims and Kenneth Connor. Perhaps two members of the team we heard less from in their own voices. Listening to them having fun as they reminisced over the filming of Carry On Constable and that infamous shower sequence, I was struck by the warmth between the two old pros and just how eloquent and intelligent they were, a bit like the affable, gently spoken Bernard Bresslaw who also features in the range of clips. You'll have to listen yourself to hear what Joan and Kenneth had to shriek about over Constable but all I'll say is it involved Charles Hawtrey's buttocks and some eye shadow…

There was also a lovely little clip of Kenneth Connor again, this time in conversation with the brilliant director of all the films, Gerald Thomas. Another man we rarely heard from, Gerald and Kenneth shared some lovely memories of filming that sweet scene at the end of Carry On Nurse which sees Kenneth's real life son Jeremy appear down the hospital corridor and on cue, give his dad a bit of a slap around the chops!

The headline grabber from this special programme however was the unearthed recordings of the late, great Sidney James. There were two amazing interview clips shared for the first time since they were recorded in 1976. The first from a local hospital radio show and the second BBC Radio down in Bournemouth. At the time Sid was touring with the theatre show The Mating Season and he spoke to the BBC about his lengthy career, his fitness regime and his passion for fishing whenever the hard working actor could grab a bit of down time. Apart from the poignancy of hearing Sid just days before he so very sadly died on tour in Sunderland, it's just lovely to hear the actor as himself - beautifully spoken, erudite, calm and honest. That familiar laugh is there as a crowd pleaser but this really is Mr Sidney James as he was off camera. It's a joy and that joy is bitter sweet given what happened so soon afterwards. How wonderful though, for Sid's children to hear this forgotten interview their father did for the very first time.

Massive thanks go to Richard Latto for all his hard work in piecing this wonderful programme together, it's been a true highlight of the festive season for me and I just loved every second. I couldn't help but shed a little tear as Jim Dale, excellent as the presenter of the show, gathered the story up at the end by remarking that while so many of his Carry On costars are now no longer with us, the laughter and happy times they gave us will be with us forever. 

You can listen to the wonderful 'Carry On Up The Archives' here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram


  1. Really looking forward to listening! Shame it's only a hour deserves to be a good few hours!

    1. I sure did, it was great! As I said I wish it had been on for a few hours!