BBC explores the radio programme which inspired Oh, What a Lovely War

Posted on on 01 January 2014
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A forgotten musical documentary which inspired the satirical First World War stage show Oh, What a Lovely War is being rediscovered in a programme on BBC Radio 4.

The presenter, Roy Hudd, will explore The Long, Long Trail, a programme devised by one of the BBC's most distinguished producers, Charles Chilton. It was first broadcast on the BBC Home Service, the predecessor of Radio 4, in 1961.

The Long, Long Trail told the story of the First World War in a unique way, through the songs sung by soldiers. It was the result of Charles Chilton's personal quest to learn about his father, who was killed, aged 19, at Arras in March 1918 as the German army began its last major offensive on the Western Front. Father and son never met. 

Pioneering producer

In 1962, Chilton, already a renowned BBC radio producer with a pioneering reputation, adapted the programme with the director, Joan Littlewood, and the cast of Theatre Workshop in East London into the landmark stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War.

But then the programme disappeared and was never broadcast again. However, shortly before he died in January 2013, Chilton gave a copy to the British Library, allowing its rediscovery by a contemporary audience.

Roy Hudd, a close friend and collaborator of Charles Chilton, will tell the story behind The Long, Long Way in BBC Radio 4's Archive on 4 series at 8pm on Saturday 4th January 2013.

Joining him will be Ian Hislop, Editor of the satirical magazine, Private Eye, as well as Chilton's widow Penny, and their children Mary and David Chilton. 

The programme also includes contributions from the radio historian and Chair of the UK Radio Archives Advisory Committee, Professor Hugh Chignell; archivist Helen O'Neill at the London Library; and the singer Pat Whitmore.

Together, they will reflect on why The Long, Long Way, was revolutionary at the time and consider its significance today as we enter the Centenary year of 2014.

Source: BBC Radio Publicity

Images courtesy of the BBC

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News