“With Great Pleasure”, 1979

The only surviving ticket. Shame it had to be the one Fred had subsequently used as a note pad to jot down an address!

A first for us – BBC Radio 4 rang and suggested we might like to host a recording of their popular series “With Great Pleasure“, a half-hour spent in company of well-known people reading excerpts and/or poems from their favourite authors. As Pam Ayres lived locally (Ducklington, near Witney) we did wonder whether she herself had suggested us as a venue especially as she’d been a member of the audience a few shows previously. Her ‘other half’ for the evening was the actor Martin Jarvis.

Some references to this recording include:-

  • Pam Ayres – The Radio Years. BBC Radio 4 Extra, 17th March 2018. Link to it here
  • Listing of the programme within the Radio Times, aired on Christmas Day 1979… link to it here


Martin Jarvis has the opportunity of taking a sip of water while Pam Ayres reads one of her poems. To our surprise, that “thing on a pole” (as someone referred to it) was a high-tech BBC microphone used specifically for picking up the audience reactions which would then be carefully ‘mixed’ with the two entertainers to give ambience on the finished master tape.

Memories, Letters and Publicity

Come the appointed day a BBC Outside Broadcast truck rolled up the drive and parked itself outside the morning room window. The two sound engineers had a look at the stage and decided they’d use that room as the recording suite as it afforded easy routes for their temporary cabling/cue light systems etc.

It was all very gentlemany – we plied them with cups of tea and biscuits and generally treated them like royalty, falling over ourselves to offer help where needed. And of course, no help was necessary; these chaps were well versed in working from remote locations rather than in an established studio.

Fred had agonised over just who to invite for this special one-night ‘performance’ because, quite understandably, he didn’t want to be accused of favouritism. In the end he asked Pam and her co-presenter Martin Jarvis if they’d like some tickets (we weren’t allowed to sell them – the BBC stipulated the show must be recorded in front of an invited audience) and the rest went to those Fred considered more deserving. By that, he rightly meant local villagers who, over the years, had suffered motor traffic passing by their homes quite late at night, and family & friends of our Front-of-House staff who normally would have to pay. In this way his conscience was salved; nobody from the established mailing list could be offended.

The beeb engineers were very impressed with the beautiful quality of sound generated within the auditorium and told us that the sloping rear ceiling of the wooden roof acted as a sounding board while the presence of the audience absorbed any unwanted resonance. The result was clear, crisp sound which was a joy to their experienced ears.

An hour before the show, Pam arrived bearing a frock she was to wear but was alarmed to discover it had somehow become creased. No problem; the kitchen table was cleared, wiped down, and the iron plugged in for her. All part of the service!

The show went well (of course!) and to their credit the two entertainers joined us in the bar afterwards for a wind-down drink. (As is often the case with ‘tech crews’ ours had quietly and unobtrusively de-rigged their equipment and driven away into the night.)

Recorded Extracts

Reproduced by kind permission and grateful thanks to the BBC, Pam Ayres (and her agent Dudley Russell) and Martin Jarvis (and his agent Chloe Brayfield) we are fortunate to have some extracts from the BBC Radio 4 recording of “With Great Pleasure“, transmitted on Christmas day 1979.  This clip is from the introduction to the programme where Pam sets the scene for the listener, and prepares them for any eventuality of domestic “sounds off”…..

.. and one more, this time Martin Jarvis reads a fitting nod to Amdrams everywhere, from Michael Green‘s 1960 book “The Art of Coarse Acting“, with Pam describing the “cloud of steam”…..*


* well worth a read . . .