Dazzling 

8 March 2016 tbs.pm/8724

HARLECH TELEVISION

Date: 31 July 1968
Announcer: Endaf Emlyn
Music: Young Kingdom (Jack Trombey)

 

In the biggest surprise of the 1967 ITV franchise awards, a new consortium called Harlech Television wrestled the Wales and West contract from the incumbent Television Wales and West (TWW).

Amongst Harlech’s many franchise promises was a change of pace, a more dynamic on-screen image and a company more firmly based in the area than the London-rooted TWW had been. It was all the more surprising therefore that when the company took to the air under its own name in May 1968 that they chose a rather slow and conventional march for use in the station’s daily opening routine. “Young Kingdom” by Jack Trombey was a very workmanlike march but seemed to fall short of the new dynamism that had been promised.

The TWW company had previously provided separate themes and announcing teams for its two services – in English to the West of England and South Wales, bilingual Welsh and English in Wales alone, each reflecting the ethos of the audience served. The new arrival chose a single theme for both output streams and rather less differentiation of style between the two local channels than might have been desirable.

As the only ITV company providing two distinct programming streams, TWW had differentiated them but Harlech preferred to blur the distinction. The obvious choice for a station theme, “Men of Harlech”, was ironically out of the question as it had been used by TWW for their Welsh Service “Teledu Cymru”. This was probably an acute frustration to the new Harlech presentation managers.

One outstanding glory of the Harlech era was the new and dazzling station ident that followed the march, during the daily opening routine. This was the very epitome of late sixties art and design. It was praised in the industry as heralding a new era of graphic on screen imagery.

While the promised new era was slow to appear in programming terms, it is clear that this new logo represented real change, with a move away from geometrical symbols as trademarks for television companies to a type of small on-screen narrative event that would catch the eye and arrest the viewer in mid-sentence. This exciting new practice would become the norm for television logos thirty years later.

This logo design was an achievement by Harlech and was the very first hint of the ‘novelty value’ idents that were to appear many years later, particularly on BBC-2 in a new era when television company trademarks and channel logos ceased to be one and the same thing.

With both a shorter version for frontcap use and a longer form for daily start-up routines, this new logo impressed and mesmerised in equal measure. It brought the very existence of a new Wales and West contractor firmly to the notice of inattentive viewers and was probably the most modern and innovative piece of screen furniture from the whole black and white era. In an age without any computer power in design work, for this to have been put together by traditional film animation methods was a stunning technical achievement.

The ABC presentation manager and subsequent head of presentation at Thames Television, Geoffrey Lugg, described the new Harlech logo in May 1968 as “the best visual ident in the history of ITV up to this point” (a compliment indeed from an ABC man) and he felt that it even surpassed the novelty of the new Thames picture ident which, though new to Britain, was based on a scenic picture ident style that was a common habit in the United States.

The use of the new Harlech symbol as a ‘cut out’ of letters, seen in relief against a black background for still captions and special announcements was to provide an ‘easier on the eye’ clarification of the word Harlech, for fear that the ‘dazzle’ version would be too strong an image. Indeed questions were raised with the ITA regarding the possibility of epileptic fits in viewers but this tabloid angle on a minor design event thankfully came to nothing.

The spiky new clock that followed it, again rather daring for the time, underlined that locally at least, a design earthquake had taken place. And the new ident looked very sharp on 405-line VHF televisions for which it was designed. Played back more latterly on 625-line recordings it loses some of the sharp contrast between the black and the white that made it seem so powerful. Sharpness of contrast was one of the glories of monochrome television, an effect that was forgotten when colour arrived on the mass channels in late 1969.

The 1968 appearance of the original Harlech logo remains one of the outstanding moments of television graphic design history in the UK and an early milestone in the development of television logos in general. Though referred to by one critic at the time as “art school chic” it nevertheless set the ball rolling on the new idea of narrative idents, where something slightly startling is seen to be happening on screen.

It is ironic indeed that as the contemporaneously launched London Weekend company was failing to come up with the “something absolutely startling” that they had earlier predicted for their company logo in a prelaunch press release, it was one of the other new entrants to the industry in 1968 that actually lead the way with an idea that was really startling.

This new animated ident was originally to have been used with a set of musical stings, links and bridges which were based on the new Harlech opening tune “Young Kingdom” (Trombey). In the event, these tiny march clips were thought (probably correctly) to be of a very pedestrian ethos and rather incongruous when accompanying the ‘whizzy’ new imagery that they were meant to underscore.

A full set is presented for you to judge what might have been, but in the event, these stings were never used on air. The special music composed for the new logo was an inspired alternative and was in use for almost twenty years, even after Harlech Television was renamed HTV.

For a short while in May and June of 1968, the longer ‘march’ sting was trialled for short daytime closedowns after weekday schools programmes but was heard briefly over the closing afternoon clock and never seen under the new symbol.

This practice did not persist as the march clip seemed very out of style when compared to the specially composed music, latterly dubbed “the waterfall”, that became such a long lived and memorable standard over the animated logo.

Late at night, on several occasions during the opening weeks of the new contract, a darker ‘negative film’ version of the animated logo was trialled but this was not adopted in the long run and the company standardised on the ‘lighter’ film version of the animation before the end of June.

The ITA Authority announcement, originally heard before the start of the opening march, was trialled in a new position at the end of ‘Young Kingdom’ during July of 1968 and this variant is presented here for its rarity value. After the August 1968 ITV companies staff strike, the authority announcement settled back to a permanent position the start of the march.

This startup, from Wednesday 31 July 31 1968, was (exceptionally) at 9.55pm after a break in transmission since 9pm, because of brief industrial action where a union branch meeting was called to discuss the worsening industrial relations situation in ITV, with view to changed working conditions for technical staff as the new franchise contracts came into play in late July.

It was one of the first industrial interruptions to programmes in ITV that summer and lasted about 55 minutes. This of course deteriorated into a full national ITV strike the following week, which went on for over two weeks. This daily startup routine leads into the 10pm news bulletin, itself reduced from the News at Ten format to a plain short bulletin by the exigencies of the deteriorating industrial relations.

There had been a Granada startup after a similar union meeting on another occasion at 7.55pm but this 9.55pm startup is probably the latest evening start-up ever transmitted in the history of ITV.


This article is based on another article by the same author that originally appeared in a slightly different form before 2000 as well as all new material. It has been published with the addition of the animated Harlech Television start-up and ident recreations by Dave Jeffery.

You Say

12 responses to this article

Jamie Medhurst 8 March 2016 at 12:37 pm

Ah, that march tune! Happy memories of listening to this on a Saturday morning when I’d stare at a screen, blue with the IBA and HTV logos and just wait for the programmes to start. Strange but true – a fascination with television from an early age!

Pete Phillips 8 March 2016 at 5:57 pm

Great stuff – takes me back to my childhood ☺

Nigel Stapley 8 March 2016 at 8:35 pm

We lived in a a poor signal area for Harlech (partly screened from Moel), and so whether we could get “The Welsh”, as it was still called in our house, was a bit hit-and-miss. As a result, when I first saw that ident, I thought that the effects were the result of ‘atmospherics’.

Great re-creation work from Dave as ever.

Endaf Emlyn went on to have a very successful career as a recording artist and film/TV director.

Paul Mason 9 March 2016 at 4:34 am

I remember this garish ident from my childhood as well. Granada transmitted a Welcome to Harlech light entertainment show presented by that well known Welshman Bruce Forsyth. Yes I know…….

Paul Mason 9 March 2016 at 4:38 am

Harlech has reverted back to being a small town in the north of Bae Ceredigion. Thanks to odd transmissions on BBC1 at lunchtime I know a smattering if Iaith Cymraeg.

Richard Jones 9 March 2016 at 6:34 pm

I grew up with Zoom2 at home and Waterfall at the grandparents… My maternal grandparents conversion to colour is jus before my earliest memory of television at their home (coverage of the forestry fires during the 1976 drought, in Welsh and English) so the HTV aerial was always blue and white in my memory…

RIP regions, all we have left are opts…

Arthur Nibble 9 March 2016 at 11:20 pm

Further to Nigel’s response, and courtesy of the 45cat website, here’s the B-side to one of Endaf Emlyn’s singles released on Parlophone….

http://www.45cat.com/record/r5954#comments

nhewit 10 March 2016 at 4:22 pm

I remember the music, from when I obtained my portable TV in March 1975 and discovered HTV from Moel Y Parc provided the best reception in my part of Merseyside. The start up was the blue UHF IBA caption and it took the entire length of the music to cover every UHF main and relay transmitter from Arfon through to Wenvoe via Bath, Llandrindod, Mendip and Verteg Hill!

Nigel Stapley 10 March 2016 at 8:12 pm

Thanks, Arthur; I’d no idea he’d recorded in English as well.

(I should have searched the site myself. After all, I am one of the moderators!).

Dave 7 May 2016 at 12:06 am

A great recreation but I’m sorry if I’m nit picking but the authority announcement was always before the start of the music

Russ J Graham 7 May 2016 at 7:02 am

No offence, but it’s probably worth reading the article before complaining about the pretty pictures embedded in it. Quote from the article itself:

The ITA Authority announcement, originally heard before the start of the opening march, was trialled in a new position at the end of ‘Young Kingdom’ during July of 1968 and this variant is presented here for its rarity value. After the August 1968 ITV companies staff strike, the authority announcement settled back to a permanent position the start of the march.

dave 8 May 2016 at 11:23 pm

sorry about that I just noticed the statement I should learn to read items closely

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