by Roger Bickerton

The very first programme of all in this series was broadcast in the North Region only on 8 November, 1932.  Leslie Baily had put up the idea to the BBC of a radio scrapbook, and was told that they were willing to try one "as an experiment".  A staff announcer named Freddy Grisewood was appointed to turn the pages.  This was followed by 3 more, all transmitted on North Region only.    It was on 11 December, 1933 that Scrapbook set out on its long journey on National radio, each issue being dedicated to a specific year, except on isolated occasions, which will be clear from the programme log which follows this article.  The previous week's issues of "Radio Times" previewed each programme for many years, and the early broadcasts were described as "A Microphone Medley of.......Years Ago" with the preamble "This is no history book - just a scrapbook of cherished fragments.  We pick and choose, laying a pleasing oddment beside the quaint choice of a moment ago.  A voice from the past.  A joy.  A sorrow.  This oddness, this variety, these strange juxtapositions are the fascination of a scrapbook.  Turn the page!  Whatever next!  These were our yesterdays, these treasured memories."


In the "Radio Times" issue of 2 November, 1934, the very first page contained an article by Leslie Baily entitled "How The 'Scrapbooks' Are Made", indicative of its early popularity.  Baily commented  "The idea of a reminiscent miscellany originated 2 years ago in a North Regional broadcast called simply 'Scrapbook', merely a selection of rather unusual items of music, drama and curious information, presented in rapid panorama.  There was no theme or period.  Although this first "Scrapbook" struck a vein of popularity, I was not satisfied.  In 3 subsequent "Scrapbooks" from the Manchester studios the idea was developed, and then I brought it to London.  The response of listeners to my "As It Might Have Been" programmes from London had already emphasised the demand for authentic radio reminiscence, so I now decided to merge the two ideas; the first of the new series appeared as "Scrapbook for 1913" and at last I felt satisfied that I had captured the elusive formula for which I had searched so long.  Since then, Charles Brewer, the producer, and I have aimed, in particular, to build up the personal side of the programme.  We bring to the microphone people who did the things, who saw the things, that the "Scrapbook" recalls.................this personality angle is one of several differences between a "Scrapbook" programme and chronicle programmes such as "20 Years Ago" or "Crisis in Spain".  The "Scrapbooks" aim primarily to entertain.  If they educate as well, it is a secondary purpose - but one, which, nevertheless, we respect.  We take the greatest care to guarantee verity of fact and of mood.  It is not necessary to butcher history to make a listener's holiday, even when your first duty is to entertain him."  


In a slightly longer article in the 31 May, 1935 issue, Baily said that : "I am sometimes asked why the series is not run in chronological order. There are 3 reasons.  Firstly, it is sometimes possible to give added emphasis to a "Scrapbook" by broadcasting it on a particular date (e.g. 'Scrapbook for 1918' on the eve of Armistice Day) which would be impossible if the programmes were given in strict rotation.  Secondly, I am a strong believer in the value of contrast and surprise on the radio.  These qualities are necessary in each "Scrapbook";  they are also necessary in the series as a whole, as between one programme and another.  To broadcast "Scrapbooks" chronologically would mean that you would get, for instance, all the war years, one after another.  The third, and most important, reason is that these "Scrapbooks" are not history books...............because a great deal must be left out of each "Scrapbook".


The programme made the front cover of "RT" for its 18 February, 1938 issue, "Scrapbook for 1900" being billed as "A Victorian Scrapbook for the entertainment and instruction of our patrons".  All programmes on the National channel until October, 1939 were presented by Charles Brewer and Leslie Baily, but "Scrapbook for 1906" on 29 October, 1939 was billed as a 'new series' with the pages turned by Patric Curwen, and Francis Worsley took over as Producer.  The "RT" issue dated 12 January, 1940 contains a comment in 'Both Sides of the Microphone' that :  "The next radio Scrapbook to be broadcast in February will be 'Scrapbook for 1930'.  This will be the most recent year yet covered by a Scrapbook - so far, they have not got beyond 1929.  While keeping the 10-year gap (which is a good idea, as it is hard to get the right perspective on a year nearer than that) they still have plenty of years to cover.  The years between 1900 and 1930 that have not yet been dealt with are 1904, 1915-1917, 1919, 1920 and 1925-1927.  But Leslie Baily has designs on them, too."


However, by mid-1940, the "phoney war" had ended, newspapers and the "RT" had begun to shrink in size, and a different Scrapbook format was introduced with effect from Thursday 25 July.  In the issue dated 19 July, Baily commented that : "On Thursday, we launch a new series called 'Everybody's Scrapbook', which will carry the idea of celebrating some civilised accomplishments to lighten the darkness that is upon civilisation.............sub-titled 'An album of things worth remembering in these present days'.  The presentation will follow our well-tried tradition, but in the material that goes into them, we are making a drastic change.  Whereas the old Scrapbooks each brought back memories of a given year, the items in 'Everybody's Scrapbook' are more widely selected.  The only year to which all are related is 1940, in so far as they are a collection of things worth remembering now."   These programmes continued until early 1943 and the 4th (and last) series was introduced in 'Both Sides of the Microphone' in the 18 September, 1942 issue of "RT" as follows : -  "EVERYBODY (with a stronger emphasis on the word) will have an interest in the new series of "Everybody's Scrapbook" starting on Sunday 27 September and then fortnightly until further notice.  In its new form it will present things of interest to British people the world over - songs and stories, entertainment and events.  Compiled by Leslie Baily, produced by Francis Worsley, the new 'Scrapbooks' will also be broadcast for listeners to the Pacific, North American and Eastern Services of the BBC",    All pages turned by Patric Curwen.


The programme reappeared, unheralded, just before Christmas, 1945.  It is almost certain that the 1929 Scrapbook on 23 December was a repeat of the 12 November 1939 programme.  At last, a new series started early in February, 1946 and the "RT" issue of 1 February contained a full page illustrated article on page 3 headlined  "The Page of "Scrapbook" Turns Again", written by Leslie Baily.  Again, the producer was Francis Worsley and Patric Curwen turned the pages.  The 2nd. post-war series started late in December, 1947, with a complete overhaul of the 9 March, 1937 programme and Charles Brewer, who had been in the States, returned as Producer, with Patric Curwen turning the pages once again.  This was a very short series, as the log will show, and 18 months or so elapsed before the 3rd. series, which was introduced by a full page, illustrated article on page 5 of the "RT" issue dated 14 October, 1949 written by (who else?) Leslie Baily.  He noted that  "In handling the recent years we are able to draw on the BBC's library of recorded events, and on Sunday you will hear some of the most famous voices of 1939, and will be taken back through these records to the actual scene and 'atmosphere' of great occasions".   Producer was now Howard Agg, and the Narrator Carleton Hobbs.


An even longer gap developed between post-war series 3 and 4, but, in the "RT" issue dated 28 November, 1952, Baily had page 5 to himself, and reviewed 20 years of the programme in depth.  He ended by saying : "It has been a wonderful experience for me to have introduced into so many 'Scrapbooks' (into so many millions of listening homes) so many of the brave figures of our national panorama, but I am conscious of the debt I owe to the late Francis Worsley and to Howard Agg who in turn succeeded Charles Brewer in the Producer's chair.  Vernon Harris is now to take over production for the new series and Freddy Grisewood will 'turn the pages' in place of my old friend, the late Patric Curwen".  It is likely that most members will remember "Scrapbook" with great affection simply due to the incomparable Grisewood, whose tenure as page turner lasted so many years.  Series 4 consisted of only 3 programmes, but the "RT" issue of 16 January 1953 again provided a full page 5 article by Baily to trail "Scrapbook for 1935" on 18th.   Vernon Harris, the Producer, wrote on p.7 of the 6 March, 1953 issue.  He explained how the programmes were developed by Baily : "It takes Leslie Baily approximately 3 months to write a 'Scrapbook'.  In that time he reads dozens of books - biographies, histories, reports, volumes of reminiscence and the like.  He hears hundreds of gramophone records - he will play through a dozen to find the perfect 1-minute excerpt.  He tracks down the known and the unknown broadcaster who will provide the ideal 'personal memory'.  And at the end of it all he invariably finds himself with some 5 hours of superb broadcasting material and faces the unenviable task of having to decide what to leave out.  (When you don't hear your favourite tune, think of Leslie Baily putting the record aside with a sigh of regret!).  But not one moment's reading or listening has, in fact, been wasted.  For each year has its own mood, its own atmosphere; and this feeling for the 'character' of a year comes only with a thorough knowledge of its every aspect".  


Series 5 consisted of of only one non-repeat, that of 22 November, 1953, whilst series 6 kicked off on 28 December, 1954 with a new production of the programme originally broadcast in May, 1934 and, again, consisted of 3 programmes.  Series 7 ran from 1 November, 1955 until 22 June, 1956, and an article by Baily appeared in the Christmas, 1955 issue of "RT" about "Scrapbook for 1945", which was the first 75-minute programme.  Incidentally, it was later issued on a Fontana LP, as were 1914 and 1940, and I should also mention that an extract from 1910, broadcast in September, 1934, was issued on Columbia DX-670 (12" 78 rpm) and a "Jubilee Scrapbook" issued on DX-686, although I can't date the broadcast, due to some gaps in my "RT" collection in 1935.  Series 8, starting on 31 October, 1956 was more comprehensive, but was leavened with repeats.  It was trailed by an article by Baily on p.9 of the 26 October, 1956 issue of "RT", which also provided him with a half-page in the Christmas, 1956 edition to cover "Scrapbook for 1896" - this, Baily said, had to rely entirely on published records of the period, as there was by then no-one living who took an important role in the events of that year.  I have been unable to find any further billings of "new series" after that.


Sir Philip Gibbs contributed to page 3 of the 15 November, 1957 edition which covered a 75-minute programme on Tuesday 19 November entitled "The Story of Scrapbook", to celebrate its 25th. anniversary.  He ended by saying : "I have stressed the nostalgic effect of these 'Scrapbooks' on the older minds, but they appeal just as strongly to the younger listeners because they are a revelation of the amazing and unknown past - unknown to them.  'Was it really like that?', they ask.  Yes, it was really like that.  The 'Scrapbooks' bring it all back".   Charles Brewer, the pre-war programme Producer, wrote on p.3 of the Christmas, 1957 issue about the 1934 production of "Scrapbook for 1914" and said : "Such complicated programmes were not easy to present with the limited studio facilities of 1934.  Few sound effects were recorded; they had to be manually conjured into being in the studio itself.  I decided to reproduce gunfire by means of maroons, which exploded with a satisfying report and dense fumes.  These fumes were sucked into the ventilating system of Broadcasting House and found their way into the remaining studios in the building, effectively putting a stop to all other rehearsals and broadcasts".    Baily's article on 20 February, 1959 on "Scrapbook for 1936" comments that : "In putting together such a year's events one has a very different job to do compared with, say 1908 or 1916, or even 1926, for it was not until the early 30s that the BBC began systematically to record events and keep them on the library shelves".   It is impossible for us to realise the problems created by the systems which obtained before the advent of tape recording when it came to programme composition from recorded sources, and, of course, analogue processes are now old hat, so it will be equally difficult for the next generation to imagine the process of tape editing!


Despite the increasing influence of TV in the late 1950s and early 1960s,  occasional articles did appear in "RT" by Leslie Baily (22 February, 1957, p.5,  20 February, 1959, p.6, 13 May, 1960, p.9,  30 September, 1960, p.37 ), whilst a full page was given over to Vernon Harris in the 12 January, 1961 issue to cover "Scrapbook for 1931".  This was the last time this happened, with trailers appearing from time to time and a half-page in the 40th. anniversary issue of "RT" dated 8 November, 1962 written by Baily and in the 5 November, 1964 issue written by Producer Vernon Harris. 


The end of an era, so to speak, came with "Scrapbook for 1952" on 19 April, 1967.  This was compiled and produced by John Bridges, who wrote in that week's "RT" : "Leslie Baily, who has been responsible for every 'Scrapbook' since they began 34 years ago, has fortunately chosen to stay in close collaboration with me over the preparation of new 'Scrapbooks' in this marathon series".  Freddy Grisewood was, by then, 78, and had retired, so the pages of 1952 were turned by Robert Hudson.  Bridges was allocated space on p.58 of the 30 November 1967 issue of "RT", which, by that time, was becmoing increasingly dominated by TV.  The old Home Service etc. had ceased to exist a few weeks earlier, and all future 'Scrapbooks' appeared on Radio 4. Alan Dobie was a "one-off" reviewer for 1917, as Jack de Manio was for 1930 in August, 1968.  Michael Flanders took over as Narrator as from "Armistice Scrapbook", broadcast Sunday 10 November, 1968, and continued until the last programme in May, 1974.  Bridges continued to trail new programmes in "RT", but in the 6 November, 1969 issue, an article about and picture of Baily appeared.  He was, by then, 62 and still going strong, writing books, film radio and TV scripts, despite a stroke suffered 5 years ago, which decided him to lioghten his workload.  Baily continued to provide research until and including "Scrapbook for 1900", broadcast 1 December, 1970, but, from then on until the final edition, John Bridges both researched and wrote the programmes.  I have found nothing at all in "RT" relating to Leslie Baily after then, or to the series itself, so any further information which any reader can supply would be welcomed.


A remarkable and fascinating series. Anyone who has access to the early editions will find it instructive to compare their content and presentation with the later programmes.  It is to be hoped that, one day, any in the BBC archives will be dusted down and rebroadcast.

Roger Bickerton / Diversity website

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