ON October 8, 1929 the first ever television broadcast outside London was received - in the sitting-room of a house in Shipley.

The first live sound and vision was received at Bankfield Drive - the home of Sydney Wright, manager of the radio department at Christopher Pratt & Sons in Bradford - and the Telegraph & Argus was there to capture the moment.

Three years previously, on January 26, 1926, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird had given the first demonstration of his working television set. In 1929 it was decided that the BBC would broadcast television on a regular basis, with the Baird Company making the programmes. Television signals were sent from the Baird studios in London through phone lines to the BBC’s main radio transmitter. A week after the service was launched, the first official reception of these broadcasts outside London took place. It was organised by Harry J Barton-Chapple, who taught electrical engineering at Bradford Technical College before joining the Baird Company in 1928 as a technical advisor. The Shipley home of Sydney Wright, who was known to Barton-Chapple, was chosen to receive the broadcasts. Mr Wright supplied his own radio receiver set and loudspeaker.

The fascinating story of Shipley’s significant contribution to the development of film and TV will be told at a ‘Secret Cinema’ event in the town on Friday, November 18. Participants are invited to meet in the market square (pre-booking essential) at 6.30pm for the free event, which includes a screening of A Taste of Honey, directed by Shipley-born Oscar winner Tony Richardson.

Shipley’s remarkable film and TV story has been researched by the Bradford UNESCO City of Film team as part of Being Human, the UK’s national festival of the humanities, running from November 10-19. The University of Bradford has been chosen as a festival hub, for a special programme of events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the BBC.

The role of Shipley in television history, and the contribution of Tony Richardson to the British New Wave of cinema, is discussed in a Bradford City of Film podcast featuring Iain Logie Baird, grandson of John Logie Baird, inventor of the world’s first working television system, and Dr Mark Goodall from the University of Bradford.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ian Logie Baird discusses Shipley's TV and film story in a Bradford City of Film podcast Ian Logie Baird discusses Shipley's TV and film story in a Bradford City of Film podcast (Image: Submitted)

For that historic Shipley transmission there was, says Iain Logie Baird, about two minutes of sound and two minutes of vision: “They couldn’t have sound and vision at the same time - that didn’t come until March 1930. What they used at Sydney Wright’s house was a portable televisor, about 2in x 2in x1ft approximately, with a 4 x 2 in picture, and his wireless set and speaker.”  

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ian Logie Baird with his grandfather's early television apparatus Ian Logie Baird with his grandfather's early television apparatus (Image: submitted)

Above: Iain Logie Baird with a Marconi 707 television set from 1938. 

A T&A reporter, who was in Mr Wright’s sitting-room on the morning of October 8 to witness the historic broadcast, wrote: “At 11 o’clock the announcement was made that the television transmission was to commence. The loud-speaker was switched off and the televisor switched on. Through an aperture measuring, roughly, four inches by two dots of orange light appeared. Quickly the dots flashed past the eye until nothing but a square of orange light was to be seen.

An adjustment here, and then the dots formed themselves into the shape of a man’s face. Another adjustment and the face became recognisable. Enthralled, the three or four people in th room watched as he turned his head to one side then the other, opened his mouth, raised his eyebrows, laughed and scowled. It was difficult to imagine that this vision was being flashed 200 miles through the air.

The man disappeared. In its place there came another vision. Still a man’s face, which in a moment was easily recognisable as a profile of the Prince of Wales.”

David Wilson, Bradford City of Film director and Fellow in Film at the University of Bradford, said: “It’s been such a pleasure to uncover these fascinating stories on the development of TV and the connections to Shipley. And it was a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the output of films made in the late 1950s and 60s by directors like Tony Richardson and their significance in the development of British cinema.

“I have a particular interest in the continuing development of global cinema in connection with my position as an appointed researcher at the Qingdao Film Academy in China, and further connections with the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Bradford to bring all of the above elements together in a special screening event as part of the Being Human Festival, especially as the theme this year is ‘breakthroughs’.”

Born in Shipley in 1928, Tony Richardson started out as a writer before becoming a director in theatre and films. In shaping the New Wave of cinema he was, says Dr Mark Goodall, “a significant figure in the creation of British cinema as a cultural force”.

A Taste of Honey, Richardson’s film adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s 1958 play, was shot largely in Salford, leading to a new cinematic style of filming in streets and other locations, using cameras on tracks. “Bringing that new style into cinema was hugely important,” says Dr Goodall. It was used in films such as Room at the Top, based on Bingley librarian John Braine’s novel, and Billy Liar, both shot in Bradford.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tony Richardson's New Wave directing influenced films like Billy Liar, shot in Bradford Tony Richardson's New Wave directing influenced films like Billy Liar, shot in Bradford (Image: submitted)

Next month’s ‘Secret Cinema’ event in Shipley will feature Yorkshire Film Archive footage of the town being developed in 1961, as well as “some secrets and surprises”.

An exhibition on Sydney Wright - “Bradford’s forgotten radio pioneer” - is currently on at Shipley Library.

* Tickets for the Shipley Secret Cinema event are free but must be booked at beinghumanfestival.org/events/secrets-cinema-once-upon-a-time-shipley

The City of Film podcast is on the Bradford City of Film YouTube channel: youtube.com/watch?v=9_YV8Rk3VqI