Howard Ellison Owens

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Mr Howard Ellison Owens

I was born in 1944. I began working at the BBC in 1970, my final year at the BBC was 1974.


Began learning for real when I quit a brain-dead North London grammar school, aged 15. Fortunate in my enquiring parents: BBC radio on all the time - Home Service, Third Programme. Learned much else, for good or otherwise, at the local Mountview Theatre, and as a young journalist with daily access to a library. Remember those? And time to use them? BBC Wood Norton was brilliant: such effective training is a tremendous boost to self esteem, an antidote to school trauma. Later began Humanities with Open University: good grades but cut short by external issues. Sharpest learning curve: as a project developer and c.e.o in voluntary sector. You tackle everything, hard and soft skills. Presenting on air with community radio drew upon everything preceding, and led to present freelancing in the voice biz.

Previous Jobs

Fleet Street runner, junior reporter, sub, section editor with: PA Reuters, Fishing News, Keystone Press Agency, Electronics Weekly. Trainee assistant film recordist BBCtv Ealing, husband, hen-keeper and guesthouse proprietor in Wales, community volunteering developer in Herefordshire then Devon. Current (7 years) Freelance voice actor - Howard Ellison

How I joined the BBC

Chance conversation at Mountview Theatre with the editor Don Fairservice (thankyou Don!) who knew I helped record sound for Ten Best amateur films.

My first impressions of the BBC

Incredibly cheerful people at the interview! About seven of them, watching my every move. Group induction similarly lively, with a rookie film editor asking who he should 'sleep with' to achieve such and such - and getting a proper answer! On starting work, initially at AP, I felt welcomed and valued. Very strong esprit de corps, even if a sign over the dubbing suite door said Abandon Hope All Ye.

Broad BBC career

Did my year in transfer suite, then got on the road with fishpole and 805 capturing everything from Z-Cars to Horizon to the wonderful Spike Milligan. Accepted a beer from Harold Macmillan!

My training at the BBC

Wood Norton took us from transistor physics to all known modes of sound recording, and let us loose with Uher portables. Excellent tutors made biasing and decibels totally comprehensible. Practicality you learned on the road (Austin A60, remember?) alongside a succession of old hands at the game. Characters they were indeed.

Feelings about the BBC whilst I worked there

My seventies BBC diaries - hardback, green cover - are they still issued? - are full of location dates, but frustratingly little else.   One gig I do remember, prompted by Glenda Jackson's return to acting, was a shoot for ElizabethR somewhere by the Thames.  I was a trainee assistant film recordist on my first location shoot: bright eyed, fishpole mic in hand - and unprepared for the scripted rainstorm.   PA found me a protective binbag, fire service turned on the hose and a mighty arc of water descended, of course, on me.  "Too bloody noisy" said the recordist, grinning from under his cans.  "It's on the wrong man" screamed the director, not much amused.   What a baptism for the happy years that followed. Howard Owens (Ealing TFS, 1970-74)

Non autobiographical notes and facts BBC about the BBC

Memorable image: Miss Maggie Hindmarsh, a very senior citizen, swinging grams FX into TV news at AP behind a row of 78 rpm players. No rehearsal. Up pops a mute shot of an army marching. Sync? Easy: Maggie spins a disc of Concrete Mixer, modulating it on her rotary fader. Pull the sync a few frames in editing and it's perfect. Rest her sweet soul.

Feelings about the BBC today

Parts of it, and one or two departed chieftains, made mistakes, leading to the great old firm becoming the target of nastiness and threat. It's still, I think, a stronghold of sensibility, ethics, balance - at least that's the perception I have through Radio 3,4, World Service and BBC2 tv. Airtime advertising would gradually wreck it.