About Fred Dibnah and The View from the North
The best bits of filming for Fred Dibnah were the chats with the men and women who really knew their stuff, the other back street mechanics, volunteers and certified steam nuts! In our Dibnah collections and collectors editions you get to see much more than the tightly edited TV interviews – you get to hear the full conversation and see much more of the detail of the featured locations.
The reason Fred was always so relaxed, confident and knowledgeable on screen was due to the way in which David Hall was able to play to Fred’s strengths. David is the owner of The View from the North and creator, producer & director of all our Fred programmes. David knew how Fred worked best and how to get the best out of him. It was no good giving him pages of script to learn – it would never have worked. You can see actual examples of the script notes prepared for Fred by David in the gallery page.
They had a shared passion for steam trains and Britain’s industrial heritage, with David being somewhat of a closet train spotter in his youth. During our 7 years of making the programmes they became firm friends – so much so that David gave the address at Fred’s funeral in November 2004 at Bolton Parish Church. He also wrote Fred Dibnah's official biography which was published in 2006 and to date has sold over 300,000 copies.
Fred Dibnah achieved a huge amount in his 66 years, coming from modest beginnings he worked hard throughout his life and carved his own path. He was able to explain complex machinery, architectural design and historical fact in a way that was accessible and entertaining to everyone. Fred never expected to become a television star and was always so bemused by the attention he received. Yet he always had time to sign one of his famously ornate autographs and chat like he’d known you for years. As David Hall’s daughter I also worked on the programmes since the start in 1998 and can honestly say that the man you saw on camera was exactly the same man off camera. He was a pleasure to work with and is very fondly remembered.
David Hall says of his time working with Fred Dibnah:
It was one of the major privileges of my life to know Fred and to have made so many television programmes with him. He was one of British television’s greatest characters but the thing I remember most is how totally untouched he was by fame or celebrity. Fred was a producers dream and he was always a joy to work with. Importantly he got on with all the crew and he would always go along with whatever he was asked to do. We travelled the length and breadth of Britain with him visiting magnificent castles and cathedrals, climbing to the top of great bridges, searching out steam powered mill engines and tunnelling beneath the earth in coal mines. For Fred it was all a wonderful holiday paid for by the BBC. Wherever we went I’d always go for a pint with Fred at the end of the day and I’ve lost count of the number of lock ins we had as the pints were lined up on the bar for him while Fred chatted with his many fans.