Recently the steam and industrial heritage magazine ‘Vintage Spirit’ interviewed David Hall (Dad) about his years working with Fred Dibnah on all our BBC television programmes. Afterwards David told me he’d enjoyed the interview and that Richard had asked some really insightful questions, clearly someone who’d understood Fred’s character.
Here is an excerpt from Richard Murphy’s interview with David Hall from the March 2013 issue of Vintage Spirit:
RM: What is your defining memory of Fred?
DH: There are so many memories . After a day’s filming we’d head back to wherever we were staying, have a couple of drinks, get changed and go out for something to eat. The instant we walked into a pub he became a magnet for people; everyone
wanted to buy him a drink! He’d start to tell his stories and it would get to closing time, the pints would be lined up on the bar, the door would be locked and I’d think, “Here we are again, another lock in.”
There have been some real individual highlights for us both as well. Walking along the girders of the Forth Railway Bridge and going to St Paul’s Cathedral and walking around the outside of the dome were both great, but it was the simple times I
liked the most.
RM: What do you think Fred’s lasting legacy will be?
DH: More than anything he’ll be remembered for arousing interest in industrial history, that’s really what he got his MBE for. Up until we shot The Industrial Age series, (in 1998) very little had been done on the subject. There’s been quite a
lot since then, but it was very much something that hadn’t been covered. Obviously your readership was aware of it, but for the general public it was something that hadn’t been done.
David Hall’s excellent Working Lives book
RM: In your new book Working Lives, you speak to many people who worked in the factories, mills and shipyards of Britain. How did the idea for the book come about?
DH: It was a follow-on from working with Fred and writing the books with him. When we were filming we went to steelworks, coal mines and textile mills and the people we met were all fairly advanced in years. I felt that if I didn’t get their stories down then we’d be losing an important part of our history.
RM: Do you have any more books in the pipeline?
DH: There are several I’m working on. One is based on the Bolton Mass Observation Worktown project. It was conducted between 1937-39 by middle class artists and intellectuals who went up to Bolton to study the working classes. One of the leading lights of the study had just got back from the New Hebrides where he’d been doing an anthropological study of the population up there. He regarded the inhabitants of Bolton similarly to the inhabitants of these islands; to him Bolton’s populace was a race apart from the rest of the British people. The only complaint Fred ever made while we were filming was that all the best stuff we ever filmed ended up on the cutting room floor. What he meant by this was detailed footage of the inner workings of a mechanical lubricator or something like that. We had to explain to him that, for prime-time television that level of detail would act as an instant turn-off. One of his wishes was that all this detailed film would
be edited and made available. We know that Fred had so much knowledge and passion to share that it seems a waste to leave it unseen.
For the full interview see Vintage Spirit March 2013/Issue 128
All our Fred DVDs are available at www.theviewfromthenorth.co.uk/shop/
Plus look out later this year for the final ever Fred Dibnah collections!
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