Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Latest news


Want to know more about the life of a BBC secretary, manual typewriters, early "Women's Lib" and what happened in the lifts at the Langham?

Come along to this event at Heffers Bookshop in Trinity Street, Cambridge on May 23rd at 6.30 pm.
Tickets (£4 in advance, £5 on the door) are available from the shop by phone (01223 463200) or in person; or you can book online here

The You Tube channel - please view and share.

You can hear my interview with Steve Harris on BBC Radio Solent (17th May) here at 2:09:48.

The paperback edition will be published in November 2017.

Oakhill's audio version, read by Anna Bentinck, can be borrowed from UK public libraries.  It will be available as a download from Audible in November.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

News and reviews

Portland Place: secret diary of a BBC secretary is my recently rediscovered diary for 1971.  It's available now in hardback or as an ebook from bookshops, Amazon, Hive and other online retailers.

Liverpool Echo
"Evocative . . . vivid and joyous diary"
Joan Bakewell, Sunday Telegraph

"Sue Townsend meets Lynn Barber; the innocence and wit shine through this account . . . I found it charming! Such genuine innocence / ignorance girls had back then though! So captures that!"

Jill Dawson, Sceptre author and Orange Prize short-listee

"Entertaining story . . . a constant delight."
Belfast Telegraph

"It's not often I say I love a book but I loved Secret Diary of a BBC Secretary. From the start I was engrossed in a world not that long ago (1971) but often a million miles away. I became involved with the characters and their lives. I worried about them. I cared about them. I couldn't put the book down. Now that's I've finished it I still want to know what happens next. A jewel of a little book. Read it and you'll be glad you did."

Gail Renard, chair of the Writer's Guild

"She's a curious, candid chronicler . . . and it's oddly soothing to read about the drabness of everyday life at a moment when the psychedelic Sixties had faded and the flashy Eighties were still a decade away."

The Mail on Sunday

Gloucestershire Echo

"I spent a lot of time in the Langham on training courses and when I worked on the Today programme. I knew the place had many mysteries. But Sarah's book reveals a few more, and it is a fascinating glimpse into a time that feels very different to today."

Roger Mosey, formerly Editor of Radio 4's Today programme, Controller of BBC Five Live and Head of BBC TV news.

"This is quite the finest book I have read in many years. It is a turns touching, moving, informative, engaging and I was riveted. It was touching to read Sarah's honesty and her observations of the world around her at a time when London was swinging, but clearly only for certain people. Still, the book paints a picture of a slightly less frenetic city working patterns, coupled with horrible doses of sexism that taken for granted, and had to be fought off. Against this vivid background though is a delightful love story that slowly develops and had me completely entranced, but reminds us of the firm class divide that still exists today. How beautiful that despite these circumstances love blossomed and grew -and here we see the uncertainties, vulnerabilities and sense of moral duty being played out as the relationship develops. What a character dear Frank must have been and how fitting that this wonderful book tells a story that yearns to be told and for us all to learn and reflect on."
Vinnie - Amazon.

"Sarah's style and sense of honesty makes it memorable. It's a brave book, though not at all sentimental. It's (very) funny, deadpan, and specific (it made me cringe at times, but in a good way - not like the sort of gush I was writing at the same age (19)); and is a moving and touching read. Knowing that it covered only a year, I was worried it might just leave everything in the air. It didn't: it was satisfying in itself, and Sarah rounds it all off with a welcome 'update'.
I kept reading chunks out to anyone who'd listen, and I'm going to be buying it for birthday presents."

Clem - Amazon

"What gives Portland Place an edge over ‘celebrity diaries’ lies in its fearless openness, which stems from the teenage Shaw’s assumption that these contents of these entries would never be shared."
Read more on Justin Lewis's blogpost here

"Sarah's diary is witty, searching and achingly truthful and asks some surprisingly important questions about societal convention, love and sex. I devoured it in two sittings."
Andy Priestner (Classic tv - Amazon

Russell Cook, The And Review, October 2016
"I loved this book. I read it three weeks ago and it is still making me think. Sarah Shaw has captured the essence of being a young woman in a vibrant and exciting world. She is an innocent but learning and observing life and becoming part of a new generation. She tells us about shopping, food, families, and coping with awakening feelings. She loved Frank but I only feared for her as she recorded their encounters. Happily she survived none the worse for her romance. Her account of life at the BBC is revealing in both its fascination and its recording of the everyday and the ordinary. This is a book you must read!"
Dorothy P. Hobson - Amazon

"The detail and long-forgotten trivia of time and place that pop up in such a matter-of-fact way throughout these diaries - the BBC sausage rolls... Peter Robinson... trying to avoid certain lunch companions.... the Mid-day Sun made this a wonderfully compelling read for me. But her romance with the (much older) lift man is something else - utterly innocent, definitely strange, and extremely erotic at the same time! - and takes this book to a different level. A fantastic read."
Stephanie Zia (Blackbird - Amazon

"I was lucky enough to read this early on, and was enchanted. Wonderfully well written - smart, sweet and funny. Great to see it getting the attention it deserves - can't recommend highly enough."
Sarah Harrison - Amazon

read more Amazon reviews

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Ode to The Langham

This brilliant poem was sent to me by one of the authors, Sarah Holmes (@CalmHolmes).  It appeared in the BBC staff newspaper in 1979 and describes so well what it was like to work at the Langham.

Ah, the 'leisurely jaunts' in the lifts ....!  Thanks to Sarah for letting me reproduce it here.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Long ago in far-off London

Gill in 1972
'Portland Place' - a verse review!

Long ago in far-off London
Swinging sixties just gone by,
Sarah Shaw, a fledgling author,
Joined our band of fliers high.

Portland Place was our location,
Education was our game.
Stately BBC was 'Auntie'
Still upholding Lord Reith's name.

In the schools across the kingdom
Our broadcasting could be heard.
In the classroom not a whisper,
Children switched on by the Word.

But what is this? Sex education
To be introduced in schools?
Mary Whitehouse ranting madly,
Bringing out her sharpest tools!

But it's only frogs and tadpoles
On the television screens -
Hardly any frames with humans -
Yet Mrs Whitehouse raises screams!

'The thin end of the wedge is coming -
Children know not how to sift!"
Sarah, meanwhile, penning diary,
Was being switched on in the lift!

Thus it was a secret diary
Came to light in Sarah's home
And her yesterday became her present
So now I broadcast - and recommend - her tome!

by Gill Bazovsky

Gill worked at the SBC in 1971 and appears throughout my diary.  She is now a writer and teacher of English Literature at Swansea.