Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
Next month, we publish Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford about the early days of the BBC in the 1920s, featuring real-life figures such as Hilda Matheson, Lord John Reith, T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf. The novel focuses on the brilliant women behind the BBC’s programming, notably Hilda Matheson, the charismatic director of Talks Department. The BBC was one of the only companies to allow female employees to advance beyond the secretarial level, and Hilda was radiant in her prominent position, giving her time and wisdom to her young protégé Maisie.
Seamlessly blending fact with fiction, the author highlights the many women that have been pushed to the sidelines in history’s pages. An article in the Daily Telegraph notes how nowhere was this ‘more rigidly enforced than in the technical aspects of programming – where the hands-on world of studios, microphones and cameras was believed to be a man’s domain’.
But the BBC was full of remarkable women who challenged these restrictions: Daphne Oram, a technician/composer appointed co-director of the Radiophonic Workshop; Delia Derbyshire who created the theme tune for Doctor Who; Maddalena Fagandini who used ingenious sound effects in her score for the radio version of Orphée.
These articles and books only highlight a fraction of these extraordinary women, but they make me want to know more. I am now desperate to read a biography of Hilda Matheson – or someone please write one and send it to me?! Because I think it’s time these visionaries were brought into the light.