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Proper Telly Legends Lost in 2018

As we count down the hours to the start of yet another New Year, I'd just like to take a moment to remember some of the great names from the world of film and television that have passed away during 2018. Many wonderfully talented people who reached the height of their fame during the Proper Telly era of the seventies and eighties are no longer with us.

Dame June Whitfield

Just two days ago on December 28, we said goodbye to a lady who truly deserved her status as a national treasure. For well over sixty years, June Whitfield entertained the nation with wonderful performances in scores of television, film and stage productions. She starred alongside some of the biggest names in British comedy, such as Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Dick Emery and Peter Sellers, becoming a legend herself in the process. For many of us, including myself, June will be most fondly remembered for her long-running screen partnership with the great Terry Scott, first in the sitcom Happy Ever After from 19…

Proper Telly Favourites

To celebrate the recent release of the book Proper Telly and to pay tribute to the many legendary television stars of the seventies and eighties who made the writing of the book possible, I thought it would be a nice idea to find out who your favourite stars are from the Proper Telly era.




Proper Telly Favourites is open to all of the wonderful stars from the Golden Age of British Television who still retain a place in the hearts and minds of those of us who were lucky enough to be around during those heady days of glorious British telly. All programme genres will be included, from sitcoms and variety shows to news and sport, drama and documentary to children's TV.

Each month on my Twitter page, there will be a Proper Telly Favourites Tournament poll to determine your favourite seventies/eighties star in each of the different genres. The winner will then receive a full written tribute here on the Proper Telly site. I'd love to include many of your comments in those tributes too…

Talking Proper Telly on Talk Radio

On Friday 21st December, I was thrilled to be a guest on the Late Late Early Early Show with the great Paul Ross on Talk Radio.



Our telephone chat took in classic British telly, the good old days when Quality Street came in proper big tins at Christmas and, of course, my book Proper Telly.

You can listen to our chat below




New Book Out Now - Proper Telly

I am absolutely delighted to announce that my latest book, Proper Telly, is now available to purchase in paperback from Amazon. A nostalgic journey back to the decades of the seventies and eighties, Proper Telly looks at the golden age of British television.



Here's the blurb from the back cover

Throughout the seventies and eighties, the true Golden Age of British Television, our screens were filled with children's delights such as Bagpuss and The Wombles, classic comedies like Porridge, Only Fools & Horses and Blackadder and fun American imports such as Magnum P.I. and The A Team.

In Proper Telly, child of the seventies Stuart Ball describes what is was like growing up during the glory days of British TV, when you could watch Top of the Pops on Thursday, wrestling on Saturday and The Muppet Show on Sunday. Along the way, he encounters mashed potato-loving aliens, remembers classic toys of the era and recalls the day the SAS interrupted the snooker. He also revisits the pheno…

Now That Was a Seventies Board Game

I've gone back to my childhood over the past few weeks. What a fun journey it's been too. Nostalgic memories of  a time when the most difficult decision you had to make was which of the cereals in the Kellogg's Variety pack to eat for breakfast on a Saturday morning. Well, that and the tough choice between watching Multi-Coloured Swap Shop on BBC or Tiswas on ITV anyway.

Initially, the reason for this retro rewind was to research the book I am currently writing, which happens to be all about the pop culture of the seventies and eighties. During the writing of Proper Telly however, I have become utterly absorbed in the nostalgia of those times, which is why this blog is now dedicated to 70's/8o's culture, hence the site name change to The Retro Writer.

Never Bored with a Board Game One of the great things about being a kid in the seventies was the great variety of toys and games available. In addition to my Action Man collection and my treasured Evel Knievel Stunt Bi…

A Nostalgic Chat with Steve James

Back in 2016, I had the pleasure of having a Skype video chat with Steve James, successful music producer and the son of my comedy hero, the one and only Sid James. This interview was first published on Sid's Place, my tribute blog to Sid. With it being Father's Day today, I thought it an appropriate time to republish my chat with Steve here as he recalls many wonderful memories about life with his famous dad.





Life With Sid James
Steve James is one of the most admired record producers/engineers in the music industry. In a career spanning over forty years, he has worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Paul Young, Peter Skellern, Toyah, Ginger Baker and Neil Innes. He recorded Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and has even worked on The Teletubbies!

Steve also happens to be the son of Sid James.




A Croissant and a Chat It is just after midnight as I make the video call to Steve James. He comes into view with the plush surroundings of a v…

Proper Children's Telly...Paddington

It was back in 1958 that the world was first introduced to the little bear with impeccable manners and a liking for marmalade sandwiches. Michael Bond was working as a cameraman for the BBC at the time but was also a keen writer. One Christmas, while looking for a gift for his wife in Selfridges, he came across a teddy bear sitting all alone on a shelf with no other toys to keep him company. Feeling sorry for the lonesome bear, he took him home and thus, the idea for a series of books which has captivated both children and adults alike for over half a century, was born.

The first Paddington book, A Bear Called Paddington, was published in 1958. This most enduring of children's literary characters has since featured in twenty-five more books, with the most recent being released in 2017, the same year in which Michael Bond passed away aged 91. In 2014, a whole new audience was introduced to the lovable bear as he made his debut on the big screen in Paddington

However, as a child of…

Proper Children's Telly...Swap Shop vs Tiswas

From the mid-seventies to the early eighties, viewers of Saturday morning television were divided into two camps. You were either a Swap Shop kid or a Tiswas kid. Just to be awkward, I was actually a fan of both.

Multi-Coloured Swap Shop First broadcast at the beginning of October 1976, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop was, in many ways, a trailblazer for Saturday morning children’s television. Although perennial rival Tiswas had actually debuted two years previously in 1974, this was only in the Midlands region, so was yet to become a national phenomenon. As a result, it was Swap Shop which set the benchmark for all weekend children’s shows to follow.


Every Saturday morning, starting from around 9:30am, cuddly Noel Edmonds would be at the helm for more than three hours of live fun. Each week, there would be star guests answering viewers questions over the telephone, news segments from John Craven, cartoons and, of course, the chance for youngsters to swap any unwanted items in their possessi…

Proper Children's Telly...The Banana Splits

Although originally broadcast in its native United States in 1968 under the title The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, this most beloved of children’s shows did not air in the UK until 1970 (my year of birth), its title shortened to simply The Banana Splits.



The first live action show to be produced by Hanna Barbera, the masters of animation, The Banana Splits was a simply magical mix of slapstick comedy, songs, cartoons and people dressed in animal costumes. Not to mention boasting one of the greatest theme tunes in the history of television. What more could your average seventies kid want?

When the BBC first broadcast The Banana Splits it was allocated the Friday teatime slot around 5pm. In 1971 it was moved to Saturday lunchtime just before Grandstand and would also be broadcast in the week during school holidays. As 1980 arrived, The Banana Splits was repeated early on a Saturday morning and it is these showings of which I have the fondest memory. Saturday mornings on the BBC reall…

Tony Blackburn, Lee Marvin and Me

The following is an extract from my forthcoming book on seventies and eighties pop culture. I love a bit of nostalgia!





At 7:15pm on Thursday 19 March 1970, Tony Blackburn was the presenter of the latest edition of Top of the Pops on BBC1. The official UK Top 40 singles chart on this day was awash with legends from all areas of the musical spectrum. Old school crooners such as Jim Reeves, Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra were jostling for chart positions alongside new acts The Jackson Five and Brotherhood of Man. Elvis Presley was sitting inside the Top 10 with Don’t Cry Daddy while The Beatles were enjoying their swansong with Let It Be

Somewhat incongruously however, the coveted number one slot on the UK chart that day was not held by any of these greats of the music scene. Instead, that honour went to a grizzled Hollywood veteran who sang like he had just gargled with a handful of rusty nails and then smoothed over the resulting abrasions with sand paper. That man was Lee Marvin.

Th…