All of us at RTS Cymru were sad to hear of the passing of our former colleague and committee member, John Mead.
1933 - 2021
According to his LinkedIn page, John was one of the very few members of Equity to have been employed in the world of entertainment continuously since he took part in his first radio drama for the BBC in 1947 in Whiteladies Road, Bristol to his retirement, as a TV Producer Director in 2005, at the end of a run of some 35 years with "Young Musician of Wales". In between he worked as a disc jockey, a commentator, an actor, a stage manager, a writer, a head of outside broadcasts and a pageant master at Sir Walter Raleigh's family home in Devon.
John started his television career as an announcer at Granada Television and was one of the first voices to be heard on the station. His life as a television producer for over 50 years is documented in his book, The Funny Things That Happen in Television and in December 2011, he was the focus of an RTS Cymru Wales event which looked back over his career along with co-presenters, former BBC Wales Sports Journalist and former Glamorgan Cricket Captain, Peter Walker MBE and independent media consultant, Euryn Ogwen Williams.
On that evening, John recalled that on the Granada TV opening night on 3 May 1956, the main presenter, Canadian journalist Quentin Reynolds (a personal friend of Sidney Bernstein) was 'grossly inebriated' as he presented an alarming visual tour of Granada's studios and facilities on the opening night. John also explained how, due to huge communications problems between the Cardiff and Bristol studios, HTV's opening night, in May 1968, was also one of the greatest and funniest television catastrophes of all time but mysteriously, no recordings of it remain. However, John did show a very entertaining clip of the opening night of HTV's new television centre at Culverhouse Cross in Cardiff, in the early 80s, which featured ex pat Welsh singer Jack Jones, then based in America, along with live inserts from San Francisco, Paris and Tokyo, a 30-piece orchestra and 28 dancers led by a then unknown choreographer Nigel Lythgoe.
He also recalled how, during his time at Granada, he met Colin Clark (the son of eminent historian and broadcaster Kenneth Clark) who claimed that he had spent a week with Marilyn Monroe while her then husband, Arthur Miller, was away in the States. Although John did not believe him at the time, following Colin's sad early death a few years later, his story was verified and was recently the subject of the feature film, "My Week With Marilyn", staring Emma Watson and Dame Judi Dench.
During his long career, John reported live from the Aberfan disaster, a devastating event that haunted him for years. He also filmed an expedition and trek into the Himalayas as well the Three Peaks Yacht Race and covered stories about his all-time hero Bill Tilman. Outside his television career he was also a keen sailor, serving at one time as Commodore of both the Cardiff Bay Yacht Club (formerly P.M.C.) and the Penarth Yacht Club, and once even sailed across the Atlantic.
Cameraman Chris Pain worked with John on many demanding productions, including the Highway series with Harry Secombe. Chris explained that, “John always expected 100% effort… He was a professional and hard task master and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him and look back at those times with great fondness.” According to Chris, John worked hard and lived life to the full.