60 Years on Air with Tyne Tees TV

Tyne Tees Television went on air at 5pm, January 15th 1959 from the City Road studios in Newcastle. A quarter of a million viewers watched on the first night. 60 years on, we’re inviting all the region’s goggle boxers to grab an armchair and binge watch some classic programmes and news clips created in the station’s first year through to the 80s, all from the huge archive collection of Tyne Tees telly on film preserved here at the North East Film Archive.

Click on the links in the text below to watch just a few of our regional TV gems

By all accounts, the early years at Tyne Tees were ‘cheerfully haphazard’, seat-of-the-pants television that ranged from local talent on live variety shows with a shade of the ‘end-of-the-pier’ about them to serious politics and sports. One old City Road hand described the experience as hectic, like ‘being on a switchback ride’.

Show business may have been the backbone of Tyne Tees TV production in those first years but the screens buzzed with imaginative regional documentaries that reflected a growing sense of identity between the station and the north-east communities it served.

In 1959, Head of Features Herbert Lewenhak produced two little-known ballad films, written, scored and performed by radical folk musicians Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger.  The Way We Live: Fishermen is an epic in miniature set to sea-faring song about North Shields fishermen risking their lives out on the North Sea. And for trainspotters, there’s the poetry of steam and diesel in a film fuelled with nostalgia about Darlington’s North Road locomen, keeping the engines rolling night and day on the region’s railways: The Way We Live: Darlington Railway

Tyne Tees TV was a hot bed of original talent and nurtured many a young presenter. A much-loved face of TV news in the north east for more than 40 years, Mike Neville launched his broadcast career with Tyne Tees. A trilogy of priceless travelogues on the regional rivers, Tyne, Wear and Tees were broadcast in 1962 accompanied by a playful, informative and occasionally pithy narrative presented by the youthful Neville. His warmth and witty banter became his trademark style on the box:  Your Heritage: The River Tyne  A hauntingly beautiful sunset over the Tyne ends a later record of working life on one of the north east’s greatest industrial rivers, from Newcastle to the North Sea, in the 70s documentary Waterfront (no Marlon Brando in sight).

Still playing for Leeds United and England at the time, football celebrity Jack Charlton turned out to be a natural for television when he spent a weekend back home with family and friends in Ashington, Northumberland, followed by Tyne Tees cameras in Big Jack’s Other World Charlton’s rise as a popular national TV personality can surely be traced back to this fascinating autobiographical programme, praised by leading critics when it was networked.

Tyne Tees reporters also blazed a trail in news programmes over the years. Mike Neville once suggested that the launch of Tyne Tees enabled local people to be able to hear local accents and dialects on television where once the BBC’s standard cut-glass pronunciation was the norm. In the 1970s, Northern Life recorded folk customs of the region as in Shrove Tuesday, Alnwick Football Match or covered popular leisure pursuits such as Whippet Racing at Backworth Village Lighter slots like the whimsical, tongue-in-cheek  Look of the Month: Yeti Look  with vox pops voiced off-screen spotlight fashions and attitudes on the streets of the Geordie capital in the 60s. And win or lose, Tyneside’s sporting heroes were celebrated, as in this lovely story broadcast after the FA Cup final in 1977 Newcastle United Visit Wilkinson Sword

We’re going to end in the 80s with one of our personal favourites, which gives a voice to the Scarlet O’Hara of Scotswood, a Geordie queen of comedy. The comedian reminisces about nit nurses, husbands, debt, and growing up poor on the West End streets of Newcastle in an edition of the Northern Scene documentary series. We think its early years Tyne Tees at its finest Northern Scene: Laughing at Life

Hope you enjoyed these regional TV treasures. Many have been newly-digitized and added to the website as part of our North East on Film project.

After you have visited the links why not discover more films from the regional TV collections by searching the database using the search bar above?

Find out more about our North East on Film project and how you can see more archive film here.

North East on Film is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.