Workers' Playtime (radio programme)

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Workers' Playtime was a radio variety programme transmitted by the BBC between 1941 and 1964. Originally intended as a morale-booster for industrial workers in Britain during World War II, the programme was broadcast at lunchtime, three times a week, live from a factory canteen "somewhere in Britain", initially on the BBC Home Service (now Radio 4) and, from 1957, on the Light Programme (now Radio 2). For all its 23 years each show concluded with the words from the show's producer, Bill Gates: "Good luck, all workers!"

The programme had the support of the Government because the shows were seen as supporting the war effort on the Home Front. Workers' Playtime was a touring show, with the Ministry of Labour choosing which factory canteens it would visit.

Throughout World War II, Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour and National Service, would appear on these shows from time to time to congratulate the workers and exhort them to greater efforts. When the War ended it was realised that the show had worked, which meant that Ernest Bevin wanted Workers' Playtime to continue to raise the morale of the workers, whilst the Government rebuilt Britain and the British economy. The BBC, for their part, were very happy to continue with a show which had proved a national success even if it did mean transporting crew, cable, microphones, two pianos, a producer, two pianists and a bunch of variety artists up and down the country three times a week.

On 1 October 1957 the programme switched to the Light Programme, a move which seemed to recognise that the programme no longer had the national sense of purpose which made it so essential during the war and the post-war peace.

Many famous variety, vocal and comedy artists appeared over the years, such as Charlie Chester, Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Terry-Thomas, Anne Shelton, Betty Driver, Eve Boswell, Dorothy Squires, Arthur English, Julie Andrews, Morecambe and Wise, Peter Cavanagh, comedian George Martin, Janet Brown, Roy Hudd, harmonica player Paul Templar, The Stargazers, Bob Monkhouse, impressionist Peter Goodwright, Percy Edwards, Ken Dodd, Ken Platt, Gert and Daisy (Elsie and Doris Waters) and many more. It was one of the very first touring variety shows on the BBC and was scheduled to run for six weeks but went on to become one of the longest running radio shows in history. A selection of original recordings from the show can be heard on the audiobook CD Workers' Playtime published by CD41 in 2008.

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