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Omnibus: Marlborough documentary

What the Hell Ever Happens in Marlborough?

Omnibus was an arts and culture-based documentary series which ran on BBC1 from 1967 until 2003.

Broadcast on October 19, 1969 was an edition of the programme which looked at life in Marlborough.

The 45-minute programme entitled 'What the Hell ever Happens in Marlborough' begins in the beautiful Victorian Town Hall where locals are gathered to discuss issues affecting them.

Some of the 40-year-old views held by the townfolk of 1969 will raise modern eyebrows.

One gentleman speaking to those attending extolled Marlborough's virtues by saying: "We've no immigrants, so we haven't got the colour problem."

Tariq Ali

Further unenlightened opinions are weaved throughout this edition of the show, as various town folk voice their objections to the programme-makers idea to bring the-then controversial writer and political campaigner, Tariq Ali, to talk in Marlborough.

The predominantly Conservative-voting locals of the time were so vocal in their disdain for the New Left 'revolutionary', that the Omnibus producers hastily decided to abandon the idea.

Marlborough high St in 1969
The programme was broadcast on October 19, 1969

Other provocative topical subjects debated at the Town Hall round table included those pertaining to the relative dangers of the so-called 'permissive society', such as teenage sex, drugs and delinquency.

However it's not all serious debate, as interspersed throughout the programme are lighter interludes.

Panoramic views of the nearby Pewsey Vale set to pastoral music are interrupted by the Kennet Vale Silver Band marching up and down the hills of Alton Barnes.

And in keeping with the documentary series' arts and culture remit, we hear people's opinions at an art exhibition in the town, see performances from a local amateur dramatics production and watch the town's youth enjoying themselves at a rock 'n' roll dance.

Female folk singer Roxi Hedges and Irish poet Richard Easton also pop up every so often and perform quaint songs and recite knowing poetry relating to Marlborough and the locality.

'What the Hell ever Happens in Marlborough' is a fascinating snapshot of life in the town in the late sixties - and will appeal to anyone who remembers the town of the time - or is interested in its history.

Click the link below to view our extensive collection of archive films of Wiltshire over the years.

Your comments

What a great film! They don't make 'em like they used to.

But, no wonder the establishment accused BBC producers in the 60s of being rabid, left-wing revolutionaries (although weak-willed ones at that since they backed down on inflicting Tariq Ali on those terribly fearsome people of Marlborough.)

And as with today's TV, potentially dull programmes often say so much more when their contributors are manipulated on camera to do things they wouldn't normally do, and find themselves edited out of reality.

Thanks for blowing off the dust and letting us see this hugely revealing piece of historic TV.

James Harrison, Devizes

Well it hasn't changed. I lived there for 25 years. Nothing to do for most kids. My dad knew Harold Trotman, he became a painter in the end. Bless him.

Karen, Swindon

I moved to Marlborough in 1996 and fell in love with the town. To see the High St in 1969 and hear about what was happening then was an absolute delight and certainly beat anything else that was on the box this evening! Could we have a showing of this brilliant little programme in the Town Hall? I'm sure we'd find a few of those earthy young people are still here!

Val Compton, Marlborough

I watched this programme about two days before leaving Essex to take up a position as an assistant civil engineer with the consultant engineers for the M4 Motorway construction. I was told to report to the project office in Marlborough which was, I recall, near to Barclays Bank. My job was to be on the western end of the contract and so I chose to live in Bath. My friends in Essex thought it hilarious that I was going to be the subject of this film and of course they felt sorry for me. After living in various other places in UK and abroad, I did move to Marlborough in 1988 and have lived here ever since. I was really surprised and pleased to be able to look at this programme again. Thank you!

Ken Martin, Marlborough

Everyone in town knew of Harold Trotman, he used to use the bar at the Railway Station in Marlborough a lot. Also saw Maurice Hilliar son of Reginald Hilliar. Brought back a lot of memories.

Peter H Hutchinson, Tennessee

I used to work with Jack Watts (nick name Waco) the band master & his brother bandsman Bob; I well remember Bob complaining about "the bloody silly things he had us doing, marching over the downs! nearly killed us. Bob lived to be one hundred.

I knew Harold Trotman (the one with the beard drinking Guinness) he was one of Churchill's body guards in the war). I also worked with the daughter he mentions. We were both Laboratory Assistants at Marlborough College.

David Stevens, Marlborough

I was Roxi's roadie at the time, she was still a pupil at The Grammar School. She then moved on to University in London and I lost touch.

During the filming I spent a lot of time with the sound team Mike Savage and I think Mervin (Stag?), trouble shooting. The sound track for the programme was recorded on a small reel to reel tape recorder, the type used normally by news reporters.

There was lighting lamps exploding, not good for the nerves. And the young lady production assistant wore a crochet dress and no bra, yes it was Marborough in 1969.

Cyril Deane, Salisbury

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