For our first colourslide cassette, we decided to produce a show about Coventry Cathedral. For me, looking at creative approaches, it was a perfect subject…

Coventry’s medieval cathedral was reduced to ruin in one of the first major air raids of the Second World War. The shattered remnants have been preserved, and linked to the new cathedral built on the same site. And Coventry’s programme of peace and reconciliation lies at the heart of the new structure.

My script began with the sounds of that air raid – created with a mixture of commercially available effects recordings and a few tricks of my own. (Try recording the crushing of an egg box – and then slowing it down. And you’ll get something that sounds remarkably like breaking timbers…) Using two massive tape decks in the company offices alongside my own home equipment I built a set of tapes containing all the effects I needed to take to studio.

Of course, this was long before the advent of digital recording – when it came to editing tapes, my principal tools were razor blades and adhesive tape.

To record the music – played on the cathedral’s own organ – we had a Uher portable reel to reel recorder and a decent microphone pair. It was basic kit, but perfectly adequate for the job, and one of the company’s technicians came with me to manage the actual recording while I worked with the organist. We chose an atmospheric piece by Messaien to run pretty much all the way through the show, and got it recorded without difficulty by working late at night, when there was little or no noise outside the cathedral that would come through on the tape.

And then – for the first time – I entered a professional recording studio to work with their engineer. With my boss looking over my shoulder…

I needn’t have worried. I’d already planned and timed every last element of the show, including the voice-over – which was recorded for us by a professional hired for the occasion. My job was quite literally to hand the elements to the engineer, get them transferred to their massive 16-track master, make sure the timing and volume of each element was correct, and then check the final mix. We did it in record time – and for all the later shows I was left to handle the job on my own.

Coventry Cathedral was duly entered for the British AV Awards, and did in fact win one of them. Not particularly prestigious, but enough to give me a title I cherished. ‘Award-winning audiovisual producer’.

In due course that would have considerable value…