Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Blue Hills - A-Z Blog Challenge

This will be my last visit into nostalgia for a while but while I was thinking about the Argonauts Club  yesterday and how important radio serials were as entertainment I remembered Blue Hills.

Because the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) had the only radio station that could be heard nationally whatever aired there was of great interest everywhere. In country areas it was often the only station but it was also very popular in the city and its most iconic serial was Blue Hills. Written in fifteen minute episodes by Gwen Meredith this was the long running and often convoluted story of country families in the fictional town of Tanimbla. It was broadcast at 1:00 PM every week day and repeated in the evening at 6:45 PM. It started in 1949 and ran until 1976.

I hadn't realised until I was researching this that it been preceded by The Lawsons or that it had been started as part of a way to encourage farmers to grow soy beans as part of the war effort, the idea being that a popular serial would be more effective than straight propaganda. I don't know whether it worked as far as propaganda but it certainly was popular as was Blue Hills when it succeeded it.

I've been wondering why it was so popular and I think it was a combination of factors. First Gwen Meredith had a talent for writing believable, natural dialogue and, unlike many of the radio serials of the day, the actors didn't use an artificial "wireless" voice. They spoke naturally and as a result the characters came to life. The list of actors who acted in Blue Hills reads like a who's who of Australian talent and most of them made the transition into television. As well the story lines were about things that people could identify with. They may have been a little "soapy" but they felt real and they engaged the audience.

Blue Hills survived much longer than most of the radio serials because it was on the ABC. While television had come to most of Australia by the sixties there were still a number of areas in the country which had no access and they relied on the "wireless" for news and entertainment. By the mid seventies though television had infiltrated most areas and radio was beginning its change to mostly music and talk back though the ABC still caters for a more diverse audience through its Radio National programmes.

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