Early BBC auditions process

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Rex Kingsley was in charge of auditions at the BBC's Glasgow station, 5SC, from 1924. It was his job to explain to those auditioning what was required, lead them to the microphone, and then, after consulting the station director and others who had been listening on earphones, to inform them of the good or bad news. By the 1940s, people were told only that if their audition had been successful, they'd be hearing from the BBC.

Considering that 85 per cent of the trialists were failures, you can imagine I was an ambassador of bad news most of the time. We seemed to get all the cranks at the outset. They ranged from 16 to 60. Flappers who could get through "Annie Laurie" with a prompter — and boisterous baritones who could have got through Gibraltar without one! Flappers who dated me up with their eyes at the start — and damned me with the same orbs at the finish. Broken-down actors who declaimed their wonderful experiences to the waiting-room at large — and then folded up like an accordion at the microphone. "Mushy" spinsters who recited heart-throb poetry and revealed they'd been overlooked, but never looked over.

Kingsley noted that one man even attempted to bribe him. "All I'm needing is a decent break," he whispered as he tried to pass Kingsley a note.[1]


  1. Rex Kingsley, I Saw Stars (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Journals, 1947), 25.