Putting You Through, Caller

Episodes

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20171014

In 1958, the Queen made the first direct trunk telephone call. It was the beginning of the end for the female operators known as the 'Hello Girls'.

Telephone operators had connected callers since the earliest days of the telephone, eighty years before. Despite the intimacy of 'phone conversations, subscribers willingly accepted the presence of a third voice on the line.

In this three hour programme for Radio 4 Extra, Shaun Ley uses drama and comedy from the BBC archives to demonstrate how the telephone operator became a valuable dramatic device. With the aid of GPO's own recordings and the BT archive, Shaun explores the role of the operator, the strict rules governing their work and some official secrets.

The programme includes extracts from Liz and Sally, a 1960s post office recruitment film, Burn Your Phone - a Radio 4 play from 1995, in which Alan Cumming plays a telephone operator beset by voices, requests and problems, and the 1966 radio play, "If you're Glad, I'll be Frank".

Produced by Adam Bowen for Radio 4 Extra.