Ten great pieces of television startup music used by ITV franchises

Once upon, quite so long ago, there was a time before 24 hour television. Television channels used to start at around 9am or a little later, and finish at about the same time when most adults went to bed.

Then came breakfast television. Yorkshire Television pioneered UK breakfast television from 1976 to 1978 with Good Morning Calendar. BBC set the trend with a national service, with BBC Breakfast Time commencing on the 18 January 1983. In February, TV-am would begin proceedings at 6am with its (much superior to the present day predecessor’s equivalent) Daybreak programme headed by Robert Kee. This would be followed by the (much superior to today’s version of) Good Morning Britain.

In ITV-land, its constituents would commence broadcasting at 9.15am (later 9.25am since Good Morning Britain introduced its After Nine slot). After the egg cups appeared, a trade test transmission or IBA’s Engineering Announcements, cue the dulcet tones of Christopher Gunning’s Yorkshire Theme. Or Keith Mansfield’s New Station Theme for Granada Television. Or Johnny Hawkesworth’s Salute To Thames. What was our first set of programmes? Likely to be the Schools’ programmes prior to their September 1987 move to Channel Four.

As well as establishing the identity of each ITV franchise, the changeover gave viewers a sense of balance. Whilst its transmitters shifted from TV-am to our franchisee, it gave us a chance to put the kettle on between Nick Owen and How We Used To Live.

These halcyon days have inspired this month’s Not So Perfect Ten. Here are the following:

  1. Yorkshire Theme, Christopher Gunning (Yorkshire Television);
  2. A Well Swung Fanfare, Don Jackson (London Weekend Television);
  3. Salute to Thames, Johnny Hawkesworth (Thames Television);
  4. Scotlandia, Geraldo (Scottish Television);
  5. Southern Rhapsody, Richard Addinsell (Southern Television);
  6. Odyssey, Stephanie de Sykes and Rain (Associated Television);
  7. Chi Chi/The Bingola/Keltic Prelude March, Keith Papworth/Vivian Ellis/L.E. de Francesco (Border Television);
  8. The Three Rivers Fantasy, Arthur Wilkinson (Tyne-Tees Television);
  9. An English Overture, Paul Lewis (Westward Television);
  10. New Station March, Keith Mansfield (Granada Television).

*                             *                            *

1. Yorkshire Television: Yorkshire Theme (Christopher Gunning)

Before 1982, Yorkshire Television’s startup theme was the excellent Yorkshire Television March which had a nod of 633 Squadron about it (both pieces were written by Ron Goodwin). Its successor by Christopher Gunning didn’t disappoint; thriftiness prevailed as Mr. Gunning’s theme was also used, in truncated form for its Calendar bulletins. The piece sound like it comes from the cold and gave the viewer a great sense of anticipation.

2. London Weekend Television: A Well Swung Fanfare (Don Jackson)

If you were up on Saturday mornings in London and parts of South East England, this tune meant one thing: either Sesame Street, TISWAS or The Saturday Starship was on its way. Don Jackson’s A Well Swung Fanfare was jovial; it could have been peeing down in Putney or snowing in Streatham, and never fail to light the face of any viewer. It screams ‘a weekend of entertainment is approaching’. Not quite in the same way as the Friday changeover did with the emergence of the Aquafresh style ident, though equally good.

3. Thames Television: Salute to Thames (Johnny Hawkesworth)

Johnny Hawkesworth’s is one of two themes which made up the Thames Television startup routine. It follows the Michael Roberts piece Perpetuum Mobile, which was used by LWT’s weekend predecessor,  ABC Television. Thames Television was formed after a merger of ABC’s London operations and the capital’s weekday contractor, Rediffusion. The second theme (often with the dulcet tones of Philip Elsmore reminding us of the ITV franchise) is an elongated version of the ident theme with its horns and timpani leading us to the joys of Stop, Look, Listen or the like. Brilliant it is too.

4. Scottish Television: Scotlandia (Geraldo)

Scottish Television’s startup music, used in the above recreation of a 1970s startup is a medley of eight pieces:

  1. The Campbells Are Comin’;
  2. Bonnie Charlie;
  3. Loch Lomond;
  4. Bonnie Dundee;
  5. Coming Through the Rye;
  6. Charlie is My Darling;
  7. Caller Herring;
  8. A Hundred Pipers.

It is a glorious patchwork quilt of feel-good themes whilst respecting the southern half of the country’s traditions.

5. Southern Television: Southern Rhapsody (Richard Addinsell)

Southern Television’s startup theme was in use since the beginning of its franchise term. Though they replaced this with Ivor Slaney’s Step Lively for a short period, viewers objected; Richard Addinsell’s theme was back in use, till its rather acrimonious end on New Year’s Eve 1981. The above clip is a reproduction of their 1950s and 1960s startup. Among the landmarks detailed in the clip are:

  • Bournemouth Pier, Hampshire;
  • Corfe Castle, Dorset;
  • Fawley Oil Refinery, Southampton, Hampshire;
  • Southampton Ferry Terminal;
  • The White Cliffs of Dover, Kent;
  • Brighton Pavilion, East Sussex;
  • A Kentish oasthouse;
  • Canterbury Cathedral, Kent.

6. Associated Television: Odyssey (Stephanie de Sykes and Rain)

For many people, ATV means New Faces, CrossroadsThe Golden Shot and TISWAS. Seen on the show presented by Derek Hobson and the popular soap opera set in a Birmingham hotel was Stephanie de Sykes. Her vocal talents were used for ATV’s 1973 startup. It was one that exuded optimism, much needed given the political climate of the time. The startup film seen above shows a host of Midlands landmarks. Included are:

  • The Malvern Hills (leading up to Worcestershire Beacon);
  • The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon;
  • British Steel Dudley, West Midlands;
  • Spaghetti Junction, Gravelly Hill, West Midlands;
  • Birmingham city centre (including the ATV’s Broad Street Studios and Birmingham New Street railway station);
  • Kingsway Telephone Tower, Birmingham;
  • Warwick Castle, Warwick, Warwickshire;
  • Coventry Cathedral, West Midlands.

Unfortunately, this was one of ATV’s shortest lived startup themes as the IBA forbade the use of vocalists. This would be replaced by Richard Hill’s Five by Five then Johnny Pearson’s Midlands Parade.

7. Border Television: Chi Chi/The Bingola/Keltic Prelude March (Keith Papworth/Vivian Ellis/L.E. de Francesco)

Border Television, along with Granada Television and Tyne-Tees Television, never lost their franchise. They were ultimately gobbled up by the mighty colossus of a single ITV, after being taken over by Ulster Television. Their 1980s startup is redolent of strong cuppas in a rain-lashed Keswick or elevenses in Galashiels. It  exudes a cosiness lost in today’s presentation.

8. Tyne-Tees Television: The Three Rivers Fantasy (Arthur Wilkinson)

The Three Rivers Fantasy is actually a medley of famous songs associated with the North East of England. The montage of songs, in chronological order are:

  • Bobby Shaftoe;
  • Keel Row;
  • Water of Tyne;
  • The Sailor’s Hornpipe;
  • Blaydon Races.

What a fantastic set of tunes to wake up to!

9. Westward Television: An English Overture (Paul Lewis)

Before Television South West took Gus Honeybun with them, Westward Television, the joys of South West England are resplendent in Paul Lewis’ composition. Key parts of the 1970s startup film include:

  • A car ferry from Plymouth;
  • Views of Plymouth, Brixham and Weymouth harbours;
  • Durdle Door;
  • A tin mine shaft;
  • An open-cast China clay pit;
  • A preserved railway (South Devon or Paignton and Dartmouth? Answers please);
  • Cornish fishing villages.

As well as being an uplifting way to start a day’s viewing, it was a good little brochure for the resorts along Westward’s transmission area.

10. Granada Television: New Station Theme (Keith Mansfield)

How else do we finish this Not So Perfect Ten? Well, with a theme that was used for its startups and closedowns. Granada Television had two startup themes before then. The first was by Tony Lowry, The Granada March; its second came from Oldham born composer William Walton, Prelude for Orchestra. Its third, introduced in 1978, also wrote the most recent theme tune to Grandstand. There was a slightly different version used for its closedown, which omits the high pitched introduction (reminiscent of Grieg’s Peer Gynt – used at around that time for Vale Royal Borough Council’s advertisements).

For me, obviously being a fully-paid-up citizen of Granadaland, one of my favourite startup theme tunes. It had a good run (ten years, prior to the launch of its 24 hour service) with its gentle start and crescendo near the end a theme which gets me lying back and thinking of Jim Pope, Colin Weston or Sue Robbie (or rather, as to when Sesame Street‘s on yet).

*                             *                            *

Well, it is time for me to say goodbye on this post, so feel free to add to the list, or reminisce over the existing ten. Oh, and please remember to switch off your set…

S.V., 04 November 2014.

8 thoughts on “ITV Startup Music Through The Ages: The Not So Perfect Ten

  1. Interesting list, but what about the famous HTV Wales/West startup which included a video of their own respective local areas:

    Also there was another theme tune Granada used especially before the start of Schools TV for the day and this was Easy Go by Mike Glannie Smith a rather catchy tune in my opinion.

    I also like Central’s offering a rather catchy piece of music


    1. Hi Andrew,

      Two additions worthy of a future second part. The ‘Easy Go’ tune is definitely one for a spin-off, focusing on other continuity music.

      I agree with you on the catchiness of Central Television’s startup theme, used to good effect on its opening day with Peter Wheeler on voiceover.

      Bye for now,



  2. Growing up in Northampton, I was used to the Anglia film, which involved a detailed examination of a silver statuette of a man on a horse with an ‘Anglia’ flag. It was set to a rather nice parpy horn number.

    I wouldn’t have recognised any local landmarks if they’d filmed them, because Northampton was entirely ignored by Anglia as being on its far western border. It wasn’t until I moved to the heart of Granadaland at eighteen that I actually saw places I knew on local tv.


    1. Hi Grapefruitzzz,

      The silver knight statuette for me always meant ‘Survival’ or ‘Sale of the Century’. Just to refresh your memory (in digitally remastered form):

      Northampton seemed to have been too far from ATV/Central/Carlton’s faceless Midlands replacement for comfort as well as Anglia, though it was possible in some parts of Northamptonshire to get some overlap between the two franchises.

      Granada made sure each of its areas had a fair whack. Besides the Liverpool News Centre and its Quay Street studios, there was also a few smaller satellite studios, such as one in Lancaster. For some time after its closure, a concrete Granada logo was seen left of the gateposts of White Cross (now owned by Lancashire County Council).

      Bye for now,


      Liked by 1 person

  3. LWT’s weekend predecessor was not ABC but ATV London on Sat and Sun and Rediffusion London on Fri night from 7pm (later 5.15pm)


  4. Oh that evocative ATV start up with those wonderful aerial shots of the franchise area. The track was actually entitled “Odyssey” and was indeed performed by Stephanie (and her band ‘Rain’). Yes, it meant Tiswas was on the way – and you also saw it on Tiswas itself periodically as they had many requests to see it again.
    Other locations identified in the film were Hams Hall Power Station and White Horse Hill at Uffington – arguably out of the territory.


  5. Sometimes in the London area, an IBA caption listing the ‘London Area Transmitters of the IBA’ with music from Gilbert & Sullivans ‘The Gondoliers’ (Where There’s Beauty in the Bellow and the Blast’ preceded the main Thames theme.
    I miss those station id’s, for the start-up of Ch4 can be blamed for the absence of station indents as the programmes started.


  6. Fascinating, thank you for these. Further to earlier comments, I was interested to know that Perpetuum Mobile was also used by Thames. It definitely was previously used on the weekend operations of ABC, certainly in the north (later 7 day Granadaland and YTV areas) and perhaps in the Midlands too. As has been said, the pre 1968 London weekend contractor was ATV.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s