Marconi Centenary Celebrations

Marconi and radio equipment

Essex brings Marconi story to the virtual world

This month Essex will mark the centenary of the first ever public entertainment broadcast from Chelmsford by pioneering company Marconi, and the people behind the celebrations have not been deterred by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The series of events planned this month to commemorate Marconi’s centenary will now be livestreamed to audiences across Essex and beyond.

They include a live radio play of the Marconi story with a recreation of the ground-breaking first broadcast by opera star Dame Nellie Melba who sang across the airwaves on June 15th 1920.

Among the individuals bringing the historic radio event to life are author, playwright and specialist consultant to Chelmsford City Museums, Tim Wander; playwright Felicity Fair Thompson; former Marconi engineer Alan Hartley-Smith; and local historian Alan Pamphilon who worked for a Marconi company EEV (now Teledyne e2v).

“Being associated with Marconi and the city which brought the electronic age to the world, gives me great pride.

“The centenary is a chance to highlight Marconi’s phenomenal achievements and all those many local people who made it possible. The Marconi legacy is still very much alive today through the innovations and breakthroughs of those who now work for Essex companies that have evolved from Marconi’s early roots.”

Alan Pamphilon

Here are some highlights from the celebrations

10 June Dame Nellie Sings! A night that changed the WorldTim Wander tells the story of Marconi’s journey to the momentous transmission in 1920.

15 June – Radio play The Power Behind the Microphone: The First Live Radio Entertainment Broadcast
Includes a recreation of the revolutionary broadcast livestreamed by Chelmsford City Theatre at the exact date and time of the original 100 years ago. BBC Essex and Chelmsford Community Radio will also broadcast the play as part of special Marconi programmes.

16 June – A World without Marconi – Alan Hartley-Smith discusses Marconi’s outstanding contribution to the world of technology.

22 June – Writtle and the Birth of British Radio BroadcastingTim Wander relays the story of radio station 2MT in Writtle and its charismatic leader Peter Eckersley who became Britain’s first regular radio broadcaster and the first Chief Engineer of the new BBC.

Key organisations that have been instrumental in bringing the Marconi celebrations to life include Chelmsford City Council, Chelmsford City Museums, Chelmsford City Theatres, Chelmsford Civic Society, Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society, Essex Record Office and former Marconi company Leonardo in Basildon.

Essex 2020 Podcast: Hear Alan Pamphilon and Chris Neale – who both owe their careers to the Marconi Company – speak about Marconi, what made him choose Chelmsford and why Essex 2020 is honouring Marconi’s legacy.

“Essex 2020 is all about celebrating the county’s pioneering past and present day innovators so there is no question about the key role the incredible and inspiring Marconi story must play in this.

“The many different people and partner organisations involved with the Marconi celebrations are continuing the spirit of innovation and creativity demonstrated by Marconi 100 years ago and imaginatively adapting their plans in response to Covid-19 – I can’t thank them enough. Essex is truly proud of the legacy of Marconi and the invention of radio which changed the world forever.”

Councillor Dick Madden, Cabinet Member for Essex 2020, Essex County Council

Dame Nellie Melba at Marconi Chelmsford studio 15 June 1920

Do have any thoughts on Marconi’s legacy? Perhaps you worked at a Marconi company? We’d love to hear from you! Get involved on social media using #PeopleOfMarconi #Marconi #Essex2020

Further Marconi themed events are scheduled throughout the year including an exhibition at Hylands House, the unveiling of commemorative plaques and a series of events on ‘The Future of Wireless’.