Forum for former BBC staff
>> Notices, obituaries and tributes >> Dennis Bardens

Message started by Forum Admin on Feb 18th, 2004, 11:22am

Title: Dennis Bardens
Post by Forum Admin on Feb 18th, 2004, 11:22am

Dennis Bardens, a co-founder of Panorama, has died at the age of 92.  These obituaries appeared in The Independent:

Dennis Bardens was a dedicated journalist and writer, and the first Editor of the BBC current-affairs programme Panorama. In a long life, he wrote biographies and non- fiction, as well as a number of books investigating psychic phenomena.

Born at Midhurst in Sussex in 1911, he attended Portsmouth Grammar School. After two years as a reporter on the Sunday Chronicle, he moved to the Sunday Express as a reporter and features writer, following this with stints writing features on the Sunday Referee, Everybody's Weekly and the Daily Mirror.

During the Second World War he enlisted in the Royal Artillery but was discharged after a couple of years on medical grounds. He then became Press Officer for the London Region at the Ministry of Information, and then Public Relations Officer to the exiled Czechoslovak government and a Special Correspondent on Odham's periodicals for three years.

In 1949 he was appointed Editor of the BBC radio documentary series Focus and in 1953 he became the co-founder with Andrew Miller-Jones of the weekly television programme Panorama. This was followed by periods in the Information Research Department at the Foreign Office and as staff writer on the War Office magazine Soldier. He wrote several radio plays and over one hundred documentaries for independent television.

His first book was Crime Does Pay (1948),  a galaxy of notable rascals, as he called it. He then wrote a survey of the Soviet press, A Press in Chains (1953). In 1955 he published a biography of Sir Anthony Eden, Portrait of a Statesman. Other biographies followed: The True Book About Elizabeth Fry (1961), Lord Justice Birkett (1962) and Princess Margaret (1964). He also published Famous Cases of Norman Birkett, KC (1963) and Churchill in Parliament (1967).

Bardens had a lifelong interest in psychical research. His work as a journalist and his membership of London clubs (including the Savage Club and the Reform Club) brought him into contact with many of the pioneers in the study of parapsychology, including J.B. Rhine, Harry Price, Professor C.D. Broad, and J.W. Dunne. Bardens joined the Society for Psychical Research and became a life member of the Ghost Club Society.

For many years he was an enthusiastic member of International Pen, the Society of Authors, the International Federation of Journalists and the National Union of Journalists. He was also associated with the Parapsychology Foundation of New York and conducted research on their behalf.

His first book reflecting this great interest in the paranormal was the well-received Ghosts and Hauntings (1965), republished 30 years later and widely praised for its fair-minded and open approach. This was followed by Mysterious Worlds (1970), a personal investigation of the weird, the uncanny and the unexplained, while Psychic Animals (1987) studied the secret powers of animals and carried a foreword by David Bellamy. Ahead of Time (1991) explored the mystery of precognition.

His personal life was touched with sadness: his beloved wife Marie died suddenly and unexpectedly in hospital following an accident. Their only son, Peter, formed a band in the 1960s with Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green before they went on to found the legendary Fleetwood Mac. Peter died in America in 2002.

Peter Underwood


Dennis Bardens liked to be ahead of events, and he was one of the first broadcasters to see the possibilities of television, writes Richard Lindley. After a successful career in radio as Editor of Focus, a weekly Light Programme series about topical issues, he teamed up with the producer Andrew Miller-Jones to work on a similar project for television. Scores of possible titles were considered but Bardens always insisted that it was he who came up with the name that stuck:

I was looking out of the huge window in my office on the fifth floor at Alexandra Palace (then the home of BBC TV), and enjoying the view, this wonderful panorama spread out before me when I suddenly thought, "Bugger it, Panorama, that's the title."

It was. Panorama was first broadcast on 11 November 1953. Bardens was billed as Editor, and contributed a fascinating item to the first edition about brainwashing and the way a number of British prisoners of war returning from Korea had been won over to Communism. But Panorama was not at first a great success, and after six months Bardens left to work first for the Foreign Office, and then, when the new network began broadcasting two years later, for ITV.

But he remained extremely proud of his pioneering work on Panorama. It is true that the title "Editor" did not mean what it does now - the person in overall charge, who was then called the Producer. But when his successor Michael Barsley claimed in a book published by the BBC some years later that he was the first Panorama Editor Bardens successfully sued for libel. In 1976 he received damages and his costs, and a clear public acknowledgement that it was he, and nobody else, who had been "the first Editor of Panorama".

Dennis Bardens was well enough to attend Panorama's 50th anniversary party in November 2003, and earlier in the same year had been allowed out of hospital for a few hours to celebrate his 92nd birthday at home. As he left - by ambulance - he raised his head and sang to his guests, "Life is just a bowl of cherries."

Forum for former BBC staff » Powered by YaBB 2.3.1!
YaBB © 2000-2009. All Rights Reserved.