One of Derek Clark’s first jobs in a 45 year career in television was operating a puppet on The Woodentops. At the time of his retirement he was HTV’s director of programmes, representing the company at ITV Network Centre, where he did much to reconcile the interests of the corporate and independent sectors. In the years between he was responsible for many hundreds of programmes and series, creating work for large numbers of people in the heyday of regional commercial television.
Born in the West Midlands on August 7, 1932, Derek decided at an early stage that the entertainment business was the life for him, despite no family connection with it. Either side of national service he took on a variety of theatre jobs, including playing a pantomime spider and stage managing some of the early recordings of Hancock’s Half Hour at the Fortune theatre. While still in his teens he was hired as an actor and stage manager by Harry Hanson’s Court Players, the network of weekly rep companies famous for their marathon seasons (40 plays in as many weeks was not unknown). It was while working in the Court Players company at the Lyceum, Sheffield, that he met actress Carol Howard, who shared his life for nearly fifty years.
He joined Television Wales and West in 1961 as a floor manager but he was soon made a director and given responsibility for a vast range of programmes, many of them in Welsh, of which he spoke not a word. After the Wales and the West of England franchise passed to Harlech TV, he produced and directed various light entertainment, documentary and arts programmes, from the popular Mr and Mrs to the long-running Arena, dramas and latterly Channel 4′s Garden Club.
Derek worked with presenters from the distant monochrome era such as Godfrey Winn, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas and Joseph Cooper through to Don Moss and Alan Taylor, who fronted much of HTV’s output in the seventies, and more recently with Johnny Morris, Rolf Harris and Henry Kelly.
Although he held senior management positions, Derek preferred making programmes and particularly relished the atmosphere of live broadcasting. In retirement he was sometimes called upon at short notice to direct the early evening HTV News programme, always a popular event with studio crews on account of the colourful running commentary that Derek delivered on talkback while directing.
He was a collector of Penguin first editions and made a film about the imprint’s founder, Allen Lane. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and retained his connections with the theatre by serving on the boards of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre and Theatre School.
Frederick Dunford Clark died on November 29, aged 75. His funeral will be held at 12pm on December 13 at Haycombe Crematorium, Whiteway Road, Bath BA2 2RQ.