The broadcaster Ray Gosling made hundreds of radio and television documentaries that eschewed life’s main themes in favour of the minutiae of existence, such as garden sheds, provincial tea shops, pedestrian crossings and caravans.
He once said: “Not London, Paris and Rome, but Goole,” the port in Yorkshire. “The little things in life are more important than the big things,” he added. In fact, a programme he made about Goole was one of his favourites.
At university, he read English, but dropped out to manage a rock band and then run a youth club for the “otherwise unclubbable” – prostitutes, shoplifters, gamblers and thieves. He was only 23 when he wrote Sum Total, not so much an autobiography as an account of people he had met. Portraying himself as an angry young man, television executives recognised his potential as a broadcaster.
Although Gosling’s style was more suited to radio, he made his first BBC TV documentary, Two Town Mad, a comparison between Leicester and Nottingham, in 1962. What set him apart from many other broadcasters was that he chose not to promote himself, but let others do the talking.
In his heyday in the 1980s, Gosling was earning £50,000 a year, allowing him a comfortable standard of living. But producers gradually grew tired of him and the commissions he attracted started to dry up.
Three years ago, he hit the headlines when, to the astonishment of a television crew, he claimed that he had used a pillow to suffocate a former lover who was dying. In fact, at the time, he was in France, reporting on a football match. He was charged with wasting police time and given a suspended prison sentence.
By then, tax debts had forced him to sell his home and move into sheltered accommodation. Even in these circumstances, he continued to make programmes. One of them beat The Apprentice for an award for the most entertaining documentary.
Gosling’s huge collection of books, newspaper cuttings, tapes, files and scripts was rescued from a skip by Nottingham Trent University. The Ray Gosling archive is now safely preserved.
Gosling had promoted gay rights since long before homosexuality was legalised in 1967, and he became a prominent member of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. A former controller of BBC Radio 3, Stephen Hearst, described him as “a Henry Mayhew for the 20th century. What he says will be worth hearing in a hundred years’ time”.
Raymond Arthur Gosling, who was born in Northampton on May 5, 1939, died in Nottingham on November 19, aged 74.
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