Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum is proud to announce “On Air: Wimbledon and the BBC 1927-2017”, a new exhibition in collaboration with the BBC, which celebrates the history of broadcasting at The Championships.
Launched to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the relationship between the BBC and The Championships, the exhibition brings to life broadcast innovation at Wimbledon over the years.
2017 not only marks 90 years since the first radio broadcast from Wimbledon, but also 80 years since the first TV broadcast, and 50 years since the first colour TV broadcast of The Championships.
The first section of the exhibition presents a series of interesting facts related to broadcasting at Wimbledon, such as the old-style white Wimbledon tennis balls, changed to yellow to improve visibility on TV.
Emphasis then shifts to Wimbledon’s first live outside broadcast on BBC Radio, with running commentary by Capt. HBT Wakelam, from June 1927. The amazing Chakaphone radio from the National Science and Media Museum’s collection is also on show, alongside the 1927 Championships ticket, programme and scorecard.
Fictional commentary in style of first Wimbledon radio broadcast, 1932
'Television is here again' - 1946
An EMI Emitron camera, the type used to film the first BBC television coverage of The Championships in 1937, is on display, alongside an interactive screen showing footage from that year.
A Bush CTV25 colour television on loan from the National Science and Media Museum represents what people would have used to watch the first colour TV broadcast in Europe, which aired on BBC Two in 1967, and is displayed alongside a Radio Times issue from the same year.
A ticket, poster and programme from the Wimbledon World Professional Championships, sponsored by the BBC to mark the introduction of colour television, complement Sir David Attenborough’s contemporary account of the history of colour broadcasting.
First colour Wimbledon - Sir David Attenborough 1967
Sir David Attenborough on the history of colour broadcasting
Also featured within the exhibition is the 2017 Community Art Project from Wimbledon’s Learning Department, ‘Armchair Tennis,’ a photographic and video narrative of the memories of The Championships from a variety of local community and education groups.
The exhibition ends with a smooth contrast from past to present - how Wimbledon is captured now, the different technologies used around the court, the chance to control one of the robotic cameras used at Wimbledon, and a look at some of the most memorable personalities and commentators who have brought The Championships to life for generations. There is also a significant archive of recordings of commentators ranging from 1967 with Jack Kramer, up to 2016 with Tim Henman during the Murray v Raonic Gentlemen’s Singles final.
Anna Renton, Curator, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, said: “We are delighted to exhibit such a fascinating collection of items which commemorate the history of the relationship between the BBC and Wimbledon. We are proud that The Championships has been at the forefront of broadcast innovation, and we look forward to bringing that story to life for our Museum visitors.”
Barbara Slater, Director, BBC Sport, said: “This is a captivating exhibition, showcasing a broadcast relationship that goes back 90 years. It’s a wonderful opportunity to look back on how BBC coverage has developed over that time while also finding out more about what goes into broadcasting such an iconic event.”
Sir David Attenborough, who was present for the launch, said: "The reason the first colour television transmission in Europe came from Wimbledon was connected with tennis, but not entirely with tennis. The problem was, 50 years ago, we didn't have enough colour cameras to start the service.
"But with just three cameras, you can get hours and hours and hours from Centre Court. You have two opponents, and you've got a wide shot. That's three cameras. Because of Wimbledon, and because of those three cameras, we beat everyone to the punch.
"So from the BBC's point of view: Wimbledon, we love you, and we thank you."
Highlights from the exhibition are available online at www.wimbledon.com/museum and at www.bbc.co.uk/historyofthebbc, including photographs, video and audio commentary from many of the pioneering moments which made history from the BBC at Wimbledon.