Peter and Martha would like to thank everyone for their show of love and fondness towards Yvonne upon the sad news of her passing. We are being regularly and pleasantly surprised to hear or read about anecdotes and stories about Yvonne that she hadn’t shared with us previously. We look forward to meeting some of you at her funeral.
Download link for the service recording: https://watch.obitus.com/download/b8af0318-2524-4504-8181-6b77c9a1c85d
Download link for the visual tribute: https://obitus.wetransfer.com/downloads/22baea50752434b554d82965b0cef
I am sure you all know “Yvonne’s colours” were mauve and shades of. It would be lovely to see us honouring that in any way you feel appropriate There is parking for up to 20 plus cars in the car park next to the chapel or considerate road parking in the cemetery The link below has directions and information
If you would like to order flowers please contact In Memory of Life directly and they’d be happy to to organise a floral tribute for you.
Alternatively, have any floral tributes sent to 137 Little Ealing Lane, London W5 4EJ by 4pm on Thursday 3rd August
Some wonderful audio interviews with Yvonne here:
Following obituary Ref Louis Barfe Times Newspaper
When the BBC hosted the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest, there was an element of showing off involved.
France had won two of previous three years, but declined to pay out twice, so the United Kingdom and the corporation stepped in, and decided to showcase the new Television Centre, a facility that was the envy of the entire European Broadcasting Union.
The show, which opened with a sweeping helicopter shot of the building, had three studios in use: one for the singers and orchestra, one for Katie Boyle and the audience and one for the jury. This was a complex, prestige production with a global audience. The BBC’s head of light entertainment Tom Sloan knew there was only one director for the job: Yvonne Littlewood.
Joining the BBC Television Service at its postwar resumption, Littlewood became the corporation’s first female light entertainment producer and director, and set the gold standard for music productions from the Sixties to the Eighties with the likes of Duke Ellington, Nelson Riddle, Tony Bennett, Petula Clark and Val Doonican.
A perfectionist, she was always found in her office long after her male colleagues had gone to the bar. One night, Sloan passed her door and noticed she was still at her desk. “Tom said to me ‘Why are you still here? What are you still doing? Go home, you’ve proved you can do it’,” she recalled.
However, this meticulous tendency paid off on screen. Littlewood thought visually and musically, this being most obvious on a special she made in 1967 with the arranger Riddle. Over dinner, Littlewood asked him what piece of work had given him the most pleasure. Rather than name any of his landmark recordings with Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald, Riddle said it was an album of nursery rhymes that had been recorded then shelved. Littlewood asked if he could send her a tape.
“So he did and I listened to all these. London Bridge is Falling Down, Three Blind Mice and Little Bo Peep, all Nelson Riddle style. I said to Gillian Lynne, ‘Do you think we could turn this into a sort of ballet?’ She listened, said ‘Oh it’s exciting, isn’t it? We both agreed that Roy Castle should be the central figure, because he could dance. The three blind mice had dark glasses. They were crooks and they had the suitcases with the cash in. Bo Peep was very short-sighted, couldn’t find her sheep and she was en pointe. The Muffin Man had bad feet, carrying his tray of muffins.” The show is, regrettably, wiped, but the album was finally released in 2006.
Yvonne Mary Pearl Littlewood was born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1927, the daughter of Eric and Joan Littlewood. Her father was an accountant with the National Provincial Bank and her childhood was somewhat nomadic, as he was posted to different branches. Eventually, when she was six, the family settled in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, where she was educated at convent schools. Both parents were members of the Ross Operatic and Dramatic Society and the young Yvonne showed an aptitude for music and dance, attending May Hatton’s Academy in Hereford after school twice a week.
After her School Certificate examinations, 17-year-old Yvonne decided, almost on a whim, to apply to the BBC for a job. Having learnt shorthand and typing, she began as a secretary in the finance department, based in the Langham Hotel. She was a regular visitor to the producer Ronnie Waldman’s office, requesting tickets for the big music shows of the time and all the while, hankering after a role in programme-making.
Eventually, in 1946, with the reopening of the television service, she got her chance at Alexandra Palace. Initially working in administration, she found herself volunteering regularly to cover for producer Michael Mills’s secretary and eventually moved over full-time, happily accepting a pay cut to be at the centre of the action, working on the first television sitcom, Family Affairs, and the first variety show to come from the Lime Grove studios. She eventually became a production manager involved with planning and floor managing.
When Mills returned to the theatre in the mid-Fifties, Littlewood became the production assistant to whom Waldman, by now her boss as head of light entertainment, attached young producers with big ideas, secure in the knowledge that she would effectively train them and provide the best support. The music and arts department had female producers such as Margaret Dale and Patricia Foy from the early Fifties, but it was not until 1959 that Littlewood was finally permitted to take the director’s course. It took until 1963 and the massive expansion of production staff for the launch of BBC2 before she was given a full promotion to producer.
From this point, Littlewood’s progress was inexorable. One of her first productions, Big Band Concert, featuring Ted Heath and his music, received a special award at the Montreux Golden Rose Festival in 1962. She directed Duke Ellington in concert for BBC2 in 1964, going on to make several programmes with him.
She established the Best of Both Worlds series, featuring heavyweights such as Riddle, Henry Mancini and Robert Farnon.
The first programme in colour on BBC1 was a Petula Clark concert directed by Littlewood. She directed the Royal Variety Performance for television four times. Through the 1970s and 1980s, she produced shows with Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Oscar Peterson, Tony Bennett and Perry Como. She was dismayed by fellow producers who didn’t plan their camera scripts to fit the musical scores, but she proved equally adept at going with the flow when the music was more improvised.
Perhaps her most extensive professional association was with the Irish entertainer Val Doonican, whose Saturday night show she produced and directed from 1977 to 1986, live from the Television Theatre on Shepherd’s Bush Green. Guests often included big-name American singers such as Howard Keel, Vic Damone, Rosemary Clooney and Pat Boone, as well as celebrated instrumentalists such as guitarist Chet Atkins, harmonica player Toots Thielemans, and the big bands of Buddy Rich and Woody Herman.
Littlewood always did her own audience warm-ups, as vision mixer Angela Wilson remembers: “She would be wearing perfectly normal, everyday clothes during rehearsal, her hair scraped back in a business-like ponytail, but she emerged from make-up in an amazing, drop-dead glam floaty dress to address her audience, immaculately made up and with that spectacular ‘big’ hair — long, loose, curly and bouncy.”
Wilson says that Littlewood — known as Yve — viewed her team as a family. Cameraman Nigel Saunders recalls that when a tea break was approaching, Littlewood regularly asked Ronnie Hazlehurst and his musicians to go over an eight-bar intro again without any real musical need, purely so her crew could beat the band to the tea bar.
She also developed warm relationships with many of the artists she produced. Nana Mouskouri, who had represented Luxembourg at the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest and whose British television shows were invariably directed by Littlewood, became a close friend, as did violinist Stéphane Grappelli, who first met Littlewood at Alexandra Palace and continued working with her well into his eighties.
While Littlewood was known for her grace under pressure, sometimes talent pushed her to her limits. One famous singer was due to guest star on Doonican’s show, and a number had been selected for a duet.
Doonican, who shared Littlewood’s work ethic, had spent all week learning the number. On arriving at the rehearsal rooms in Acton, the guest was greeted by assistant floor manager Roy Gould, and announced that he wanted to change the song.
Gould parked the singer in a side office and went to tell the producer of the calamity. Littlewood gasped “Don’t tell Val”, but Doonican, on the other side of the room, had already spotted something was up from his producer’s horrified expression. On being told, his reply was at odds with his cosy, rocking chair image: “He f*****g wants to do what?” Doonican asked, before calming down and learning the new number perfectly through gritted teeth.
Littlewood was appointed MBE in 1986, and the next year reached the corporation’s retirement age of 60. This was normally inflexible, but she returned occasionally, producing shows where her impeccable contacts and steady hand were vital. Her last big production was a London Palladium gala for the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday in 1990. In recent years, her arrivals at the annual BBC light entertainment reunion lunches were always eagerly awaited by her former colleagues. Conditioned by her years of needing to be on peak form for evenings in the studio, she would arrive at Wogan House from her Marylebone High Street flat — five minutes away — around 2.30pm, and hold court. When the celebrations moved on to dinner in nearby restaurants, Littlewood was usually among the last to leave, heading home around midnight.
Yvonne Littlewood MBE, television producer, was born on July 22, 1927. She died on July 7, 2023, aged 95
You can access the live webcast by clicking the button below and logging in using the Username and Password provided. Please allow plenty of time before the service to login. The webcast will begin approximately 5 minutes before the funeral start time.
A selection of floral posies. Approximate sizes are:
A beautiful range of sympathy baskets. Approximate sizes include:
In Memory Of Life is a local independent funeral directors and we can help you to plan for the future by setting up a bespoke funeral plan