John Vernon
Versatile and respected
John Vernon sadly died suddenly on May 24, aged 80. He was a versatile and much respected senior producer in Television Out­side Broadcasts and later in Music and Arts.
Joining the BBC in 1946 as a 19-year-old technical assistant, he worked first at Alexandra Palace before moving to Outside Broadcast Unit One - a vehicle the size of a single decker bus with three live cameras. Having both technical knowledge and artistic ability he soon moved on to vision mixing and the coronation service in Westminster Abbey in 1953 - a momentous event for Television OBEs and one of the greatest highlights of John's career.
By 1955 John was a producer - at a pioneering time for television outside broadcasts. His programmes ranged from fashion shows to Trooping the Colour, Carols from Kings College to Wimbledon, the University Boat Race, and more.
In all John's programme making he was totally organised and very thorough. His planning was second to none. Always a team player, he made working on his projects - however complex - fun and if they involved boats, then particularly so.
In 1967 he took an OB unit to sea for live coverage of Sir Francis Chichester completing his solo world circumnavigation in Gypsy Moth IV, a great feat with the technology of the time, remembered by John as one of his best programmes. There was the Silver Jubilee Spithead Review and later the Falklands War Thanksgiving Service at St Paul's Cathedral. On every occasion John helped the organisers mould their events for television, most notably the visit of Pope John Paul II to Canterbury in 1982.
John always enjoyed life, his passions sailing and fast cars. His Alfa Romeo and Triumph Stag will be remembered by many. Probably his greatest contribution to television was in music production in which he excelled. He built strong relationships with both artists and opera houses that hugely contributed to the development of televised opera in the 1970s. He was an extremely versatile music producer with opera from Covent Garden, notably Peter Grimes and Sampson and Delilah and from Glyndebourne Cosi Fan Tutte, Capriccio and more, working with Domingo, Geraint Evans and Pavarotti.
To make opera more accessible to the television audience John invented live on screen subtitles- an innovation now taken for granted but a lasting legacy.
He was equally at home with ballet - La Fille Mal Garde, the Nutcracker among many and the Bolshoi in Moscow and in London directing a four hour ballet, The Bolshoi in the Park, live and without artist or camera rehearsal!
John retired in 1986 but continued freelancing. His final work was in 1994 directing live cameras on the Royal Yacht Britannia for the 50th Anniversary of the D Day commemorations. His distinguished career was recognised with the award of the MBE.
John's work was stylish, delivering of the best - to be enjoyed by his audiences - and admired by his production and engineering colleagues. John had no ego - no insecurities - he was a confident and consummate professional - a man of great integrity - and we his colleagues were lucky to have known and worked with him.
Philip Gilbert