Bamber Gascoigne, urban presenter and author who made University Challenge a television institution – obituary
Between 1973 and 1977 (apart from his time recording University Challenge), Gascoigne worked exclusively on the production of an epic 13-episode television series, The Christians (1977). The series cost over £500,000 to shoot and required three camera crews, filming in 30 countries.
Gascoigne wrote and presented the series. Some critics have pointed out that, unlike Kenneth Clark or Jacob Bronowski, he was not “passionately devoted to his subject”. He replied that he considered himself “a journalist, not a lecturer” and that he had tried to give an objective point of view. A book followed, with text by Gascoigne and over 250 photographs of his wife.
In 1980, Gascoigne set up his own publishing house, the Saint Helena Press, out of the back room of his Richmond home. Its first edition, Images of Richmond, a catalog of rare prints from the region commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Richmond Bridge, quickly sold out despite costing £47.
Other images from… titles followed, including Chelsea, Brighton and Twickenham, and despite prices reaching £70 per volume, the series continued to sell well.
Gascoigne merged Saint Helena Press with Ackerman Publishing in 1982 and became president rather than owner of the company. “I found I was spending way too much time at home,” he said, “wrapping packages in brown paper and string.”
In a final attempt to stage a successful West End play, Gascoigne revived his 1972 production The Feydeau Farce Festival of 1909 under the new title Big in Brazil. The play, starring Prunella Scales and Timothy West, debuted at the Old Vic in 1984 for a two-month run.