Mr Sim, who headed the Malay and Indonesian Section of the BBC Far Eastern Services asked whether I might be interested to audition for the BBC’s Jackanory program. They were looking for someone to present Malaysian folk tales about Sang Kancil, the wily mouse deer.
Dear Mr Sim, my husband’s kindly boss, had offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. Interested I certainly was. Excited and consumed by anxiety I was too. Me, audition for the BBC?
On the appointed day, a cab collected me from my flat in South London and took me to the BBC studios somewhere outside London. Was it at Elstree?
After the hair dresser and make-up persons were satisfied I was ready to face the cameras, I was taken to the studio and asked to read a story about Sang Kancil. I was completely overtaken by nerves but thankfully did not fall off my chair.
After the session ended I was driven home and waited anxiously for the result of my audition.
My job as a Placement Officer at the Malaysian Students’ Department required me to enroll tertiary level students at appropriate colleges and Universities. It was interesting enough requiring me to travel now and again to meet the Deans. It was always a real joy when the students under my care were accepted at the places of their choice.
But the BBC! That was something else completely. Would I pass the audition? Incredibly I did!
The recording sessions started soon after, over five days that passed in a frenzy. Each day I was taken by taxi to the studio and shown to my room. I was startled to see my name in huge letters on the door! It was a pretty little room with a large oblong mirror surrounded with big bright lights. I was given the clothes to wear. After I’d put them on the hair and make-up persons appeared to work their magic on me.
There were five thirteen-minute presentations in all. I did my reading seated in an armchair and from time to time beautiful still life pictures showing the many antics of Sang Kancil appeared on the screen.
All too soon it was over. But the the excitement and elation I felt during those five frenzied days have stayed with me. It was an experience never to be forgotten.
Jackanory was a BBC children’s television series created to get children to be interested in reading. The first show was televised in 1965 and the series ran for 30 years. I was one of the early presenters and it was most pleasurable to learn that the later presenters included celebrities like Helena Bonham Carter, Rupert Everett, Maggie Smith, Jeremy Irons, Alan Bennett, even Prince Charles!