Plaque marks 90 years of Leeds TV times

Sir Alan Langlands unveils the plaque. PIC: Tony Johnson
Sir Alan Langlands unveils the plaque. PIC: Tony Johnson
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It was an event years ahead of its time – nine years to be exact – when the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird presented a prototype of his first television receiver to an enthralled audience at Leeds University.

They decided on the spot to inaugurate a Television Society, even though, in September 1927, the first public broadcasts were almost 
a decade away.

Yesterday, they put up a plaque on the same university building, just off Clarendon Road, to mark the 90th anniversary of what is now the Royal Television Society.

The university’s vice chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands, helped to unveil the memorial on the Clothworkers’ building, which is now home to media and communications students.

The Society staged a sell-out event in Leeds before Christmas to celebrate its anniversary. The chief guest was the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, who is also chancellor of Leeds University and who in 2009 handed it his huge literary archive.

The 1927 meeting had been arranged by Baird as part of a publicity drive.

“He was a great self-publicist and his audience was obviously enthralled,” said Clare Colvin, an archivist with the Society.

“He had this Televisor, an electric camera, and he demonstrated it to the group.”

The Society’s early members were engineers who were interested in making their own TV sets.

Baird’s audience in 1927, around half of whom were said to be female, included a number of scientists from the august British Association, who had travelled from London for the event.

A typewritten piece of paper from the day notes that the proposal to form a Television Society was made by Mr WO Mitchell, seconded by Lt Col J Robert Yelf and carried unanimously.

It would be around 23 years before a public television service was extended to include Leeds.