Happy Birthday ABC

George Liddle APDG (pictured with actress) reflects on his early days as a designer at the ABC as the national broadcaster celebrates its 90th year. 

Our public broadcaster the ABC turned 90 in June, happy birthday ABC.

The ABC is a cultural and information Australian icon.  Australia is a vast country, major population centres separated by thousands of kilometres and the ABC has had an important unifying roll to play in our modern progressive democracy. No matter if you live in Port Headland, Portsea, Bundaberg or Burnie you are able to share in Australian and world news, current affairs and culture through ABC TV and Radio. We grew up with Playschool, Bananas in Pyjamas and Bluey, moved on to Triple J and Rage and had a serious look at Q&A. The ABC has played a crucial part in our design world, commissioning programs and films.


For me the ABC has special memories. In the 70s and 80s I was lucky enough to work as a production designer in what I regard as a golden era of TV programming. There were 10 designers working on the 7th floor at the Gore Hill studios. Our work was varied and exciting encompassing drama, opera, and comedy series, the first of the filmed, mini-series and music extravaganzas. It was such an exciting time for me as a designer experiencing the creative bubble of design on the 7th floor, sharing and developing design ideas and critiquing work of our colleagues, there was amazing creative energy.

While this was happening in Sydney, Melbourne was also going off.  I loved working at the ABC and the productions I designed during this period. This included the second series of RUSH (building a small gold mining town and diggings in a hidden valley in Belrose a northern suburb of Sydney), to the hilarious Aunty Jack Show, the historic series Timeless Land and the adrenalin rush of designing the live to air the iconic Countdown annual awards, with Cold Chisel going metal smashing instruments and sets on stage at the Regent Theatre Sydney.

It was not only the design department that had so much talent, but the supporting crafts people, the set carpenter, set finisher, scenic artist, special FX technicians, prop makers, prop buyers and we as designers not only designed sets but costumes as well. We had access to an amazing costume making department with such talented cutters, art finishers and tailors.

The professionalism and creative environment that existed on the 7th floor and design departments in other states was due to Head of Design the late Doug Smith, his dedication to good design inspired us all.

Many of these talented people from this era went on to turbo charge the Australian film industry renaissance around this time. Not only production designers, costume designers but directors producers, editors, cinematographers and amazing crafts people. Many of my ABC colleagues went on to achieve national and international recognition like Oscar nominated production designer Roger Ford APDG, multi award winner production designer Robbie Perkins, Tony award winner designer and costume designer Roger Kirk APDG, Oscar winning Cinematographer John Seale, head of design at AFTRS Igor Nay APDG the list goes on.

So, a big thanks to the ABC for nurturing this talent and for continuing to provide opportunities for Australian creative talent in film making, TV programming to continue to show the world what a talented creative place Australia is.