Louis Barfe

Louis and Barry

Louis Barfe (the one on the left) is an internationally recognised expert on all aspects of the entertainment industry. On publication of his first book, Where Have All The Good Times Gone? The rise and fall of the record industry in 2004, Record Collector magazine called him “the man who knows everything”. In the Daily Telegraph, Helen Brown said that the book “crackles and hisses with dinner-party trivia” and said that while “corporate histories are seldom lively reading...Barfe does an entertaining job of bringing out the kooky personalities at Victor, Edison, Columbia and their European counterparts”. WHATGTG remains a standard text on university and music college reading lists.

His second major work, Turned Out Nice Again – the story of British light entertainment, published in 2008, received similarly positive reviews. In the Guardian, Kit Hesketh-Harvey said it was “a fine book...the top-billers are all here”. Meanwhile in the Sunday Telegraph, Big Brother's father Peter Bazalgette said that it was “refreshing to read a book about popular entertainment by someone who genuinely loves it, without so much as a hint of that rather purist, Anglo-Saxon sneer we so often, as a nation, display about things we do simply for pleasure”. However, perhaps more importantly, many of those who worked in the industry have praised the book for its accuracy. One retired senior BBC executive instructs those who ask him for interviews to read Turned Out Nice Again first.

His most recent book was a biography, The Trials and Triumphs of Les Dawson, published in 2012. This attracted further acclaim, most notably from Peter Preston in The Observer, who said: “All praise to Louis Barfe. He's got the context as well as the jokes right here...detailed and always lucid.” Meanwhile, in the Daily Mail, Roger Lewis called it “definitive”.

In between writing the books, Barfe has worked extensively as a journalist, writing radio reviews for the New Statesman and The Lady, features for The Oldie, Radio Times, Sunday Telegraph, and book reviews for the Independent on Sunday. His meticulous show business features appear regularly in the Sunday Express, and he has also, for the last 15 years, been a contributor to Private Eye, mostly in the Books and Bookmen and Media News sections.

Barfe's research skills have also been in demand for television documentaries. Within the last year, he has worked as a programme consultant on Channel 4's It Was Alright In the 70s – in which he also appeared as a talking head, ITV's ratings-topping Sunday night series Come On Down! The Game Show Story and The Saturday Night Story. With this track record and his peerless contacts, any future publications are assured of serious attention, no matter how frivolous the subject.

Louis is currently working on two projects.  

'Open the Box' is to be a history of post-war Britain seen through the filter of the television game show. No other genre of broadcasting reflects popular tastes, attitudes and aspirations with greater accuracy. The questions are a gauge of what we know. The prizes are a gauge of what we desire. The failures are what we fear. Game shows are who and what we are.

‘The Two of Us’, tells the 50 year story of BBC Radio Two. The story is a remarkable one – surprising in what it reveals about the internal power struggles at the BBC, hilarious in what it tells us about the big personalities in the station’s history, and compelling in its depiction of the progress of a true juggernaut of British entertainment. It’s a fantastic story, so rarely acknowledged, but crying out to be told.