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Ann Hummel - Award-Winning Researcher Revered at BBC and ITV

1 August 2007

Ann Hummel - Award-Winning Researcher Revered at BBC and ITV - Tributes Pour in From Across the Archive World


The news of Ann Hummel’s death on 11 July came as a cruel and sudden shock to all who knew her. Although diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of May, a fact which she kept secret from all but her closest family and friends, her death came prematurely as the result of a clot in her lung.

Ann’s listing in the FOCAL International Footage Directory read:

UK Archive & Stills Researcher / Consultant for television & feature films, specialising in history, lifestyle, film, arts & music subjects.

This was something of an understatement! Her list of credits alone read like the back catalogue of an arts and lifestyle channel. Joining the BBC virtually straight from school, she worked her way up to the position of researcher working on programmes such as Omnibus, Arena, Chronicle and even The Late Show, covering archaeology, history, literature, visual arts, classical music, theatre, et al. For ten years she worked with Producer Peter Adam in the BBC Music and Arts Department - work which took her around the world. She later worked on the series The Triumph of the West, also a series of music programmes with Simon Rattle and her own trilogy, City of Strangers which was aired in 1992.

Ann produced the Omnibus 90th birthday portrait of Sir John Gielgud, and a Bookmark programme on Edith Wharton. When she left the BBC and turned to freelance footage research work, her range of work broadened further to cover subjects such as fashion, nudity, opera and politics. She worked with Melvyn Bragg on The Story of ITV and provided a clip sequence in the Golden Globe winning film, RKO 281. She was the leading footage researcher on bodysong ( a feature film made entirely with archive footage) and Voices – for the Barcelona 2004 Expo, both of which won FOCAL International Awards for their use of footage.

Ann Hummel sharing a joke with Lord Puttnam after receiving a FOCAL International Award in 2005 for her work on the Forum Barcelona “Voices” exhibit.

In her spare time she indulged her passion for culture, good food, wine and travel and also acted as Media Adviser to the Swingle Singers.

FOCAL International has lost a valued colleague and major supporter. To reflect the impact of that loss on the whole archive community, we have assembled extracts from just some of the many tributes paid to her.


“Taught Me Everything”

“we became friends when we worked together on a series about the history of western civilisation, and travelled the world for the next 3 years. It was often an emotionally tortuous and exhausting journey, but it bound us tightly together.

You couldn’t ignore Ann. She was larger than life, a real force of nature, and her opinions and emotions were completely engaged in everything she did, and with everyone she met. Whether positive or negative, you were never in any doubt about what she thought. I don’t remember her ever giving a lukewarm or noncommittal reaction. She was immensely generous and a constant supporter to all her friends. She taught me more or less everything I know as a researcher, and continued to be my first port of call if I needed to pick her very full brain.

Her work at the BBC over 30 years was superlative and exciting. During that time she accumulated a phenomenal amount of knowledge, and a large circle of close and enduring friends. And her amazing visual flair and creativity was displayed in the costumes she designed - and made - for the Music and Arts Christmas pantomimes – as ever, she set herself high standards, worked all hours to accomplish them, and then exceeded them.

Most of all, Ann was a great friend. We did a huge amount together – going to the theatre, cinema, concerts, and ballet - eating and drinking, laughing most of the time - and, of course, holidays.

Between us, we have fantastic, enduring, joyful, loving memories of her. I don’t know what we’re going to do without her. Jane Mayes - BBC


“Partner and Friend”

Ann was a truly civilised person; she believed in such old fashioned things as values and standards.

She had a rare intelligence and she possessed a universal knowledge in a multitude of fields. She might have been born on the Isle of Wight, but she was as much at home in a museum in Beijing, the Prater in Vienna, a tavern in Crete, or a barge on the Nile.

She knew about the world of Franz Kafka, and the world of fashion, she knew all about ballet and about the name of rare plants.

We had over 10 years of an unusually rich collaboration, 10 years of uncompromising intellectual adventures, laughter and terrifying battles that resounded in the entire department.

We travelled the world and filmed some of the great. Lilian Hellman, Laurence Durrell, Flora Robson, Cecil Beaton, David Hockney, de Chirico, Nureyev, Boulez, Vittorio de Sica, Hans Werner Henze, and Dallapicola.

Without her knowledge and support, these films – OUR FILMS – would not have been what they were. Neither would I. And when she left me to become a producer herself, I lost a partner, not a friend.

Dear Ann, dear obstinate, awkward, bossy, generous, loving, faithful friend. How we will miss you. Peter Adam - Producer


“Outstanding Work”

Ann Hummel worked for us on a truly extraordinary and intricate series involving a unique range of archive material. This was the history of the whole of ITV.

Her work was outstanding. I think the series would have been much poorer without her contribution. She was a witty and brilliant woman and is much missed. Melvyn Bragg - Presenter, The South Bank Show


“Found Wonderful Material”

I had the great pleasure of working with Ann on the ITV series "The Story of ITV : The People's Channel". From our first meeting it was clear that she had outstanding knowledge and enthusiasm; over the year and more that we worked together it became clear that she also brought diligence, dedication and wit to bear. She found wonderful material - some in dusty cans of film that had never before been identified. She was a terrific film researcher, and a terrific colleague - both in the office and on occasions in the pub afterwards. I'm deeply sorry that i won't have the opportunity to work with her again. Simon Cherry - Script Editor : The Story of ITV


“No More Capable Researcher”

I worked with Ann for too brief a time on a South Bank Show profile of the great writer George Orwell back in 2003. Ann immediately shot off to the film libraries and came back with armfuls of archive footage that fitted the producer’s brief exactly. In fact Ann could have comfortably produced the show herself! I’ve been working in film and television for nearly thirty years and I’ve not worked with a more capable and knowing film researcher than Ann. But it wasn’t all work I’m glad to say; we enjoyed a sherbet or two over the Mulberry Bush at the end of the week. Ann was funny and good company, whose opinions on life were measured and valued. Phil Windeatt - Film Researcher, The South Bank Show, ITV


“Wonderful Companion”

Ann and I were nodding acquaintances across the BBC corridors for many years, but we never worked in the same department and so it was not until we both joined the freelance film researcher world that we really got to know each other and recognised that we were kindred spirits. We then used enjoy meeting to swap ideas, gossip, horror stories of productions we had known and favourite holiday destinations. Ann’s wisdom, humour, strong views and love of life made her a wonderful companion and I shall miss her enormously. Christine Whittaker - Archive Producer


“Knew a lot about a lot”

I remember her (by voice only) as a witty and engaging personality who knew a lot about a lot and was very ernest in her work. Fred MacDonald - MacDonald & Associates


“Gales of Laughter”

We always looked forward to Ann's visits. She managed somehow to be funny, knowledgeable and hard-working at the same time. She always insisted on viewing the footage herself and never left any stones unturned in her research. In doing this she was hugely supportive of many archive libraries but a particular champion of the small independent concerns. We are all so sad that we won't be welcoming Ann to the office again to be enveloped in her gales of laughter and enthusiasm for the world of archive footage. Alison Mercer & Rob Lloyd - Clips & Footage


“A Great Gal”

We both shared a passion for our work and enjoyed discovering new Archive for our documentaries. Ann was a great colleague, always generous with her knowledge of Archives around the World . And we would swop our knowledge and skills in our specialist areas when stuck for an Archive clip. When we worked together on a great documentary about the history of beauty and makeup I discovered that we had similar interests in music and all the arts. Ann and I enjoyed many an outing to see a foreign film at the NFT and other cultural activities, and when she wasn't giving 110 per cent to her Producer/Director in an Edit, catching up over a meal and a glass of champagne at Chez Gerrard. Ann was a great Archivist and a lovely person, a great Gal who will be missed by everyone who knew her. Susan Huxley - Footage Researcher


“Voice of Fun”

Ann was a wonderful friend and colleague: full of warmth and empathy, generous of spirit and in sharing experience. I shall always recall sharing her outrage, with pleasure!

Ann was a huge impassioned voice for all of us in the industry - and a huge, unforgettable voice of fun. Judy Patterson - Footage Researcher


"So Passionate About Her Job"

I knew Ann as a strong advocate of FOCAL International and a fellow member of the FOCAL Editorial Committee as well as a researcher client. Ann always had such a great presence, was so passionate about her job and had such a great character. Véronique Foucault - Head of Sales & Operations, AP Archive


"Fantastic, Positive and Dynamic Company"

She deserves a great tribute. She really was a good film researcher, very knowledgeable, very efficient. She was also fantastic, positive and dynamic company. Nathalie Baniags - Moving Image Communications


"Tireless in Her Efforts to Obtain the Very Best Material"

She was such a lovely person, absolutely dedicated to the cause of good footage research and tireless in her efforts to obtain the very best material for every thing she worked on. In her days at the BBC she campaigned tirelessly for the Hulton picture library to remain part of the BBC rather than be sold to Getty… Sadly that was a battle lost, but her enthusiasm and tenacity never waned throughout all the years she worked in the television business and she will be greatly missed by all who know her. Rosalind Bentley - Footage Researcher


"She Will Be Sorely Missed"

She was one of my first (and best) clients when I used to run the Imagebank library and really encouraging when I turned freelance – she will be sorely missed. Paul Bell - Footage Researcher


Sister’s Tribute

Dear Friends and Colleagues of Ann

Thank you all for your e-Mails which were forwarded to us by Jane Mayes.
I have been overwhelmed by all the kind thoughts and messages about Ann and feel proud to have been sister to such a personality.
Many messages convey similar sentiments; ‘a one-off’, ‘strong’, ‘passionate’, ‘hugely helpful with immense knowledge’, ‘highly intelligent’, ‘a great character’, ‘funny’, and ‘extremely good at her job’. All this is so true.
Ann did not want to worry people about her illness so she did not let it be known. She bore the pain and the knowledge of her inevitable death with great courage. She never complained once.
I am so aware that many of you were friends of such long-standing. Once Ann made a friend she kept a friend. I have not only lost a sister but my best friend, someone with whom I could share thoughts on everything – life, family, theatre, film, art, costume and fashion, politics and humour. She is a huge loss - not just to me but to everyone who knew her.

With kindest regards,

Jackie Robinson and Andrew Robinson