Born Allada Barbara Grenville-Wells in London, Barbara moved with her family to South Africa in 1924. She followed her late father into journalism and worked for the Rand Daily Mail, where he had been deputy editor. She then worked as a radio news editor for SABC (South African Broadcasting Company) and in the early 1950s moved to the UK and worked as a freelance scriptwriter for BBC TV’s Newsreel.
Barbara joined ITN at its launch and was the first female to present the news on a national television service in the UK. She was an ITN newscaster from September 23rd 1955, fronting the midday bulletin. She was also a general reporter until 1957. With Lynne Reid Banks, who went on to become an acclaimed writer, Mandell was one of the company’s first two female reporters. With their male counterparts, they were the first broadcasters to conduct voxpops – interviews with ordinary people in the street. At the time, it was controversial for a woman to approach a male stranger in public but Barbara was helped by the presence of a film cameraman and sound recordist. She also reported on a Paris fashion show, something that had never been seen in BBC news bulletins. Barbara’s time as a newscaster was short. By January 1956, ITV was losing money, ITN’s budget was slashed and it dropped the midday news, causing Aidan Crawley (editor) and Christopher Chataway (presenter of the 10pm programme) to resign. In the event, the former national newspaper journalist Geoffrey Cox took over as editor and built on the reputation that Crawley had gained for ITN; Ludovic Kennedy replaced Chataway. Barbara continued at ITN as a scriptwriter and reporter; she returned to newscasting briefly to present Sunday evening bulletins, although she eventually disappeared from screens to work behind-the-scenes. Her final role was as chief copy taster on News at 5.45. She retired in 1980 (ITN’s 25th anniversary year).
Barbara was married to Alan Mandell in 1945, who later went on to become a presenter on BBC Radio 2 (under the name Alan Dell). The marriage was dissolved 10 years later. Her second partner, of 20 years, was former ITN cameraman Martin Gray; remembered for coverage of news stories such as the Hungarian uprising in 1956. He left ITN after losing a leg through gangrene. The couple made travel films and Barbara wrote books, most notably about France, Spain and Portugal. In 1992, they moved to Devon and Gray died four years later.
Paul R. Jackson corresponded with Barbara in August 1980: “I have been in the broadcasting world since 1944 when I joined the SABC in Johannesburg. I returned to England and was with the BBC until I joined ITN in August 1955. The first time I read the news was at midday on September 23rd 1955, the second day ITN was on the air. I can’t remember when I last read the news but it must have been in 1956 or 1957. Apart from being a newscaster, I was also a reporter and writer from the time I joined ITN. In the early days, the weekend newscasters were David Scott James and Rex Keating. Later we had Antony Brown, David Lutyens who went to MIT in Boston and Elizabeth Kenrick. I have enclosed two photographs – one from my newscasting days and the other taken last year. This really brings you up-to-date as I am leaving ITN this month.”
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring Barbara which we found on social media sites or have made available from our own archive. The clips are presented here for additional reference. Inclusion of a video does not constitute an endorsement of the hosting site/channel/user. If you find any broken links below or are aware of an additional clip(s) which you believe may be a useful addition to this profile, please get in touch with us via our Contact page.
PICTURED: Barbara Mandell (ITN, 1980). SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.