Obituary: Neil Eccles – BAFTA award winning TV producer
BAFTA Award-winning BBC producer and director Neil Eccles, who became a well known figure in the Lymington sailing community, has died at the age of 76.
Recognised in the Royal Television Society Awards for the BBC coverage of the funeral of Princess Diana, Neil covered major royal and parliamentary events in the UK in a career which spanned five decades.
Born in September 1947, Neil studied applied physics at Durham University and also worked as a student volunteer at BBC Radio Durham.
After finishing university he joined the BBC, initially working as an engineer before becoming a videotape editor. He then progressed to become a producer and director for outside broadcast events.
He married Bronwyn in July 1970 and the couple had two children – Bryony in 1977 and Anthony in 1979.
Neil was involved with the BBC’s 1977 silver jubilee coverage including the Windsor Great Park event. In 1981 he became executive producer for outside broadcasts.
His family said: “Neil’s body of work included the annual coverage of the state opening of parliament, the Chelsea Flower Show, Crufts and the International Festival of the Sea, but he is best known for many of the major outside broadcasts of the 1990s including coverage of the D-Day 50th anniversary events, the Hong Kong handover in 1997, major royal events; and 2000 Today the BBC International Millennium Show.”
In 1984, Neil covered the Conservative Party conference in Brighton which culminated in the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel. He had been working late at the hotel and left for his own hotel around 30 minutes before the bomb was detonated.
In 1990 Neil was coordinating producer and director of the BBC coverage of the Nelson Mandela Freedom Concert, which was watched by millions around the world. A former BBC colleague recalled: “This was the show in which Neil was very involved and was the coordinating producer for all the international output. On the day, he directed this international output as well, his responsibility being to ensure that there was appropriate and high-quality coverage going out to the many broadcasters and millions of viewers around the world.”
In 1995 Neil was nominated for a Bafta for his coverage of the 1994 D-Day Remembered broadcast, and the following year he won a Bafta for his work on VE Day. In 1997 the coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral that he produced and directed won a Royal Television Society Award.
As the year 2000 began, Neil was executive producer of BBC’s 28 hour round-the world live coverage of the Millennium, co-ordinating with 60 different international broadcasters.
In 2005 Neil and Bronwyn moved from Surrey to Lymington, where Neil quickly got involved in local life as commodore of the Moody Owners Association and an active member of the Royal Lymington Yacht and Lymington Town Sailing clubs, often volunteering his technical expertise to ensure audio-visual events were flawless.
His involvement in community life also led to membership of Lymington History Society and volunteering at the community cinema in the Lymington Community Centre. He was also involved in the creation of Talking News, an audio recital for the sight-impaired of the contents of the Lymington Times and New Milton Advertiser. Even towards the end of his life, Neil was volunteering to run computer literacy workshops through Citizens Advice.
From 2006 to 2019, Neil was the Seawork harbour master at annual the Seawork Exhibition for the commercial marine and work boat sector.
Sadly Neil was diagnosed with cancer in 2020, but he faced his illness with determination even after learning it was incurable. His family said: “Neil will be remembered most as a loving husband, father and grandfather, a keen sailor and a wonderful friend.
Neil is survived by Bronwyn, his children and three grandchildren. A funeral service has been held.