Growing up in the 1970's watching shows like Doctor Who and Blake's 7 one name always stood out on the credits and that was Mat Irvine. He would appear on shows like Swap Shop and Saturday Superstore, bringing along spaceships etc... that he'd built for the BBC.
I wrote to Mat Irvine at the BBC when I left College in 83' regarding working in the Visual Effects Department. A few weeks later I recieved a letter from him, a standard reply he had printed due to the number of requests he received. On the back though he'd wrote a brief note saying that the BBC didn't specialise in jobs like 'Model Maker' and wished me 'Good Luck'. His main letter stated that and FX Designer needed skills including Sculpture, Carpentry, Metalwork, Painting and Drawing, Model Making, Electronics and a certain amount of Chemistry and Optics, plus a general awareness of Film and TV effects techniques. Also printed on the letter was a 'recent job advertisement' for a job in the 'Visual Effects Dept' Now this was around 1983-84 and it states that the salary was £6569 per annum, I believe that would be around £15,000 in today's money. Needless to say I didn't end up working at the BBC Visual Effects department but always kept my interest in all things artistic and Sci-Fi etc... but always dreamed I'd end up making Spaceships for Film or TV.
The BBC Visual Effects Department as it was closed in 2003.
In 2005 over 20 years after writing to Mat Irvine I was sitting at my PC at home making Spaceships for a BBC SF show Hyperdrive and I remember thinking I'm doing the job that Mat Irvine used to do, only I didn't even have to leave the house. It shows how CGI has changed the Film and TV industry and the way they work. The sad aspect is Mat's models were real when he used to appear on TV to talk about them, mine only exist in a Virtual World, so if Swap Shop ever did come back there'd be no chance of me getting invited on :)
The BBC now has a dedicated model department which is allied to the BBC Post Production department. They've produced miniatures for recent shows like Doctor Who and Krakatoa - The Last Days.