Countryfile – photo from Pam Relton

Copyright resides with the original holder; no reproduction without permission.

This is an early photo of the ‘Countryfile’ production team, and includes:
Back row l to r: Dan Cherrington, ?, Susie Lightfoot, Mark Jobst, ?, Julia Gillet, Caroline Smith, Anne Stevens.
next row: Mike Derby, Janice Wallace, Mike Fitzgerald, Patrick Flavelle, Jo Toye, Penny Searley, Mick Murphy
next row: John Clarke, Pam Relton, ?, Ruth Patterson, Yasmin Archer, Katharine Lapworth, Lynn Cullimore
Next row: ?, Ian Breach, Anne Brown, Chris Baines.

Apparently the photo was taken by the Press Office either as part of a publicity drive, or just before the Christmas Party.

The ‘Countryfile’ team did get together from time to time and had several epic Xmas parties hosted by Mike Fitzgerald. Long lunch and a return to the Club bar where revelry would include Mick Murphy playing the piano for a sing-song.

Countryfile’ began life in 1988.  The rural affairs magazine show was fronted by John Craven for the next twenty years.  It used to be transmitted on a Sunday morning, until the move to the 7pm Sunday evening slot in 2009.  It is still made by BBC Birmingham.

The photo was taken on the front lawn of Pebble Mill, with Reception behind.

Thanks to Patrick Flavelle and Mike Fitzgerald for the additional information.

Patrick makes the following comment about working on ‘Countryfile’:

“I remain convinced that while it was a Press Office pic….it was actually taken on the day of the first Xmas party….we’re all togged up esp Murph with his DJ….Janice’s hair-do etc….but no matter the circ’s it bringsback v fond memories of a lovely team of people…I still tease my dear friend John Craven about the fact I worked in Countryfile before he did!!! ( He joined about 1year in)
In fact my claim to fame (Fitz would put me right on this one)…I think I was the first person after Fitz himself to work on Countryfile on a rolling weekly contract in the crossover between Farming and CF…I was so happy to be involved….and ended up there for over 10 years…happy memories galore.”

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12 Comments

  • message from Fitz: “Patrick is wrong. This picture was taken for the Press Office at Pebble Mill as part of a publicity drive. I have a copy in my new “office”. Now, if one wants to see Countryfile Christmas Party Pics I have a few memorable ones!……….”

  • Hi Pam, I’d love to see Fitz’s photos, if he’s happy to share them! Please could you ask him.
    Best wishes
    Vanessa

  • Patrick Flavelle

    Sure it was done by Press Office, but I’m still convinced it was on the day of the first Xmas party Fitz….before we got on the bus…hence all the glad-rags…Janice’s hair and Murph’s DJ. And I’ve never worn a tie at work since!

  • Janice Houghton-Wallace

    Have just stumbled across this webpage – oh what memories. 11 exciting years for me. I’m now living on the south coast of Scotland, really rural, country life for me.

    Janice Wallace

  • Yes I think it was the Xmas party day too. Such happy happy memories of working with these lovely people. Where did the time go I ask myself.
    Lynn Cullimore x

  • Just stumbled upon this blog and Pebble Mill community, after reading about Arthur Binnie’s sad passing.
    Re Countryfile, it is fun to look at the photograph and recognise old friends/colleagues.
    My involvement was to be a producer on Farming, with Martin Small, and Exec John Kenyon. We wanted to acknowledge the large “over the shoulder” audience we had on “Farming”, and hence wrote the brief for “Countryfile”. I remember it well, sitting in JK’s office sketching in the idea, and kicking around names. I came up with the CF name, although we may have thought it should be two words…
    Michael Grade CBBC1 accepted the idea, the team went from 4 to 24, and the CF bandwagon started rolling.
    After poor Brain Strachan died, there was a vacancy on Top Gear, and JK told me to get some broader experience, before applying to run CF. So I did, but they did not want me to run CF, as I was supposedly too biased to the farming community and Mike F got the gig.
    I stuck with Top Gear and the rest is history…
    Will anyone read this stuff? How active is this section of the blog? Would be fun to hear from anyone involved. Try [email protected] if the blog is too public/obscure…
    Ken Pollock

  • Hi Ken

    Thanks for writing this comment, and it’s very interesting to hear how Countryfile came into being. I’d like to post your comment as a separate blog on the website, assuming that’s ok with you. I’ll then copy the post across to the Pebble Mill Facebook page, which is where people tend to comment. There are 1400 members of the Facebook page, the majority of whom worked at Pebble Mill. I also wonder whether you’d be interested in writing more about your BBC career? It would be great to hear about your experiences of Top Gear etc. If you would be prepared to write a longer blog, then please email me directly: [email protected].

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Best wishes

    Vanessa

  • For years it was CountryFile – like EastEnders…can’t remember when it lost the upper case F (said in slightly nasal voice wearing my anorak!)

  • Okay to put out photo and link to comments on Facebook page in the next Pebble Mill Newsletter? Ann

  • Hi Annie

    Yes, there shouldn’t be a problem with that!
    Vanessa

  • I came across this post today as I was watching countryfile and wondering what happened to Dan Cherrington who hosted the forerunner Farming programme. As a 12 year old boy living in South Devon in 1981 I met Dan and Ken Pollock when they visited our farm Torr Down to film the story of my parents emigrating to Australia with a nucleus of their South Devon herd (where the grass is greener). They then visited Australia a year later to do a follow up piece (Moving Down Under). Great memories and glad to see the programme is still going albeit under a different name
    Jonathan Harvey

  • Great to read Ken’s comments about the birth of Countryfile…still going strong in Bristol. An inspired idea from messrs Kenyon, Small and Pollock.

    I was lucky enough to be taken on by Mike Fitzgerald, whose approach to bringing on youngsters was a blend of avuncular tough love and the teaching of skills needed for high quality programme-making. I learned fast – we had to to keep pace with 48 shows a year. Fitz laid the foundations and production values for what is now still a wonderful show.

    I was one of the first paid employees (maybe even the first!?) on Countryfile’s not Farming’s books – a rolling weekly contract as what would now be a Development Researcher for the new show. It led to my 12 years on the show as Researcher, AP, Producer and, finally, Series Producer!

    Happy days indeed under tutelage from the likes of Fitz, Mike Derby, Dick Colthurst, Mick Murphy, Richard Parfitt, Mike Bloore, Roger Seward, John Couzens and many other talents….especially John Craven. Sitting next to him typing up his v/o scripts on the Amstrad word processor, I learned how to write for TV!

    I now do some training with BBC Academy and it was a recent pleasure to use a Countryfile piece – with shooting script and v/o script kindly supplied by Becky Pratt – as a great example to use to teach factual storytelling on a PSC directing course at Wood Norton.

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