On Wednesday 8 September 2021 a BBC Heritage Trail blue plaque was unveiled on the site of BBC Pebble Mill, now a rehabilitation hospital, to commemorate the building and all the fantastic programmes that were created there. A small number of former BBC staff attended the ceremony. The plaque was unveiled by Midlands Today presenter, Nick Owen, who presented the last ever news programme from the broadcast centre.
Included in the photographs are:
- Annie Gumbley Williams, Jim Dumighan
- ?, Nick Owen
- Ken Pollack, Nick Owen
- Ken Pollack, Ivor Williams, John Duckmanton
- Norman McLeod, John Williams, Nick Owen
- Annie Gumbley Williams, Nick Owen, Jenny Brewer
I was fortunate enough to work at Pebble Mill during those heady days of regional TV when we had the luxury of not only ‘Midlands Today’ but two half hour opt-outs a week, Tuesday evenings and Friday nights.
That legendary producer Roger Casstles was the first to ask me to join the ‘Look! Hear!’ team as a presenter alongside Chris Phipps and Michael Woods. After the first series Michael left and Toyah Wilcox replaced him. At one time the programme was so popular we were receiving over 600 letters a week.
As a result John Clarke, another legend, asked me to present a new hobbies based series called ‘Sparetime’. The moment I saw the opening credits that Anne Jenkins had created I knew we were on to another winner.
The ground breaking programme ‘Together’ followed this. Ground breaking at the time because it focussed on the lives of communities that had settled in our region. The programmes objective was to bring us all closer together. I well remember the Sikhs of Coventry, the Muslims in Stoke, the Irish in Leicester and the Caribbean community in Handsworth, an OB.
If you have memories of this please contact me. They were halcyon days at The Mill.
I’ve written about it all in my autobiography, ‘This Is the BBC Holmes Service’.
For more details visit johnholmes.co.uk
This obituary for Gwen Arthy, by Carol Churchill was published in The Guardian 15 July 2021. Here is the link to the article: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jul/15/gwen-arthy-obituary?fbclid=IwAR0ps6b0vYMCqicmXcM5XFsZH3wQwyUkMuUr6SkrKtv2T7rErr68WLWmWfc
My former boss, Gwen Arthy, who has died aged 94, was head of makeup at BBC Pebble Mill from 1971 until 1985.
Gwen was born in Rochford, Essex, where her father was a baker.
She studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London, later to become Central St Martins. Her first employment was with a troupe of puppeteers, among whom was a young Ronnie Barker. She then moved to the costume-makers Angels, suppliers to film, theatre and TV, where one of her first tasks was to sculpt a nose for the baritone Tito Gobbi to wear in Tosca.
Gwen joined the BBC in London in 1964 to train as a makeup artist, before moving to the BBC studios at Gosta Green in Birmingham and then to the brand new Pebble Mill in 1971, where she became head of makeup. Programmes for which she designed makeup included Shakespeare or Bust (1970), The Brothers (1972), Nuts in May (1976) and Great Expectations (1981). When we worked on Who Pays the Ferryman? (1977), Gwen and I, as her assistant, were required to go to Crete for three months, where we shared many laughs, evenings in tavernas and midnight swims. As a result we became good friends
In 1985 she took early retirement and returned to her roots in Essex, settling in Leigh-on-Sea, where she found a lively artistic community in which she soon became involved. Over the years she became a prolific painter, in many different styles, and as well as having her own show her work was hung in many exhibitions, including the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy.
When ill health made her housebound she missed her art classes and her ability to put paint on canvas more than anything. Her interest in colour, form and texture was an integral part of her life. While she had still been able, she had travelled to many places to paint, in the UK and abroad, but her favourite, to which she returned many times, was the Isles of Scilly.
Gwen’s son, Tim, was given up for adoption in the early 1960s, but happily, in 2005, they were reunited and Gwen got to know her granddaughter, Amber.
While Gwen could be a demanding boss, she was very supportive of her staff and loved spending convivial evenings, and occasional lunchtimes, with them in the BBC Club, doing their best to empty the bar of its stock of Gordon’s gin. Gwen loved her home and garden and always had a cat, the last of whom was called Biscuit.
‘Great Expectations’ 1981, made at Pebble Mill. It would have been recorded in Studio A, for the interiors and on 16mm film on location, for exteriors. Actor Philip Joseph playing Joe Gargery the blacksmith. The editor was Oliver White, assisted by Ian Bellion.
Here is the link to more information on the BBC Genome project: https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/search/0/20?q=Great+Expectations++Phillip+Joseph#top
Below is the listing for episode 1 from the Radio Times
‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, dramatised in 12 parts by James Andrew Hall
Starring Gerry Sundquist as Pip, Stratford Johns as Magwitch, Joan Hickson as Miss Havisham, Phillip Joseph as Joe Gargery, John Stratton as Uncle Pumblechook
A lonely little figure hurrying home across the marshes… The sudden terrifying appearance of a brutal escaped convict – and Pip is launched on an adventurous journey that changes him from blacksmith’s apprentice to snobbish young gentleman.