Antonia Bird (1951-2013)

Director, Antonia Bird sadly died last week. She directed the BBC 1, 1988 5 part series, Thin Air from Pebble Mill, a London Hosted production; it stared a young girl called Kate Hardie who is Bill Oddie’s daughter. The drama told the story of Rachel Hamilton, a radio reporter who investigates corruption in the community. It starred James Aubrey, Cristina Avery and Brian Bovell. It was written by Peter Busby and Sarah Dunant, produced by Caroline Oulton, with Steve Saunderson as the lighting cameraman, Amanda Atkinson the designer, and Simon Passmore the script editor.

Antonia Bird was 62 years old, and died of thyroid cancer. She began as a theatre director at the Royal Court and went on to direct Spooks, Cracker and The Village, as well as films: Priest, Face, and Ravenous, all starring Robert Carlyle. She won a TV Bafta for the 1993 single drama Safe, and Care, which was broadcast in 2000.

Below is the transmission card. Thanks to Maggie Humphries for sharing it.

Thin Air MH Thin Air TX card MH

Nigel Davenport (1928-2013)

Actor, Nigel Davenport died of pneumonia on 25th October 2013, aged 85.  Nigel was best known for appearing in films like A Man for All Seasons,  Chariots of Fire, Greystoke, Zulu Dawn but he also appeared in a couple of Pebble Mill drama series. He appeared in the series Trainer as the character, James Brant, and also as Sir Edward Frere in  Howards’ Way.

Here is the publicity brochure for Trainer, which features Nigel Davenport. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

Trainer MH Trainer 2 MH Trainer 3 MH Trainer 4 MH Trainer 5 MH
























The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Carole Haysom: ‘I worked with Nigel on both Howards’ Way and Trainer. He had a wicked sense of humour and a true gentleman. A top notch actor who didn’t take himself too seriously. I didn’t realise he’d died, unfortunately some news doesn’t filter through here in Dubai.’

Student Protest at Pebble Mill at One

Grant protest EJ









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

Press cutting from the Daily News of December 7, 1984, about a student protest storming Pebble Mill at One. The protest was about Keith Joseph’s cut back to student grants.

Thanks to Eurwyn Jones, to sharing this cutting.

Countryfile with Rupert Segar

Rupert Segar with rabid fox caught in Nancy. Countryfile 1990. Mick Murphy dir. CW













Photo by Charles White, no reproduction without permission.

(The photo is of Countryfile presenter, Rupert Segar, from 1990. The story was about a rabid fox caught in Nancy, France.)

I was on attachment to CountryFile as a director from my editing job, and went upstairs to start day 1. Mike Fitzgerald, the then Series Producer asked me if i had a passport and i was duly dispatched to France. With Michael Murphy as my mentor, we turned up in Nancy looking for rabies. At this time the Chunnel was about to complete and the big fear (unfounded) was that rabid foxes would walk through to Britain. (The fact that bats fly here with it wasn’t overlooked, but not explored). Nancy at this period was the epicentre of Rabies on the continent, and we filmed without luck in the surrounding forests. By pure chance as we were at the Laboratoires de La Rage, a rabid fox got trapped in a tennis court and was duly brought to us. The picture shows Rupert doing a PTC (Piece to Camera) in front of the wretched creature. (They were tested and then subsequently killed with cyanide)- the fox, not Rupert!

Of further interest is the crew size; Director, Presenter, PA, Lighting man, Sound, and Cameraman – what luxury! CountryFile had in its office 4 teams of Director, Producer, researcher and PA, who operated a 4 week rota of making items for the programme; this model worked very well. Researchers could take days out to recce the countryside for stories, and then a suitable crew would be designated for the job.

On another Fox story with Michael Collie, in the far north of Scotland, I directed for 3 days an item about a moratorium on shooting foxes which had been running for three years. Great theory and lots of interviews about predation of sheep etc; as the sun went down on us and Michael did his final PTC, a farmer came up to us in his land rover and confessed he’d been shooting foxes during the whole experimental time. Back to the drawing board….!!!

Charles White

Mick Murphy added the following comment on the Pebble Mill Facebook group: ‘Charles is spot on. He was also selected for his impeccable French. The story went on to Northallerton, North Yorkshire, for a demonstration, by local Trading Standards of their rabies containment strategy, using a very reluctant labrador, acting as an infected dog. Those were the days when CountryFile featured single items. It was also Rupert’s debut.’


VT Maintenance

IRC012 03 85











Photo by Ian Collins, no reproduction without permission.

This photo is dates from March 1985, and shows installation or maintenance of one of Pebble Mill’s VT Suites.

The owl on the monitor in the back of shot was wired so that his eyes lit up!

VT Editor, Tim Savage, added the following information: ‘this was the first incarnation of VTE when it was an Electra suite prior to changing to the Sony 9100 edit controller. The eyes of the owl lit up red so that directors knew when the edit was actually being printed rather than rehearsed.’