Ebony under cover

Ebony Ariel article Julie Hill























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

This article about an episode of the black affairs series, Ebony, on the death of black activist Steve Biko, was published in the BBC staff newspaper, Ariel, on September 7th 1988.

Thanks to Julie Hill (previously Whittaker) for sharing this article.

Here is a transcript of the article:

‘A BBC team spent three weeks dodging the authorities in South Africa to make a film on the life of activist Steve Biko.

The programme, one of a £27 million package on BBC2 this autumn, was made by the Birmingham based Ebony team, and includes interviews with friends who speak about Biko publicly for the first time since his death in police custody 11 years ago.

Jamaican born director Terrence Francis, South African Kamscilla Naidoo, and the only white member of the team, Julie Whittaker, stayed in separate hotels, held clandestine meetings out of town and took care never to be seen with the camera crew during the making of Biko, The Spirit Lives, which goes out on the anniversary of his death next week.

“Being black helped us to set up interviews with people who would never talk to a white production team,” said Terrence Francis.

“But, as a group of mixed race, we had a tense time. We were stopped in a road block, we were followed, and our rooms were searched.”


The one-hour programme is among the first to go out in the autumn package, which is providing an “unprecedented platform for new, young talent,” said channel Controller Alan Yentob.’

Here is the link to the Radio Times entry from 19th September 1988, BBC2, courtesy of the BBC Genome project:

‘On 12 September, 1977, Steve Biko died in a South African prison. The official inquest cleared the authorities of any blame, but the circumstances of his death had repercussions all over the world.
At the age of 31, Biko was the charismatic leader of the Black Consciousness
Movement and one of the most influential political figures in the country.
In this Ebony film, Biko’s closest friends and associates describe how he emerged to lead the movement and the personal qualities that set him apart.
For the first time, they also tell the story of political intrigue and betrayal which led to his death and assess the legacy of the Black
Consciousness Movement in South African politics today. Executive producer JOHN WILCOX Produced and directed by TERRENCE FRANCIS BBC Pebble Mill’ http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/849536c00a1a408b868b4a75836aa760

Julie Whittaker (now Hill) adds the following comment: ‘I was only sorry our documentary didn’t receive the publicity & acclaim it deserved, oh & having escaped the secret police in SA I had a rifle pulled on me in Botswana – where were filming the reconstruction of Biko’s capture. Our team of 3 & local 3 man crew achieved what would nowadays involve about 50 people!!!’


CMCR9 at Onslow

CMCR9 in Onslow, 2013. Photo by Steve Harris, no reproduction without permission.

CMCR9 in Onslow, 2013. Photo by Steve Harris, no reproduction without permission.













The veteran BBC Type-2 scanner CMCR 9 formerly LO5/Midland/North 3 will be on public display at the Shrewsbury Steam Rally at Onslow Park next weekend.

Please note that the show is on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday 30th and 31st August 2015, so don’t turn up on the Saturday or you will be disappointed! This will be the last outing of the summer for North 3. The only other outing this year will probably be Salford Quays in October.

The organizer’s website for Onslow Park Steam Rally is :-  http://www.shrewsburysteamrally.co.uk/

As always, it would be great to meet up with some of you there. Come on you Midland folk, this is our farthest south expedition of the year!

Jerry Clegg

John Bland

John Bland SO






















Photo from Shirley O’Mara of John at the BBC Club, no reproduction without permission

John Bland, film editor, died recently. He joined BBC Birmingham as a news editor in Broad Street, and later became a film editor at Carpenter Road, before Pebble Mill was built. John’s credits include a Play for Today called Packman’s Barn 1976, the police series Juliet Bravo 1980; Mavericks, a BBC1 series in 1984 about eccentrics, produced by John Kenyon, which Sharon Pemberton assisted him on; and Countryfile amongst many others.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

‘John Bland, a Film Editor at Pebble Mill for many years, passed away suddenly last week aged 78. His funeral will be held at Streetly Crematorium on Weds 26th August 2015 at 10.00am.’

Shirley O’Mara

‘I was John’s assistant for a while and he was very much part of my early years in editing at Pebble Mill. I recall being (pleasantly) surprised by his insistence that ‘Two Tribes’ (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) was the best single EVER and that Ruby Turner was the best singer to come out of Birmingham. (I think eclectic is the word!) I hope they’re both serenading you John. R.I.P.’

Sharon Pemberton

‘Great bloke! I ran the Run the World race with John, Ingrid Wagner and Geoff Dargue. We trained every lunchtime by running up all the flights of stairs at Pebble Mill. Judging by the state of us at the end of the race it didn’t do us much good!’

Mark Ray




We are BBC Birmingham – Resources & Drama

We are BBC Bham Drama, ResourcesCopyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This still is from a brochure produced when BBC Birmingham moved to the Mailbox, in 2004. The brochure was for staff and people elsewhere in the industry, promoting the services and departments within BBC Birmingham.

Post production took outside bookings at this time, from series like Fifth Gear, as well as internal bookings.

Drama, did not relocate to the Mailbox, due to insufficient space, the cost, and the inability to film scenes around the premises, and instead arranged accommodation for themselves at the University of Birmingham.

Thanks to Dharmesh Rajput for sharing the brochure, and keeping it safe for the last decade.

Chris Weaver

Regional 'Day Out' Derby '83 GH











Photo from Gail Herbert, copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

Director of Photography, Chris Weaver has died recently. He is operating the camera in the photo above, which was on a Regional series, called Day Out, this episode was in Derby, 1983. Production Assistant, Gail Herbert, is next to him, with David Nelson, right of Chris. Chris worked at Magpie, with Jim Knights, and was married to Pebble Mill Make-up Designer, Lesley Weaver. Producer John Clarke is on the far left.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Elliot Weaver: ‘Action shot – “you must always point at something”‘

Johannah Dyer: ‘That is sad news – he was a lovely bloke who always went above and beyond what was expected on every shoot.’

Terry Powell: ‘So sad to hear, I knew and worked with his wife Lesley on so many shows and Chris as well sending love to his family.’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘Chris was the nicest guy ever and so lovely to work with I agree Jane. So sad to hear of this and I do send my condolences to Lesley and all the family. I remember Day Out well as I also worked on it with John Clarke. In fact, John is in this picture extreme left.’

Siobhan Maher Kennedy: ‘Very sad news . I loved the Magpie guys! Chris was great and I have happy memories from when I was in the regional opt out with Pamela Relton Liz Cox Rosalind Gower.’

Samantha Watkins: ‘Sorry to hear about the loss of Chris. Many happy memories . Here’s a photo I found in attic from the early 80’s. Also a photo of me and Lesley in 81 was in same album , on Nanny.

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