The Newsreader, the Vicar and the Ballet Dancers

Radio Producer, Pete Simpkin.

Radio Producer, Pete Simpkin. Copyright resides with the original holder













Much was made in the early days of Pebble Mill at One of the fact that it was broadcast from a working Reception area, but as the time went by, the apparent ‘feel’ of the working bit became less obvious to the viewers. In the mid 80s the famous ‘side entrance’ to the building was created to avoid too many problems but there was still the challenge of the short distance between the bottom of the stairs near the entrance to the Network Radio studios and the door to the corridor which connected to the new Entrance.

One famous lunchtime I had just finished pre-recording a series of ‘Thought for the day’ (we actually called it ‘God on Monday’ etc which ran for the five weekdays, but that led to trouble when listeners wrote in complaining they wanted ‘God on Saturday’ and Sunday as well but that’s another story). Anyway I was faced with the challenge of getting my clerical speaker off the premises and across this famous space. He was a bit intimidated by all the lights and noise so I pressed my hand into the small of his back and propelled him into the void. At this moment the director of PM cut to a wide angle shot of some ballet dancers prancing about and there, caught walking across the back of the shot, the millions of viewers (my mother watching in far off Southampton included) were transfixed …possibly delighted….to see a priest being apparently frog-marched across the shot by a determined bespectacled radio producer.

As I saw the petrified preacher into his car in the road outside the director must have reached elevated levels of blood pressure and the floor manager was encouraged to lock the corridor door so preventing me getting back into the building via the approved route. This would have been alright for most members of staff but I was charged with reading the two pm News Summary on Radio WM and needed to get back upstairs PDQ. Faced with the locked door I had to run back down to the side reception, sprint the length of Pebble Mill Road, up the North drive, round to Rear Security, along the long corridor and as there wasn’t time to wait for the lift, spring up the stairs to the Newsroom to collect the script and finally round all the corridors to the studio arriving just in time but desperately short of wind. Dear old Jack Johnston our manager, who held News and all its works as his priority, if not total raison d’être was alarmed to hear my breathless presentation of his treasured 2pm Summary and, bursting through the door as the red light went out, serenaded with me in his Scottish tones regarding the importance of not reading his treasured bulletins when out of breath…I think that’s what he said there were some Celtic adjectives which I have only recently erased from my memory. Following my gasping, and to him, feeble excuse that I had been locked out of the building by the power crazed Pebble Mill at One staff he stormed away and I later heard that there had been a not too friendly internecine discussion about lunchtime access procedures, with the result that never again were we prevented from getting back into the studios at lunchtime!

Pete Simpkin

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