Comedienne Victoria Wood died today, aged 62, after a battle with cancer.
Birmingham played an important part in launching Victoria Wood’s career. She studied Drama at Birmingham University in 1971, and as you’ll see from the excerpt of her obituary in the Telegraph today, one of her first professional engagements was at BBC Pebble Mill. Does anyone know what the ‘local television programme about Midlands Life’ was? Please add a comment if you do.
I think that Victoria was probably quite a challenging student at Birmingham University. I studied English and Drama there a decade later, and remember being told by one of our lecturers, Gerry McCarthy, that Victoria had refused to choose any of the options she was offered, and they had to put together a module on Farce especially for her!
“In 1971 she enrolled at Birmingham University to study Drama and Theatre Arts and while working as a part-time barmaid in a pub frequented by BBC producers was invited to a party where she played a few of her songs. The following day she auditioned at the BBC studio, Pebble Mill, and was given a spot on a local television programme about Midlands life. This led to another audition, and two appearances on the ITV talent show New Faces, one of which she won.”
The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
Lynn Cullimore: ‘I do know that John Clarke knew her and I think he was the producer. I was John’s Production Assistant after that time but I know they were friends. What an amazing lady though – so talented and so sad she is no longer with us. What has been happening lately that we have lost so many talented artists.’
Katie Cooper (Wright): ‘Apart from the regional news programme we also had the ‘Regional Opt Out’. Half an hour’s worth. Regionally based and ranging from news magazines to inter-town quizzes….travelogues, history, even live music + audience from Studio B!!!!. John Clarke and Roger Casstles were two of the Producers in the days of Victoria Wood. David Nelson and I amongst the Directors… Couldn’t name the specific programme she was involved in though…sorry.’
Malcolm Hickman: ‘Back in those days, Midlands News did 2 half hour opt outs a week. One on a Tuesday night and one on a Thursday night. They often featured a particular town or event. It may have been one of those programmes.’
Andy Walters: ‘I’m sure some of her As Seen On TV series was filmed around the corridors of Pebble Mill.’
Jane Clement: ‘A lovely lady, met her several times on the Mill. Another one gone too soon.’
I remember Victoria coming in to do ‘Pebble Mill at One’she was still an unknown and I asked her what she did.(I was the sound man on the studio floor), She said I sing and play the piano – so I was expecting Kate Bush or Lynsey de Paul both of whom had played that same piano! What happened at the sound check was hilarious and unique – a talent never to be repeated. It’s a terrible loss to smiling.
Incidentally the local news opt out was ‘Midlands Today’.
I was a film editor in regional television from 1976 to 1982, when I was lured to Central by Roger Casstles. One of the first half hour opt-out films I cut was ‘Calmore Rises’ for John Clarke. It was about housing problems in Walsall and had a specially written score by Victoria Wood. Having just spent two years in the lawless jungle of BBC Northwest in Manchester, it was such a relief to return to something more closely resembling the BBC values I’d grown used to as an assistant in Film Dept. In London. Alrhough the music was scored for solo guitar, we recorded it in the splendid surroundings of the large radio music studio. Wonderful days.