Why the ‘6.55 Special’ came from a Radio Studio – Mark Kershaw

Why was “6.55 Special” made in Radio Studio 1?

When the lunchtime programme Pebble Mill at One was first broadcast it was “serviced” by the galleries and cameras of the two proper TV studios at Pebble Mill. Studio A on a Tues and Friday, while the studio was being reset between dramas etc (“All Creatures”, “Basil Brush”, “Great Expectations” etc) and Studio B on a Mon, Wed and Thurs, because its cameras could be re-rigged back from the Foyer in time for the evenings “Midlands Today”.

PM@1 was only on the air Sept to mid May, so for the whole summer the production staff were potentially under-utilised. So in 1982? (not sure when) 6.55 Special was sold to BBC2, a weekday early evening live entertainment and chat show, 6.55-7.30 (I think).

But it couldn’t use the existing studios which were incredibly busy in the evenings.

And that is why Radio Studio 1 (the one used for classical recitals etc) was turned into a TV studio, with an audience rostra and a permanent set with a sofa chat area (seen in the photo for the 6.55 Special post) and a stage as performance area. The sound was mixed in the radio sound control room, where the mobile lighting control desk was also rigged. The “lightweight” OB scanner CM2 was parked outside just off the fire track and used as production and vision control, with VT as well played from the scanner, but also connected up to Pebble Mill’s VT area.

Eventually when the Standby TV Network Continuity Suite needed refurbishing, the area was re-modelled as a full TV gallery – Gallery C (not sure the date but early 80’s).From then on Pebble Mill @ One or any of it’s spin offs came from that discreet gallery, but before then the studio equipment at Pebble Mill was some of the most utilised kit in the whole of the BBC!

6.55 Special moved into the courtyard after the famous movable roof was installed. And that is why for the first series, at least, 6.55 Special came from a radio studio.

Mark Kershaw

Mark Kershaw directing Pebble Mill at One

2 comments on “Why the ‘6.55 Special’ came from a Radio Studio – Mark Kershaw
  1. God, 6.55 Special! I produced quite a few of these, including the second program in the series. I was nervous as hell because it was a new live show, put together very quickly and had, to say the least, an interesting combination of presenters: Sally James and David Soul. David had a colourful personal life, no experience of interviewing whatsoever, and a habit of asking ‘so what’s my motivation here’ Hollywood-type questions that were irrelevant when interviewing, for example, a miner. For the show I lined up David Puttnam (not a Sir back then), one of my favourite guests (I’d fixed him for Pebble Mill interviews several times). I decided to ask him who his ideal guest would be and he said – Joanna Lumley. So I went to a great deal of trouble to fix up Joanna to appear as well and didn’t tell him – he was visibly shocked when he saw her – he obviously thought she was fantastic. For live music we had the Boomtown Rats playing and David Soul interviewed a bemused looking Bob Geldof. It was a very stressful show for me, although it looked good on camera. After the show, David (well, his PA, who joined us in the office and was ever-present), sent me a huge bouquest of flowers, with a message that said: “To Jane, thank you for caring, love David Soul”.

  2. Thanks for the explanation!
    Fascinating project and typical of the way the facilities at PM were used so imaginatively and so cost effectively,leading the way for other parts of the Beeb.

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