Oliver White (Editor) – His Unreliable Memoirs – ‘Nuts in May’

Nuts in May by Mike Leigh

Did Mike Leigh know this was going to be a knock-out success umpteen years later??  I didn’t!   ‘The famous CHEWING sequence!  We tried several lengths.  I now think it would be even funnier 4-5 seconds longer.  I’ve always been a great believer in the ‘perfect stranger’.  You grab someone passing the door, show them a one minute section and say, ‘Does it work?’  Yes, a fresh pair of eyes!  The chap who played the quarry man did it for a MONTH, with Mike’s P.A. making notes!  Then Alison and Roger turned up, and it lasted say an hour.  And finally whittled down to what you now see.  The chap loved doing it so much, he gave up acting and became a palaeontologist.

Two or three years later Alison was doing something that required her to walk across a ‘real’ school playground.  ‘It won’t work’, she said, ‘They’ll recognise me’.  ‘Go on’, said the director, ‘Give it a try.’  Well, all the kids rushed at her calling, ‘Candice-Marie, Candice-Marie!!’  (Mike heard the name on a bus).

I believe ‘Nuts in May’ had a remote genesis in a little two-hander upstairs at the Royal Court, called something like ‘Holy Glory’, about veggies.

Oliver White (Editor) – His Unreliable Memoirs – ‘Red Shift’

Red Shift by Alan Garner

I was a little apprehensive of working with John McKenzie.  Like any good editor I’d looked at a previous film.  It was about the Orange Order in Glasgow, and was very good, tough stuff.  I vividly remember looked at the ‘synched’ rushes.  Take 1, so, so; Take 2, better; Take 3, better still!   Take 4, perfect.  Then horror!  Take 5.  Now I’d worked on quite a bit of twaddle, such as ‘Nanny’ (actually, that had some good bits) and the  Takes would go on to 8 or 9.  After Take 4, the poor actors would ‘fall over a cliff’, because they didn’t know what was expected of them.  Now a Take 5!  It was even better than perfect.  Then he stopped.  I now knew it was going to be good.  I don’t normally like directors ‘sitting in’ on the first cut.  I want them to be a fresh pair of eyes, but John just sat at the back of the room, read ‘The Times’ and moaned about the fuel consumption of his Volvo/DAF 340.  (I could have told him the belt drive would give 15 mpg….) It was obvious how to cut it, as it was so well directed.  Then the work started!  It is/was set in three time periods.  We sub-divided and rearranged them to make it, hopefully, more interesting.  We put the ‘in’s and outs’ of each scene on different coloured cards, and blu-tacked them all over the wall!  We were both nervous as to Alan Garner’s reaction to John altering his precious story – but he said, ‘John, it was my script, but it’s your film!’  I think he was quite happy.

I’d stolen a huge blow-up of Quatermass I from the basement – ex Pebble Mill at One.  My assistant,  Claire Doukin, coloured in the dreadful Space Slime consuming Westminster Abbey …. It’s now in my garage.

Oliver White (Editor) – His Unreliable Memoirs – A Touch of Eastern Promise

A Touch of Eastern Promise by Tara Prem, directed by nice Michael Lindsay-Hogg

It was ok I guess, but all that matters is Michael’s WATCH.  It was wafer thin, and curved round his wrist.  The winder was a jewel.  It had cost £800, and been given him by The Beatles for directing ‘Let It Be’.  When going on holiday he’d rung the suppliers, Cartier, and asked, ‘Is it shock-proof?’  ‘Oh no sir.’  ‘Is it waterproof?’  ‘Certainly NOT sir.  Please regard it as a piece of jewellery…’

Oliver White (Editor) – his unreliable memoirs: ‘Shakespeare or Bust’

Shakespeare or Bust by Peter Terson, directed by lovely Brian Parker


I’d cut ‘The Fishing Party’, directed by Michael Simpson, who was at that stage director of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.  So it was great to return to such excellent material, working with Brian Parker.  A party of us went to see Brian Glover wrestle in Wolverhampton.  Now Brian had had trouble being allowed to ‘have a go’, until one night the continental Super Star didn’t turn up, so they said, ‘You’re on! But you’re not Brian Glover, you are Leon Arras!’  So that’s the name Brian fought under, until one dreadful night a great Frenchman turned up, poked him in the chest, and said, ‘Vous est NOT Leon Arras, pour moi est le REAL Leon Arras!’  After that it was ‘Brian Glover’ who took to the ring!  The night we went was the most hilarious of my life.  When Brian was on top NO ONE could have looked more smug and arrogant!  How we boo-ed!  Then with one flick, he was on the floor, being squashed! NO ONE could have looked more abject, and hard done by.  We were weeping with laughter…….

When Peter Terson came to see the rough cut.  He was covered in blood.  We didn’t like to ask what had happened.  Had he murdered someone?


Memories of Pebble Mill

Pete in WM Studio 1

From PETE SIMPKIN  – Radio Birmingham/WM producer and presenter 1970-1988

Pebble Mill was a pioneering Broadcasting Centre custom built to house the cream of the BBC’s non metropolitan broadcasting and its staff. It unified under one roof several premises in Birmingham and so brought together all the talent and technology for Broadcasting in the 70s and 80s. It also was the headquarters of the BBC’s non London Organisation.  Others will tell the story of the building, of it’s multitude of programmes both on TV and Radio. There was a high profile Radio operation including drama and Music of all kinds, not forgetting of course the fact that it was the home of ‘The Archers’, the Radio soap opera.

For my part it was a terrific place to work. Local Radio was the first part of the operation to be homed here as it went ‘On air’ as the Mill was being commissioned. Wherever there are local radio broadcasters there are thousands of tales to tell and so I have collected here just four personal memories which pull together the magic of working at Pebble Mill and the ways in which this extraordinary building operated for good or ill!