Prospero – Mark Decker

Mark Decker Prospero PP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

This article from the BBC retirees’ magazine, Prospero (November 2006), commemorates the dedicating of radio drama studio in the Mailbox, where The Archers is recorded, to the memory of sound designer, Mark Decker.

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing this article.

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

Julian Hitchcock: ‘How very sad. In my own BBC years, everyone liked Mark immensely and respected his serious and thoughtful approach to the development of sound engineering. I am terribly sorry to hear this news. It’s touching to celebrate Mark’s work and commitment in this particular manner. I knew Sue well and offer her my deepest condolences.’

Ray Lee: ‘Mark was a true professional. He pioneered work with the Calrec Soundfield Mic, wich gave some atonishing results and when the stereo sound was listened to on headphones, you really could hear things coming from behind and over your head.’

Ed Billington: ‘As a studio attendant I worked with mark sitting up the studio’s a great chap always a gent am sorry to hear this news.’

Kath Shuttleworth: ‘I had the pleasure of working with Mark on The Archers and many other Radio Drama projects over the years both as Spot SM and Gram Op. I learnt so much from him and always admired his work. We worked together on moving the Radio Drama Studio from Pebble Mill to The Mailbox and I was gutted when we lost him. Today I sit in what was his chair at the front of the studio mixing The Archers and I can only hope that I do the job half as well as he did. He was truly inspirational, a complete gentleman, and still very much missed.’

Farming Today – Kathryn Shuttleworth

Anna Varle, Martin Poyntz-Roberts, Kathryn Shuttleworth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did a short development attachment to the ‘Farming Today’ programme where I was able to get out and about recording and produced a couple of programmes. It was quite nice to hear my name being read out by Radio 4 continuity, even if it did appear to take the announcer by surprise!

Kathryn Shuttleworth

(This photo dates from the Mailbox era of BBC Birmingham)

Studio 3 – Kathryn Shuttleworth

Photos from Kathryn Shuttleworth, no reproduction without permission.

We went through a phase of putting signs on the studio doors of the productions that were currently being recorded.

I spent a lot of time in Studio 3. Always busy with The Archers and Radio Drama. Should I mention that I have the door signs at home!

Kathryn Shuttleworth


Memories of Philip Donnellan – Peter Poole

Philip was a producer who gave a voice to people who seldom appeared on television. His films had a similar style to the ‘Radio Ballads’ produced in Birmingham by Charles Parker. They mixed actuality with specially commissioned music to tell the life stories of people from all sections of society. Philip was a great interviewer and was able to put interviewees at ease and talk at length.

Philip frequently had a high shooting ratio to achieve the highest standard of documentary production. He sometimes ran over budget before his films were finished. This caused some conflict with BBC management. However he always seemed to find the money to complete his films. In 1977 he produced ‘Pure Radio’. This film was about the Radio Features Department and Charles Parker. John Pierce from Audio Unit had worked on the ‘Radio Ballads’. He took part in this drama documentary working again with Charles Parker. The film editor was John Bland.

I remember working on ‘Gone for a Soldier’. A large group of World War 2 veterans told stories of their war time experiences. This was covered by 2 film cameras and 2 microphone booms. The only time filming stopped was when the audio tape ran out. The sound recordist was Dennis Cartwright from BBC Manchester. I can’t remember the rest of the crew. The film editor, Greg Miller spent many months on this production. It was broadcast in 1980 as two 50 minute films shown on the same night. This film was very controversial and generated a strong reaction in the media and the establishment. Questions were asked in Parliament as it showed the military in a very poor light. Philip was driven by a strong socialist political belief and was on the side of the “underdog”. The film’s main theme was the poor treatment of soldiers by the senior military. Specially commissioned music was used to illustrate the lives of soldiers throughout history to contemporary times. This was Philip’s finest film and much of it is still relevant today.

At times Philip could be a little “difficult” and did not appreciate my comments about his tape recording skills. His PA Elizabeth Seaborne called into the transfer suite with tapes for transfer to SEPMAG. It was evident they had not recorded by a professional sound recordist. My report listed many technical faults with these tapes. I stamped the tapes “Not for TX”. I soon heard Philip was rather annoyed by my comments. A little later Elizabeth phoned to tell me Philip was coming to see me. I was very apprehensive about telling a senior producer that his tapes were not broadcast quality. Philip came in looking quite annoyed but after some discussion we came to a mutual understanding.

Philip had a policy of keeping all material from his films after broadcast. A storage area in Pebble Mill’s basement was full of film negatives, tapes and paperwork going back many years. I hope this collection is now in safe storage.

Philip made many films and I was fortunate to have a very minor role in the last few. These films would never be made today due to cost and the long production times. Philip is a major figure in the documentary movement but now seems totally forgotten by the BBC. A Donnellan season on BBC Four would be a fitting tribute to this great producer. But the BBC seems intent on never repeating any of his work.

Peter Poole

John Bland, photo by Peter Poole

Greg Miller, photo by Peter Poole

The Archers Spot Effects – Kathryn Shuttleworth


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

Studio 3 Spot Effects

One of the most famous effects to do!  This all gets very messy but whenever there is a calf being born in Ambridge we reach for the yoghurt, a wet towel and some old tape (we may not record on it these days but it is still of use!). Squelching noises from the yoghurt and the “plop” of a wet towel onto the tape is all it takes to create this masterpiece of an effect! This technique is still used in studio to this day – some things never change!

Kathryn Shuttleworth

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

Peter Poole: ‘I remember recording the Archers in M3 before it all went digital. And the omnibus edit.’

Andy Foley: ‘How we suffer for our art – I once had to violently rip apart a chicken carcass in Studio 3 for someone being garrotted! Not in the Archers I hasten to add! A drama with Timothy West.’