Tenth Anniversary Envelope

Photo by Roy Thompson, no reproduction without permission

Photos by Roy Thompson, no reproduction without permission

tenth-anniversary-envelope-roy-thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Roy Thompson for posting these photos of the envelope designed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of BBC Pebble Mill. In the closer photo you can see the myriad of programmes made at the broadcast centre. Here’s the impressive list:

Network Television – Pebble Mill at One, Saturday Night at the Mill, New Life, Farming, Gardeners’ World, Kick Start, Top Gear, Pot Black, Pebble Mill Showcase, Day and Night, Dig This, Pop at the Mill, Top Sailing, 6.55 Special, Bypass, Shakespeare or Bust, The Fishing Party, Penda’s Fen, The Roses of Eyam, Three for the Fancy, The After Dinner Game, Gangsters, Glitter, Trinity Tales, Licking Hitler, Empire Road, Underdog, Vampires, Bull Week, The Muscle Market, The History Man, The Olympian Way, Artemis 81

Network Radio – On your Farm, Farming Today, Make Yourself at Home, Voice of the People, From the Grass Roots, My Music, My World, The Archers, Top Tunes, Alderburgh Festival, Cheltenham Festival, One Man One Voice, A La Carte

Local Radio – Coming Home, The 206 Team, Home James, Saturday Sport

Regional Television – Midlands Today, Look!Hear! Midlands Tonight, Straight Talk, Know Your Place, Spare Time, Day Out, The Garden Game, Weekly Echo, Buying Time, Action, The R & D Show

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Colin Pierpoint blog, Part 12 – Radio Links

Radio Links

Dave Thumpston and Graham Hewitt in Radio Links van. Photo by Colin Pierpoint, no reproduction without permission.

Dave Thumpston and Graham Hewitt in Radio Links van. Photo by Colin Pierpoint, no reproduction without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a photograph in one of the Birmingham Radio Links vehicles, with Graham Hewitt (right) and Dave Thumpston. To me, the routing of television signal was no different from sound switching

in the control room; you check the quality, pass the signal on, and if there is a fault you query it with the previous station. But there were some Comms staff who resented me coming in from Operations, and what they saw incorrectly as the “Radio” Control Room. Some gave me advice on how to do the job “on the road”, not realising that I had already done many Outside Broadcasts for Radio OBs in the Audio Unit.

 

Engineering

I was used quite a bit for real engineering with a soldering iron, working to Stan Smith the ACSE (Assistant Communications Systems Engineer). He got me to supervise the wiremen putting in new jumpers on the main distribution frame in the basement of Pebble Mill. Jumpering is adding pairs of wires to provide new circuits. It was necessary because the Comms Centre as it was handed over after installation to Birmingham staff, was missing quite a lot of sound circuits.

 

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William Smethurst

William Smethurst, photo by Simon Farquhar, no reproduction without permission

William Smethurst, photo by Simon Farquhar, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WILLIAM SMETHURST : TRIBUTE AND FUNERAL DETAILS

You may have heard on the news that William Smethurst, one time Editor of The Archers, passed away, on 22nd July.


William was at the helm when I was first trusted to mix the drama.  I have always remembered trying to compassionately manage a particularly lethargic spot operator during an episode that William was directing.  William, kindly but authoritatively, encouraged me to deal with the issue.  With knots in my stomach, fearing the immense hurt I was going to cause my colleague, I went into the studio, only to discover that he couldn’t have cared less!   I learned valuable lessons: that not everyone has the same sense of duty and obligation, and that difficult issues are best tackled sooner than later. This has stood me in good stead ever since.   Thank you, William.  Needless to say, said spot operator went on to become a very successful Radio 1 producer, later to forge a successful career in both broadcasting and feature films!

Writer, Jo Toye, was learning her craft at the same time that I was learning mine, and has sent this tribute:

“William arrived on the writing team of The Archers in the mid-Seventies and started his shake-up of the programme in his typically imaginative way then. By the time I joined the production team as a PA in 1980, he’d been Editor for a year and delighted in the team of ‘left-wing, feminist’ writers he’d engaged. His storylines eschewed social comment for what he called ‘social comedy’ – a typical Bridge Farm family story involved not the dawning realisation of domestic abuse but the saga of CND-supporting Pat changing their daily paper from the ‘Express’ to the ‘Guardian’, to Tony’s mystification.  As I typed the scripts his bold crossings-out and rewritings taught me everything I know – no chance of the writers doing their own rewrites then as everything was sent in hard copy, by post…

With his clear-sightedness about what The Archers should be – ‘the voice of the shires’  – and the support of then Network Editor Radio, Jock Gallagher, who’d rescued the programme from the doldrums after the retirement of the legendary Godfrey Baseley – William’s energy and ever-whirring marketing brain raised the programme’s profile and listenership.


So many of the characters he created are still there today – Caroline Sterling, Susan Carter, and the inimitable Grundys, while others (Nelson, Nigel) have passed into Archers mythology. So many of the writers he took on – me included – are still writing today.  His willingness to back untried young hopefuls didn’t stop at The Archers: when he later created and ran the sci-fi soap Jupiter Moon for BSkyB he gave their first big break to Anna Chancellor and Jason Durr.


He could be tough when he wanted to be – when he moved to Crossroads in 1986 he revelled in the title of ‘Butcher Bill’ – but he was also ingenious, inventive, intelligent, witty, warm, massively well-read, and a genuine lover of the countryside, its seasonal rhythms and its history.


He shepherded The Archers through what many now see as a golden age – in simpler times and in the very special atmosphere of Pebble Mill itself.   He brought great pleasure to millions of people but for me it was personal. I owe him everything and shall always be grateful.”

William’s funeral will be at 2pm, on Tuesday 2nd August, at Halford Village Church, Queen Street, Halford, Near Shipston on Stour.

Louise Willcox

(Here is an obituary for William Smethurst on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36905761 )

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Julian Hitchcock: ‘Sad indeed. Fine, much deserved tributes. I loved his sense of mischief and gossip, wry chuckle and that dangerous glint in his eye that warned that you or your name might just find their way into Ambridge.’

Cathy Houghton: ‘I worked with him on Midlands Today, a really lovely man.’

Linda Flavell: ‘Loved working with Bill so many years ago, a truly lovely guy.’

 

 

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Colin Pierpoint blog, part 11 – Re-organisation

Copyright resides in the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides in the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a time of change in the regions. Who remembers “Broadcasting in the 70s”? and the setting up of the Audio Units. We had a meeting about the future, led by Controller Midlands. First time I had seen him. Another manager (again, I know who it was, but I will save any embarrassment) was talking to us all and saying “Someone like Eric Sabin,” and he looked at me, “will in future be able to apply for a wider range of jobs, so Eric Sabin from the Control Room” looked at me again “could apply for a Sound Supervisor job in Television.” I had to say something, so I said “I believe every word you say, except that my name is not Eric Sabin”. Well, there was an uproar of laughter. John Grantham said to me after the meeting “What I liked was the way you let him dig himself in first!” But in fact it wasn’t deliberate on my part, and not intended. The same manager did later offer me some good career advise including a suggestion that I apply for a Tape and Grams post at Gosta Green. I never did, but only because it was not the direction I wanted to go.

What I did apply for, by default, was a post in the new audio unit. All those unsettled by the reorganisation were automatically given a board and I was the only one of these to get appointed. I was actually on attachment at Wood Norton at the time, and came back to attend the board. It was my performance on this board, and my board for attachments to ETD that I found I could bring out a personality from my usually quiet self. I enjoyed being a candidate on appointment boards, and we had a good laugh at times. I was later to develop this extension of my personality in my lecturing job; it was very useful in my relationship with students. Anyway, on this board, I remember being asked if I had done any Radio Drama. I said “No, and I wouldn’t do it that way in any case”. I went on to talk about location drama which must have gone down well. They also asked if I had any questions. I said “Yes. Why was Regional Radio being closed down when local radio has not yet taken over in all areas?” There was a long pause. Then the chairman said “You are probably as confused as we are”!

So, I got the only vacant post in the new Audio Unit. What happened to all the other applicants? They were put in the Audio Unit of course! Only the BBC could do it this way!

I mention the residual regional radio, I was often allocated to do Regional Extra, the one remaining Radio 4, Midland Opt-out programme, in Studio 5 at Pebble Mill. There were two audio assistants allocated, and we shared Tape and Grams or Panel (operating the desk). This gave me more Studio Manager experience to add to that I had had in Cardiff.

At this time I had asked to do the Grade C Engineering Course at my request. I was surprised when this was granted, and while on the course at Wood Norton, I asked about changing my career from operational work to engineering. In fact, I liked both sides of technical work and I had already spent years designing and building my own electronic equipment as a hobby. By the time the changes took place in regional broadcasting, I was qualified to work in Communications Department, and could therefore work in the Communications Centre at Pebble Mill. Comms had taken over the Control Room work which I had been doing, with two major changes; no continuity now that Local Radio had taken over from regional broadcasting (almost!), and I would now also be doing Radio Links for television.

Colin Pierpoint

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Colin Pierpoint blog 10 – Pebble Mill

Pebble Mill building circa 1970, copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Pebble Mill building circa 1970, copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was one of the first people to work in Pebble Mill Studios, because all the Midland sound editing facilities were in mono at the time, and some orchestral concerts were being recorded at OBs in stereo. In fact, the Producers like Richard Butt, had to travel to London to edit their programmes. I did try to tell the management that there were stereo editing channels at Wood Norton, a lot closer, but I don’t think they understood. (These days, Wood Norton would have jumped at the chance to charge for hiring out editing facilities, but this was before Total Costing, Producer Choice, and department Business Units. Not that I am saying these were necessarily a good thing). So, when the Pebble Mill building was nearing completion, we were allowed to use the cubicle of Studio 1 for tape editing.

To be fair, I must mention another of my disasters. I was using the new Studer tape machines in Studio 1, B62 I think. I had previously used the Studer C37 at Wood Norton on attachment as an Assistant Lecturer, but I was caught out by a feature of the new machine where the wind will inch back and too, but will lock on if you have pressed the stop button beforehand. Anyway, I mangled a tape of an orchestra. The producer, Ron Gardener kindly allowed me to keep the reel while I sorted it out. In fact I had everything except one chord of music, and I built that from copying other bits of the performance and editing them together. A few days later, I played this to Ron, who said that he would have accepted that, but he had since found that Alan Ward, the Studio Manager who recorded it, had a 7 and a half ips copy recorded at the time of the performance. So we used that just for one phrase, about a bar of music. Ron Gardener then very kindly said that I had done good work for him in the past and he was prepared to overlook it. Nice of him to say that, and the only tape I ever damaged, but I did let myself down.

Colin Pierpoint

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

Carolyn Davies: “Colin, was this why future trainee Audio Assistants had to editing in a missing phrase of music as part of their 1/4″ editing training at Wood Norton?? Great story…”

Andy Freeth: “lan Ward’s OB stores equipment list was always “one and a spare!” Hardly surprising that there was another recording ferreted away Colin!”

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