Brass Band Competition – Pete Simpkin

Dunchurch Silver Band

This shows Barry Lankester and I producing the annual Local Radio Knockout Contest organised by the West Midlands Brass Band Association. This was typical of the programming of the early days of BBC local radio….and the way in which the building itself was used to communicate with the public.  A community organisation would get the programmes organised and we would get them on air.

Barry Lankester was the driving force behind all sorts of artistic productions involving over the years literally thousands of local music makers from bands of all types, classical and pop , choirs and many others trooping into Pebble Mill, usually at weekends to record a multitude of broadcasts encouraging and entertaining the listeners.  The band shown in the picture is the Dunchurch Silver.

Pete Simpkin

Radio Training Week – Paul Balmer

Paul Balmer - supervising school children

Radio Training Week.

Jock Gallagher invited schools to come and learn about Radio production that’s me in ‘M3’ teaching tape editing with a razor blade!

I spent most of the day with Kenneth Williams as a ‘minder’ – I think Jock wanted him out of his hair . Kenneth spent most of the day regaling me with the agony of his haemorrhoids!

Pebble mill was full of surprises!

Paul Balmer

Radio Birmingham – DJ Malcolm Jay

Malcolm Jay

Photo copyright of Willoughby Gullachsen, no reproduction without permission.

This photograph features Radio Birmingham presenter Malcolm Jay, and dates from the mid 1970s.  It was taken in Radio Studio 2 Control Room, which could operate ‘self drive’ or control the actual Studio 2 which is on the left of the picture.  Malcolm used to present a Tuesday night rock music show called ‘Heavy Pressure’

Keith Ackrill’s Memories of Working at Pebble Mill

Bob Langley dancing with Ginger Rogers

KEITH ACKRILL – MEMORIES OF PEBBLE MILL

I worked at Pebble Mill on Radio 4 and television, from the day it opened until I left in 1982.  I have very many pleasant recollections of the years I spent there.

The thing you noticed most was the tremendous enthusiasm that permeated the whole staff.

It was the feeling that we were in a brand new building hailed as the biggest combined radio and television complex in Europe.  We were all determined to make Pebble Mill programming a force to be reckoned with.

Hours and hours of top television had the Pebble Mill label.  As well as Birmingham productions, many London drama series were based in the studio or filmed on location, using Birmingham crews.

The Brothers, Poldark, All Creatures Great and Small, Juliet Bravo, Howards Way, even Basil Brush – the list goes on and on.  And that doesn’t include the many classic dramas that were produced in Studio A.

Radio was an important part of the building’s output too.  Radio Two programming found a home there, the Midlands Radio Orchestra was in residence for many years.  Folk music, pop music – every kind of music came from Pebble Mill.  And that’s not forgetting radio drama.   Pebble Mill, of course, was home to The Archers and many other dramas of all kinds were produced alongside, together with some fine radio documentaries.

There were many landmark programmes – Top Gear, Pebble Mill At One, Saturday Night At The Mill – all of which I was fortunate to have worked on.

My main memories from the last programme include talking to actor Robert Wagner, in the hospitality room, about English beer.  I know nothing about beer, but it was worth talking about it just have Natalie Wood’s dark brown eyes focused on me!  I remember sitting across the table from Ginger Rogers and, later, photographing Bob Langley dancing with her – lucky devil – accompanied by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, with guest trumpeter James Hunt.  Many, many great stars came to Pebble Mill to take part in the wide range of radio and television programmes that came from within that building.

I miss meeting them, but I also miss the camaraderie of the people I worked with, of being part of a team dedicated to putting broadcasting in the Midlands on the map.

The Pebble Milly Polka – Pete Simpkin

NB: This song is not to be used in any commercial capacity.  The Pebblemill.org site has kindly been given permission to include it, by Denis Sheppard’s family.

THE PEBBLE MILLY POLKA

As producer presenter of the mid afternoon show on Radio WM I had to seek out all sorts of people in the community who were achieving things or involved in events and occasions which were important or interesting in the community of the West Midlands.

These could range from visiting personalities or experts or, as was mostly  the case, people who had done even one thing that was helpful to others or just plain interesting or entertaining.

Enter Denis Sheppard an octogenarian ex- Birmingham policeman and indeed Police Bandsman. Over the years he had composed music and songs on various subjects mostly annual expressions of love for his wife who was celebrated in many such songs. However living as he did in the Pershore Road he watched in the late sixties the development of the new building at Pebble Mill. He was moved to write a song in celebration of the opening and so it was when this came to my notice in 1982 some years later I just had to feature him and his music on the show. He gave a fascinating interview which has unfortunately not survived the move to the Mailbox but I still have a recording of the song which I enclose with this item together with copies of his original sheet music which you may be able to graphically include in the website. There is a mention of the BBC in the lyrics towards the end of the song.  These items are included with the active help and permission of his family.

Pebble Milly Polka by PebbleMill