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

‘Now The News From Your Region’ – Maurice Blisson

‘NOW THE NEWS FROM YOUR REGION’
I wonder how many people remember the VHF regional radio news bulletins that used to go out at 6.55 and 7.55 am every weekday from Pebble Mill during the 70s.They were read mainly by John Hogarth and also by Christopher Stagg, David Stevens, Terry Coates and Guy Thomas, if my memory serves me right- and it’s been 30 years!.They were written by a reluctant team of BBC journalists, including me, who got in before 6am and cobbled together a read of overnight stories(left by the late sub the previous evening) to give our limited, but growing, VHF audience the latest news from the West and East Midlands, together with a brief weather roundup. Sometimes a tape insert was included, from the likes of reporters Barney Bamford, Geoffrey Green and Kay Alexander. I seem to remember Sue Beardsmore may have been involved on the technical side.Then along came breakfast optouts, the continuing expansion of local radio, a separate East Midlands region based at Nottingham and waveband changes and the bulletin became superfluous and disappeared without any fanfare.   David and Guy went on to television news and continuity but the others disappeared.  How many are still with us?

Maurice Blisson


Paul Balmer – Memories of working at Pebble Mill

I worked at Pebble Mill for 17 years from 1974.

I initially worked as a sound guy on many of the continuing dramas including many Second City Firsts and Classic Serials.

I also worked developing the soundscapes for the BBC’s first stereo drama serial – Juliet Bravo.

As a musician I was the ‘off screen’ guitarist for Alison Steadman in ‘Nuts In May’ – Mike Leigh’s direction was “No! No, worse much WORSE!” (difficult for a trained classical guitarist). I was in the dubbing suite for ‘The Boys From The Blackstuff’.

Alan Platers ‘Curriculi Curricula’ was also a major undertaking – the first lightweight on location electronic drama also with stereo sound – ‘hand synced’ by Roger Guest and videoed on location at Birmingham University!

I stood next to the writer on the very first ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ as the horse produced copious manure and the props guys argued over whether poo was an action prop or litter?

I also wrote music for Pebble Mill at One films – McClouds Mysteries – re enacted ghost stories! – Great fun. I have VHS copies somewhere!

I became a radio producer for Radio 1/2/3 and 4 and eventually a TV director having moved to Television Centre writing and  directing multi camera drama for BBC Schools TV.

At Pebble Mill In 1976 I had met Stephane Grappelli  – the great violinist and wrote his biography, produced a 1 hour biog on Radio 2 and a two hour DVD which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2002.

I also directed the multi award winning ‘Africa I Remember’ – shot on location in Africa.

Pebble Mill was an amazing place to work – in the same day you could work on Radio 3, The Archers and the local news!

One day I staged a ZULU charge on the front lawn.

Faintly bizarre in hindsight! But truly wonderful.

I now work as a full time writer.

All the best

Paul Balmer,

Author ‘The Haynes Guitar Manuals’, Penguin Encyclopaedia of Music, Julian Bream etc

Pete Simpkin – The Mad Axeman!

THE MAD AXEMAN

When the Pebble Mill Radio Studios were being built someone forgot to install a visual alarm so that people broadcasting in soundproof areas would be made aware of any emergency and respond accordingly. One afternoon I was presenting the scheduled show alone in studio 1 when I looked up to see a Fireman complete with helmet and an axe waving at me through the control room window. Apparently there was a fire alarm and I was the only person who was not aware of it. Actually it turned out to be a false alarm and I refused to leave my post and kept on the air but soon flashing alarms were installed throughout the area for future safety!

On another occasion we were all evacuated from the building and as we  trooped out we became aware that we were being filmed…..it was for a programme about how quickly

a building could be evacuated…..we were not best pleased.

Coming down from the 7th floor restaurant one afternoon I walked into a lift and was told to ‘carry on, behave quite normally’ A silent sequence was being filmed for some drama for TV and I had to stand next to a famous actor until we reached the required floor. I never saw my appearance!

Pete Simpkin – Memories of the Ghostly Voice

Pete in WM Studio 1

THE GHOSTLY VOICE

One of the security men who was on early duty at the back door in the early hours had a frightening habit of scaring me witless every time he was in situ by waiting until I had collected my studio keys from him and walked up the darkened back corridors of the building to a particular point where there was a security loudspeaker installed. He could work out the time to reach this place and then whisper ‘Pete’ into his microphone. The effect of this unseen voice whispering my name in the stigeon gloom of the early morning was unsettling to day the least but I was always caught out. Luckily he retired before I did!