John Holmes’s memories of working at Pebble Mill

John Holmes

I was fortunate enough to work at Pebble Mill during those heady days of regional TV when we had the luxury of not only ‘Midlands Today’ but two half hour opt-outs a week, Tuesday evenings and Friday nights.

That legendary producer Roger Casstles was the first to ask me to join the ‘Look! Hear!’ team as a presenter alongside Chris Phipps and Michael Woods. After the first series Michael left and Toyah Wilcox replaced him. At one time the programme was so popular we were receiving over 600 letters a week.

As a result John Clarke, another legend, asked me to present a new hobbies based series called ‘Sparetime’. The moment I saw the opening credits that Anne Jenkins had created I knew we were on to another winner.

The ground breaking programme ‘Together’ followed this. Ground breaking at the time because it focussed on the lives of communities that had settled in our region. The programmes objective was to bring us all closer together. I well remember the Sikhs of Coventry, the Muslims in Stoke, the Irish in Leicester and the Caribbean community in Handsworth, an OB.

If you have memories of this please contact me. They were halcyon days at The Mill.

I’ve written about it all in my autobiography, ‘This Is the BBC Holmes Service’.

For more details visit johnholmes.co.uk 

Alan Miller 1951-2021

Countryfile team with Press Office. Photo from Tim Manning, no reproduction without permission. Alan Miller is fourth from the left, next to John Craven.

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

Alan Miller died on 16th March 2021. He was 69. Alan worked on a whole range of factual shows at Pebble Mill, but particularly Top Gear GTi and Countryfile. I worked with him on a couple of films when I was a researcher on Gardeners’ World in 1991. He was originally a sound recordist who then moved into directing. He will be remembered as a kind, funny and generous man, who taught a lot of us an awful lot. (Vanessa Jackson)

Annette Martin: ‘I first met Alan when I was on attachment to Glasgow as a Vision Mixer and he was in the Sound Dept. He was a generous and friendly colleague and even lent me his tent so I could enjoy the wonderful Scottish countryside. Then we met up again at PM and worked on many programmes together. He was a pleasure to work with and I’m so sad he’s passed on.’

Columbo Street: ‘This is so so sad. Alan’s generosity with his knowledge and experience was the bedrock of my (& many others) early tv life. Such happy memories as a new researcher of filming with Alan and John Craven – from every corner of the UK to Oz, Mauritius and the US … The TV industry in the Midlands and beyond is richer for being lucky enough to have Alan Miller as a part of it.’

Julie Mason: ‘This is very sad news. I worked with Alan a lot, shooting various things but Top Gear Gti in particular. We shared a lot of laughs. Went up and down the M6 – he drove like a lunatic – working with a small, bijou team who shot the items for the UK Horizons spin off. Fun times.’

Jim Knights: ‘Such sad news on the passing of a friend and colleague. Always a pleasure to be his cameraman on shoots. And most importantly always ensured a 1 hour lunch break, excluding travel. Good and generous guy. The likes of which we will never see again.’

Siouxsie and the Banshees – Look! Hear!


Photos by Christopher Glover, no reproduction without permission.

Siouxsie and the Banshees being recorded in Studio A for Look! Hear! Produced by Roger Casstles. Look! Hear! was a regional music and culture show. The photos date from the mid-1980s.

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

Phil Dolling: This brings back memories I was a very junior sound assistant on the floor, I recall the drummer ‘Budgie’ had his fold-back set to terrifying levels with all the high frequencies wound up. It was like razor blades coming out of the speakers. A brilliant series, it caught a great moment in Midland’s music.

Annette Martin: I mixed it she was v good. Just spotted the lovely Ron Sowton Floor Manager in 2nd pic.

Richard Stevenson: It is pre-1987 when I joined as the new cameras were in by then. Probably the Heron crane – one man to drive it and the camera op had a pedal for up and down plus a second pedal to rotate the seat. If you got them mixed up it got very messy!

Last episode of Pebble Mill at One

Photo by Simon Harris, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Simon Harris, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Simon Harris, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Simon Harris, no reproduction without permission

Photograph by Simon Harris, no reproduction without permission

 

Thanks to Simon Harris for sharing these photographs. They date from May 1986, and were taken on the last ever episode of Pebble Mill at One. The photos show the Royal Navy Sea King approaching Pebble Mill with the roof of the network radio studios in the foreground. Anne Barker, a Radio WM news producer is seen on the roof using a lip mic to give a live commentary. WM producer Conal O’Donnell, pint in hand, poses next to the Sea King. He and fellow producer Robin Brittan are pictured outside the club watching the Lynx take off.