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 

Gwen Arthy obituary by Carol Churchill

Gwen Arthy smartening Brian Glover up on ‘Shakespeare or Bust’. Photo by Graham Pettifer, no reproduction without permission

 

This obituary for Gwen Arthy, by Carol Churchill was published in The Guardian 15 July 2021. Here is the link to the article: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jul/15/gwen-arthy-obituary?fbclid=IwAR0ps6b0vYMCqicmXcM5XFsZH3wQwyUkMuUr6SkrKtv2T7rErr68WLWmWfc

My former boss, Gwen Arthy, who has died aged 94, was head of makeup at BBC Pebble Mill from 1971 until 1985.

Gwen was born in Rochford, Essex, where her father was a baker.
She studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London, later to become Central St Martins. Her first employment was with a troupe of puppeteers, among whom was a young Ronnie Barker. She then moved to the costume-makers Angels, suppliers to film, theatre and TV, where one of her first tasks was to sculpt a nose for the baritone Tito Gobbi to wear in Tosca.

Gwen joined the BBC in London in 1964 to train as a makeup artist, before moving to the BBC studios at Gosta Green in Birmingham and then to the brand new Pebble Mill in 1971, where she became head of makeup. Programmes for which she designed makeup included Shakespeare or Bust (1970), The Brothers (1972), Nuts in May (1976) and Great Expectations (1981). When we worked on Who Pays the Ferryman? (1977), Gwen and I, as her assistant, were required to go to Crete for three months, where we shared many laughs, evenings in tavernas and midnight swims. As a result we became good friends

In 1985 she took early retirement and returned to her roots in Essex, settling in Leigh-on-Sea, where she found a lively artistic community in which she soon became involved. Over the years she became a prolific painter, in many different styles, and as well as having her own show her work was hung in many exhibitions, including the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy.

When ill health made her housebound she missed her art classes and her ability to put paint on canvas more than anything. Her interest in colour, form and texture was an integral part of her life. While she had still been able, she had travelled to many places to paint, in the UK and abroad, but her favourite, to which she returned many times, was the Isles of Scilly.

Gwen’s son, Tim, was given up for adoption in the early 1960s, but happily, in 2005, they were reunited and Gwen got to know her granddaughter, Amber.

While Gwen could be a demanding boss, she was very supportive of her staff and loved spending convivial evenings, and occasional lunchtimes, with them in the BBC Club, doing their best to empty the bar of its stock of Gordon’s gin. Gwen loved her home and garden and always had a cat, the last of whom was called Biscuit.

Carol Churchill

 

Great Expectations photos by Bhasker Solanki

Photos by Bhasker Solanki, no reproduction without permission

‘Great Expectations’ 1981, made at Pebble Mill. It would have been recorded in Studio A, for the interiors and on 16mm film on location, for exteriors. Actor Philip Joseph playing Joe Gargery the blacksmith. The editor was Oliver White, assisted by Ian Bellion.

Here is the link to more information on the BBC Genome project: https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/search/0/20?q=Great+Expectations++Phillip+Joseph#top

Below is the listing for episode 1 from the Radio Times

‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, dramatised in 12 parts by James Andrew Hall
Starring Gerry Sundquist as Pip, Stratford Johns as Magwitch, Joan Hickson as Miss Havisham, Phillip Joseph as Joe Gargery, John Stratton as Uncle Pumblechook

A lonely little figure hurrying home across the marshes… The sudden terrifying appearance of a brutal escaped convict – and Pip is launched on an adventurous journey that changes him from blacksmith’s apprentice to snobbish young gentleman.

 

Author:Charles Dickens
Dramatised by:James Andrew Hall
Music composed by:Paul Reade
Film Cameraman:John Kenway
Script Editor:Terrance Dicks
Designer:Michael Edwards
Producer:Barry Letts
Director:Julian Amyes
Pip:Gerry Sundquist
Magwitch:Stratford Johns
Miss Havisham:Joan Hickson
Joe Gargery:Phillip Joseph
Uncle Pumblechook:John Stratton
Pip, aged 9:Graham McGrath
Mrs Joe:Marjorie Yates
Compeyson:Peter Whitbread
Mr Wopsle:Peter Benson
Mr Hubble:Walter Sparrow
Mrs Hubble:Christine Ozanne
Sergeant:Adrian Bracken
Orlick:Linal Haft
Estella:Patsy Kensit
Pip, aged 12:Paul Davies-Prowles
Camilla:Janet Henfrey
Raymond:Edmund Kente
Sarah Pocket:Mollie Maureen

 

Juliet Bravo filming locations and nostalgia

Juliet Bravo 1989, no reproduction without permission. Photo by Janice Rider, Costume Designer

 

In November 2020 a Facebook site was set up with the aim of trying to identify as many specific filming locations used in the Juliet Bravo TV series. At the time there was next to no details online other than the following information on Wikipedia:

Filming took place in the Lancashire towns of Colne, Bacup, Accrington, Nelson, Burnley and Todmorden. Other locations around East Lancashire, West Yorkshire and the Black Country (Tipton and Dudley) were also used. The exterior of Hartley Police Station seen throughout the entire series run was in fact the real-life police station in the town of Bacup.

The task was made even harder by the fact that many of the buildings and surrounding areas had been demolished or significantly redeveloped since filming days.

After a rather slow start the Facebook site began to gain interest and eventually had over 1000 members. Many of these people lived, or still live in the filming areas. Quite a few were young actors, mainly from the Burnley Youth Theatre, some as extras and some that actually starred in the program. Other members included cameramen, make-up artists and continuity managers. With all these people on board the members managed to identify hundreds of filming sites. They also identified other areas such as Blackburn, Bury, Kendal, Simonstone and Read, all of which had never been documented before.

Out of all the 6 series, one episode, ‘Lost & Found’ had no locations to find as it was filmed entirely in the studio. Another episode, ‘Talk To Me’ had all its outdoor scenes filmed at night which made location identification virtually impossible.

A document was initially created as a back-up for the Facebook site and updated as each episode was being researched. It has since morphed into something much larger and now contains nostalgia, filming photographs, letters from the BBC, continuity issues and photographs from numerous contributors. It also contains many ‘then & now’ photographs showing how certain locations have changed since filming days.

The document is available to view or download here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1M4JE-PSQojPhHfj4-_w35MzW6RIQgIrG/view

Throughout the investigations the group tried to be as accurate as possible when identifying each location but as mentioned, some sites / buildings had been changed beyond recognition. Sometimes it was necessary to hunt down old photographs of certain areas to positively identify a location.

Tony Shaw

Here is the link to the Juliet Bravo Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/431724484870895

 

 

 

Alan Towers and the Golden Eagle

 

Presenter Alan Towers with contributor and Golden Eagle. Photos by Bhasker Solanki, no reproduction without permission

 

Alan Towers presenting an episode of Midlands Today from Studio B at BBC Pebble Mill, accompanied by a handler and Golden Eagle.