6.55 Special on the Severn Valley Railway

Nick Patten 6.55 Special SVR PP











Photograph by Peter Poole, no reproduction without permission.

This photo is of an outside broadcast edition of the 6.55 Special show, on the Severn Valley Railway, from the early 1980s. Nearest to camera, by the tripod, is floor manager, Nick Patten (later Head of Vision, BBC Birmingham).

Why the ‘6.55 Special’ came from a Radio Studio – Mark Kershaw

Why was “6.55 Special” made in Radio Studio 1?

When the lunchtime programme Pebble Mill at One was first broadcast it was “serviced” by the galleries and cameras of the two proper TV studios at Pebble Mill. Studio A on a Tues and Friday, while the studio was being reset between dramas etc (“All Creatures”, “Basil Brush”, “Great Expectations” etc) and Studio B on a Mon, Wed and Thurs, because its cameras could be re-rigged back from the Foyer in time for the evenings “Midlands Today”.

PM@1 was only on the air Sept to mid May, so for the whole summer the production staff were potentially under-utilised. So in 1982? (not sure when) 6.55 Special was sold to BBC2, a weekday early evening live entertainment and chat show, 6.55-7.30 (I think).

But it couldn’t use the existing studios which were incredibly busy in the evenings.

And that is why Radio Studio 1 (the one used for classical recitals etc) was turned into a TV studio, with an audience rostra and a permanent set with a sofa chat area (seen in the photo for the 6.55 Special post) and a stage as performance area. The sound was mixed in the radio sound control room, where the mobile lighting control desk was also rigged. The “lightweight” OB scanner CM2 was parked outside just off the fire track and used as production and vision control, with VT as well played from the scanner, but also connected up to Pebble Mill’s VT area.

Eventually when the Standby TV Network Continuity Suite needed refurbishing, the area was re-modelled as a full TV gallery – Gallery C (not sure the date but early 80’s).From then on Pebble Mill @ One or any of it’s spin offs came from that discreet gallery, but before then the studio equipment at Pebble Mill was some of the most utilised kit in the whole of the BBC!

6.55 Special moved into the courtyard after the famous movable roof was installed. And that is why for the first series, at least, 6.55 Special came from a radio studio.

Mark Kershaw

Mark Kershaw directing Pebble Mill at One

6.55 Special – from Mark Kershaw

Copyright of the photo resides with the original photographer (possibly Wendy Levesley).

The early 1980’s 6.55 Special was a nightly chat show on BBC 2.  It came from Studio 1 ( which was actually the radio studio using the CM2 Outside Broadcast unit for cameras.

The photo is of the production meeting before the show and includes – left to right: David Williams (music booker and producer of this particular show), Mark Kershaw (director), Sally James (presenter), and the back of David Soul’s (co-presenter) head.  The photo is possibly for a special whole music show with Elkie Brooks, which turned out rather well!

Sally James co-presented the first series of 6.55 Special with David Soul, and the second with Paul Coia.

The second series came from the courtyard behind the Pebble Mill at One Studio C, with a retractable roof fitted in case of rain.

Stuart Gandy comments: “I definitely remember the courtyard being used for the 6.55 special, and from an audio point of view the roof wasn’t very successful, especially if it rained!. I cant quite remember if it was for this programme, or one that came later, buit at some point a scenery door was fitted to the back of Studio 1 to make it easier to get sets in and out.”

6.55 Special