Good Morning Afghanistan – Waseem Mahmood

Waseem Mahmood worked at Pebble Mill for 8 years in the 1980s first on the Asian Programmes Unit and then on Farming. Life took him on a very different path after he left the BBC. Specialising in the reconstruction of media in post war countries, he found himself working in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq to name but a few. Afghanistan was to be a turning point. When a dodgy kebab prevented him from being on the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon on 9-11, it was to set in motion a series of events that sound like they come straight out of the pages of a thriller. It is a time of chaos… Afghanistan has just witnessed the fall of the Taliban. Warlords battle each other for supremacy, while the powerless, the dispossessed, the hungry and the desperate struggle to survive. In this time of bleakness, suffering and want, a glimmer of hope emerges in the form of a spirited little radio station.

First published in 2007 and reissued as an Eye Classic, Good Morning Afghanistan is the inspirational true account of how an intrepid band of media warriors helped a broken nation find a voice through the radio.

It’s available for less than £10 on Amazon:



Spotlight on Graphics 1992

copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission


This article is from Midlands News, the internal BBC newsletter from June 1992. It gives an insight into the work of the Graphics department at Pebble Mill, and mentions a number of the staff and programmes being worked on.

Thanks to Stuart Gandy for sharing the article.



Midlands & East News 1996

Thanks to Tim Manning for making this edition of ‘Midlands & East News’ from Aug 1996 available.

Interestingly some of the topics mentioned here seem as relevant today as back in 1996: re-organisation and re-structuring are perennial themes.  The short articles at the end about trying to reduce working hours and introducing more flexible working never seemed to be widely implemented in production areas, despite the good intentions. The Asian Network was becoming more established in the mid 1990s, and the Asian Programmes Unit was an important part of production at Pebble Mill.

Asian Programmes Unit – ‘New Life’

These photos are probably by Willoughby Gullachsen, and have been given by Maggie Humphries from Film Unit.  No reproduction of the photos without permission.

BBC Pebble Mill was home of the BBC’s multicultural programmes.

The photos show a location shoot for the Asian magazine strand: ‘New Life’. They date from the 1980s, when the inserts were still shot on film.  The sound recordist shown is Alex Christison, and cameraman Steve Saunderson, the camera assistant Ian Churchill, and the PA Jayne Savage.  Standing on the stairs in the tie is the director/producer, Waseem Mahmood. The programme was a documentary on the first Asian model, Safira.  Nigel Pardoe-Matthews was the film editor.

The documentary was an occasional 30min special as part of the New Life strand. Waseem made three in the six years that he was at Pebble Mill: “Safira” about the model, a film about Asian Ballerina Nicola Katrak and a special where Marion Foster interviewed Ravi Shankar… the latter got a prime time slot on BBC2.

‘New Life’ from 1981 was called ‘Asian Magazine ‘- this must have been when Ashok Rampal took over as Executive Producer.

Please add a comment if you can identify other people in the stills, or can add more information.



Afro-Caribbean Unit – photo Bev Dartnall

Afro Caribbean Unit girls

Photo by Bev Dartnall, no reproduction without permission.

Pebble Mill was the home of BBC multicultural programming for many years, including the Asian Programmes Unit, and the Afro Caribbean Unit.  The Afro Caribbean Unit made programmes like the weekly magazine series: ‘Ebony’, which went out in the 1980s, presented by Vastiana Belfon amongst others.

Director, Sharon Pemberton adds the following information:

“The photo was actually taken whilst the ‘Multicultural Progs Unit was based in the famous ‘portacabin’. (Freezing in winter, boiling in summer!)

The gals in the photo are:

Back L-R) Victoria Trow (from editing) Annie Jenkins (from graphics) Sharon Pemberton, Sarah Costigan, Beverley Dartnall, Ann Holmes, Trudi Cresser
(Front L-R)Jo Mainwearing, Anna Umbima, Vastiana Belfon, Rosemary Boateng and Mary Gregory.

We made three major series for BBC2 during the 1990′s – ‘Black Britain’, ‘Black on Europe’ and ‘Africa – Out of Darkness’.
All ground-breaking stuff, although I don’t think I realised it at the time.”