Bryan Harris

 Bryan Harris PS
Copyright of the photograph resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.


Bryan Harris, Programme Organiser of Radio Birmingham, in the 1970s, died on Tuesday, 15th September 2015.  He was 82. He had an operation a few days before, but sadly died of complications.
Annie Gumbley-Williams adds the following information: ‘I worked with Bryan in Radio Birmingham in the 1970s when he was Assistant Manager of Radio Birmingham. He then went on to be Manager of Radio Derby.
He was a lovely man that was there to help many to get on within the BBC, and they owe their careers to him.’


The following comment was posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:


Pete Simpkin: ‘Sorry to hear of the death of Bryan Harris well known at Pebble Mill from the beginning and the Programme Organiser from the opening of Radio Birmingham. He appointed me as a Station Assistant and encouraged me in some of my later outrageous programme ideas when I became a producer. The stories about Bryan are many and legendary. He certainly was a local radio pioneer and great character.’
Viv Ellis: ‘Yes, I remember Brian, nice man, very sympathetic and helpful when needed.’
Sue Sweet: ‘A real gentleman’
Max Mulgrew: ‘Remember him so well. My first BBC boss, when he was manager at Radio Derby. He was a real gent, as Sue says.’
Tony Wadsworth: ‘I was a successor of his at BBC WM. When he was manager at Derby, a meeting of Programme Organisers was held there and he cooked us all an excellent lunch. A lovely man.’

Gordon Astley: ‘..nice man. Worked with him Broad Street and Gosta Green’

Ron Cottrell – 1929-2014


Geoff Gough Big Band

Geoff Gough Big Band

Ron and Diane Cottrell

Ron and Diane Cottrell






















Photo copyright resides with the original holders, no reproduction without permission.

Ron Cottrell died a few weeks ago, in September 2014. His wife, Diane, wanted to make sure that colleagues from Pebble Mill knew about his death.

Ron was a musician, a drummer, with various bands, and he had a long association with the BBC. In fact he was in the orchestra for the original Come Dancing, the forerunner of Strictly, which was broadcast from Penns Hall, and presented by Katie Boyle.

As a young man with the Sonny Rose Orchestra, he broadcast from the old BBC Broad Street studios in Birmingham. The older members took him to the pub opposite, across a busy road and he was horrified that they’d left it so late to go back to the studio and they just made it with a minute to spare.

Again with Sonny at Penns Hall, Sutton Coldfield, Ron backed a young Morecambe and Wise. Ernie was very excited about their forthcoming television debut which sadly bombed, before they found success with their second attempt.

Diane and Ron met in 1966 at the newly-opened and highly glamorous Savoy Hotel Birmingham: Diane’s first and lasting impression was of a beautiful white pleated dress shirt, immaculate evening dress and a smiling face. He played with Maurice Udluff’s band who alternated with Harry Engleman’s band. One night he played all night because the Harry Engleman band got into a bitter argument during a card game in their interval and the drummer stormed off leaving Harry high and dry.

On another occasion he recalled a cold, dismal room with the band assembled to rehearse with Tommy Cooper. When Tommy suddenly entered they all collapsed into fits of laughter – which apparently was the usual response when Tommy walked into a room – and one which Tommy always failed to understand.

In 1972 Ron moved into perhaps the happiest and most fulfilling period of his musical career when he joined the Geoff Gough Big Band. The music was demanding and exciting and the band was full of characters.

Diane Cottrell would like to hear people’s memories of working with Ron, so please add a comment here, if you knew Ron.

(Thanks to Diane and to, Diane and Ron’s son, Simon, for sharing their photographs and memories).

Princess Anne at the Opening of Pebble Mill

Opening of PM SS












Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This photo was taken on 10th November 1971, when Princess Anne officially opened BBC Pebble Mill. The man behind Princess Anne is almost certainly Mr Deighton, one of the managers at BBC Pebble Mill.

Thanks to Sue Sweet for sharing the photo. Sue was the receptionist at the opening of Pebble Mill, and previously worked at Broad Street in the Recorded Programmes library.

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

Sue Sweet: ‘After all these years names are a little foggy! He [Mr Deighton] was amongst the ranks of Phil Sidey, Mr McQueen etc. After the signing I had to run round the quadrangle, up the stairs and be ready to meet Princess Anne on 7th floor – couldn’t speak – not nerves – just out of breath!’

Dharmesh Rajput: ‘I was born in 1971! But I got to meet Princess Anne when she came to The Mailbox – can’t remember if it was an official opening or not. Was it in 2004.’

Pamela Renoata: ‘It was the official opening Dharmesh. I remember being nervous at meeting her and obsessing over the protocol of addressing her and whether to curtsey or not!’

Three Degrees on Radio Birmingham/WM – Pete Simpkin












Copyright resides with the original holders, no reproduction without permission.

A memory of meeting the Three Degrees for Radio Birmingham/WM at Bingley Hall Broad Street in the 80s just before the building burned to the ground….it wasn’t us!!

Pete Simpkin

Recording The Archers FX on a Mellotron













Gordon Astley worked on ‘The Archers’ in the 1960s, at the BBC studio in Broad Street, Birmingham, and remembers using one of the first Mellotrons to play in the sound effects.   Apparently John Lennon had the other Mellotron which was used on ‘Strawberry Fields’.

The Mellotron looked like an electronic keyboard – it was an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard, which was developed and made in Birmingham.  It was the first sample playback keyboard for music.  Each key allowed the playing in of pre-recorded sounds.  The Mellotron had a major impact on the rock music of the 1970s.

Gordon Astley went on to present on the final series of Tiswas in 1982, and on various local radio stations, including Radio WM.

Peter Poole remembers that the Mellotron was in the Dubbing Theatre at Pebble Mill in 1976. By then it was very unreliable and little used.

Martin from Streetly Electronics, who knows about Mellotrons has added the following information: ‘The mellotron used by the BBC was one of approx. 60 SFX versions of the instrument that were loaded with 1260 sound effects from the BBC library. Hissy owls and scratchy gunfire were the trademarks but in the mid 60s it was a miracle machine for dubbing to radio and tv productions including live broadcasts. John Lennon’s instrument can be seen on our website –’