Topol’s Israel

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

This article is from the Pebble Mill News from 1984. It tells about a Pebble Mill documentary/entertainment series, called, Topol’s Israel. The programme followed the Jewish entertainer on a trip back to his home country. The production team were Peter Hercombe, director, Chris Wright and assistant producer, Pam Creed. The camera crew consisted of cameraman, John Williams, assisted by Keith Froggatt (both in the bottom photo), with soundman, Alex Christisson, and electrician Arhtur Heywood.

Thanks to Robin Sunderland for sharing the newspaper, and keeping it safe all these years.

Below is the synopsis for the first episode of the series transmitted at 8.30pm on BBC2 28 March, 1985, from the BBC Genome listings database:

‘The first of six musical journeys in which film and stage star Chaim Topol revisits his native Israel.
Part documentary and part entertainment, the series joins Topol on the closing night of his triumphant
West End revival of Fiddler on the Roof, and follows him to Tel Aviv, the city which has always been his home.
Week by week Topol reflects on his experiences as a child of Israel – his memories of family life in an immigrant quarter, of the Exodus operation, his pioneering days on a Kibbutz, his days as an entertainer in an army troupe.
His travels range from the Galilee to the Red Sea, from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and from the Lebanon to Eilat, and on his way he meets an array of friends from every walk of Israeli life.
Producer PETER HERCOMBE BBC Pebble Mill
BBC record REH/ZCR 529 from retailers

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

Dawn Trotman: ‘I remember it well and meeting the man himself albeit briefly.. Chris Rowlands cut it.’

Director Chris Wright on Pebble Mill at One – Steve Weddle

Director, Chris Wright, deep in thought, during Tom O'Connor Roadshow. Photo Jane Mclean

Director, Chris Wright, deep in thought, during Tom O’Connor Roadshow. Photo Jane Mclean













That’s a classic Chris Wright pose. He would often wander off on his own to think things through prior to going into the gallery or scanner. Mind you, there was that time on a certain infamous edition of Pebble Mill At One when, dressed as a teddy boy, he leapt out of the director’s chair, to be replaced by Mark Kershaw, so he could dance a rock and roll routine downstairs, on camera, in the foyer. It worked a treat, except one of the prgramme guests had imbibed too much and went on air somewhat worse for wear. Consequently, the entire edition went under the microscope, and questions were asked in high places why the programme director was to be seen rocking and rolling with Josephine Buchan, the presenter. How do I know this? … I was Producer of what was our last show before Christmas in that particular year…circa 1984. Hope you don’t mind me mentioning this Chris. It still makes me smile.

Steve Weddle

Mark Kershaw directing Pebble Mill at One. No reproduction without permission

Mark Kershaw directing Pebble Mill at One. No reproduction without permission













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

Jane Clement: ‘All the shows leading into Christmas were great fun. And – given the generosity of the green room – inebriated guests were not exactly a rarity, but never a big problem. I’m having a drink with Chris this afternoon, as it happens. We both live in the same city (Auckland, New Zealand) so I expect we’ll be reminiscing about old times.’

Steve Weddle: ‘I should stress that Chris was totally sober when he danced on the show. It was the guest who was was worse for wear! If Chris was a celebrity he would have been on Strictly by now!’

Ruth Kiosses: ‘Drunken guests! I want to know what they put in the audience’s tea? That warm-up guy telling the audience the cameraman would be like a rat up a drainpipe if legs weren’t kept together on the front row. Must have heard that over the monitor everyday for years! It always livened them up with giggles.’

Betti Moretti: I’ was a bit late to Pebble Mill… but I had so much fun there! I remember a particularly merry Pudsey Bear after a long Children in Need taking a tumble from top to bottom of the stairs into the green room where Anne & Nick were based… wiped a couple of people out at the bottom – Jeremy Paxman included… so many funny memories… happy days indeed’


Tom O’Connor Roadshow – Blackpool

Slade rehearsal

Slade rehearsal

Chris Wright - director

Chris Wright – director























Photos by Jane Mclean, no reproduction without permission.

These photos are from the Tom O’Connor Roadshow in Blackpool, 1987. The top photo shows a rehearsal of the live show with the band, Slade. The lower photo shows one of the multi-camera directors, Chris Wright, deep in thought over the script.

Thanks to Jane Mclean for sharing the photos.

Tom O’Connor Roadshow – Mark Kershaw & Jane Mclean

The Directors: Chris Wright, David Weir, Mark Kershaw

The Directors: Chris Wright, David Weir, Mark Kershaw

Nicky Savage, Jane Mclean, Tom O'Connor, Jo Dewar

Nicky Savage, Jane Mclean, Tom O’Connor, Jo Dewar






















Photos from Jane Mclean, no reproduction without permission.

(The following blog was written after a conversation with director, Mark Kershaw in Feb 2014)

The Tom O’Connor Roadshow was a live entertainment show transmitted from around the country early 1987, it went out daily around 12pm on BBC1. The show was based in a different town or city each week, including: Derby, Falkirk, Port Talbot, Blackpool (twice!), Portsmouth, Newcastle, Cambridge, Exeter, Bradford, Londonderry with Liverpool being the final week’s location.

The show was commissioned to plug a gap in entertainment programming after Pebble Mill (the lunchtime magazine show) was decommissioned in May 1986. There was a move to use underutilised resources, and it was felt that outside broadcast scanners were busy at weekends during the winter, with football and other sport, but were available during the week. Therefore a live entertainment show, like the Tom O’Connor Roadshow, ticked all the boxes.

It was important that all areas of the country were covered, hence shows coming from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as England. Two versions of the set had to be made, travelling round the country in different directions, with one set being erected as the other one was in use.

There were three multi-camera directors assigned to the show. Mark Kershaw did all the advance planning. There was a main director of the week, which was either Mark, David Weir or Chris Wright. One of the others was the support director for the week, whilst the third, planned ahead for the following week.

The series encountered a few issues along the way. A week in Aviemore was planned, but because of an electricians’ strike had to be relocated as a return visit to Blackpool. Inserts from Aviemore were included instead. The Londonderry week was eventful. ‘The Troubles’ were still very active. The final show on the Friday in Derry had to be stopped part way through because of a bomb scare at the venue. The show went to an filmed insert, and never came back on air, with Pres taking over the transmission!  UHF mics had to be hired in for the Cambridge shows, as the University complained that the Roadshow mics were using the same frequencies as the lecturers, meaning that instead of some erudite academic lecture,the sound of the Tom O’Connor Roadshow was coming through instead!

The series was expensive to make, although it was popular with the viewers. It was its high budget that meant that it wasn’t recommissioned.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Jane Green: I worked on this series. It was great fun. I thought being sent to the Port Talbot TOCRS was drawing the short straw, until the Fine Young Cannibals came out of their dressing room dressed as Welsh Dolls and Miners to sing She Drives Me crazy!

The Last Pebble Mill at One – photo from Mark Kershaw

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

This photo was taken just after the last ever ‘Pebble Mill at One’ on 23 May 1986.  In fact you can just see the last few members of the audience leaving on the left hand side of the photo.

Included in the photo are:

Back row: Michael Smith (celebrity chef), David Lancaster (glasses), Caroline Marshall, Steve Weddle.

Next to back: Julian Hitchcock (with pink balloon), Chris Wright, Roger Sutton (just behind the others), possibly Barrie Edgar peeking out behind, Tony Rayner, Peter Urie, Peter Hercombe, Claire Chambers, Norma Scott, Mary Clyne, Mark Kershaw, Trudy Stanton, Steph Silk, Richard ?.

Third row from back:  Girl in red dress below Tony Rayner is Jacqui Goodwin, Fran Groves, Ann Varley, Di Reid (red dress), Margaret Allen (with belt), John Westcott (FM), Annie Gumbley Williams (standing purple dress)

Back seated row: Sue Ashcroft, Debbie Hood, Caroline Matthews, Denny Hodge , Paul Coia

Middle seated row: Gareth Williams, Jo Buchan, Magnus Magnusson, Marian Foster, Bob Langley, Bev Wildman (Thompson), David Weir

Fron row: Tom Ross (standing), Eileen Bayliss just behind Tom, Maggy Whitehouse, Jane Clement, Viv Ellis, Peta Newbold, Colette Foster (central short brown dress), Nicky Barfoot, Claire Stride, Jane McLean, Jo Dewar

Please add a comment if you can fill in any of the people not identified.

Thanks to Mark Kershaw for making the photograph available.