Countryfile – Ken Pollock

 

Countryfile team

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regarding Countryfile, it is fun to look at the photograph and recognise old friends/colleagues.
My involvement was to be a producer on Farming, with Martin Small, and Exec John Kenyon. We wanted to acknowledge the large “over the shoulder” audience we had on Farming, and hence wrote the brief for Countryfile. I remember it well, sitting in John Kenyon’s office sketching in the idea, and kicking around names. I came up with the Countryfile name, although we may have thought it should be two words…
Michael Grade, Controller BBC1 accepted the idea, the team went from 4 to 24, and the Countryfile bandwagon started rolling.
After poor Brain Strachan died, there was a vacancy on Top Gear, and John Kenyon told me to get some broader experience, before applying to run Countryfile. So I did, but they did not want me to run Countryfile, as I was supposedly too biased to the farming community and Mike Fitzgerald got the gig.
I stuck with Top Gear and the rest is history…

Ken Pollock

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

Patrick Flavelle: ‘I started on a rolling weekly contract working with Fitz surfacing potential stories at the fag end of Farming…led to working on the show for its first 11 years. Happy days and incredibly boozy Xmas do’s…the one after this photo was very messy!’

Mick Murphy: ‘3rd from right, 2nd row – Sue Lloyd, Director. 1st on the left, front row – Barry Paine, former BBC producer / wildlife narrator, who used to voice over some of our films. Girl behind Fitz is called Sarah…? Great picture. ‘

Jane McLean: ‘John Clarke on the left .. who I went to Russia and Siberia with for Countryfile in 1989. Should try & find the Russian pix. Talk about an eye opener. The director was Dick Colthurst (what happened to him?) and the crew was Nigel Davey, Barrie Foster, Keith Rodgerson and Andy Frizzell. We were force-fed vodka shots 24/7 – honestly! ‘

Pam Relton: ‘Dick is very successful Jane – he went to BBC Bristol after CountryFile and is now MD at Tigress Productions.’

Jane McLean: ‘Good on him. Never heard of Tigress Prods – am SO out of the loop these days re anything telly!’

Viv Ellis: ‘I recognise Yasmine O’Grady looking glam – as ever. I worked on Farming for a few months’

Roy Thompson: ‘Spent a very happy attachment to Countryfile from Wood Norton even getting to direct a piece on arts in rural communities. Very supportive and friendly team.’

Andrea Buffery: ‘This picture would look amazing next to the Countryfile team today. It consists of 30 plus people.’

Steve Johnson: ‘I worked on Countryside for a short time in mid nineties, arranged the filming of the brand new RSPB reserve at Conwy.’

Pam Relton: ‘As a real City girl, CountryFile opened my eyes to so many things. I remember my first shoot – in a battery hen farm, a barn the size of a hanger filled with chickens in cages no bigger than themselves, floor to ceiling, the noise!! I’ve not knowingly eaten anything other than free range, outdoor-reared produce since. I learned so much about the pressures on farmers and producers to comply with the big supermarkets. This was the great thing about working on programmes like this – that open up the issues to do with farming and the countryside to everyone.’

Jane McLean: ‘I was country born & bred Pam – my brother was a pig farmer – and I know exactly what you’re talking about from the other side! ‘

List of Pebble Mill programmes

Photo by Ben Peissel, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Ben Peissel, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This a list of factual television programmes, described as ‘current’, was produced before the closure of Pebble Mill, around 2004. The list is included in a document housed in the BBC Archives in Caversham.

BBC One:

Points of View, Animal Sanctuary

BBC Two:

Gardeners’ World, Gardeners’ World Specials, Gardeners’ World Live, RHS Tatton, Gardener of the Year, Small Town Gardens, Rachel’s Country Garden [I don’t think this series was actually made], Million Pound Property Challenge, SAS Survival Secrets, Big Dreams – The Secrets of Asian Success, How I made My Property Millions

BBC Three:

The Brief: India and Pakistan, Greatest Eunuch Show, Black Beauty

BBC One Daytime:

Countryfile, Call My Bluff, To Buy or Not to Buy, Trading Up, Big Strong Boys, Sunday Garden, Trading Up in the Sun

 

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

Caroline Feldon Parsons: ‘I worked on 10 of those programmes! And don’t forget all the Radio programmes that were also being currently made …’

Simon Vaughan: ‘Pebble Mill was an amazing production centre – why on earth decommission it and pull it down, such an absolute waste. Just like TVC, their like will never be seen again.’

Carole Lowe: ‘Miss Pebble Mill a great building I worked on Anne and Nick and other programmes. Sad loss to BIRMINGHAM.’

Stuart Gandy: ‘Proper broadcasting centre.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘..and of course all the Radio…Live music , recorded music, Radio 2, Radio 3, amazing amount of Radio 4 ….drama, features, documentaries, the Archers and all the Local Radio as well!’

Judith Markall: ‘A sin to knock the building down!’

 

 

‘Dead Girls Tell No Tales’ – Why Grace Archer had to die

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last weekend I heard the Radio 4 play: Dead Girls Tell No Tales, Joanna Toye’s backstage drama of the story behind the death of Grace, in The Archers, sixty years ago this week. Grace had recently married Phil Archer, and there was talk about them starting a family, so the young couple were at the centre of The Archers world, when the decision was made by the editor, to controversially kill Grace off.

The momentous episode of the radio soap was transmitted on 22nd September 1955, which was also the launch date of the ITV network. Apocryphally, the death of Grace Archer in a fire in the stables, whilst she was trying to save her horse, Midnight, was designed to scupper ITV’s opening night, but Toye’s play shed new light on that theory. Grace’s death certainly resonated with the audience – around 20 million tuned in, and the BBC switchboard was inundated with distraught listeners, often in tears, after the programme. Press attention was definitely distracted from the ITV launch, but Toye poses that the real reason for Grace’s death was because the actress, Ysanne Churchman, was seen by series editor, Godfrey Baseley, as a trouble maker. Apparently she wanted equal pay for female actresses on the soap, as well as involving the actors’ union, Equity, and campaigning for professional actors to always be employed, as opposed to smaller parts being played by country folk.

The radio play was very evocative of the period, with RP accents and class distinctions, and was very convincing. Ysanne Churchman, in the drama, was played by Eleanor Tomlinson, a younger actress, but Ysanne herself appeared at the end, and explained what happened to her own career, after being forced to leave The Archers. The rise of ITV, ironically, provided her with a good living, voicing commercials.

One of the things that struck me about the drama, was that Godfrey Baseley, really could ‘play god’ with his characters’ lives. He wouldn’t even tell the BBC Press Office why the episode on the 22nd September warranted a Press showing – such a thing would never happen in today’s BBC, when the Press Office would be involved from the start, and micro managing the whole campaign.

The ghost of Grace Archer still seems to haunt Ambridge today, and the older female characters have recently been reminiscing about Grace’s death, 60 years ago.

Joanna Toye is one of The Archers’ regular writers, and Sean O’Connor, the series editor, produced Dead Girls Tell No Tales. The radio play is available on iPlayer for download – it’s well worth a listen: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06bcv9s.

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

Lynne Cullimore: ‘I heard the play and thought it very good. I used to work at the Beeb (when (I very first started) for Tony Ysanne’s husband who sadly died earlier this year. Lovely to bring back memories of Grace and well done to Jo Toye (whom I used to work with in Countryfile) for writing the play.’

John Bland

John Bland SO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from Shirley O’Mara of John at the BBC Club, no reproduction without permission

John Bland, film editor, died recently. He joined BBC Birmingham as a news editor in Broad Street, and later became a film editor at Carpenter Road, before Pebble Mill was built. John’s credits include a Play for Today called Packman’s Barn 1976, the police series Juliet Bravo 1980; Mavericks, a BBC1 series in 1984 about eccentrics, produced by John Kenyon, which Sharon Pemberton assisted him on; and Countryfile amongst many others.

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

‘John Bland, a Film Editor at Pebble Mill for many years, passed away suddenly last week aged 78. His funeral will be held at Streetly Crematorium on Weds 26th August 2015 at 10.00am.’

Shirley O’Mara

‘I was John’s assistant for a while and he was very much part of my early years in editing at Pebble Mill. I recall being (pleasantly) surprised by his insistence that ‘Two Tribes’ (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) was the best single EVER and that Ruby Turner was the best singer to come out of Birmingham. (I think eclectic is the word!) I hope they’re both serenading you John. R.I.P.’

Sharon Pemberton

‘Great bloke! I ran the Run the World race with John, Ingrid Wagner and Geoff Dargue. We trained every lunchtime by running up all the flights of stairs at Pebble Mill. Judging by the state of us at the end of the race it didn’t do us much good!’

Mark Ray

 

 

 

We are BBC Birmingham – Resources & Drama

We are BBC Bham Drama, ResourcesCopyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This still is from a brochure produced when BBC Birmingham moved to the Mailbox, in 2004. The brochure was for staff and people elsewhere in the industry, promoting the services and departments within BBC Birmingham.

Post production took outside bookings at this time, from series like Fifth Gear, as well as internal bookings.

Drama, did not relocate to the Mailbox, due to insufficient space, the cost, and the inability to film scenes around the premises, and instead arranged accommodation for themselves at the University of Birmingham.

Thanks to Dharmesh Rajput for sharing the brochure, and keeping it safe for the last decade.