Vote For Them – TX Card

Vote for Them TX Card Vote for Them TX Card 1














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

Vote for Them was a three part drama, transmitted in 1989. It serial was filmed on location in the UK and in Egypt. Carol Parks was the producer and James Ormerod the director.

The serial featured Billy Hartman as Sergeant McRae, Simon Adams as AC2 Clarke, Jeff Rawle as WO Wilson, Andrew Paul as Sergeant Simpson, John Wheatley as LAC Atterley, David Quilter as Major Trapnell, David Cardy as Signalman Jacobs, Nicholas Day as Captain Carrington, and Patrick Pearson as Corporal Richardson.

Thanks to costume designer, Janice Rider, for sharing the TX card.

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

Terry Powell: ‘My god yet another show I worked on I seemed to have worked a lot with Janice and I have to say this one was a joy and I have never forgot it, a lot of people’s lives changed after xx’

Barrie Edgar – Service of Thanksgiving














I was privileged to attend the Service of Thanksgiving for Barrie Edgar at St George’s Church, Edgbaston, this afternoon. It was a celebration of his fantastically long and fruitful life, although tinged with a little bit of sadness.

Barrie died on the 28 Dec 2012 at the Sunrise Retirement Home, just across the road from St George’s, where he’d lived since the death of his wife in 2005. St George’s was also the church where Barrie and Joan were married in October 1943, so it was a fitting location.

The pews of the church were well filled, and I recognised a good number of Pebble Mill faces, including Steve Weddle, Tom Ross, Tony Rayner, Kay Alexander and John Couzens.

There were a variety of readings from members of Barrie’s family, and a moving eulogy from his son, playwright, David Edgar.  We learnt how Barrie had served with the Fleet Air Arm during during World War II, which included flying a Walrus Seaplane and picking up stranded Allied soldiers from the Channel during D-Day!  After the war he applied to join the BBC, and came up to BBC Birmingham as an outside broadcast producer in the 1950s. David made the point that his father had the privilege of being a generalist producer, in a way which couldn’t happen today. He produced a wide variety of programmes, and was sad to lose some of them to specialist departments, like the ‘Carols from Kings College’, to Music, and ‘Songs of Praise’ to Religion.  Apparently he didn’t approve of the revamped ‘Strictly’ version of his ‘Come Dancing’ series, but it was ‘Gardeners’ World’ where his heart really lay.  A keen gardener himself, he produced 225 episodes of the programme, first with Percy Thrower presenting, and later with Peter Seabrook.  Barrie retired from BBC Pebble Mill in 1979, but carried on tending the Pebble Mill garden on a voluntary basis until the mid 1980s.

Barrie was a producer of popular factual programmes, and it is perhaps fitting that his life spanned the era of network factual programmes being made at BBC Birmingham.

Vanessa Jackson

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

Keith Brook: ‘I would love to have been there to commemorate his life. Barrie was one of those cool customers that every programme should have. He brought many talents to the table unlike the mono-talented or even zero-talented that we have today. However, despite what others have said about his television skills, by far his greatest talent was mixing rum punch. A lethal concoction of reindeer piss and sundry liquids from his compost heap. Great fun. Thanks Barrie. It was a delight to have worked with you.’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘A real gentleman of the sort that we miss in this day and age.’

Barrie Edgar 1919-2012

Barrie Edgar taken in July 2010

Barrie Edgar in July 2010














Barrie Edgar sadly died recently aged 93.

Barrie was closely associated with BBC Birmingham since the very early days of radio broadcasting in the city. His father, Percy Edgar was a Birmingham concert manager who was asked to start up broadcasting in Birmingham in 1922, by the chief engineer of the G.E.C. works in Witton, which was part of the British Broadcasting Company. He supplied artists, and produced programmes. Barrie’s reaction as a young child to a story called ‘Spick and Span’ was apparently the inspiration for establishing the first ‘Children’s Hour’ broadcast, which was years ahead of the BBC in London, and produced by Percy. Barrie made his first broadcast at the age of 14, playing Tom Brown in a radio adaptation of Tom Brown’s School Days.

Barrie started working in television in 1946, when he was demobilised after the war, and in 1951 he came back to Birmingham as a television outside broadcast producer.  The O.B. unit was shared with BBC Manchester. The first programme he produced was an amateur boxing contest at Gosta Green, the same building which became the BBC Gosta Green Television Studio in 1955. Barrie was based at the new Broadcasting House, in Carpenter Road in Edgbaston, which was where most programmes were made until the move to Pebble Mill in 1971.  Barrie produced programmes such as ‘Gardening Club’, which became ‘Gardeners’ World’, ‘Farming’ and ‘Come Dancing’. He also produced the ‘Kings College Christmas Carols’, ‘Songs of Praise’, as well as events like General Elections, and the consecration of Coventry Cathedral.

Barrie retired from television in 1979. Barrie’s son is the playwright, David Edgar.

The following comments were added on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Keith Brook: ‘Dear Barrie. Lovely man. Cool, calm and collected. That’s how directors and producers handle themselves when they understand the business. ‘

Gordon Astley: ‘Barrie was a mate of my dad, Pat Astley…and got me an interview for the Beeb via the back door. He looked after me for the first few months of a career that lasted 40 years. Lovely man.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Wonderful broadcasting practitioner the like of which has gone for ever. I really enjoyed interviewing such a terrifically talented man on Radio Birmingham/WM and also remember him taking charge of the garden at Pebble Mill….how many retired producers of standing would do that?’

Lynda Kettle: ‘An extremely wonderful gentleman!’

Vote for Them – Janice Rider

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Specially shot video with Janice Rider, talking about working as costume designer on the 1989 Pebble Mill drama, ‘Vote for Them’.

It was a 3 part series about the Allied troops in Cairo during the Second World War who decide what sort of world they want after the war and form “parties”, holding debates and elections.

It was filmed on location in both England and Egypt.

It was also the production on which Janice met her husband.

The series was written by David Edgar and Neil Grant.  It was produced by Carol Parks, James Ormerod was the director, and Michael Wearing the executive producer.  Nigel Jones was the production designer.






Vote for Them – blog by Neil Grant

Vote for Them 1989

(Photos from Bob Jacobs and Bev Dartnall, no reproduction without permission.)

I co-authored Vote for Them, with David Edgar, although it took from 1981 to 1988 to bring it into production. The plays were conceived following a reading of an article by E.P.Thompson in the New Statesman in which he spoke of the radical political views that characterised much of the armed forces during the 2nd World War, which culminated the dramatic 1945 election of a Labour government.  For Thompson this was a set of memories and accounts that had been marginalised in favour of the more dramatic military events so often represented in triumphalist post war films and literature.  The “Cairo Forces Parliament” was one such event, which embodied that radical political sprit, although sometimes subsequently misrepresented and distorted as some kind of proto-soviet.  However it was distinguished by the worldwide publicity which it came to attract including its reporting in Time magazine and the Nazi press, its debate in the real House of Commons, coverage in the pages of Hansard and in numerous pamphlets, magazines and newspapers of the period.

I researched the many stories around the Music for All Parliament, as the Cairo Parliament was properly called, because of its location in the Music for All (MFA) forces club in central Cairo.  During 1943/44, with the land war in North Africa over, the forces based in and around Cairo sought out distractions including political debate, otherwise prohibited by Kings Regulations.  The idea of a mock parliament for members of the forces was supported by the MFA organisers and enthusiastically embraced by those politically interested service people, especially from the army and RAF. It’s important to note that this idea of a mock parliament was nothing new, being common in the 1930s and 40s and previously adopted in the services, allowing “citizens in uniform” to “play at politics” without actually breaching Kings Regulations.

In 1981 David Edgar secured a commission from the BBC to write a 2 part play based on the Cairo events and on that basis we undertook much more extensive research.  Mike Wearing was the key mover for the BBC with David Rose endorsing the commission shortly before his departure to Channel 4. We tracked down and interviewed surviving participants, obtained access to contemporary diaries and documents and developed a much fuller sense of the day-to-day context in which the parliament developed.

In 1982 David’s script was accepted, but then costed as being too expensive for the then available budget. That seemed to be that.  Then in early 1988 David received a call asking whether we would be interested in having the plays re-commissioned as a three part drama, to be produced at Pebble Mill using studio space which had become available following the cancellation of another project. Ironically, it was the Carol Parks, the producer, who had remained loyal to the project despite having to do the original prohibitive costings that had frustrated production in 1982.   And that’s when Vote for Them took off.

The title came from a Daily Mirror campaign, immediately prior to the 1945 election, in which the deliberately ambiguous slogan was developed.  It asked readers to both vote on behalf of those service people under 21 and unable to vote, or indeed still involved in fighting in the far East, and also to vote for a society in which returning forces would come home to a better future.  The slogan had a powerful and enduring resonance, yet avoided explicitly endorsing any political party, though it was universally understood as clear call to vote Labour! In the context of a mock parliament the Vote for Them title was, for us, both obvious and irresistible.

The events of the MFA Parliament, which met only 5 times, attracted such notoriety because of its wider interpretation and representation as a straw poll on the wartime government. This followed the holding of a mock election among the 200 or so who attended the 2-hour meeting and the posting of the results in the Egyptian Gazette by an army press office sergeant who had contacts in the paper.   The mock election result gave Labour a large majority and was seized on by the Nazi press as evidence of bolshevism among the troops and a pointer to post war events.  This and other coverage seems to have been key in the decision to close the Parliament in April 1944, though not before a packed house of over 700 had voted in favour of a decision to nationalise the Bank of England.  That led to the “Chancellor of the Exchequer”, Aircraftsman Leo Abse being detained and posted away from Cairo and later to England amidst much publicity.  The late Leo Abse subsequently became a real MP, and was an enthusiastic supporter of our attempt to tell the story, albeit in a dramatic form in which events or characters were necessarily compressed and conflated.

The production itself was, for me, a completely original and unique experience. The timescales involved were very tight as studio time was already booked, so that the casting, rehearsal and script editing were conducted at a rapid pace.  The rehearsals were in London and although the plays were shot largely at Pebble Mill, there were numerous external locations in the UK as well as the Cairo based shooting. For example, I recall the cinema in Tenbury Wells doubling as a Cairo location; the TA Centre in Brandwood, Kings Heath, providing location for a military gymnasium in Egypt; and the station at Bewdley providing a homecoming venue on Election Day 1945. .

The plays cast a number of now TV familiar faces such as Billy Hartman, Emmerdale, and Steve McFadden, Eastenders.  Steve played a cycling enthusiast in Cairo and, as part of his impressive preparation, he chose to travel to Sheffield to meet the real person who had inspired the character, arriving at his address on a bike! That went down well.

The dominant memory for me though is the sight of large numbers of supporting actors being managed in the Pebble Mill studio, dressed in contemporary uniforms with Janice Rider anxiously attempting to ensure that some inadvertent anachronism wouldn’t creep in among the recently delivered uniforms: such as a soldier with some aspect of dress or badge not available until later in the War.  And people did write in to point out such details, while another correspondent insisted, forcefully, that the entire story was fiction!

But the most extraordinary letter I received after the plays’ broadcast in 1989 was from the son of a former South African officer.  He was puzzled that we hadn’t contacted his father before representing him on screen. It transpired that there was actually a real life counterpart to our invented Lieutenant Rubin, speaker of the MFA Parliament, and that the real Lieutenant Rubin had been the speaker of a mock parliament among Union Defence Force troops in Egypt.  As we found out, on many occasions, the truths we came across. and often had to omit, were stranger than anything we fictionalised.

Neil Grant

Night shoot in Dorset sand Quarry