John Kimberley blog

OB Scanner CM1 (1980s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I joined Pebble Mill in 1974 and was a staff Studio and O.B. engineer until we lost the O.B. fleet in 1992, after which I became a freelance engineer. I did do some contract work at the Mill afterwards until 1997, then I became a full freelancer working for Sky, BBC and ITV via various O.B. facilities companies. I retired this year, but if offered an O.B. which appeals to me, I guess I’ll take up the offer! Regional Engineers, as we were known were expected to work in Telecine and Videotape as well and we were trained to work in Communications (‘Comms Centre’ and Radio Links) if required.

During my first few years at the Mill, Studio A was usually working 6 days a week, with 2 sets of 2 day dramas and 2 days of Pebble Mill at One; during the latter there would be a complete scenery and lighting reset for the following production. I worked on the last series of Poldark, various series of All Creatures Great and Small, Angels, Juliet Bravo and countless Plays for Today. Amongst memorable Studio A productions were a series of live dramas for BBC 2 around 1980. We were using the very first colour cameras, EMI 2001s, and the first incarnation of the studio technical facilities. Despite the age of the equipment, all the plays went out without a hitch, and much alcohol was consumed afterwards as we all came down from the adrenaline ‘high’. A great breakthrough came with the inclusion of Light Entertainment programmes in the late ’70s, a welcome change from a constant diet of drama productions. I thoroughly enjoyed the specials with Showaddywaddy, Elky Brookes and Don McLean and have very fond memories of doing Basil Brush shows on Saturdays. Oh, and I nearly forgot Saturday Night at the Mill! In the 80s, drama became a single camera operation, usually on location rather than in the studio. However, the studio seemed to be just as busy doing many other productions like Telly Addicts, The Adventure Game and Young Scientist of the Year. When London decided to kill off Pebble Mill at One, there were many spin off daytime programmes involving D.I.Y., fashion (The Clothes Show), and cooking, mainly done using Gallery C. A house was built in the back quadrangle for some productions! Studio B shouldn’t be remembered as only doing Midlands Today – I worked regularly in there on Farming Today and various programmes for Asian immigrants. There were often innovative ideas for the regional opt-out programmes, some of which went on to be networked – Top Gear being a good example. We even did a rock music show in there, and on one occasion, the sound travelled through the building and was picked up on the microphones in Studio A which was doing a Play For Today at the time.

I worked briefly with CMCR9 during my first ever O.B. stint in 1980, but it was moved to Manchester to become ‘North 3’ during that time, and we had CMCR10 for a few months until our new scanner, CM1 arrived. An O.B. stint then was very varied in programme type. It would include football, rugby, swimming, cycling, snooker, horse racing, cricket, party political conferences, inserts to Pebble Mill at One or to drama productions. After I went freelance, all I seemed to do was football!

I have so many lovely memories of my life at Pebble Mill, and it’s great to see that everyone else remembers it fondly and that we are all keeping in touch. I remember that when I left in 1992 I felt like I had suffered a divorce and a bereavement at the same time and it took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that I no longer worked there. I must say that I don’t feel that way about retiring now as the industry has changed so much and has completely different principles from those with which I’m familiar. I completely agree with the idea that we saw the Golden Age of Television in the 70s and 80s!

John Kimberley

Farming Today – Kathryn Shuttleworth

Anna Varle, Martin Poyntz-Roberts, Kathryn Shuttleworth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did a short development attachment to the ‘Farming Today’ programme where I was able to get out and about recording and produced a couple of programmes. It was quite nice to hear my name being read out by Radio 4 continuity, even if it did appear to take the announcer by surprise!

Kathryn Shuttleworth

(This photo dates from the Mailbox era of BBC Birmingham)

Radio Studio 5

Photos by Philip Morgan, no reproduction without permission.

These photos are of the cubicle in Studio 5, one of the network radio studios at Pebble Mill. ¬†They were taken by Philip on the viewing day before the auction to sell off the equipment from Pebble Mill that wasn’t being taken to the Mailbox.

Kathryn Shuttlecock adds the following information: ‘This was our main GP (General Purpose) studio and was used for most of our Radio 2 specialist music shows as well as plenty of live broadcasts such as Late Night Currie with the dear Edwina. This got a bit hairy in the later days as the desk was really on the way out and many a time an SM could be seen taking bits of the desk to pieces live on air to try and keep the thing running! Emergency calls to London to say we might actually fall of air were not unknown! The last time this studio was used was when we had actually moved to (and were broadcasting from) the Mailbox. I used the desk and the ISDN lines in there to do a live link up to Late Night Currie for Halloween when we had ghost hunters and psychics trying to work out if all the ghostly tales of the Mill were true. I had just enough bits of kit and cables to run from Studio 5 into Studio 3 where we had set up for the evening. By that time Pebble Mill was a spooky place to be regardless of any ghoulish happenings and the ghost hunting team were so fascinated they returned a few weeks later to do a full overnight ghost watch! This was probably the last thing to happen on site before the doors were closed to us for good.’

Steve Peacock adds the following: ‘It was also the studio for many fairly hairy live Farming Todays after the move from London and before we fell victim to a plague of Boyle and started pre-recording. 14 minutes live can be a tricky number for the numerately challenged.’