CMCR 9 (CM 1) – Ray Lee

CMCR 9 after restoration, Aug 2012













Photograph by Ray Lee, no reproduction without permission.

CMCR9 was built in 1969 and equipped with Pye PC80 colour cameras. It was originally based in Acton, but I believe moved to Birmingham when Pebble Mill opened. It was already in place and in use when I arrived in 1974. In 1979 it was moved to Manchester to become “North 3” which is the name most of the articles refer to it as. It remained in Manchester until 1982, when it was sold to another company.

At some point the PC80 cameras were replaced by EMI 2001 cameras. I can’t remember if that was done in Birmingham, or in Manchester, but I think it may have been in Birminham, as the studio cameras were all EMI 2001, and it would have made sense to have all the same type. I only went out with the vehicle on two or 3 trips, and one trip was to Jolly’s Club Stoke on Trent for the World Darts Championship, and I thought EMI 2001s were fitted at that time.

It covered O.B.’s all over the country and was heavily used during its time in Birmingham. Gardeners’ World at Clack’s farm was a regular venue. Match of the Day, and racing from Cheltenham, Motor racing at Donnington Park, Songs of Praise, in fact think of an O.B. Venue and it probably went there.

CMCR stands for Colour Mobile Control Room, 9 was obviously the 9th one. While in Birminhham it was known as CM1 (Colour Midland 1) when it got to Manchester it became North 3 (as their 3rd O.B. control room) They were generally referred to as “Scanners” but I don’t know exactly why.

Speaking to Steve Harris and his colleague at the show (Onslow Park Steam Rally, where the scanner was recently exhibited) I was reminded of a “joke” played by Birmingham staff when the scanner went to Manchester. As well as putting all the faulty modules they could find, and keeping the good ones for Birmingham, the interior was covered in fake cobwebs of the sort obtained from joke shops in spray cans. Apparently Manchester were not very amused!! It took them some time to get it all working again, and goes down in the legends of engineers’ tales.

Ray Lee

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

Pete Simpkin: ‘SCANNERS. They were called ‘scanners’ for historically the very first OB van was built by Baird to transmit the Derby to London cinemas in the thirties and the vehicle’s entirety consisted of the great scanning disk which whirled round at a frightening rate converting the scene into TV signals, so the vehicle was the ‘camera’ or as such things were called in the ealy days the ‘scanning apparatus’. So for ever afterwards even when staff could get on board with their electronc system the name remained. CMCR was never quite as pioneering or exciting!’

Save BBC Birmingham Campaign

Staff of BBC Birmingham were protesting this lunchtime on the steps of the Mailbox against the closure of factual television and radio network production.  Flagship series like ‘Gardeners’ World’, ‘Coast’ and ‘Countryfile’, are scheduled to move from BBC Birmingham to Bristol from August 2012.  Production staff face redundancy or relocation, whilst post production staff look likely to be made redundant, as BBC Bristol does not have its own post production facilities.

The number of staff and programmes made at BBC Birmingham has been being run down since the move from BBC Pebble Mill in 2005, and the commissioning guarantee from London has been quietly forgotten, eroding the production base.

When Pebble Mill was at its height there were around 1,500 staff.  The number now at BBC Birmingham is only a couple of hundred.


‘Gardens by Design’ – photos by Gail Herbert

Photos by Gail Herbert, no reproduction without permission.

‘Gardens by Design’ was a garden design series presented by designer, David Stevens.  It was recorded in the spring and summer of 1990, being transmitted January/ February 1991, in the Friday night ‘Gardeners’ World’ slot on BBC 2, whilst GW was on its winter break.  Nick Patten produced and directed the series, Helen Faulkner, on attachment from Radio 3, was the assistant producer and Gail Herbert the production assistant.

The series concentrated on making the most of your outside room, including both front and back gardens.

Geoff Hamilton’s funeral service sheet

Thanks to Gail Herbert for making Geoff Hamilton’s funeral service sheet available.

Gardening presenter and journalist,Geoff Hamilton was born in 1936 in East London.  He was a twin.  His love of gardening developed early, and he worked on practical gardening magazines as a journalist before beginning his television career.  After working for Anglia Television, he joined the ‘Gardeners’ World’ team in 1979.  The series was based at his home, Barnsdale, in Rutland, from 1985.  His five acre garden was divided into a number of small plots, mimicking suburban gardens.

Geoff presented a number of gardening series, besides ‘Gardeners’ World’, including: The Cottage Garden, The Paradise Garden, The Ornamental Kitchen Garden, The Elizabethan Kitchen Garden, and Old Garden, New Gardener.

He died of a heart attack on 4 August 1996, whilst taking part in a charity bike race.

I worked as a researcher on ‘Gardeners’ World’ in 1990/1, and remember filming at Barnsdale.  Geoff had two cats, named after directors on ‘Gardeners’ World’, one was named ‘Denis’, after Denis Gartside, but I can’t remember the name of the second one.  Geoff’s downstairs loo was also a fascinating place to visit – the walls were covered with press cuttings about ‘Gardeners’ World’, and you could spend quite a while reading the walls happily!

End of Gardeners’ World Party 1991 – photos by Gail Herbert

Photographs by Gail Herbert no reproduction without permission.

These photos were taken at the end of ‘Gardeners’ World’ party 1991.  This was when ‘Gardeners’ World’ stopped being made in-house at Pebble Mill, and became an independent production, made by Catalyst Television. Ten years later the contract returned to BBC Birmingham.

The first photo includes left to right: Steph Silk (editor), Vanessa Jackson (researcher), Sophie Marsh (production secretary), Patti Evans (PA), Chris Hardman (PA).

The second photo includes Annette Martin (director), Alan Duxbury (cameraman).