Gordon Astley and Children in Need

Photo from Marie Phillips, no reproduction without permission.

The photo dates from May 1993, and shows Radio WM presenter, Gordon Astley, presenting a ‘Children in Need’ cheque for the ‘Allen’s Croft Project’, right outside the front of the Pebble Mill building.

Memories of Wood Norton

The following memories of BBC technical training at Wood Norton were posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Pete Simpkin: ‘I was at Wood Norton in the mid 60s and our engineerng course TA16 was the first engineer group to be allowed to produce a show in the famous Gym studio.  It was relayed to the club in Evesham. I was Floor manager……we evn had to design our own captions!’

Take a look at the following 360 degree photo of Wood Norton, by Tom Poole: http://www.tompoole.co.uk/360/woodnorton2.swf

Stuart Gandy: ‘As an engineer my first 3 months in the BBC were at Wood Norton on my A course in 1979. Part of the A course for us TV engineers was to make a programme in the studio at Wood Norton trying out the different roles. In those days there were always a lot of trainees there and for our course we could not use the studio there as it was fully booked, so we had to come up to Birmingham University studio for 3 days. Whilst there we had the chance to visit ‘a proper TV studio’, that was Pebble Mill of course, one of the BBC’s most iconic buildings. It was an interesting visit especially for those of us like me that would be starting there later on. Who would have ever thought back then that 25 years later it would be gone!’

Gordon Astley: ‘Wood Norton was my rite of passage.’

WM Frisbee – Pete Simpkin

Photo by Pete Simpkin, no reproduction without permission.

I found this frisbee in my shed recently, probably issued from Pebble Mill in the 80s, but I just can’t remember why.

Presenter Gordon Astley added the following comment on Facebook:’..radio stations should hang their heads in shame at the money wasted on giveaways..car stickers etc. never added just one listener.’

Pete replied: ‘You are right Gordon…….Stations added listeners by being out there among them, where are the great OBs that used to be mounted at Shopping Centres etc? Everything’s hidden away in bunker type studios now!’

Recording The Archers FX on a Mellotron













Gordon Astley worked on ‘The Archers’ in the 1960s, at the BBC studio in Broad Street, Birmingham, and remembers using one of the first Mellotrons to play in the sound effects.   Apparently John Lennon had the other Mellotron which was used on ‘Strawberry Fields’.

The Mellotron looked like an electronic keyboard – it was an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard, which was developed and made in Birmingham.  It was the first sample playback keyboard for music.  Each key allowed the playing in of pre-recorded sounds.  The Mellotron had a major impact on the rock music of the 1970s.

Gordon Astley went on to present on the final series of Tiswas in 1982, and on various local radio stations, including Radio WM.

Peter Poole remembers that the Mellotron was in the Dubbing Theatre at Pebble Mill in 1976. By then it was very unreliable and little used.

Martin from Streetly Electronics, who knows about Mellotrons has added the following information: ‘The mellotron used by the BBC was one of approx. 60 SFX versions of the instrument that were loaded with 1260 sound effects from the BBC library. Hissy owls and scratchy gunfire were the trademarks but in the mid 60s it was a miracle machine for dubbing to radio and tv productions including live broadcasts. John Lennon’s instrument can be seen on our website – mellotronics.com.’


Recording Sound Effects for the Archers

Photo from Gill Powell, no reproduction without permission.

The photo shows sound recordists Lee Harrigan and Rob Taylerson, in the Pebble Mill car park making a recording of Carl Dolan’s car engine for when Eddie Grundy went stock car racing in ‘The Archers’.

Gordon Astley adds the following comment on the Facebook Page: ‘recording Archers FX was my first job when I joined Broad Street in’69. I believe we played them in on one of the 1st Mellotrons. John Lennon had the first. Do I remember correctly? I have dined out on it ever since .’