Pebble Mill at One at Legoland

Legoland1 Legoland2





















Photo copyright Roger Guest, no reproduction without permission.

These photos were taken at Legoland in Copenhagen. It was part of a Pebble Mill at One programme recorded in April – May 1983.
The team all travelled in a Patterson’s coach and included Steve Weddell, John Smith, Jane McLean, Marian Foster, Jack Rook, Mary Clyne, Mike Bloore, Dave Baumber, and myself.
The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
Keith Brook (Scouse): ‘Mike Bloore is trying to figure out which end is which of the videotape!! The recorder was called a VR3000 if I remember rightly.
Ian Dewar and myself started that operation.’

Ray Lee: ‘Yes it was an Ampex VR3000 and had large rechargable batteries which might last for one tape if you were lucky. It produced a very basic monochrome playback, which really did little other than indicate something was on the tape. It was very noisy, as the head assembly was mounted on ball bearings, unlike the airbearings that were used in all the full size machines. Little chance of assessing sound quality, but maybe that was recorded separately on a timecode linked tape machine. I don’t know details of how it was used in the field, but did have to attempt to repair it a few times. ! Very quicly replaced by the VPR10 1″ machine for these type of productions.’

Jane Clement: ‘I seem to recall they went to Freetown Christiania as part of the trip – the big hippie commune in Copenhagen – is that right Steve N Weddle and Jane Mclean?’

Jane Mclean: ‘Oh just look at us Mike Bloore! Yes Jane, we did indeed and I was petrified. They had lots of huge dodgy dogs. I went for a wee under a bush and two dogs charged me midst flow. The owner stopped them just before they reached me by which time I was wrecked. Ian Dewar had to give me medicine from his hip flask.’

Steve Weddle: ‘Heavens yes, Christiania, the hippy commune right in the heart of Copenhagen which proclaimed itself a free state. As I was the nearest thing we had to a hippy – long hair and a duffle coat – I went in to hold discussions with their leaders to see if they would allow us to film in their break away state. They eventually agreed, giving me a promise that our safety was assured. As if! No sooner had we started filming than we were greeted by a break away faction brandishing sticks and bricks, demanding our immediate departure from the site, or else. A tense few minutes ensued until my contact there won the day and we were allowed to carry on filming. And good on John Smith for holding his nerve. Plus I do remember that incident of the dog in the daytime, Jane. I seem to recall the Danes having a weird thing for Alsatians. But that’s for another time!’

Studio Operations (part 7) – Ray Lee

Studio Lighting Studio A

Photo of Studio A lighting gantry 1975, by Jim Gregory
Photo of Studio A lighting gantry 1975, by Jim Gregory












Studio A had a grid of lighting hoists – referred to as barrels – arranged in rows and columns, I think there were 96 in all. Some in the corners of the studio were short ones, but most could accommodate up to 3 luminaires, and were normally equipped with 2 double ended ones, with a soft light on one side and a key light on the other. The lighting hoist could be lowered to floor level to change luminaires, or add extra ones, and it was quite common for additional spotlights, or effects lights to be added to the standard complement of 2 dual source lamps, or even for one or more of the dual source lamps to be substituted by another more suitable lamp. This was all done on the set and light day. Each barrel (apart from the short ones) had 3 lighting circuits each controlled by its own dimmer. There were a number of outlets on the studio wall also controlled by a dimmer for connecting to cyclorama lighting units or floor standing lamps.

The lighting control system was called a Qfile, and was an early system using computer type memory storage based on magnetic core stores. This allowed lighting scenes to be stored both in terms of which lights were on and how bright they were, and facilitated smooth and quick lighting transitions with ease. In the lighting gallery there was a mimic display, laid out in the same way as the lighting barrels, which showed which lights were on in the studio in white, and the next scene (preview lighting) in green. To test the mimic lights one memory (99) was set with all the lamp circuits on, but woe betide you if you ever cut that up to the live scene. The studio would become very bright very briefly, before the circuit breakers in the basement cut the power off. There would then follow about a 20 minute hiatus while the electricians, went through the sequence of going to the basement and of re-setting the circuit breakers. The lighting panel had a set of meters to show how much power was being drawn, and it was expected that the lights would be distributed across the 3 phase supply to keep a balanced load. The circuit breakers were designed to trip if any one phase exceeded 150kW, so in theory the total lighting load could be close to 450kW, which made for a pretty hot studio. Most of the lamps were switchable 2.5 / 5kW, but occasionally 10kW lamps would be used, so it soon added up.

The Qfile operator was drawn from the engineer pool, but because of its specialised nature, was also  one of a small group of people. It was recommended that operators had been on a lighting course, and seen as the first step towards becoming a TM2. Initially Dave White, Peter Wood-fisher, and Ian Dewar, with Mike Lee as a stand in. In the mid 70’s Dave left for Norwich, and Peter moved to VT, Brian Jones then became a regular but Mike had to fill in a lot more. I had a brief time operating it, but was never accepted for a lighting course, and did not really take to it, and would not have coped with some of the fast paced work that the more experienced handled.

The Qfile mimic could be made to display some words in a fairly crude block text. When Playschool was hosted “Little Ted” was the favourite. One had to use your imagination a bit to see the words, but that was the kind of idle exercise that helped brighten some quite long studio days.

Ray Lee

Studio A, All Creatures Great and Small, photo by Tim Savage

Studio A, All Creatures Great and Small, photo by Tim Savage













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

Pete Simpkin: ‘What a fascinating Blog. Congratulations Ray from one who’s lighting experience was restricted to news studios where the maximum availabilty was one key and fill per person in vision, a ‘pup’ for head and shoulders to separate them from the cyclorama backing and the odd background shape light shining through cardboard cut out patterns!!’

Peter Poole: ‘I worked as theatre electrician before the BBC. I used a Rank Strand Threeset desk. Every time a lamp blow out it took the fuse. Was it the same at Pebble Mill?’

Tribute to Ian Dewar – Tim Scoones

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission














(The following message has been sent out by Tim Scoones, exec producer, NHU, BBC Bristol in tribute to Ian Dewar, who sadly died recently)

It’s with great sadness that I have to advise you all of the death of Ian Dewar – legendary engineering manager of Springwatch, Big Cat Live, Bargain Hunt and many other Bristol outside broadcast productions.  We have lost a dear friend, an inspiring colleague and one our industry’s great forces for innovation and excellence.  They just don’t make them like that any more…..

Many of you, particularly those in the extended Springwatch Family, will already know this terrible and shocking news, as Ian was our engineering manager right up to the OB site build for this year’s Springwatch.  In the last few days I have come to realise just how far Ian’s influence has reached, so I am am writing to the whole BBC Bristol site to make sure everyone knows.  Do please feel free to forward this on into the wider media community – Ian has so many friends and colleagues around the industry – not just our stuff, but in BBC Sport and throughout the Pebble Mill era in BBC Birmingham.

The entire ‘Watches’ Family are struggling to come to terms with this great and sudden loss – Ian influenced and inspired the lives of so many people.  He has been such a huge character in the BBC, and particularly in the Natural History Unit through Springwatch and Big Cat Live.  Ian was a wonderful mentor to so many and a larger than life character – we always knew when he was in the building!  Who will ever forget that deep gravelly voice, that steely stare (when required…) or that infectious Sid James laugh?  He seemed to leave his mark wherever he went and he will be sorely missed at a really personal level by everyone here who knew him.

On a professional level, Ian contributed to – and often drove personally – the world-class innovation and production excellence that the BBC Natural History Unit is known for.  Ian’s incredible wealth of knowledge and experience, and his unswerving loyalty to the team and their mission, allowed Springwatch to break new ground in factual broadcasting time and time again.  He has played a major part in creating a well loved and hugely respected media brand that has become part of national life in this country.  This is an extraordinary legacy that all of those who worked closely with Ian will never forget.

As well as his unique presence and personality, Ian will always be remembered for his awesome expertise and unswerving professionalism in everything that he did – from creating seemingly impossible OBs in the Masaii Mara or the Isle of Rum to getting us all back on air within days of the great floods of Springwatch 2012 in West Wales – all utterly extraordinary achievements that only someone of Ian’s unique calibre could have even envisaged let alone achieved.  Ian taught so many people in the Natural History Unit so much about an area of broadcasting that relies on the initiative, the drive to innovate and the technical wizardry that “The Duke” – as he was known – had in spades.  This knowledge, now inherited by future generations of broadcasters, will be a lasting tribute to a man who became a Springwatch legend and who will always be synonymous with the shows’ excellence.

Ian always took great satisfaction that Springwatch inspired millions – including the next generation of young naturalists and conservation scientists – to care more about the wonderful wildlife we share this world with.  This is a profound legacy that will out last us all.  I know that when Ian and his team won the Special BAFTA award was one of the best days of his life, and rightly so – what better formal tribute to a man who led his team through thick and thin to achieve new and extraordinary things?

Ian will be sorely and profoundly missed.  We salute a great man, a friend and mentor to so many and an inspiration to us all.

Ian leaves a wife, Jo, and two children Milly and Henry.  His funeral will be held this Monday, 15th July, at St Philip & St James Church, Main Road, Hallow, Worcester at 11am.  There will be a big representation from Springwatch and the wider BBC as we pay our respects and celebrate his extraordinary life.   Jo, his wife, has requested that any donations be made to St Richard’s Hospice, Worcester or Macmillan Nurses.





Ian Dewar’s funeral

CNV00034 Bob Hubbard and Vision Crew

Vision Crew of CMCR9













Photo by John Abbott, no reproduction without permission.

Ian Dewar, shown here on the lefthand side of the photo, sadly died recently.

His funeral will be held on Monday 15 July, at 11 a.m. at Hallow Church, nr Worcester. His wife, Jo, wanted people to know about the arrangements, and to come along.

Our thoughts go out to Ian’s family.

CMCR9 – Vision Crew

CNV00034 Bob Hubbard and Vision Crew












Photo by John Abbott, no reproduction without permission.

This photo dates from the 1970s, and shows Bob Hubbard (senior cameraman) and the vision crew, (Ian Dewar on the left) from the outside broadcast truck, CMCR9. The scanner was built in 1969, and was Pebble Mill’s first CM1, later becoming Manchester’s, North 3.

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

Dave Bushell: ‘Back in the days of the Ventile jacket – not a Berghaus in sight’