Videotape in the 70s (part 5) Ray Lee


photo by Tim Savage, no reproduction without permission












VT Christmas Tapes

There was a tradition in VT to compile together a series of funny out-takes from the programmes, into a programme for internal viewing at Christmas. Quite where it started I don’t know, but it also involved colleagues at ATV, and London VT. The most famous were “White powder Christmas” and “Good King Memorex”. This was at a time when the BBC was pretty straight laced, and it was unthinkable to broadcast actors failings. It became quite well known among the regular actors, who when they had stumbled, or let rip with an expletive, would quite often add “Merry Christmas VT”

In the run up to Christmas there would quite often be mysterious line bookings, late night edit sessions, and other clandestine goings on, in order to complete these works of art. Initially managers turned a blind eye to it, but it got clamped down on when it started to impinge on genuine bookings. As the years went by VT editors had become ever more ambitious and the process was taking away too much effort from genuine work. However it later became legitimised to some extent with the programme “It’ll be Alright on the Night” Somehow there was never quite the same incentive to try to create Christmas tapes again.

Ray Lee

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

Jane Clement: .We all loved those Xma VT tapes – they were greatly anticipated every year. It was always funny for people in different parts of Pebble Mill to see the gaffs in other areas as well as their own. On Pebble Mill at One we were responsible for quite a few outtakes as we were live to air – the presenters in particular were always a bit nervous as the great Xmas unveiling approached! I seem to recall Drama had its fair share of the tape too, and Midlands Today. But any program (and anyone) was fair game for the VT boys.’

Stuart Gandy: ‘I think if you look on you tube you can at least find parts of them. The first time I remember seeing one was towards the end of my A course at Wood Norton when our course lecturer had obtained White Powder Christmas on tape. This was just before Christmas of 1979. It was so funny, and as Ray says it was of footage that would normally have been thrown out. The story goes, from the grapevine, and I could be wrong here, that it was produced during the strike in the run up to Christmas the previous year. White Powder Christmas was so successful, that the following year Good King Memorex was made, altogether much more polished.’

Peter Poole: ‘Copies of the tapes got into the hands of the tabloid press. These papers printed a story that presented the BBC in a poor light. It was the usual BBC bashing. The BBC then banned production of the Xmas tapes. Even out takes must not be kept.’

Keith Brook: ‘Yes. Another classic example of bad management. The tabloid story was based on ‘wasting’ licence payers’ money, which wasn’t true of course because it was in their own time and at no cost to the BBC. The management could have just let the story wither on the vine but instead over reacted and threatened dismissal of anyone caught making a Christmas tape. That’s why the following year it was an ‘Easter’ tape!!’

The Last Pebble Mill at One – photo from Mark Kershaw

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

This photo was taken just after the last ever ‘Pebble Mill at One’ on 23 May 1986.  In fact you can just see the last few members of the audience leaving on the left hand side of the photo.

Included in the photo are:

Back row: Michael Smith (celebrity chef), David Lancaster (glasses), Caroline Marshall, Steve Weddle.

Next to back: Julian Hitchcock (with pink balloon), Chris Wright, Roger Sutton (just behind the others), possibly Barrie Edgar peeking out behind, Tony Rayner, Peter Urie, Peter Hercombe, Claire Chambers, Norma Scott, Mary Clyne, Mark Kershaw, Trudy Stanton, Steph Silk, Richard ?.

Third row from back:  Girl in red dress below Tony Rayner is Jacqui Goodwin, Fran Groves, Ann Varley, Di Reid (red dress), Margaret Allen (with belt), John Westcott (FM), Annie Gumbley Williams (standing purple dress)

Back seated row: Sue Ashcroft, Debbie Hood, Caroline Matthews, Denny Hodge , Paul Coia

Middle seated row: Gareth Williams, Jo Buchan, Magnus Magnusson, Marian Foster, Bob Langley, Bev Wildman (Thompson), David Weir

Fron row: Tom Ross (standing), Eileen Bayliss just behind Tom, Maggy Whitehouse, Jane Clement, Viv Ellis, Peta Newbold, Colette Foster (central short brown dress), Nicky Barfoot, Claire Stride, Jane McLean, Jo Dewar

Please add a comment if you can fill in any of the people not identified.

Thanks to Mark Kershaw for making the photograph available.





Daytime Live – behind the scenes

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

Here is a behind the scenes clip of ‘Daytime Live’ from 1 November 1988, presented by Alan Titchmarsh. It was one of the successors to ‘Pebble Mill at One’, and had a very similar magazine format. This clip is one of a series recorded by the BFI as part of their ‘One day in the life of television’ project in 1988.

The excerpt shows Alan Titchmarsh giving a behind the scenes tour of the ‘Daytime Live’ office, with a psychologist commenting on the state of the production team’s desks and what they say about them as people. Featured are David Morgenstern and Jane McCloskey.

‘Daytime Live’ was recorded in Studio C, like ‘Pebble Mill at One’.

Jane Clement added the following information via the Facebook page: ‘Nice to see the back of my head there (at the first desk as Alan enters the office, opposite the gorgeous Steph). It was actually Jane (not Jo) McCluskey, I think – she was Queen of Books at the time, a role I held myself before her when I took over from the late great Jenny Cowan. Of all my jobs at PM, that was probably my favourite, given my lifelong love affair with books. Also interesting to see David Morgenstern; he and I had bought a house together in Harborne that year (purely as friends, I should say); I was due to emigrate to Australia the next month (December 88) and I laughingly thought the house would be a good investment. How wrong I was!’