Kiki Dee on Showaddywaddy Show

Photos by cameraman, Bhasker Solanki, no reproduction without permission

These photos are of Kiki Dee appearing on the Showaddywaddy show from Christmas 1980.

The following comments and information were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Colin Fearnley: She was a guest on “Showaddywaddy Show” recorded in the 1980’s, the camera is an EMI 2001 which would correspond with that period and it looks like whoever is sitting bottom right of the camera is wearing one of the silly hats the crew and the audience were given. I was on racks and I think John Abbott lit it. Found in my 1980 diary, recorded in Studio A, Sunday 30th November and Monday 1st December. Kiki Dee inserts recorded on the Sunday, then live audience in for the Monday night. My hours 1030-2215 both days. John Kimberley on colour match And Peter Wood-Fisher on lighting desk (Q-File). The reason I remember it so well was that I had just escaped a very long course at Wood Norton!


John Lannin

2" Quad machine, photo by John Burkill (1976)

2″ Quad machine, photo by John Burkill (1976)













Annie Gumbley-Williams has sent through the following sad news about John Lannin.

“John Lannin died last Friday, 28th October 2016. John had been ill for some time. The news has come from John Kimberley. John was a VT Editor and then a Vision Manager at Pebble Mill. John was a very pleasant, friendly and very kind gentleman. He will be sadly missed.”

John was apparently also a master of the two inch editing block (seen in front of the 2″ machine above), which was a demanding piece of equipment to operate accurately!

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

Bryan Comley: ‘Very sad news, I first met John at BBC Bristol, as my line manager, I will never forget his amazing management style. When he moved back to Pebble mill he got me to move too, my interview consisted of a 15 minute tour of pebble mill followed by three hours? In the bar!!! I passed the interview!!’

Bill Morris: ‘Along with the sadly departed Alan Edwards, John trained me up as an Engineering Manager in the early 80’s at Viewplan Broadcast. He was a true gentleman and an unflappable OB Manager. His capacity for both humour and beer were legendary and I remember both John and those halcyon days of OB’s with great affection.’





John Endall RIP

John Endall on a PM@1 OB in the Cotswolds. Photo by Tim Savage, no reproduction without permission.

John Endall on a PM@1 OB in the Cotswolds. Photo by Tim Savage, no reproduction without permission.













I’m sorry to have to tell you that John Endall died on Saturday morning. He didn’t recover from his fall in the autumn of last year, despite having had a new hip replacement. His daughter, Penny told me that he had been in Kidderminster hospital for quite a while, for recuperation, but had developed various infections and also hadn’t really been given enough physio to avoid muscle wastage. The latter meant that he hadn’t the strength to attempt to walk towards the end.

I visited him in Redditch hospital a few weeks after his operation, and he seemed quite chipper at the time. I told him that only the previous day I had been walking near Rutland Water and had come across the pub in Whissendine where we used to stay whilst doing Gardeners’ World from Barnsdale. Needless to say many ‘fireside O.B. yarns’ were told after that!

John Kimberley

John worked at Alexandra Palace after the war and then Carpenter Road and later Pebble Mill. Known to many as ‘Biggles’, he had a good innings reaching 90 years and was active with swimming and sailing throughout his retirement.

Anne Gumbley-Williams

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

Tim Dann: Dear old John, God Bless…RIP….”Biggles” it said in the link above…I remember well entering the bar when it was on the second floor at PM…in a ‘Posse’ of Designers & Design assistants looking for mischief…. & John, leaning on the bar, giving it ‘rock all’ about the war & his time in ‘Fighters.’ & the Battle of Britain…..”Bloody hell!” cried one of our company rather uncharitably…”Not another one of the bloody ‘Few!!’….you buggers must have been eight to a Spitfire!”….John nearly swallowed his pipe, spilt his bitter down his front before collecting himself & raging at our raiding party about being lucky and what the ‘Few’ had sacrificed before stomping off in a haze of blue pipe smoke….No lasting damage done (save perhaps from the passive smoking of the era!)…just another example of the amazing relationship that we all had with each other during certainly my time at PM which was 73 – 79…….Off into the ‘wild blue yonder’ John…Give em hell!

Katie Cooper: ‘Such a lovely ‘wicked’ man…… Always a giggle…RIP’

Diane Reid: ‘He was the pilot for my first ever glider flight – he also taught me a thing or two about OBs – a real gent.’

Studio Operations (Part 5) – Ray Lee


Studio A production gallery 1971, by Ivor Williams (including vision mixer)

Studio A production gallery 1971, by Ivor Williams (including vision mixer)


Photo by John Kimberley, Studio A colour matching desk

Photo by John Kimberley, Studio A colour matching desk























Other Equipment

Most of the rest of the signal chain equipment, Video amplifiers, colour coders, vision mixer etc. were BBC designs, from Designs Department, as the BBC had largely pioneered television equipment in the U.K. from the earliest days. Again to get the best out of it, much of the equipment needed regular adjustments to keep it within specification. The normal day to day drift due to voltage changes or temperature changes, was enough to require correction.

As the colour TV service had only started quite recently, the designs were first generation colour equipment, and basically pushing the limits of what was achievable. The vision mixer was basically a black and white vision mixer, with additional modules to allow it to work with colour signals. One quirk of this first generation vision mixer, was that it truly was a mixer. In the same way that sound mixers added all the signals, so did the vision mixer, so several picture sources could be added together to create several superimposed images. As there were 8 channels, in theory one could have had up to 8 images in the combined output. This required some quite special precautions to prevent the signal exceeding the maximum video level, as well as ensuring that the synchronising pulses and colour burst stayed constant so that the receiving equipment would correctly decode it. Such a requirement for multiple images was not really needed, and most of the time it would just be a transition from one source to another, either a cut, or a fade. I believe simple wipes were also possible, i.e. top to bottom, side to side or diagonal, but that was about as much as could be done at that time. I believe there was also a mode of selecting modulated line drive to one or more cameras in order to create a sort of wavy – dream like transition.

All subsequent commercial vision mixers, were more correctly called vision switchers, as they did not allow for more than two images to be simultaneously displayed, in a mix mode. However they came with a whole lot more transition effects, and it was quite noticeable at the time, particularly with L.E. programmes that the directors would try out all the latest transition effects on their programmes if they thought they could get away with it. They also tended to have more channels so that more picture sources could be permanently wired to particular channels. The old Designs Department mixer quickly ran out of channels if there were 5 cameras and several other sources, like VT, TK, slide scanner and O.B. feed. Some of these had to be preselected, and could not all be present at the same time.

Because all the first generation equipment needed careful tending and not infrequently became faulty, there was a need for a good number of engineers on hand throughout studio recordings and live transmissions. The equipment on outside broadcast units was also subject to vibration, cold and damp, and so needed even more regular intervention, but space was limited, so that meant having fewer more experienced engineers. It was not uncommon for engineers to be repairing equipment minutes before it was needed to be used.

Ray Lee


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