Personnel reunion

Photo from Jane Upston, no reproduction without permission












Staff from Personnel at Pebble Mill had a reunion in July 2017 – and here they are under the gazebo at the Tally Ho in Birmingham. Gilly Groom (was Sellars) first left. Going round the back row, next to Gilly Groom is Diane Verney, Stephen Davies. Lynda Perrin and Heather Jones. Front row is Jane Upston, Kate Hawkins, Rani Randhawa, ?, then Marie Phillips.

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

Jonathan Dick: ‘Ah – the golden age when you had your own personnel officer, based in the same building as you! Nowadays ‘HR’ is a call-centre somewhere or other.’

Keith Brook (Scouse): ‘I’m afraid personnel caused more problems than they solved. They had grown so large without any increase in staff numbers that they needed problems to justify their existence. Luckily for us, we were able to bypass most of their inane decisions.’




Alastair Yates on Midlands News

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

A Midlands News broadcast, presented by Alastair Yates, from 1979. Alastair left Pebble Mill for Grampian in 1980. The broadcast had been recorded by Chris Howles on a Philips N1700 format tape, and donated to TVArk.

The prompter seems not to be working at the beginning of the broadcast, with Alastair doing a wonderful job of reading off the script, whilst looking up from time to time. The cartoon over the weather seems very odd, and then the prompter seems to be working properly after that. The news seems to consist of a litany of crime, followed by a list of what’s on in every single theatre in the region! This was one of the last ‘closedown’ broadcasts to be done from the Midlands, due to an economy drive! Nothing new about BBC cut-backs!

Thanks to Chris Howles for bringing the clip to my attention.




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

Bryan Sharpe: ‘Alastair gave me my first insight into radio.. when he used to be AL KAY at BBC Radio Derby… in 1974… I was 12ish and later went on to work at Radio Derby then onto work at Pebble Mill and eventually as senior director at BBC Nottingham… thanks AL!!’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘Haven’t I seen Alastair on BBC World?’

Jonathan Dick: ‘Alastair was indeed a presenter on BBC World, where I had the pleasure of directing him on many occasions.’


Miriam O’Reilly on Pres desk

copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission













The photo is of Miriam O’Reilly operating the Midlands Today pres desk at Pebble Mill in 1990. This was a year before the big stereoification refurbishment of all the regional pres desks in 1991, which in turn led to the building of the pres gallery next door.

Notice the diamond-shaped strips sticking the ear-piece wire to behind Miriam’s ear, probably of toupee tape – I bet those hurt when they were pulled off. There’s also a handy reel of what looks like camera tape on the desk, carefully out of shot, in case of emergencies!

Thanks to Stuart Gandy for sharing this photo, which was originally posted on the Pebble Mill Engineers Facebook group.

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

Mary Sanchez: ‘Great photo! I used to sit to the right of her punching up the graphic slides and ‘floor managing’ timings etc from my chair! Seems so simple now!!’

Jane Green: ‘Miriam was I think the first to do the self-drive – presenting and pressing all the buttons. I was next to her when she did the Breakfast bulletin and instead of pressing the button to bring her name up on screen at the beginning, she cut to the end weather caption. Then something else, and so on. Poor lady! I could do nothing to help. At the end of the bulletin, she pointedly looked down to the buttons to find the right one to opt back to the network, and looked up and gave a lovely smile before opting back. She stayed calm throughout.’

Jonathan Dick: ‘I remember being in there with Janet Mayo, on one of the first times that she worked in that suite – probably around 1988/9. On the 0855 bulletin, she faded beautifully down-and-up from network to the BBC 1 Midlands symbol, said ‘This is BBC 1 for the Midlands’, then cut straight back to network sound and vision (now showing the South East News), rather than her camera. So we got SE News plus Janet’s voice over the top of it. Somewhat recklessly perhaps, I put my arm in from the side, trying to keep low, beneath the camera shot, and punched the camera button. As I moved back after doing this, I caught a lovely view of myself doing so in the TX monitor… not low enough, obviously. I then realised that I hadn’t stopped network sound from going out, so desperately inched my arm in once again, managing to stay out of view, except after I hit the requisite button, when my arm recoiled, and flew-up through the shot – at least I didn’t accidentally punch Janet on the jaw at that point! All was OK after that, and poor Janet kept on reading throughout my contortions beside and in front of her. I went nervously back into the newsroom afterwards, wondering what would be said, but nothing was – Roy Saatchi was there chatting to some colleagues, but nobody mentioned the incident. I thought I’d got away with it, until Mike Johnston arrived a few minutes later, and from the other end of the newsroom, saw me, pointed at me and shouted ‘Hey – star!!!’. Later in the morning my appearance was reviewed by several of us on the VHS ROT in Studio 9, with the tape being stepped forward a frame at a time, in order to determine my point of maximum visibility.’

Diane Kemp: ‘Yes, it hurt! The camera tape is how we stuck the wire to our necks. It’s all about the glamour you know!’





Martin Suker on Tom O’Connor Roadshow


Photo by Jane Mclean, no reproduction without permission.

This photo is of Martin Suker, in the outside broadcast truck, for an edition of the Tom O’Connor Roadshow, which was a live entertainment show from around the UK.

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

Jonathan Dick: ‘He [Martin Suker] was a vision-mixer I believe, based in Bristol, back in the days when they did network productions from their Studio A and OB unit. I think he went on to direct as well.’

Ray Lee: ‘The Tom O’Connor Road show was extravagant it used both CM1 Type 5 Scanner, and SCV6 Sound vehicle. I have a few photo’s from the Port Talbot venue, when I went out as a support engineer to SCV6.’

Ned Abell: [The OB truck was] CM1. The window is between the “gallery” and the sound/comms end.’


Nicky Savage, Jane Mclean, Tom O'Connor, Jo Dewar

Nicky Savage, Jane Mclean, Tom O’Connor, Jo Dewar

Abekas 8150














Photo by Ian Collins, no reproduction without permission.

VT editor, Ian Collins, took a number of photographs of technical kit as Pebble Mill was being cleared prior to kit being auctioned off, or taken to the BBC Birmingham, Mailbox.

This photo is of an Abekas 8150, which was a DVE machine, used in some of the video edit suites at Pebble Mill. The digital switcher could do colour correction, as well as a variety of wipes and other digital video effects.

Ian Collins adds the following information: the Abekas 8150 is a Digital Vision Mixer and currently resides in the Drama Production Village (BBC Birmingham) Finishing suite, though not used very much these days as it is not HD. It had a companion DVE called a Dveous which again is at the Drama Production Village but not used any more. They used to reside in Pebble Mill VT17.

Jonathan Dick, added the following comment on the Pebble Mill Facebook group: ‘never had one of these in the galleries, but we had dual-channel Abekas A-51s in all the galleries from about 1992. They succeeded the rather more limited EFlex DVEs. I used to enjoy concocting wacky DVE effects for all the daytime shows on the A-51s. They would look VERY dated these days!’