Photos by Robin Sunderland, no reproduction without permission
These photos are from Saturday Night at the Mill, an entertainment magazine show, from the foyer studio. It was transmitted between 1976-81. Roy Ronnie was the producer, and Roy Norton the director. Bob Langley, Donny MacLeod and Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen welcomed a variety of guests. The cameramen in the second photo are Phil Wilson and Doug Smith.
Thanks to cameraman Robin Sunderland for taking and sharing the photos.
The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
Annie Gumbley: ‘I was Roy Ronnie’s Secretary & had my training for PA from Liz Silver who worked on the series. Keith Ackrill and Tricia Sadiq (Mifflin) were part of the team too. I did about about 4 or 5 series to the finish. What memories.’
Julie Hill: ‘I remember Saturday Night at The Mill! Penny Arcatinis and I were entrusted with serving the wine to the general public.’
Chris Rogers: ‘A fab show used to watch it all the time great guests, and presenters.’
Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.
This is the running order for a dummy run recording of Saturday Night at the Mill in December 1976.
Saturday Night at the Mill was an entertainment show which used the Pebble Mill Foyer studio and the courtyard area, for performances. The show was presented by Donny MacLeod and Bob Langley, amongst others, and Kenny Ball and his Jazzman were the resident band.
For live studio shows there were often dummy recordings to make sure that the crew were all up to speed, and that technically the show was going to work.
Thanks to Roger Guest for sharing this running order.
The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
Jane Mclean: ‘Roy Norton was the director, Roy Ronnie the producer, Margaret Walne was PA and I was on autocue. The Kenny Ball band was the house band on all the programmes. The hospitality back at the Strathallen was legendary…!’
Annie Gumbley Williams: ‘I did autocue too. Roy Norton used to shout down the head phones! Liz Silver was PA then and she trained me as PA on Sat Night at the Mill. Roy Norton producer and Keith Ackrill was Researcher or Assistant Producer? Patricia Mifflin too. Great fun.’
Susan Astle: ‘Goodness ..those were the days. Trying to get artists back for makeup checks when they would rather be in hospitality. I think we had our own, obvs! Susie Bankers’
Keith Brook (Scouse): I think I vision mixed that show. I know I did the series. After we complained that there was no hospitality food left, Roy Norton used to shoot down to the Strathallan after the show to stop the office people from scoffing the lot. They didn’t work on the show which allowed them to get there early and hoover it all up!! The gallery talkback was distributed around Telly Centre to entertain the bored troops in London.
Michael Fisher: ‘Kenny Ball was a frequent guest on the show. Am I right in thinking that the recently deceased Alvin Stardust appeared in some Pebble Mill Saturday evening shows and a special stage with a catwalk-like extension so he could strut up & down!’ http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/36299c085523447eaa4bf3fac59b4563
Raymond Lee: ‘I remember working on many of these shows. The pilot programme actually went by the title “Pebble Mill at Night”. Kenny Ball was actually the “resident” musician for the show.’
Eurwyn Jones: ‘I remember working on the series with Ron Sowton. Ginger Rogers was the guest on a show, she arrived in a massive car live in front of the foyer.’
Tim Dann: ‘I remember it as though it were yesterday!!…fantastic fun!…then all back to the ‘Strathallan Hotel’ for hospitality. I was the Designer for the first series. Those were the ‘daze!!”
Keith Ackrill: ‘Patricia Mifflin and I were the two researchers on “SNATM.” Roy Ronnie was the Executive Producer and Roy Norton the Director. We had a great crew working with us, which made the programmes so enjoyable to work on.’
Photo copyright Keith Ackrill, no reproduction without permission.
Trumpeter, Kenny Ball died yesterday aged 82 of pneumonia. He was one of the stars of the ‘trad boom’, the jazz craze that was popular in Britain in the 1950s and 60s. He had a number 2 hit with ‘Midnight in Moscow’, in both the USA and the UK in 1961.
Kenny and his Jazzmen were the resident house band on Pebble Mill’s, Saturday Night at the Mill which ran from 1976-81. It was a live entertainment show from the Pebble Mill foyer.
The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:
Samantha Taylor: ‘My Dad and I went to see him perform just 12 months ago on Bournemouth Peer. It was sad to see such a great end his career so pitifully. He was a true great in his day. May he rest in peace.’
Beverley Dartnall: ‘Lovely memories of Kenny Ball and his jazzmen, working on Saturday night at the Mill, serving rum punch to the audience with Sue Robinson and Gail Herbert and once the audience had gone in to view the show, having lots of laughs with him and his band and of course finishing off the rum punch.’
Lynn Cullimore: ‘I remember Kenny serving him drinks in the green room on a telethon and time over running so he did not get on. I luckily was not the one to tell him – not that I think he cared by then ha ha.’
In 1977 Kenny Ball and his band were the house band for the entertainment show from Pebble Mill, ‘Saturday Night at the Mill’. The show was a spin off from ‘Pebble Mill at One’. Here is the title track of the band’s 1977 album, which was also the show’s title music.
Thanks to David Ackrill for sharing the link.
Photo of Donny MacLeod and the Kenny Ball band by John Burkill, no reproduction without permission.
The following comments were added on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:
David Crozier: ‘I was the designer on a number of these shows. I remember them as being huge fun and with a very real sense of being live. It was working on Sarurday Night at The Mill which gave me the first yearnings for becoming a live programme, multi-camera TV director, which I later became. Great times!
Stuart Gandy: ‘It certainly was a fun programme to work on and like so many programmes we did, put Birmingham on the broadcasting map, something it sadly no longer seems to be.’
Julian Hitchcock: ‘I was Floor Assistant / AFM on any number if these and recall it all vividly. As David says, “great fun”.’
Kevin Lakin: ‘I remember Bruce Forsyth taking a very dim view of trays of beer being bought down from the bar on the 2nd floor during rehearsals . . . . pillock’
Janice Rider: ‘I earned the nickname Strobe Rider from Rob Hinds after the Hollywood movie star Joseph Cotten threatened to walk off the programme if he couldn’t wear his very inappropriate black & white dogtooth jacket which flared dreadfully during his interview !’
Julian Hitchcock: ‘Now this is interesting. I remember going on the studio directors’ course and wanting, in my final project piece, to show a scene in a cinema (it was an adaptation if Graham Greene’s short story, “A Place off the Edgware Road”. Cinemas are, of course, dark. However, the technical manager was adamant that if the scene was dark, no one would be able to see anything,- as if this could not possibly have been intended. I pathetically agreed, with the consequence that the cinema was entirely visible. On this basis, what would be wrong with a person appearing with a “strobing” jacket? When, having left TV, I found myself having to be interviewed in the foyer, I deliberately put on a check jacket because I wanted to strobe…’
Jane Mclean: ‘I did autocue. Maggie Walne (Kidger) was PA. Yes, a beautifully alcoholic programme to work on. And afterwards we always went to The Strathallan on Hagley Rd to wind down. Remember Roy Norton directing the early morning traffic! He directed with Roy Ronnie (I think I’m right).’
Julian Hitchcock: ‘I can never remember Roy Ronnie directing, but it’s possible. They were each great fun in different ways. Norton was wonderfully nervy. I well recall him ordering us ( the floor crew) to “make them laugh”. And thereon hangs another tail.’
Kevin Lakin: ‘Does anyone remember the ” The James Last Orchestra ” fiasco . . . the 50 piece Orchestra were going to be performing in the courtyard, then at 7 o clock we were told they would coming into the foyer, at 7.30 the whole Orchestra went back outside, and that’s when the two Roys went and hid on the 5th floor.’
Julian Hitchcock: ‘I do! Better with hindsight than at the time. I was the guy who had to tell Herr Last. I think this was one if the things that lead to the building of the quadrangle roof.’
Carol Churchill: ‘Oh l loved working on it , l remember making Kate Bush up on her first TV appearance .’
Tim Dann: ‘I did twelve of these beauties!!…& it certainly was off to the Srathallan afterwards!!…tho I don’t remember ‘winding down!!!’…The milkman beat me home every time!!!!…After the ‘credits’ Roy Norton the director, who was always in a state of high excitement…used to leap to his feet sending his chair crashing into the gallery window & screamed “Take me Pres, take me Pres!!!”….I can only imagine ‘Presentations’ enjoyment & envy of what fun we, in the Midlands were having!!…Designed the ‘Kate Bush’ prog too…which morphed into ‘Dave Brubeck’ & then we took the set to Glasgow for an ‘Andy Williams Special.’…. Thwarted tho by Production A’s/managers/managers industrial action!!…Roy Ronnie produced & Roy Norton directed them all.’
Kevin Lakin: ‘Andy Williams was cursed then, I worked on an Andy Williams Special from Warwick University which was thwarted by the Musicians Union, all the orchestra walked out 2hrs before the show started, and fair play to Andy Williams he did the whole show to just a piano accompaniment, it was recorded, but never went out. I think the two Roys were behind it, Mary Spencer was the Designer.’
I worked at Pebble Mill on Radio 4 and television, from the day it opened until I left in 1982. I have very many pleasant recollections of the years I spent there.
The thing you noticed most was the tremendous enthusiasm that permeated the whole staff.
It was the feeling that we were in a brand new building hailed as the biggest combined radio and television complex in Europe. We were all determined to make Pebble Mill programming a force to be reckoned with.
Hours and hours of top television had the Pebble Mill label. As well as Birmingham productions, many London drama series were based in the studio or filmed on location, using Birmingham crews.
The Brothers, Poldark, All Creatures Great and Small, Juliet Bravo, Howards Way, even Basil Brush – the list goes on and on. And that doesn’t include the many classic dramas that were produced in Studio A.
Radio was an important part of the building’s output too. Radio Two programming found a home there, the Midlands Radio Orchestra was in residence for many years. Folk music, pop music – every kind of music came from Pebble Mill. And that’s not forgetting radio drama. Pebble Mill, of course, was home to The Archers and many other dramas of all kinds were produced alongside, together with some fine radio documentaries.
There were many landmark programmes – Top Gear, Pebble Mill At One, Saturday Night At The Mill – all of which I was fortunate to have worked on.
My main memories from the last programme include talking to actor Robert Wagner, in the hospitality room, about English beer. I know nothing about beer, but it was worth talking about it just have Natalie Wood’s dark brown eyes focused on me! I remember sitting across the table from Ginger Rogers and, later, photographing Bob Langley dancing with her – lucky devil – accompanied by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, with guest trumpeter James Hunt. Many, many great stars came to Pebble Mill to take part in the wide range of radio and television programmes that came from within that building.
I miss meeting them, but I also miss the camaraderie of the people I worked with, of being part of a team dedicated to putting broadcasting in the Midlands on the map.