Radio Links Vehicle at Burghley Horse Trials

Copyright Steve Dellow, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo shows a radio links van at a mid-point on an outside broadcast at the Burghley Horse Trials, in September 1985. The radio links van would receive the OB signal from the truck at the event, and then send it on to the transmitter, or to another links van.

 

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

Bryan Comley: ‘Burghley is a huge job with 20 plus cameras covering the cross country course, today the cameras all come back to one truck via fibre optics. In the 80’s there were two trucks one at the start/finish and one at Lion bridge, the cameras at the extremes of the course were radio linked to the trucks , Formula one at Silverstone use cross course microwave too.

Too get the pictures on air, links had to be set up to the nearest inject point, either a BBC centre or a transmitter site, the max distances for one link was around 40 miles sure to the curvatures of the earth and signal strength, so mid points on high ground would be set for some OBs. This could fail due to fog if the midpoint was high above the fog and the OB was in fog as the beam would get bent leaving the fog.’

Steve Dellow: ‘Indeed – a big job – and I’ve still got the Comms planning sheets! In 1985, at Burghley Park there were two Comms vans (758 and 602) – ‘Dairy Park’ and Main. The van in the photo (356) was at Tinwell Lodge (with Generator PG50), then 587 at Cold Overton, then onwards to Sutton (and underground circuit to Pebble Mill). Receiver 102R and Transmitter 124T on the top of 356, with Pete Myslowski asleep in the cab! I was supposed to give £25 cash to the site owner (Mr Flint), plus £20 as they hadn’t been paid the year before! The ‘hops’ were 5km, 18.5km, and 69km.’

Comms planning sheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malcolm Hickman: ‘On other occasions, we used a different mid point, where the vehicle would pick up the signals (7ghz microwave) and relay them to a receiver located at the Morborne transmitter. We used a passive reflector up the mast to bounce the signals down to a receiver on the ground. They were then injected by BT into a protection circuit to Pebble Mill.’

Roy Thompson: ‘As explained radio links had to be line of sight. This could be a problem for some starter links (the first one from the ob site) especially in town centres. Eagle towers were used, which had a self erecting, two stage tower which would carry the transmitter. It was rigged at 30 foot and then sent up to its maximum height of 60 foot. Have no actual photos but came across this model Dinky toy at my local dentist. Unfortunately the second part of the tower is missing.’

 Andy Marriott: ‘I love seeing stuff like this. I joined the comms dept at Pebble Mill in 2000. But by then it was a shadow of its former self. Still got to work on a few OB’s before the plug finally got pulled a year or so later. OB’s aren’t nearly as cool when they’re over satellite or fibre!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Window Please!

Photographs from Andy Stowe, no reproduction without permission

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Thanks to Andy Stowe and Malcolm Hickman for this tale from Pebble Mill:

Andy’s father, Pat Stowe, supervised the team of glaziers called in to install a replacement window at Pebble Mill in the late 1970’s. As you can see from the photo, it was a huge piece of glass, in the corridor outside Studio A!

Ray Lee added a comment about the cause of the broken glass:

“The incident I remember, was after a Saturday Night at the Mill, which I worked on. There was an item involving Paratroupers landing on the lawn and the Lighting TM had two large lights shining through the windows to illuminate the area. He checked regularly to make sure the windows were not getting hot, and all seemed well.
The program went well, and all the lights were turned off. That night was a very cold night with a sharp frost. At about 3am there was a loud bang heard by security. The thermal stress had proved too much and both windows that had been warmed cracked. A plastic film was applied to the cracked windows to prevent them falling out while replacement glass was arranged, which had to be imported as a special order as the size was too big for any UK Float Glass company.
The cracked windows were there several months before they were replaced, and when they were, it featured as an item on Pebble Mill at One. When the windows were replaced, the top edge needed an extra wide section of “putty” as the glass was about half an inch short of the top frame! I was there on the day they were put in as well, and remember seeing the gap at the top of the glass before the extra “putty” was applied.”

Malcolm Hickman remembers the incident well:

“I was watching as they removed the old glass. They attached these big suckers to it, took all the trim off and started pulling with the crane. It refused to budge, so one of the men claimed onto the frame that had the suckers mounted on it and started bashing the glass around the edges with a big rubber mallet. It came out in 3 big pieces.”

“No hard hats or safety gear. That would have been my dad!” (Andy Stowe)

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

Herbie Donnelly: ‘I believe the light didn’t fall over but was placed too close to the window. Its purpose being to live alone for parachutists to see it as they jumped in on Saturday Night At The Mill. The subsequent heat caused the glass to crack.’

Jayne Savage: ‘ I thought the safety film went on after the Birmingham bombings and because of threats to the building but maybe it was this incident.’

Richard Stevenson: ‘Many happy hours sat by those windows in the days when tea breaks were part of the drama schedule and as the trainee, you were dispatched with loose change from the camera crew to get the tea in at the time of the allotted break.’

Keith Ackrill: ‘I also think the film was added to avoid splinters after an explosion. I also believe the light was too close to the glass, but not as a guide for parachutist. I believe it was for some routine to be shot there, and the lamp was left there too long. I cannot recall any parachutist landing on the lawn after dark.’

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Jill Archer’s Aga

Copyright Martin Fenton, no reproduction without permission

Copyright Martin Fenton, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Jill Archer’s Aga, and presumably quite a bit of her kitchen equipment piled on top! It would have been regularly used during recordings of The Archers.

Martin Fenton took this photo in Radio Studio 3 in Pebble Mill in 2003, where The Archers used to be recorded.

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

Kathryn Shuttleworth: ‘We still have the Aga but it nearly didn’t make it as there were concerns about the weight of it! I’m pretty sure there was some concrete reinforcements installed, not just for the Aga but the entire BBC building structure. A team from Aga did the move to The Mailbox as it had to be dismantled into many pieces and reassembled. It really does weigh a tonne!’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘When I used to do the guided tours of Pebble Mill (sometimes helping Sheila Brown) the Archers Studio was always very popular.’

 

 

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Colin Pierpoint blog – Part 16 Comms on Location 2

CMCR9 photo by John Abbott, no reproduction without permission

CMCR9 photo from John Abbott, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Here is the continuation of Colin Pierpoint’s blog about his BBC career).

I did 5 days in Wales for Songs of Praise to BBC Wales from St Asaph. Several days in Hastings for a cricket OB. (A great moment here. There was a delay in setting up the link signal which was received at Swains Lane in North London. The London Comms Engineer there said on the RT (Radio telephone) “I suppose we are waiting for Birmingham are we?” So Paul in the Birmingham links van replied “No, actually we are waiting for the London Links van to arrive”! I did a link at the Oval Cricket Ground for a test match, working late into the night sending VTR recorded on site to the Television Centre VT.  And of course I did Edgbaston several times (My first ever radiolink which was a bit of a disaster! The Cricket Ground were having a management meeting when we arrived for the Vision Circuit Test and they had all parked where the links van should be. I sent requests to move their cars but they would not come out. Our van was one from Wales and all the mains sockets were different from ours!) I also did the radiolink for the opening of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) by the Queen [see comment at the bottom of this post]. It was freezing cold with snow on the ground and I had to stand outside CMCR9 with a field telephone in my hand for ages, doing a lines test which had problems. It was at the NEC on a later OB that I was ordered off the site by the Shop Steward because I was not a member of the ABS (Association of Broadcasting Staff). I went to tell the Engineering Manager in the scanner (CMCR) first, who agreed that it was best if I leave, and then reported it to the CPE in Pebble Mill. In fact, all I had missed was the derig and making the tea for our rigger-driver! It was the Rigger-Driver Jim, who asked me to leave! He should have waited until I finished making his tea before he told me.

There was one cricket match Television OB while the BBC were having strike action. Sound was cut for some programmes but not all. The Engineering Manager came to my links van and said “What action have you taken to ensure that our sound is not cut?” So I said that on yesterday’s cricket match from somewhere else (not mine) the OB had rung the Television Centre and said can you guarantee that our sound will not be cut? So they cut it! I told the EM that because of this I was keeping my head down. He said “Good Idea” and our sound was not cut. (Although I was not in the union at that time, I did contribute to the strike fund. Later I also joined BECTU  trade union at Wood Norton and did go on strike for one day in support of my colleagues). I also did a midpoint at Daventry Transmitter site; it was only a test in case of London flooding, but a chance to talk to my transmitter colleagues.

Sometimes we operated a repeater inside the telephone exchange. This is a box of BBC equipment used to correct the frequency response before it is passed on to the nearest BBC centre. (Later this was stopped when the Post Office union decided that their staff should do it). I did repeaters in Kettering, Coventry, Hanley and Shrewsbury. I did the repeater for the famous broadcast for the BBC anniversary at Sudley Castle. Very embarrassing!

You will remember that I preferred to take the Comms self-drive car for lines tests. My own Land Rover was getting rather elderly and unreliable at the time and if it brike down on official dury, it would have been my fault. So I thought that by using the Comms Department car there would be no problem if it stopped working. How wrong I was! At Burghley Park for the horse trials I took the self drive car which did break down! I was crossing the course near the finishing post when the engine stopped half way across the track; right where the horses would be finishing the event! An image entered my mind of people at Pebble Mill watching the trials on BBC2 as the horses went round an abandoned car at the finishing post, saying “Isn’t that the Comms Self drive car?” So I rang the transport office Neville Mowl and they called out the AA. It seems that I had flooded the carbuettor with an automatic choke (Ford Escourt). The AA man told me that I should have told him where I was and not where the car was, but I had to move about and get on with testing the cross course cables as there was less than an hour to transmission.

An interesting lines test was at Holme Pierrepont, the national watersport centre. The man on the gate let me in a few times, and then said “You have been through here too often today, I am not letting you in again”! So I showed him my BBC pass. When he saw the name Pierpoint, he thought there was a fiddle somewhere but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Meanwhile, the Post Office Engineer, who I was working with, went in and out past me without being stopped once!

Colin Pierpoint

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

Malcolm Hickman: ‘Jim Lloyd and I were stood by the link on the roof of the NEC because it was a grade 1. It was hissing down, so we took shelter in a walkway that crossed the roof. There were 2 men stationed there who were in suits and they had shoulder holsters with guns. We could see a semicircle of people inside the building at the end of the walkway. We did look a bit scruffy in rigging jackets and duffle coat and as the queen got a bit closer, they told us to get out, so we never actually got to shake hands.’

 

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Victoria Wood 1953-2016

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comedienne Victoria Wood died today, aged 62, after a battle with cancer.

Birmingham played an important part in launching Victoria Wood’s career. She studied Drama at Birmingham University in 1971, and as you’ll see from the excerpt of her obituary in the Telegraph today, one of her first professional engagements was at BBC Pebble Mill. Does anyone know what the ‘local television programme about Midlands Life’ was? Please add a comment if you do.

I think that Victoria was probably quite a challenging student at Birmingham University. I studied English and Drama there a decade later, and remember being told by one of our lecturers, Gerry McCarthy, that Victoria had refused to choose any of the options she was offered, and they had to put together a module on Farce especially for her!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/04/20/victoria-wood—obituary/

“In 1971 she enrolled at Birmingham University to study Drama and Theatre Arts and while working as a part-time barmaid in a pub frequented by BBC producers was invited to a party where she played a few of her songs. The following day she auditioned at the BBC studio, Pebble Mill, and was given a spot on a local television programme about Midlands life. This led to another audition, and two appearances on the ITV talent show New Faces, one of which she won.”

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

Lynn Cullimore: ‘I do know that John Clarke knew her and I think he was the producer. I was John’s Production Assistant after that time but I know they were friends. What an amazing lady though – so talented and so sad she is no longer with us. What has been happening lately that we have lost so many talented artists.’

Katie Cooper (Wright): ‘Apart from the regional news programme we also had the ‘Regional Opt Out’. Half an hour’s worth. Regionally based and ranging from news magazines to inter-town quizzes….travelogues, history, even live music + audience from Studio B!!!!. John Clarke and Roger Casstles were two of the Producers in the days of Victoria Wood. David Nelson and I amongst the Directors… Couldn’t name the specific programme she was involved in though…sorry.’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘Back in those days, Midlands News did 2 half hour opt outs a week. One on a Tuesday night and one on a Thursday night. They often featured a particular town or event. It may have been one of those programmes.’

Andy Walters: ‘I’m sure some of her As Seen On TV series was filmed around the corridors of Pebble Mill.’

Jane Clement: ‘A lovely lady, met her several times on the Mill. Another one gone too soon.’