#OnThisDay 1971: Nationwide was broadcast from their swish new Pebble Mill studios for the first time, and gave everybody a tour.
Posted by BBC Archive on Friday, 15 June 2018
Tom Coyne shows the viewers of Nationwide around the brand new Pebble Mill studios in 1971, including TV Studios A and B, and Radio studio 3, the home of The Archers.
This link is to a clip from Nationwide on 15th June 1971. Midlands Today presenter, Tom Coyne gives a guided tour of the brand new Pebble Mill studios. Included in the tour are Studio B, the home of Midlands Today; Studio A, where many dramas were produced; and the Radio studios, home to The Archers, we also see Radio WM in action. There is no mention of Pebble Mill at One, because the programme had not yet been planned.
Thanks to Malcolm Hickman for sharing the link.
The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
Keith Warrender:’The EMI cameras were still going in 1983 when they were replaced with Link 125s. Link are long gone but the old factory is still standing unused in Andover.’
Sue Astle: ‘Such an amazing exciting time for us then, we were privileged to have worked there. Susie Bancroft. Ex make up’
Sarah Tongue: ‘My mom ran the Library!’
Helen Smith: ‘Loved watching that, my Dad was the cameraman at the beginning of the clip.’
Michael Fisher: ‘Radio Birmingham as it was at the start!’
Andy Marriott: ‘What was the little mini cart system they were using for spot effects, called?’
Malcolm Hickman: ‘It was a device called a P.E.G. Programme effects generator. They used a spool of tape in a case with a metal loop fitted at one end. When you inserted the cartridge, the machine grabbed the tab and cued the effect. It had loads of slots so a sequence of effects could be built up. A BBC designs department product, IIRC.’
Sue Welch: ‘Actually remember Tom Coyne from Tyne Tees Television. A very long time ago.’
Malcolm Adcock: ‘Happy memories, joined Top Gear in 1988 and our production office was later in the old Pebble Mill at One studio area.’
(Below is part 7 of Colin Pierpoint’s blog about his career at the BBC. This part concerns the Control Room at BBC Birmingham in Broad Street in the early/mid 1960s).
“In the Control Room I really enjoyed being part of the network. It was called the SB System (for Simultaneous Broadcast). Distribution lines to the transmitting stations and Contribution lines from other regions passed through Birmingham Control Room. When I first arrived this was for Home Service, the Light Programme, and the Third Programme. Adjoining the Control Room at Broad Street was the Continuity Suite for the Midland Home Service. Because the Third Programme only began broadcasting in the evening, the lines were used for telephone calls during the day. Some time later, the Music Programme began in daytime on this network, and that changed its name when all Radio networks were revised into Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Television sound also came through the Control Room, the vision being switched in the Switching Centre one floor below. (Only the BBC could do it this way). But in addition to the distribution of the networks, the Control Room switched contributions from the Regions and London. In fact all sound for Radio and Television went this way, with each individual booking for every contribution given on the daily booking sheet called the “SB Chart”. Sound for Radio and Television outside broadcasts from the Midlands were routed into here on lines from the Post Office. Saturday was particularly busy because there was Sport in the Midlands on the Midland Home Service (later Radio 4 Midlands) and contributions from many football grounds were switched from one region to another. This was all done on plugs and cords; there was no switching system for OB contributions. (There was a small relay switching panel for the SB lines). When the programme Nationwide started on television it required quite a complicated lot of plugging in the control room.
We found that if we plugged two amplifiers to a spare Post Office circuit, we could hear the feed to the betting shop just up Broad Street. Ron Cartwright used to regularly dash out of the Control Room to put a bet on! He also did a trade in selling strawberries from Evesham (where he lived). One morning when I was again late for the 6-30 am shift, I apologised to Ron in the street, saying there was just time for me to get upstairs in time for the Midlands weather forecast (the first opt out at 6-57). He said never mind that, take these upstairs while you are going, and gave me four trays of punnets of strawberries from his car boot!”
I worked in TK for around a year and a half before moving to VT for a brief attachment. I had further subsequent spells in TK, later in my career, including one period where I refurbished every board in the machines, as by that stage some components, mainly the trimmers, were completely worn out. The maintenance budget took a big hit that year, but the machine reliability improved no end.
In the early days TK had regular bookings for ‘Pebble Mill at One’, ‘Midlands Today’, ‘Farming’ (The predecessor of Countryfile), ‘Asian Programme’ inserts, Studio A inserts for various network dramas, and from time to time film inserts to ‘Nationwide’ and other London News items.
I remember one day in I think the summer of 1975, Jim Gregory and I viewing a film trailer for what was expected to be a big series of films. There was an item in a programme about George Lucas, and his vision for the films, the trailer was from “Star Wars” (although I’m not sure it was known as such at the time). It did eventually become a whole series of films, but after the initial “Star Wars” was released in 1977 there was a long period of uncertainty, regarding the rest.
Jim Gregory and Paul Richards pretty much were TK, for most of the time I worked at Pebble Mill. Graham Winter went on to lecture at Wood Norton, and everyone else moved round various places. I remember the time with affection, and was quite sad to see the old Cintel TK’s finally removed to make way for new equipment, something I was involved in as a member of Post Production Maintenance in the 90’s.
R. G. Lee
The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:
Keith Brook: ‘This is a rare shot indeed. Jim Gregory out of his chair!!’
Pete Simpkin: ‘Fascinating stories of TK. I was at Evesham with Jim in the 60s. I remember in a previous job in regional TK in Southampton waiting to send a commag news story to AP for the new BBC 2 News and after a very long wait eventually getting through to VT there who were going to tape it and the operator said something like ‘Hang on there’s a lot of noise ouside in the corridor, I’ll just shut the door’, we sent the package up OK and when he came back on to say all was OK he told us that TVC and all TV had crashed due to the major power failure in London which eventually led to the abandonment ofhe opening of BBC 2 that night!’