This shows Barry Lankester and I producing the annual Local Radio Knockout Contest organised by the West Midlands Brass Band Association. This was typical of the programming of the early days of BBC local radio….and the way in which the building itself was used to communicate with the public. A community organisation would get the programmes organised and we would get them on air.
Barry Lankester was the driving force behind all sorts of artistic productions involving over the years literally thousands of local music makers from bands of all types, classical and pop , choirs and many others trooping into Pebble Mill, usually at weekends to record a multitude of broadcasts encouraging and entertaining the listeners. The band shown in the picture is the Dunchurch Silver.
NB: This song is not to be used in any commercial capacity. The Pebblemill.org site has kindly been given permission to include it, by Denis Sheppard’s family.
THE PEBBLE MILLY POLKA
As producer presenter of the mid afternoon show on Radio WM I had to seek out all sorts of people in the community who were achieving things or involved in events and occasions which were important or interesting in the community of the West Midlands.
These could range from visiting personalities or experts or, as was mostly the case, people who had done even one thing that was helpful to others or just plain interesting or entertaining.
Enter Denis Sheppard an octogenarian ex- Birmingham policeman and indeed Police Bandsman. Over the years he had composed music and songs on various subjects mostly annual expressions of love for his wife who was celebrated in many such songs. However living as he did in the Pershore Road he watched in the late sixties the development of the new building at Pebble Mill. He was moved to write a song in celebration of the opening and so it was when this came to my notice in 1982 some years later I just had to feature him and his music on the show. He gave a fascinating interview which has unfortunately not survived the move to the Mailbox but I still have a recording of the song which I enclose with this item together with copies of his original sheet music which you may be able to graphically include in the website. There is a mention of the BBC in the lyrics towards the end of the song. These items are included with the active help and permission of his family.
As the Pebble Mill at One Show developed more items were broadcast from the inner quadrangle of the building which was a pleasant grassed and landscaped area. However the British weather increasingly played its disruptive part and so a foldable roof was installed so that whatever the weather the show could go on.
It was however fascinating on wet days to see the gardener having to water the flowers and shrubs under the roof while perfectly good rain fell on the roof above! Similarly we were fascinated one snowy day to look down from the radio studio to see artificial snow being distributed around whist real snow was falling outside. Fascinating challenges!
Peter Poole adds the following comment on Facebook: ‘I remember the artificial snow well. I worked on ‘A Song for Christmas’ in the Quad. We used several Sony ECM 50 mics. The snow got into the XLR plugs and caused problems. After the show it took ages to clean all the cables. I now hate artificial snow!’
One of the security men who was on early duty at the back door in the early hours had a frightening habit of scaring me witless every time he was in situ by waiting until I had collected my studio keys from him and walked up the darkened back corridors of the building to a particular point where there was a security loudspeaker installed. He could work out the time to reach this place and then whisper ‘Pete’ into his microphone. The effect of this unseen voice whispering my name in the stigeon gloom of the early morning was unsettling to day the least but I was always caught out. Luckily he retired before I did!