Sam Coley interviews Ben Peissel

Benedict Peissel is a Dubbing Mixer who specialises in post production audio for television across a wide range of genres (Factual, Drama, Animation & Documentary).
Between January 1985 – 1994 he was an Audio Assistant at BBC Pebble Mill and then from 1994 – 1996 he progressed to the position of Audio Supervisor and from 1996 to the present day as Dubbing Mixer (latterly as a freelancer).

In the following transcription, he looks back on his time at Pebble Mill and how it prepared him for a career in audio production…

(Sam Coley – Birmingham City University)

Ben Peissel, with mixer. Photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Ben Peissel, with mixing desk. Photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission











“I started at the BBC 30 years ago as a trainee audio assistant completing a three year apprenticeship. During that time, I worked in radio and television studios, radio and television outside broadcasts, location sound recording and TV post production. So, wherever there was a need for sound in a production, as a trainee, I would work on it – and that gave me a fantastic grounding to appreciate sound in all its diverse wonders!”

“Pebble Mill in Birmingham was pretty much unique amongst all the BBC bases, in that the Audio department serviced both radio and TV, whereas in most other parts of the BBC you were compartmentalised into television, radio, location or OBs. That notion of being tied to one element, whether it was radio or TV, seemed far too restrictive. At Pebble Mill the idea was that if you worked across all of the craft areas, your spread of experience meant you could be more flexibly deployed.”

“Some people would say you ended up as a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’! I actually think the opposite, it was handled very well in the sense that, at a junior level you ended up with a really good grounding across all the genres, but as you progressed, you might start to specialise in two or three areas.  In my case, TV and radio outside broadcasts and post production sound, became my forte. For other people, perhaps they would specialise purely in radio drama work, or documentary work, or light entertainment TV work. There was enough scope for people to have specialisms, but also, if the need arose, to jump in and still do the basics, like clip a microphone, on somebody.”

“I think I was very fortunate to have landed up in a job like that, in a culture that fostered innovation and collaboration across the board.   Pebble Mill, the people and the place, thrived on the cross-fertilisation between radio and TV, and vice versa – and in fact neither radio or TV was seen as better than the other, they were just seen as interlocking parts of a bigger jigsaw puzzle.

(Benedict Peissel – Dubbing Mixer)

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

Carolyn Davies: ‘I’m proud to have been a member of Pebble Mill’s Audio Unit, best training ground and best variety of work in the country…..sentiments echoed completely here…hope you are well Ben!’

Pete Simpkin: ‘I agree that the wider the early experience the better the basic training. I was lucky in the 1960s to be a member of one of the early ‘sub-region’ units…we were the original multi-taskers. We were engineers by definition but handled all aspects of audio and video from studio camera ops to OBs, area VHF news broadcasts, telecine to audio mixing,film processing and at the start even changing the toilet rolls in the loos! Didn’t get far with the last one there but I enjoyed every minute and with all the knowledge was able to transfer eventually to Local Radio Production where the multi tasking went on!’

Radio Birmingham Mug

Radio Birmingham mug PS












Photo by Pete Simpson, no reproduction without permission.

This Radio Birmingham mug dates from the 1970s, but is still doing valuable service as Pete’s pen holder.

Bryan Harris

 Bryan Harris PS
Copyright of the photograph resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.


Bryan Harris, Programme Organiser of Radio Birmingham, in the 1970s, died on Tuesday, 15th September 2015.  He was 82. He had an operation a few days before, but sadly died of complications.
Annie Gumbley-Williams adds the following information: ‘I worked with Bryan in Radio Birmingham in the 1970s when he was Assistant Manager of Radio Birmingham. He then went on to be Manager of Radio Derby.
He was a lovely man that was there to help many to get on within the BBC, and they owe their careers to him.’


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


Pete Simpkin: ‘Sorry to hear of the death of Bryan Harris well known at Pebble Mill from the beginning and the Programme Organiser from the opening of Radio Birmingham. He appointed me as a Station Assistant and encouraged me in some of my later outrageous programme ideas when I became a producer. The stories about Bryan are many and legendary. He certainly was a local radio pioneer and great character.’
Viv Ellis: ‘Yes, I remember Brian, nice man, very sympathetic and helpful when needed.’
Sue Sweet: ‘A real gentleman’
Max Mulgrew: ‘Remember him so well. My first BBC boss, when he was manager at Radio Derby. He was a real gent, as Sue says.’
Tony Wadsworth: ‘I was a successor of his at BBC WM. When he was manager at Derby, a meeting of Programme Organisers was held there and he cooked us all an excellent lunch. A lovely man.’

Gordon Astley: ‘..nice man. Worked with him Broad Street and Gosta Green’

Pebble Mill at One book















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

The lunch time magazine series, Pebble Mill at One, regularly brought out books, like the one pictured here, which collected together programme details for viewers to enjoy. Elements like the recipes always proved very popular, and in fact there were several books published of Michael Smith’s recipes.

Thanks to Pete Simpkin for sharing a still of this book.


The Newsreader, the Vicar and the Ballet Dancers

Radio Producer, Pete Simpkin.

Radio Producer, Pete Simpkin. Copyright resides with the original holder













Much was made in the early days of Pebble Mill at One of the fact that it was broadcast from a working Reception area, but as the time went by, the apparent ‘feel’ of the working bit became less obvious to the viewers. In the mid 80s the famous ‘side entrance’ to the building was created to avoid too many problems but there was still the challenge of the short distance between the bottom of the stairs near the entrance to the Network Radio studios and the door to the corridor which connected to the new Entrance.

One famous lunchtime I had just finished pre-recording a series of ‘Thought for the day’ (we actually called it ‘God on Monday’ etc which ran for the five weekdays, but that led to trouble when listeners wrote in complaining they wanted ‘God on Saturday’ and Sunday as well but that’s another story). Anyway I was faced with the challenge of getting my clerical speaker off the premises and across this famous space. He was a bit intimidated by all the lights and noise so I pressed my hand into the small of his back and propelled him into the void. At this moment the director of PM cut to a wide angle shot of some ballet dancers prancing about and there, caught walking across the back of the shot, the millions of viewers (my mother watching in far off Southampton included) were transfixed …possibly delighted….to see a priest being apparently frog-marched across the shot by a determined bespectacled radio producer.

As I saw the petrified preacher into his car in the road outside the director must have reached elevated levels of blood pressure and the floor manager was encouraged to lock the corridor door so preventing me getting back into the building via the approved route. This would have been alright for most members of staff but I was charged with reading the two pm News Summary on Radio WM and needed to get back upstairs PDQ. Faced with the locked door I had to run back down to the side reception, sprint the length of Pebble Mill Road, up the North drive, round to Rear Security, along the long corridor and as there wasn’t time to wait for the lift, spring up the stairs to the Newsroom to collect the script and finally round all the corridors to the studio arriving just in time but desperately short of wind. Dear old Jack Johnston our manager, who held News and all its works as his priority, if not total raison d’être was alarmed to hear my breathless presentation of his treasured 2pm Summary and, bursting through the door as the red light went out, serenaded with me in his Scottish tones regarding the importance of not reading his treasured bulletins when out of breath…I think that’s what he said there were some Celtic adjectives which I have only recently erased from my memory. Following my gasping, and to him, feeble excuse that I had been locked out of the building by the power crazed Pebble Mill at One staff he stormed away and I later heard that there had been a not too friendly internecine discussion about lunchtime access procedures, with the result that never again were we prevented from getting back into the studios at lunchtime!

Pete Simpkin