Pebble Mill’s 10th Night Out

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invitation from Phil Sidey, Head of Broadcasting, to Pebble Mill’s 10th Night Out, to celebrate the building’s 10th birthday, which would have been in 1981. £2 seems very good value for a four course dinner and a night of entertainment. Apparently the comedian had a very funny Rod Stewart impression!

Thanks to Roy Thompson for sharing the invitation, and keeping it safe all these years.

Phil Sidey Obituary

Phil Sidey (HoB) & John Wood (press officer). Copyright resides with the original holder.

Phil Sidey (HoB) & John Wood (press officer). Copyright resides with the original holder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission. This obituary was published by The Independent in 2011.)

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituaries-phil-sidey-1579330.html

Obituaries: Phil Sidey by Leonard Miall

The Independent Saturday 22nd October 2011

 

As the Head of the BBC Network Production Centre at Birmingham, Phil Sidey was the man who converted Pebble Mill from a structural white elephant into a thriving source of daytime television. He was the first manager of Radio Leeds and played a leading role in establishing lively local broadcasting on a financial shoestring. He was a programme innovator with a spate of lively ideas and an abrasive tongue which tended to upset some of his colleagues. He was also an accomplished public speaker and a successful chairman of the Royal Television Society.

 

Sidey’s first experience of broadcasting was in Austria immediately after the Second World War. As a sergeant in the Royal Artillery he was in charge of the Army Broadcasting Station at Klagenfurt for three years. He then had a variety of journalistic posts including three years with the Associated Press before joining the BBC’s External News Service as a sub-editor in 1956. In 1963 he transferred to Television News, becoming a Duty Editor in 1964.

 

In 1966 Harold Wilson’s Labour government decided to inaugurate eight experimental local radio stations. They were only to broadcast on VHF and their meagre annual revenue of pounds 50,000 for each station had to cover staff salaries and all programme expenses. That sum was not to be a charge on either the BBC Licence income or the rates. It had to be found from other local sources.

 

In 1967 Sidey was selected to manage the new local radio station at Leeds. His application was a surprise, for many thought that he had abandoned radio for television, and he had no connections with the north of England. But he was ambitious to run his own operation and he feared he had made too many enemies in television news ever to reach its top position.

 

Sidey had a great flair for publicity, including self-publicity. In order to get the name of the experimental station regularly mentioned in the local press, albeit only on the sports page, he bought a greyhound and named in Radio Leeds. 24 Hours, the television magazine of which Sidey had been the news producer before moving to Leeds, sent a camera team to make a sequence about the programmes he planned to introduce. One was a record request show called Bring-a-Disc in which, because his library was limited, listeners had to bring their own records to be played. Sidey was filmed outside the door of Radio Leeds urging passers-by to come in with their favourite discs. The film was shown on the day the station opened in June 1968.

 

Sidey recruited a team of Yorkshire journalists to provide a valuable service of local news. The naïve idea of the Government that provincial newspapers would gladly provide the new experimental radio stations with copies of the local news they had gathered for their own us had soon evaporated.

 

One of his innovations was The Only BBC Programme the Money Can Buy. Listeners would telephone the studio and demand a favour, promising in exchange to pay a sum of money to any charity of their choice. This worried the authorities in Broadcasting House, who feared it might upset the central scheme that ensured fairness among charity appeals. Another was Teenage Week, presented entirely by schoolchildren, which caused Sidey to be dubbed “Fagin” and accused of exploiting cheap child labour.

 

In 1969 Sidey wrote a memorable article for the New Statesman, then influential with Harold Wilson’s government, on making community radio effective. Frank Gillard, the former managing director of BBC Radio, said that Sidey’s points convinced the entire Labour hierarchy of the success of the BBC’s local radio experiment.

 

In a lovely book, Hello, Mrs Butterfield……, published last year, Sidey also told the story of Radio Leeds. He described in detail the work of creating cheap local radio. “The rediscovery of radio and infliction of new communication ideas on to the city of Leeds,” he declared, “was surrounded by so much good-humour and lively, not to say outrageous, behaviour, that the station soon became dubbed ‘Radio Irreverent’.”

 

Sidey’s own lively, not to say outrageous, behaviour caused him trouble with the authorities at Broadcasting House on various occasions. After Radio Leeds he worked as the Deputy Editor of Nationwide until 1972, when he became Head of the Network Production Centre at Birmingham.

 

The Pebble Mill complex, newly opened but planned some 10 years earlier and built at a cost of pound 8m, has a marble entrance hall with a vast glass foyer which is reached via a footbridge. But by the Seventies visitors mostly came by car and had to park at the back of the building. Sidey’s appointment coincided with the Government’s de-restriction of broadcasting hours and he seized the opportunity of putting Pebble Mill on the broadcasting map by offering to mount a live daily magazine from the idle space of the glass foyer. The London technicians had grave misgivings about the lighting and acoustics. But the difficulties were overcome, and Pebble Mill at One became the first important daily current affairs programme to be produced outside London for the BBC. Viewers were surprised to see elephants participating and studio guests arriving by parachute.

 

Sidey insisted that every new programme originating in Birmingham should carry the name Pebble Mill in its title. As his successor, David Waine, put it, “He had a deep belief in the importance of regional broadcasting being independent of London and he pursued that belief with an acerbic and occasionally wounding wit.” It was Sidey’s defiant independence of London that led to his premature retirement in 1983.

 

The Royal Television Society, founded in 1927, was originally a group of television enthusiasts intent on furthering this new scientific discovery. It consisted entirely of engineers. In 1978 Sidey was the first non-technician to be elected chairman. With the vigorous support of Sir Huw Weldon, who succeeded the Duke of Kent as President of the RTS in 1979, Sidey threw open the society’d doors to programme people and made it representative of the whole television industry.

 

Sidey was chairman of the RTS for four years, twice the normal span. His speech on the retirement of Wheldon included a translation of Madame de Pompadour’s word “ Apres nous le deluge” as “After us that shower takes over.”

 

Phil Sidey was a trim, athletic man who loved walking along the Pennine Way. Hw was on a walking tour of the Peak District at the time of his death.

 

Leonard Miall

 

Philip John Sidey, broadcaster: born London 11 January 1926; staff, BBC External Service News 1956-60, Teelvision News 1963-67; Station Manager, Radio Leeds 1967-70; Deputy Editor, Nationwide 1970-72; Head of Network Production Centre, Pebble Mill, Birmingham 1972-83; Chairman, Royal Television Society 1978-82; President, Birmingham Press Club 1979-81; author of Hello, Mrs Butterfield….1994; married 1951 Daphne Finn (two sons, one daughter): died Castleton, Derbyshire 15 October 1995.

 

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

Chris Marshall: ‘That is the most wonderful call to arms for regional broadcasting!’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘A great man indeed and i did not realise he had died. John Wood in the picture too. He was my wonderful boss at the Beeb when I worked in the Press Office. Typical John and Phil poses in the bar!’

Ian Wood: ‘Would that Birmingham had a Phil Sidey in the 21st century. He’d have had a thing or two to say about the draining of production at London’s behest.’

Jane Mclean: ‘Fabulous photo. I only just missed him at Radio Leeds but his legacy lived/lives on. A great man.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Worked with Phil for a while at Leeds on attachment, he was full of the great gimmicks…I recall a world Gargling competition!’

 

 

 

Heads of Pebble Mill

There were six heads of Pebble Mill during the building’s lifetime, although some were Heads of Network TV, rather than Head of Building. Their tenure seems to get progressively shorter. This information was taken from the BBC Written Archives in Caversham. They were:

Phil Sidey – 1972-82 Head of Building

David Waine – 1983-1992 Head of Building

Rod Natkiel – 1992-1998 Head of Network Television

Kate Marsh – 1998-2001

Paresh Solanki – 2001-2002

Tessa Finch – 2002- end of Pebble Mill

Phil Sidey (right). Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Phil Sidey (right). Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

David Waine. Copyright resides with the original holder no reproduction without permission

David Waine. Copyright resides with the original holder no reproduction without permission

Rod Natkiel. Copyright resides with the original holder

Rod Natkiel. Copyright resides with the original holder

Paresh Solanki. Copyright resides with the original holder

Paresh Solanki. Copyright resides with the original holder

Kate Marsh. Copyright resides with the original holder

Kate Marsh. Copyright resides with the original holder

Tessa Finch. Copyright resides with the original holder

Tessa Finch. Copyright resides with the original holder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Lynne Cullimore: “My favourite is – Phil Sidey who put Pebble Mill on the map! and I liked David Waine who was a very nice man.”

Jane Upston: “I was there during David Waine’s tenure and part of Rod Natkiel’s. I worked in HR (was Jane Morgan then). The people I remember most though were Colin Adams and Jock Gallagher.”

Chris Marshall: “Agreed, David Waine was great to work for. Is that really Rod Natkiel? As for Kate Marsh…”

Carolyn Davies: “David Waine was one of the best ‘heads of’ anything I have ever met. Once you’d met him he always remembered your name and what you did and made a big effort to see those on the shop floor…..”

Dharmesh Rajput: “Wow – I thought there would be more… I started working in TV just end of 1998 whilst still working in radio and having done some work experience in Press & Publicity with Donald Steel’s team – so I remember Rod Natkiel from having to take press cuttings to his office. And then I was in TV and Online till the move to The Mailbox.”

Jane Ward: “Agree with Carolyn… David Waine was a great People Person…”

Viv Ellis: “I agree David Waine rocked. Lovely boss”

Save

Tony Pilgrim – Birmingham Mail article

The article below was published in the Birmingham Mail on 4th Feb 2015

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/champion-birminghams-bbc-pebble-mill-8579283

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tributes have been paid to a former BBC engineer pivotal in bringing the iconic Pebble Mill studios to Birmingham.

Tony Pilgrim, who has died aged 91, was a ferocious critic of the BBC’s move to the Mailbox in 2004, describing it as “one of the worst decisions ever taken by the corporation”.

In a BBC career spanning more than 40 years, he was also responsible for organising outside broadcasts, including one by King George VI from Sandringham in 1945.

Although taking place six years after the events depicted in the Oscar-winning film The Kings Speech, it was for a momentous event – the monarch’s first post-war Christmas Broadcast.

Subsequently Mr Pilgrim took charge of communications facilities at the Wembley Olympic Games in 1948.

But it was the growing trend for moving out to the regions which led to him transferring to Birmingham – marrying actress Ysanne Churchman in 1951 and settling in Edgbaston when she took the part of Grace in radio soap opera The Archers.

At the BBC, he oversaw the construction, building and installation of all technical services in Pebble Mill, the state-of-the-art radio and television headquarters for the Midlands which opened in 1971.

From then until his retirement in 1983 he was a key figure in the provision of technical facilities to support the blossoming programme output in television and radio from the major production centre.

But the BBC move to the Mailbox and demolition of Pebble Mill left Mr Pilgrim angry, and in an interview in 2005 he said: “I remember the excitement we all felt moving into a new, purpose-designed radio and television broadcasting centre, which seemed to be a beacon for the future of broadcasting in the Midlands.

“This beautiful building, which was such a joy to work in, could still have been given a new lease of life for substantially less than the cost of the Mailbox.

“The corporation’s stated objective was to move the BBC into the centre of Birmingham to bring it closer to its public.

“But the Mailbox is on the wrong side of the inner city motorway and remote from the main shopping areas in New Street, Corporation Street and the Bullring.

“If shoppers do find their way there it is a long walk through a shopping mall to the BBC at the rear of the building.”

Speaking of Pebble Mill’s successes, Mr Pilgrim said Phil Sidey’s arrival as head of centre in 1973 led to the launch of the live, lunchtime show Pebble Mill at One which made the building famous across the country.

“He created a wonderful team spirit for all who worked there leading to many great programmes over the years,” he said.

Mr Pilgrim also helped to found the Midland Centre of the Television Society, of which he became chairman in 1964. This led to a seat on the council which in turn led to his chairmanship of the society in 1970.

The society was granted Royal status in 1966 and during his term he opened the very first Cambridge Convention in 1970, which has grown into a high profile bi-annual international event, and served as honorary secretary for 19 years.

In 1987 the RTS celebrated its Diamond Jubilee and Mr Pilgrim organised a reception at the Banqueting House in Whitehall, which was attended by The Queen.

On leaving the BBC, Mr Pilgrim devoted his time to further developing the RTS.

RTS spokeman George Pagan said: “He was forward-looking by nature, seeking to improve and develop everything he was involved in, which brought recognition in many ways including the Gold medal of the Royal Television Society in 1987, and in 1992, the MBE, for services to the Television Industry.”

Mr Pilgrim is survived by Ysanne, after a marriage of 63 years.

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

Donald Steel: ‘I’m incredibly sad to hear of Tony’s death. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years. He was the most terrific company and full of great stories. A wonderful wonderful man.’

Princess Anne at the Opening of Pebble Mill

Opening of PM SS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

This photo was taken on 10th November 1971, when Princess Anne officially opened BBC Pebble Mill. The man behind Princess Anne is almost certainly Mr Deighton, one of the managers at BBC Pebble Mill.

Thanks to Sue Sweet for sharing the photo. Sue was the receptionist at the opening of Pebble Mill, and previously worked at Broad Street in the Recorded Programmes library.

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

Sue Sweet: ‘After all these years names are a little foggy! He [Mr Deighton] was amongst the ranks of Phil Sidey, Mr McQueen etc. After the signing I had to run round the quadrangle, up the stairs and be ready to meet Princess Anne on 7th floor – couldn’t speak – not nerves – just out of breath!’

Dharmesh Rajput: ‘I was born in 1971! But I got to meet Princess Anne when she came to The Mailbox – can’t remember if it was an official opening or not. Was it in 2004.’

Pamela Renoata: ‘It was the official opening Dharmesh. I remember being nervous at meeting her and obsessing over the protocol of addressing her and whether to curtsey or not!’