2nd Floor Bar – Keith Brook (Scouse)

Photo by Tim Savage. Included l to r: Ivor Williams, Nigel Evans, Mike Bloore, John Burkill











2nd Floor Bar

The second floor bar, or VT-C to some, was instrumental in the early success of Pebble Mill.

It was a place were everyone involved in a production could meet before, during or after a programme and chew the cud over what went horribly wrong or what went wonderfully right about a show.

This freedom of opinion was crucially important in making producers choose to bring their babies to PM. They loved it and were suddenly free of the ‘unionised’ structure of Telly Centre (which was caused by dreadful bad management) and could relax, as equals, in the talented and artistic world of ‘The Mill’.

Directors were astonished to find they could have conversations over talkback with cameramen and VT instead of relying on nods and buzzers.

It was London’s jealousy, caused by producers ‘wanting’ to work at The Mill, that was its eventual downfall. That moment was continually pushed back by Phil Sidey who would regale us, often at big meetings in the boardroom, with stories of his battles with management, much to the horror of management I’m delighted to say!!

The nearest I got to the feeling of Pebble Mill’s last days was when I worked on the final edition of the ‘Big Breakfast’. So many people came out from the party and stood on the grass just looking at the house. Many in tears, many just stunned, but all in complete bewilderment as to why it should happen and how awful the replacement was.

So, the managers move BBC Birmingham to the Mailbox and contract to pay £2.4m a year for 25 years, instead of £800, just because of jealousy.

If they’d all gone to ‘The Club’ things could have been so different.

Keith Brook (aka. Scouse)

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

Cathy Houghton: ‘The bar on the 2nd floor was the best and yes the BBC lost a treasure when they made the decision to close the Mill .. ‘

Lynn Cullimore: ‘a lot of creative ideas came to pass in that bar!!!’

Pete Simpkin: ‘The original second floor bar was often thought of as an extension of the Radio Birminham newsroom on the floor below. There was great excitement when the journos heard the Newsroom was moving to that exact spot in the expansion of the Local Radio facilities but this turned to bitter disappointment when on arrival in their new newsroom the beverage dispensing facilities had been moved outside the main building to separate premises!’

Andy Marriott: ‘Are there any photos of the interior of the bar? I came along to the mill far too late to have witnessed it. I loved the fact there was such an informal place to relax in after (and in some cases, before!) work.

Working at MediaCity just doesn’t compare, having to remortgage your house for a tiny bottle of fizzy gnat’s pi** while sitting in the same uncomfortable plastic seats you eat your overpriced lunch at just isn’t the same. It seems every time the BBC moves to a new building, a little bit of its soul dies with it.’

Stuart Gandy: ‘My first memory of the old bar was actually on rum punch day. Having spent 3 months on my A course at Wood Norton in the autumn of 1979, I spent just a couple of days at pebble Mill before the Christmas break, but before I officially started there in the January. One of these was rum punch day. Of course I didn’t know what that meant when my new colleagues said it was rum punch, but none the less I went to the bar to find out, and there began my knowledge of this old Pebble Mill tradition. The bar was rammed full including the outside balcony, with the punch being served at the far end so it was quite a challenge to actually get to it. Happy memories of the old place.’

Pebble Mill Locomotive















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

The first photo is of the Pebble Mill locomotive sign (in final black and silver colours –after Virgin repainted it in 1998). It was an electric locomotive, Class 86, number 86256.  The locomotive was originally a British Rail one, before becoming a Virgin one after the privatisation of the railways. It was taken out of service in 2002 and was finally scrapped in 2006.

The other photo is a screen grab of the actual naming ceremony in Nov 1981, Phil Sidey, Head of Pebble Mill, is pulling the string.

I understand that this sign with ‘BBC Pebble Mill’ was meant to be used on the train, but the powers that be didn’t want BBC on it, so it was never used.  It is currently being listed for sale on ebay.





This link includes some photos of the Pebble Mill locomotive in service.


This YouTube video is Birmingham to London in 5 mins. At 1.21 in the train stops at Birmingham International and you can see it is “Pebble Mill”: it was made by Ewan Kiel from Midlands Region.


Stuart Gandy left the following comment on the Facebook page: ‘I remember travelling on a train pulled by this locomotive. It was in 1987 when I was going to London by train for a course. I distinctly remember waiting on Wolverhampton station for the London train to arrive, and when it did it was this one named Pebble Mill. How uncanny was that!’

David Waine

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

David Waine was Head of Building at BBC Pebble Mill from 1983, when he took over from Phil Sidey.  The photo was taken in David’s office, and in the back of shot is a still of the famous Harrier landing at Pebble Mill, from ‘Pebble Mill at One’.



1974 Pebble Mill Christmas Card – Roger Guest

1974 Christmas Card from Head of Building: Phil Sidey

I was a sound supervisor at Pebble Mill through the “Good Times” and I kept a Christmas card sent to all staff in the building by Phil Sidey in 1974.

What a good way to say thank you to your staff, it made us all feel like one big team!

Roger Guest

From Pioneers to Pebble Mill


This little booklet documents the first 50 years of BBC broadcasting in the Midlands – from 1922-72.  The forward is written by Phil Sidey, the Head of Network Production Centre at Pebble Mill in the 1970s and early 80s.  The booklet tells the story of broadcasting in the Midlands, from the first studio in Witton in 1922, to the premises in New Street, followed by Broad Street, Carpenter Road (Edgbaston), Gosta Green and then Pebble Mill.

Many of the photographs were taken by Willoughby Gullachsen.

Thanks to Pete Simpkin for making the booklet available.