Yoga, The Radio Position – Pete Simpkin













Late Summer 1979 and my regular mid-afternoon programme was again featuring one of those annual ‘Look after yourself’ features usually triggered by news press releases showing that we were all in need of more exercise, better diet, better teeth, etc etc. Into this discussion came listener reaction in the form of a letter from a Mrs Pat Mellor, a Yoga teacher from Shirley, Solihull. It’s not to do with diet or exercise she wrote, what everybody needs is Yoga and the particular form known as Hatha. The greatest problem facing us is stress she continued and that’s the killer. As a Local Radio Producer/Presenter I was daily becoming aware of this the hard way but was surprised to be told it by a listener. I was dispatched to her home armed with a Uher recorder to attempt to find out more. My reception was, to say the least, unusual and surprising. After the usual greetings this slim, diminuative red haired and enthusiastic lady invited me to…yes the words are locked in my mind….”loosen your tie, undo your trouser belt and lie down on the floor.” Not sure of what form of Eastern promise was about to be revealed and resisting the temptation to make my excuses and leave I did as she asked. Within fifteen minutes I was aware that the pressures of the day had lifted and I felt certainly relaxed. Pat had taken me through a few simple postures …not exercises…. and each posture linked to my breathing. As I lifted my arms for instance I was told to inhale, as I lowered them I should exhale. Same with leg raising…breathe in as they come up and out slowly as they were lowered.

Later over tea she explained that after the death a child of a few weeks old due to meningitis she had literally lost the will to live and contemplated suicide. With admirable intuition her GP had suggested that as part of her treatment she should try Yoga. It was so effective that when she had recovered she decided to take a training course to become a Yoga teacher. Within a year she was running several Local Authority Evening classes in local schools and several private ones in community centres and halls .There had been much opposition to furthering what were described as ‘heathen Eastern practices’ but as the authorities learned what she was proposing, simple relaxation and no mystical tuition they were surprised to find that Evening Classes run by this quiet lady were thriving. Now listening to endless radio presenters encouraging people to do strenuous exercises she had concluded that they were adding to the stress not reducing it. She had a mission. Stress was part of the body’s system for coping with threats and danger stimulating the production of chemicals in the body such as adrenalin to make it work harder to escape from the threat. Quietness, relaxation and what she called ‘me time’ was the answer, but it took time and it took quietness to achieve. She had contacted a local commercial station with her idea and been offered one and a half minute segments which clearly showed the man there had not followed her train of thought. Well he hadn’t been asked to lie down on the floor in a quiet drawing room had he?

So how to translate this into a radio slot which didn’t consist of dead air? I invited her in to appear on a live phone in and amazingly she took to the microphone like a duck to water as they say and even in the busy atmosphere of a telephone conversation she demonstrated just how effective a few quiet minutes in the presence of a calming voice could be and as a result I decided to let her take over fifteen minutes of my show every Wednesday afternoon. We had printed a free leaflet showing Pat demonstrating about twenty postures together with pre-broadcast advice. The broadcast format was easy…after a few minutes chat about today’s topic she would cue in her famous evening class background music the Moonlight Sonata and with that calm, smooth, Irish voice take us through a particular posture. To guide her to see how a typical listener would react I would courageously abandon the control panel and sit or lie on the floor and attempt to follow her instructions. On one memorable occasion involving total relaxation I fell asleep and Pat standing at mic.2 with the vinyl record nearing its end she took the decision to wake me by kicking my foot, trusting I would not come to with a jump or a shout. Luckily her gambit paid off and I leadenly came to, slowly clambering back up to the panel with the listeners unaware of the potential chaos that had threatened. They weren’t aware of it anyway, they were all asleep as their subsequent calls to the station over the next hour or so bore witness as they eventually woke up! Dangerous radio? I think not. Most of them revealed how refreshed they were and able to carry on the rest of their day with calmness and a better approach to the matter in hand.

For 26 weeks Pat continued her mission to relax the West Midlands. The response was amazing and luckily from the boss’s point of view too as the listener count in a traditionally low figures time of day increased. Pat had also developed other smaller non Yoga relaxation ideas…few people for instance realized just how tightly they gripped the steering wheel when driving so Pat devised her ‘traffic jam finger exercises, to help drivers overcome their four wheeled stress.

Yet another seemingly outrageous idea had born fruit as a result of the pioneering approach that Local Radio was able to take to develop the community responding to the challenge of broadcasting its own material.

I was never the same again either. My lifestyle was enhanced and my broadcasting career improved by the simple addition of ‘me time’ and ‘at the desk’ relaxation.

Oh and yes, the inevitable did happen. Pat and I got together and eventually married and I finally discovered my own Nirvana…… sometimes even without the tie and trouser belt …but that’s another story beyond the remit of this website.

I have written this nearly thirty five years after our first meeting and just a few weeks after the death of my beloved Yoga teacher and closest, best friend. Her techniques have helped me cope with my terrible and almost unbearable loss. I still practice the breathing and some of the postures. I smile and look at her photographs taken in the studio.

Simple Hatha yoga can enhance a life in more ways than one.

Pete Simpkin


Ken Dudeney RIP

Ken DudeneyKen Dudeney reverse









(Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission)

Radio WM presenter Ken Dudeney sadly died on 5th January 2015. He used to present Town and Country, a country music show on a Saturday lunchtime. Ken was the presenter who “closed” BBC Radio Birmingham and launched the new Radio WM.

Thanks to Stuart Gandy for sharing the photocard.

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

Pete Simpkin: ‘This is sad news indeed. Ken was a talented and terrific colleague. He also had an extraordinary collection of
Radio Birmingham/WM history and memorabilia. We shared several ‘on air’ near disasters and Ken was there to rescue broadcasts and keep the transmissions flowing smoothly. I remember having to get him to overrun his wonderful Country music show one evening because the news team had not turned up in my studio in time for the next programme and he just seamlessly carried us through till things were sorted.’

Richard Uridge: ‘A good bloke. I’d echo Pete Simpkin’s comments about his coolness in a crisis. RIP.’

Lorraine Randell: ‘This is very sad news…I worked in the production office with Ken for many years…he was a lovely man.’

Tim Beech: ‘Very sorry to hear this news. Ken gave many, many years of service to Radio Birmingham/WM and really loved his music. I seem to recall the last track he played on his Sunday show was “Happiness.” RIP Ken.’

Keith Upton: ‘I knew Ken from the very earliest days of his broadcasting when he joined us at the Brighton Tape Recording Club. He grew up in Brighton and because of his parents efforts attended the University of Cambridge. When he joined the club he took part in many activities using his skills as as a confident presenter in many club activities and recording. He presented our Journey into Sound for the Brighton Festival. Eventually he presented our weekly hi-fi programme on BBC Radio Brighton which was produced by the club free of charge by club volunteers. It was the longest running programme on that station. Then Ken left for London and worked for the BBC World Service. He always kept in contact. I went to his wedding in Birmingham and continued to keep in touch with him. he was a great guy very knowledgeable and a confident and professional presenter.’

Immigrants’ Programmes Unit

Immigrants Unit 1Immigrants Unit 2































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

This BBC article can be found on the following link:

The Immigrants Programme Unit began in 1965, combining both a radio and television service for newly arrived Asian immigrants. The BBC Birmingham Unit was based at Carpenter Road in Edgbaston.

The following comment was added on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Pete Simpkin: ‘When Radio Birmingham started in 1970 we used to rebroadcast this series as well.’

Remembrance Day – The Longest Silence

The season of Remembrance brings back a terrifying experience I had when attempting to relay live the Remembrance Day Service at Queen’s Square Wolverhampton in November 1985.

We had on Radio Birmingham/WM for several years taken on the mantle of broadcasting local services as an alternative to simply re-broadcasting Radio 4 from the cenotaph in London and the Wolverhampton event had special relevance that year as the town was celebrating its Millennium.

With due attention to detail I had carried out all the essential ‘recces’ including the parking of our vehicle, the site of a suitable commentary position for  myself as commentator/producer and all the relevant permissions and local arrangements with the Council and the Police. An early harbinger of challenges to come was the fact that I was issued with a parking ticket whilst actually attending a Council/Police joint planning meeting!

However come the day and I was first on parade at 0730 and thought it advisable to make early use of the Public Convenience situated under Queen’s Square. There I encountered a council cleaner and mentioned in passing if he was giving the place an extra clean ahead of the special event to be held above. His answer bothered me slightly and is registered as harbinger number two ”What special event?” he offered “ I’ve not been informed”

Next to arrive was the OB vehicle, in this case the Radio Car towing a converted caravan which had been kitted out as a fully equipped Radio Mobile control room.

Slowly over the following hours somberly dressed council officials and ladies and gentlemen of military and religious bearing made their presence known as they took up their allotted positions. I climbed the scaffolding platform where stood the Rector who would be conducting the service and confirmed my on air starting cue to him, the raising of a freshly pressed white handkerchief from my position in the crowd.

Finally Transmission time. At precisely 1045 my colleague at Pebble Mill handed over ‘Live to Pete Simpkin at Queen’s Square Wolverhampton.’ By this time as I began for me this historic broadcast harbinger number three was already rearing its ugly head. You see by now the parade of Soldiers, Veterans and local dignitaries and accompanying Brass Band was still not drawn up in front of the Rector and Civic dignitaries on their scaffolding platform. They were about 100 yards down the hill still approaching the event. I immediately launched into my Dimbleby- inspired routine using up almost all my fact cards describing the event, the location, the Regimental details of the soldiers and the veterans and by nine minutes to eleven was almost reduced to describing the shop fronts when the parade swept into the square and formed up ready for the service leading to the Two minute’s silence at 11 o’clock. At this point, as I introduced the Rector and discretely waved my cue-ing handkerchief just two of of us in that square were under pressure. How, I wondered, would the Rector condense a fifteen minute service into what by now was  eight minutes and how would I respond on air…or even should I …to the shortened order?

Magnificently the Rector managed to lead what amounted to ‘a story, a hymn and a prayer’ and finish a few seconds before the 11 o’clock maroons.

And so began the Silence, what turned out to be the longest two minutes of my life. A few seconds into this a re-assuring engineer’s voice whispered quietly into my headphones “Don’t panic Pete’. By now we were beyond harbingers of doom, we were here! “ Don’t panic Pete, the Radio car is on fire!” Looking back from this distance in time I can still feel the panic which this guidance was designed to allay was palpable. With all the smoothness I could muster I very slowly turned my head without disturbing the population of Wolverhampton surrounding me to see a gentle wisp of white smoke surrounding the Radio Car. As this minor incendiary event took hold the signal level of the ‘silence’ arriving at Pebble Mill decreased to such a point that the presenter on duty in the studio felt obliged to slowly up the gain control so that at least the atmosphere of the ‘silence’  was still audible on air. Events now took a frightenly rapid turn for the worse as one of the engineers found he could by-pass the smoking component and return the signal level at base to normal. This resulted in a sudden increase in signal in my headphones so great that I feared a bomb had gone off.  I winced and frantically closed my eyes fearing the worst. I knew I would have to open them again and work out how to describe the expected carnage when I realised that all the sound was in my head and around me the good burgers of Wolverhampton were still observing their silence unaware of the chaos assaulting my head. Within seconds the closing Maroons were sounding, the buglers were playing the last post and, completely on auto pilot, I was summing up and handing back to the studio.

I cannot remember getting back to The Mill and trying to describe what had happened because of course apart from a sudden lurch in sound levels during the Observation of the Silence no-one else was aware of the events that had truly been just in my ears.

Oh, as a final reward the parking ticket was personally withdrawn by the Chief Constable.

Peter Simpkin














As a post script I recall that Radio Cars were often getting into trouble. This one caught fire again somewhere near Telford and Phil Horner who was driving it had to retreat a long way to the nearest motorway phone point to summon the AA. When asked the registration number he couldn’t remember it and when the AA asked how they could identify it he cooly said,” it’s big and white, signwritten BBC Radio and it’s on fire!”

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

Michael Fisher: ‘Might add a tale about the news version of the Radio Car, the Ford estate ‘Yellow Peril’ with (new technology!) bulky mobile phone fitted (not portable!!). I used it to travel to report on a soccer match in Carlisle (v Walsall) and on my return down the M6, smoke started appearing from under the bonnet! Turned out it had not been topped up with oil. Chief engineer Stuart not impressed with my driving skills…..’

Peter Poole:’Thanks Pete, an amazing story and you kept the show on air. Service beyond the call of duty!’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘Forever the professional Pete. A lovely story…I don’t think people ever realise just how good and professional presenters and production people are!’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Thanks Lynn, actually it only works for most because we have had such great teams behind us but on this occasion there was terrible loneliness for those two very long minutes!!’

Pebble Mill Magazine 1978 – Alastair Yates

Pebble Mill Magazine 1978

Pebble Mill Magazine 1978















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

This article in the Pebble Mill Magazine is from 1978. Alastair Yates presented his own show on Radio Birmingham on weekday mornings from July 1978. The show included guests as well as discussing topical issues. The article talks about how the show dealt with the Whooping Cough vaccine scare, presenting all sides of the argument: parents from children affected by Whooping Cough, or damaged by the vaccine, as well as doctors.