Roger Casstles reminisces about BBC Pebble Mill

Specially shot video of Roger Casstles talking about why BBC Pebble Mill was a special place. The video is recorded on Pebble Mill Road, overlooking the site where Pebble Mill stood, and is now a dental hospital. Roger mentions some of the productions that came from Pebble Mill, like Pebble Mill at One, Midlands Today, The Archers, as well as the Midland Radio Orchestra, and being a centre for drama, but tells us that the really important thing was how people worked together, for instance post production working across all productions and the way that Graphics and Set Design departments collaborated with production. Roger Casstles was the creator and producer of The Clothes Show, the fashion magazine series which ran from the 1986-2000.

(The video was shot by BCU Media graduate, Ash Connaughton, with me, (Vanessa Jackson) asking the questions).

Roger Casstles at the site of Pebble Mill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Andy Frizzell: ‘Had some great shoots with Roger in many countries around the world. As always talking a lot of sense. We were all saddened by the closing of ‘The Mill’.

Claire Chambers: ‘As Roger would say “ why answer a question with one word when thousands will do” ! Very well said’

Linda Hearn-Clapham: ‘Very happy memories of recording Hartbeat and The Movie Game at Pebble Mill in the 90’s!’

Chris Phipps and Look Hear event from Kaleidoscope, 2nd Sept 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a retrospective of Chris Phipps’s television career to be held on Sat 2nd September, at Birmingham City University, Curzon Street, Birmingham. The event is organised by the archive organisation, Kaleidoscope. Here is the link for tickets (which are free): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/k-2917-tickets-36551717170 . The whole event lasts from 10-18.00, with an episode of Look! Hear! showing at 11.20, followed by an interview with Chris, who was one of the show’s presenters, at 12.00.

Below are details of the event:

“11.20 Look! Hear! – BBC Pebble Mill, tx: 6.1.1978

Black Sabbath, The Coventry Mummers, John Holmes and Chris Phipps in a local magazine programme unseen nationally.

11.50 Intermission

12.00 Our first guest of the day: Chris Phipps.

Chris Phipps has ramped up a 35 year long career in the music industry – primarily based in the UK, he has worked in the USA, Japan, Africa, Israel, Holland and Europe. His passion and enthusiasm for popular music remains today as ebullient and full on as it did in the mid 1970’s, when as a college disc jockey he began promoting local bands. He has worked with the biggest and the best – from Bob Marley, to Sting, to Pet Shop Boys, to Dire Straits, to Eric Clapton – and as television producer and interviewer has put many more bands and musicians on the world’s screens – Joan Armatrading, Ozzy Osbourne, UB 40, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Steel Pulse and Fine Young Cannibals.

Born and raised in Northfield, schooled at King Edwards Camp Hill, followed by Teacher Training at West Midlands College of Education, the teen aged Chris Phipps was already steeped in vinyl and music, booking local bands such as Carl Wayne and the Vikings (later The Move), The Idle Race with Jeff Lynn (later to form ELO), Jon Lord (later to form Deep Purple). As he recollects of this era : “Sixth form was great. Steve Winwood playing in local jazz bands before the dawn of Spencer Davis, Robert Plant getting up to sing with Alexis Corner at MAC , Gene Vincent at St Francis Hall, Bournville !!! The Four Tops at the Odeon. At College I booked Robert Plant’s Band of Joy; got sacked from the Ents Committee for booking Cream for £360. and then reinstated myself by getting The Scaffold to perform in the Common Room….booked Paul Simon for £6 for the Christian Club….booked Black Sabbath, the original Fleetwood Mac, Joe Cocker, Jethro Tull…”

At BBC Pebble Mill Chris Phipps produced reggae and rock shows for BBC Radio Birmingham, now Radio WM, and for a time was their roving interviewer, chewing the musical fat with all the major singers and bands visiting the region in that period – Joe Cocker, Rush, Whitesnake, Uriah Heap, Sting (for the BBC Drama ‘Artemis 81’), Iggy Pop, Captain Beefheart (who threw Chris off the tour bus), the Sex Pistols, reggae giants Gregory Isaacs, John Holt, Bob Marley and The Wailers. And scooping the occasional exclusive, as when he interviewed for television Dexys Midnight Runners front man, Kevin Rowlands, when the frequently verbose singer had refused to speak to any press at all.

From presenting and interviewing on radio, it was a small step to doing the same on television, and the opportunity arose when BBC producer Roger Casstles assembled the team to front the BBC Midlands pop show, ‘Look ! Hear !’, produced at BBC Pebble Mill. The pairing of Chris Phipps with Toyah Willcox is self effacingly described by Chris. ‘We were played off against each other as a punk versus a Keith Chegwin !’ Toyah, the Birmingham actress and singer, was hot foot from her infamous appearance in the Derek Jarman movie, JUBILEE (1978), which luxuriated in an ensemble of punk performers – Wayne County, Jordan, Adam Ant, Gene October, Siouxsie Sioux. ‘Look ! Hear !’ showcased the region’s emerging post punk and Two Tone scene – Duran Duran, The Specials, Selector, Dexys Midnight Runners – making the studios at BBC Pebble Mill a key location in the promotion of the city’s burgeoning musical pedigree.

The experience on ‘Look ! Hear !’ , and the contacts it brought, propelled the so far Birmingham based Chris Phipps into national and international broadcasting focussed on music and entertainment.

He was recruited to join as assistant producer a music show which in its five year span became to the 1980’s what READY STEADY GO !’ had been to the 1960’s. That ground breaking show was THE TUBE and, as with the ’60’s Cathy McGowan fronted programme, THE TUBE was definitely where the week end started.

Chris’s time on THE TUBE, the Newcastle based iconic 1980’s music show, saw him working alongside anarchic presenters Paula Yates and Jools Holland. Lasting five years from 1982 – 1987, Channel Four’s flagship pop programme was of its own time, much loved, and missed, and completely peerless in its finger on the pulse presentation of pop music. As Assistant Producer, Chris Phipps worked at an increasingly international level – ‘”THE TUBE gave you carte blanche to fight your corner and work with every idiom of music, from unsigned bands to superstars. I found myself all over the world : Culture Club in Japan; Dire Straits in Israel; Malcolm McLaren in Los Angeles; Sly and Robbie in Jamaica. The Tube was more of an attitude than a programme.’ “

His proudest moments on THE TUBE are, intriguingly, closer to home, involving two Birmingham bands. Chris booked Fine Young Cannibals and Hollywood Beyond for their first ever television appearances – “shooting on two freezing days in Birmingham at Zella Studios and at the Grand Hotel !.”

His career in music and entertainment since his days on The Tube includes many hours of television for ITV, via Tyne Tees, and for independent film and television companies, taking in African music; the music of Bob Marley; Chris Rea; the culture of the north east, where since THE TUBE he has lived; Birmingham pop music from the 1960’s to 1990’s (MOTOR CITY MUSIC YEARS, made in 1992 for Channel 4 and Central Tv, was a 3 part series documenting popular music from the city from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. This is when I worked with Chris Phipps. The series benefited enormously from Chris’s contacts, enabling us to film previously inaccessible interviewees such as Muff Winwood, Joan Armatrading, Ozzie Osbourne, UB 40, Duran Duran.).

Chris Phipps will be in Birmingham to talk about his long career with us and his latest project: Black Sabbath – The End. Kaleidoscope will be playing an exclusive trailer for this new cinematic venture.”

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

Pete Simpkin: ‘Great tribute to a talented man. He was also for a while Radio Birmingham/WM’s man in Wolverhampton where he brought great improvement to the station’s identity in the Black Country.

Save

Save

Victoria Wood 1953-2016

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comedienne Victoria Wood died today, aged 62, after a battle with cancer.

Birmingham played an important part in launching Victoria Wood’s career. She studied Drama at Birmingham University in 1971, and as you’ll see from the excerpt of her obituary in the Telegraph today, one of her first professional engagements was at BBC Pebble Mill. Does anyone know what the ‘local television programme about Midlands Life’ was? Please add a comment if you do.

I think that Victoria was probably quite a challenging student at Birmingham University. I studied English and Drama there a decade later, and remember being told by one of our lecturers, Gerry McCarthy, that Victoria had refused to choose any of the options she was offered, and they had to put together a module on Farce especially for her!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/04/20/victoria-wood—obituary/

“In 1971 she enrolled at Birmingham University to study Drama and Theatre Arts and while working as a part-time barmaid in a pub frequented by BBC producers was invited to a party where she played a few of her songs. The following day she auditioned at the BBC studio, Pebble Mill, and was given a spot on a local television programme about Midlands life. This led to another audition, and two appearances on the ITV talent show New Faces, one of which she won.”

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

Lynn Cullimore: ‘I do know that John Clarke knew her and I think he was the producer. I was John’s Production Assistant after that time but I know they were friends. What an amazing lady though – so talented and so sad she is no longer with us. What has been happening lately that we have lost so many talented artists.’

Katie Cooper (Wright): ‘Apart from the regional news programme we also had the ‘Regional Opt Out’. Half an hour’s worth. Regionally based and ranging from news magazines to inter-town quizzes….travelogues, history, even live music + audience from Studio B!!!!. John Clarke and Roger Casstles were two of the Producers in the days of Victoria Wood. David Nelson and I amongst the Directors… Couldn’t name the specific programme she was involved in though…sorry.’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘Back in those days, Midlands News did 2 half hour opt outs a week. One on a Tuesday night and one on a Thursday night. They often featured a particular town or event. It may have been one of those programmes.’

Andy Walters: ‘I’m sure some of her As Seen On TV series was filmed around the corridors of Pebble Mill.’

Jane Clement: ‘A lovely lady, met her several times on the Mill. Another one gone too soon.’

Arthur Binnie – Roger Casstles

Arthur Binnie's leaving do. Photo from Jane Mclean, no reproduction without permission.

Arthur Binnie’s leaving do. Photo from Jane Mclean, no reproduction without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I first met Arthur in 1977 when I was on attachment to BBC Glasgow to direct a series called ‘The Energy File’ with Raymond Baxter and Michael Buerk.  Arthur was the producer drafted in from the oil capital of Britain, Aberdeen.  He and I got on very well, we shared a sense of humour and a lack of admiration for the series producer we were working for.  It was Arthur who weaned me back onto whisky – as a young man I’d had an unfortunate encounter with Uiscea Beatha – one New Year’s Eve in Kidderminster.  The host was a Scot.  I had arrived late – ‘you’ll be having a dram’ note the absence of the word ‘wee’ – I demolished the best part of a bottle of Johnnie Walker RED Label.  ‘God, you weren’t drinking that toxic shite’ said Arthur.  ‘What you need is a wee dram of the finest – The Glenlivet.’  One sip and I was cured… I have been a whisky drinker ever since.

I returned to Brum, left the BBC for a short time motivated by a lack of admiration for the Executive Producer running the department.  In 1982 I got a job as producer/director Pebble Mill at One.  There was a new Assistant Editor.  Arthur and I were re-united!

In 1984 Arthur was approaching retirement and came up with the idea that PM@1 should do a series on Singapore – where he’d served his National Service.  I got the plum job as director and off we set, for five weeks, based in Raffles Hotel – with Nicky Barfoot, Dick Bentley, Don Cooper, Norman McLeod, Ian Dewar, Nigel Evans, Andy Frizzell and Bill Youell and an effing sack truck carting a monitor (flat screen hadn’t been invented) an oscilloscope, an Ampex VPR20, and a load of car batteries…  This was at the time that Sony had just launched the BetaCam.  Crews from around the world congregated on Singapore for the annual Dragon Boat Race.  They all came equipped with their shiny new Onesies.  i.e.Betacams.  We dragged our sack truck through the sand… got it a bit wet and the VPR20 crashed.

Throughout all the challenges in the humid Far East, Arthur remained calm, supportive and was full of his memories of life in Singapore as a squaddie.  We were there with another great, late, Scotsman Donny McLeod and a wee laddie called Paul Coia.  Oh yes, and there was a contribution from Essex boy Peter Seabrook, who refused to eat anything ‘foreign’ and lived on Dunkin’ Donuts…

We returned to the UK with a great deal of satisfaction, having produced a wealth of material for the 84/85 season of PM@1.  Arthur retired later that summer.  His retirement party was a wonderfully moving occasion which I remember most for the way he delivered his farewell speech – leaning nonchalantly against a pillar in the boardroom on the 5th floor of ‘t Mill, telling it like it was, or had been, without a wee dram of bitterness or regret.  A lovely man, and although we lost contact, I shall miss him, yet treasure the memories.

Sadly, Arthur’s happy and positive retirement was overshadowed by the untimely death of Donny in September at the very young age of 52.

I was shocked to learn this week of Arthur’s death on Radio 4’s PM programme.  It not just announced the loss to the world of journalism by one of Scotland’s finest but also told a story which, in all the time I knew him, Arthur never mentioned… dear  reader you can find out more here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-35493518

Roger Casstles,
The Ancient Civil Parish of Stowe,
Shropshire”

The following messages were posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Johannah Dyer: ‘Is that Ellie Lacey (Baldwin) on the left? And Fran in the window at the back?’

Ellie Lacey: ‘Well spotted Joh! Yes, that’s me back in the very early eighties and Fran too. Arthur was a lovely and very dear man, popular with everyone – especially the girls! I was so sad to hear of his death but happy to know he had such a long life. RIP Arthur.’

Arthur Binnie

Arthur Binnie's leaving do from Pebble Mill at One. Photo from Jane Mclean, no reproduction without permission

Arthur Binnie’s leaving do from Pebble Mill at One. Photo from Jane Mclean, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It is with great sadness that I tell you all that Arthur died last night at the age of 89.   During 10 years at Aberdeen Journals, Arthur was a general reporter, gossip columnist for the Evening Express and latterly the paper’s chief sub-editor. In 1964, he joined the BBC to oversee an expanding output from its Aberdeen newsroom. Later in his career he co-produced a documentary series on the offshore industry, worked as assistant editor on the Pebble Mill show and worked for Aberdeen Cable TV.”

Helen Straine (BBC)

 

 

Here is one of the Radio Times entries for the 6 part series on North Sea oil, from the BBC Genome project, you’ll notice that Roger Casstles (later on Pebble Mill at One and The Clothes Show) was the director: http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/d27f1b1e94f04b458b0bc804fb22ba1f

“The Energy File: Sweet Oil

A series of six programmes with Raymond Baxter and Michael Buerk
Sweet Oil – The words were used by BP to announce the discovery which launched Britain into the age of oil. In less than ten years oil has become our most booming industry and the one which largely will determine how our future can be shaped.
So why do oil companies go to extraordinary lengths to keep their information secret? How much more remains to be discovered? How far and how deep can we go into the turbulent northern seas? And what’s involved in getting the oil ashore?
BBC Scotland
Contributors
Presenter: Raymond Baxter
Reporter: Michael Buerk
Director: Roger Casstles
Producer: Arthur Binnie
Producer: David Martin”