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!’

Midlands Today News Desk

IMG_0885 IMG_0883























Photos by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission.

This news desk is apparently from Midlands Today, and now graces Staffordshire University, being used by the students as their news desk. Still looks in reasonable condition!

Thanks to Sam Coley, from Birmingham City University, for spotting the desk, taking and sharing the photos.

Brian Vaughton talks about working with Charles Parker

Working with radio producer, Charles Parker from pebblemill on Vimeo.

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

In this video, freelance radio producer and editor, Brian Vaughton, talks about working with radio producer, Charles Parker, on some of the Birmingham Ballads, including Cry from the Cut, about the canal folk of Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

Brian is interviewed by Sam Coley, Degree Leader Radio, School of Media, Birmingham City University.

Brian Vaughton

Brian Vaughton demonstrates the EMI L2

Brian Vaughton demos the EMI L2 from pebblemill on Vimeo.

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

This specially recorded video with retired freelance radio editor and producer, Brian Vaughton, shows how the EMI L2 tape recorder worked. Brian bought the tape recorder in the late 1950s, and it is still in good working order today.

A radio colleague from Birmingham City University, Sam Coley, and I, travelled down to Devon in late July, to interview Brian Vaughton about his radio work for BBC Birmingham, in the pre-Pebble Mill days.

Vanessa Jackson

Brian Vaughton

Brian Vaughton – Radio Documentarian

Ian Parr, photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Ian Parr, photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Ian Parr, photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Ian Parr, photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Sam Coley, no reproduction without permission























Ian Parr, the Secretary and Trustee of the Charles Parker Archive, visited the Birmingham School of Media recently to deliver a collection of equipment formally used by Birmingham born radio producer, Brian Vaughton.

“On looking back I find that the majority of my documentaries have been aimed at capturing the past, before it is too late.” Brian Vaughton

Brian worked in both radio and television from the late 1950s – into the twenty-first century. In 1961 and 1962, Brian compiled and wrote two radio programmes which were produced by Charles Parker in the BBC Birmingham studios (Broad Street). These programmes, The Jewellery and Cry from the Cut, became known as  The Birmingham Ballads and have become important audio documents, preserving the legacy of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and the commercial boat traffic which used to fill the city’s once busy canals.

It is interesting to note that Brian did not work under the security of full time BBC employment – instead preferring the freedom offered by being an independent producer.

“The beauty of being a freelance is that you can choose the subject of your article, radio programme or documentary film that you want to put up for consideration by the powers-that-be. And if they reject your suggestions, it is not the end of the world!” Brian Vaughton

Brian kindly gave permission for his collection of radio equipment to be permanently displayed in the Radio Suite of the new Parkside Building. This includes an L2 EMI “midget tape recorder”, a Brennell editing deck and anSTC4032 microphone. These are all in pristine condition – which Brian says this is because he paid for the equipment himself – and therefore took good care of it. While BBC equipment at the time was often subjected to more “knocks”.

The School of Media is delighted to announce the naming of a new annual award “The Brian Vaughton Award for Excellence in Radio” which is to be given to the radio student achieving the highest overall mark on the conclusion of their BA in Media and Communication / Radio studies.

For more information about Brian’s achievements, please visit the Charles Parker Archive Trust where there is an excellent series of interviews and notes relating to his work and the “Birmingham Ballads”.

Sam Coley (Degree Leader Radio, School of Media, Birmingham City University)

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

Pete Simpkin: ‘Many the reporter I taught to use the famous EMI L2 recorder….weighed a ton but was portable at last!’

Ieuan Franklin: ‘Hi Vanessa – that’s great about the donation of the equipment, and the naming of a new award after Brian Vaughton. I have listened to both programmes at the Charles Parker Archive, and I really think they do deserve to be included within the ‘official’ series of Radio Ballads (1958-1964). I have never met Brian, but his lengthy article on the Charles Parker Archive Trust website is incredibly informative, and was useful for my PhD research. Seán Street will be interested in this and may be able to comment on the equipment itself!’






The Charles Parker Archive can be found in the Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, and more details can be found on the Birmingham City Council’s website:


Sam Coley (Degree Leader, Radio, Birmingham City University)