Roy Castle Beats Time – Paul Balmer

Stephane Grappelli on 'Roy Castle Beats Time'

Stephane Grappelli on ‘Roy Castle Beats Time’ with The Suzuki Children.

The Story;

I met Stephane the day before this photo at ‘Pebble Mill at One’ – with Diz Disley and John Etheridge – he was riding high with a new Hot Club Trio and platinum selling albums with Yehudi Menuhin. I’d always been a fan of the original 1930’s HCQ line up with Django Reinhardt.

He wanted somewhere to warm up and I took him to Studio 1 which was empty as usual! – he was in seventh heaven.

He had just acquired his wonderful Galiano violin (he had never had money before!) he played non stop for the next two days and refused to stand under the notoriously hot Pebble Mill lighting in case the Galiano dried out – this caused big problems as he stood in the gloom.

The next day for Roy Castle the producer had prepared a surprise – ‘The Suzuki Children’ came on as a treat and formed a circle around Stephane playing their tiny violins. Stephane was very moved and wanted a souvenir photo – I rushed off and found a freelance who took the snap.

Stephane gave me his address and I posted it to him. Astonishingly he wrote back!

This was the beginning of a friendship of 20 years. I eventually wrote his biography, produced a one hour feature for BBC Radio 2 and directed a three hour DECCA DVD ‘A Life In The Jazz Century’ which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2002.

When we cleared Stephane’s Paris flat in 1997 the photo was still amongst his souvenirs.

Pebble Mill was full of surprises!

Paul Balmer

Paul Balmer – Memories of working at Pebble Mill

I worked at Pebble Mill for 17 years from 1974.

I initially worked as a sound guy on many of the continuing dramas including many Second City Firsts and Classic Serials.

I also worked developing the soundscapes for the BBC’s first stereo drama serial – Juliet Bravo.

As a musician I was the ‘off screen’ guitarist for Alison Steadman in ‘Nuts In May’ – Mike Leigh’s direction was “No! No, worse much WORSE!” (difficult for a trained classical guitarist). I was in the dubbing suite for ‘The Boys From The Blackstuff’.

Alan Platers ‘Curriculi Curricula’ was also a major undertaking – the first lightweight on location electronic drama also with stereo sound – ‘hand synced’ by Roger Guest and videoed on location at Birmingham University!

I stood next to the writer on the very first ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ as the horse produced copious manure and the props guys argued over whether poo was an action prop or litter?

I also wrote music for Pebble Mill at One films – McClouds Mysteries – re enacted ghost stories! – Great fun. I have VHS copies somewhere!

I became a radio producer for Radio 1/2/3 and 4 and eventually a TV director having moved to Television Centre writing and  directing multi camera drama for BBC Schools TV.

At Pebble Mill In 1976 I had met Stephane Grappelli  – the great violinist and wrote his biography, produced a 1 hour biog on Radio 2 and a two hour DVD which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2002.

I also directed the multi award winning ‘Africa I Remember’ – shot on location in Africa.

Pebble Mill was an amazing place to work – in the same day you could work on Radio 3, The Archers and the local news!

One day I staged a ZULU charge on the front lawn.

Faintly bizarre in hindsight! But truly wonderful.

I now work as a full time writer.

All the best

Paul Balmer,

Author ‘The Haynes Guitar Manuals’, Penguin Encyclopaedia of Music, Julian Bream etc