Radio Birmingham top

Photos by Jane Partridge, no reproduction without permission

Radio Birmingham top, belonging to Phil Partridge. This dates from the very late 1970s or early 1980s. Thanks to Jane Partridge for taking and sharing the photos.

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

Tim Manning: ‘These were produced while negotiations about changing the name were still going on with the BBC in London; “WM”, rather than a standard place name, was a big change for BBC local radio style. John Pickles, the manager, wanted to get on with a “soft” relaunch of the station in the meantime, and for a while there was less emphasis on Radio Birmingham and more on “206” and the broader West Midlands identify.’

Andy Walters: ‘I have a feeling that dates from 78. It later morphed into the Radio WM logo. To show you how old some of our OB gear is, this logo still adorns some of it.’

Radio WM sticker on OB kit still being used!











Pete Simpkin: ‘This one was the best of all the designs for the Radio Birmingham/WM shirts…..wore all mine till they fell to pieces!!’

Gyn Freeman and Nicky Steele, Radio WM

Photo by Rod Fawcett, no reproduction without permission












Co-presenters, Gyn Freeman and Nicky Steele in Area 2 of the Radio WM studio at Pebble Mill.

Thanks to Rod Fawcett for sharing the photo.

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

Gyn Freeman: Stuart Roper left, they brought Nicky to enable the station to still have a “double-header” – so I was the co-presenter of the show, as I was with Roper. Actually Nicky and I got on well together and the programme was popular but no way would either of these chaps let me drive the programme unless they took a break or I was doing the phone-in. Just to say that I am feeling just fine, but of course both Stuart and Nicky died so young. I did a double header on Radio 4 for a couple of series, the other presenter was Peter Purves, looking good and even older than me and the producer Peter Everett.’

Tim Manning: ‘If you look through the window, you’ll see that I was the producer, although not for the whole time that they worked together on air.’

Tim Beech: ‘Area 2. John Taynton always used that one for the shared evening show across the Midlands. Ed was always in 5, “driven” from Area 4. As was Tony Butler.’

Anthony Worrall: ‘I remember Nicky’s discos at Honiley Boot before his radio days!’

Gary Hudson: ‘I remember Nicky presenting gigs at Birmingham Town Hall in the 70s. He was already a star of BRMB, and – a day after the sad death of Ed Doolan – that’s a reminder that the commercial lot created all the major local radio personalities in those days – certainly in the West Midlands. Tony Butler was another contemporary, and of course Les Ross, who’d left Radio Birmingham for the glamour of the former Aston Hippodrome.’

Steve Jarvis: ‘I remember Nick when he was Nick Aire at Bishop Vesey School. He had the mot remarkable ten pin bowling style!’

Tim Beech: ‘Nicky of course sadly passed away many years ago – I just checked the date and it was 2001. Hard to believe it was that long ago.’

Chris Rolinson: ‘He was due to start at Saga in 2001, but he was already very ill and sadly died before we went on air.

He was slated to present the Saturday Afternoon show “The Saturday Alternative” from 2 till 6 and I had to sit in for him from launch.

It was very strange especially doing the first show that I knew a Midlands legend was due to present.

I hope I didn’t let him down…’


Ed Doolan 1941-2018

Ed Doolan receiving a lifetime achievement award in 2015





















Australian born, Radio WM presenter, Ed Doolan, has died today (Jan 16th 2018) aged 76. Ed revealed that he was suffering from vascular dementia in 2015.

Radio WM paid tribute to him in the following announcement:

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

Tim Manning: ‘I was Ed’s first producer at Radio WM when he moved to the BBC from BRMB in 1982. There was a bit of nervousness behind the scenes, as this was really the first time the BBC had poached a big name from a commercial rival for a local radio station. Bosses in London were reportedly a bit uncomfortable about the cost, and some staff at WM weren’t too happy, worrying that they were being pushed aside. Ed was also nervous, as he feared that his listeners might desert him and that Radio WM’s audience wouldn’t take to him. John Pickles, then the manager of the station, was convinced that the publicity coup of Ed’s arrival would lift the station’s profile, and that Ed would fit in; he was proved right.

In fact, Ed settled in really quickly, and Radio WM gave him space to grow. Ed was a great showman, with a style more akin to the big TV chat show hosts of the era than conventional radio presenters of the time, and he loved doing celebrity interviews. Nonetheless, underneath the larger-than-life on-air persona, he was a sharp current affairs journalist with a real sense of what mattered to his audience and he really knew and understood Birmingham and the West Midlands. I’m glad he was never spirited away to Network Radio (there was talk of it), as he was at his best skewering local and national politicians on behalf of his listeners. Few broadcasters have had such a lasting impact on their local community.’

Linda Flavell: ‘Ed did quite a lot on Regional TV too, although I thibhe was at his best on radio. Sad loss.’

Katie Cooper: ‘I’m so glad to have seen him at the last Pebble Mill coffee morning I got to. Lovely man.’

Midlands News 1992

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission


This page from the internal newspaper, Midlands News from 1992, shows what a vibrant place Pebble Mill was at this time, with both radio and television programmes winning all kinds of accolades, and even the restaurant winning an award for healthy food! Jeremy Clarkson is looking very youthful in the top right-hand corner, but down at the bottom the photographs for Countryfile‘s day out and Sarah Rowlands and Mark Decker’s digital editing session seem to have been swapped over – oops!



Uncertain Vision – Management as a neutron bomb

The entry below is from Georgina Born’s Uncertain Vision, her ethnography of the BBC. The book examines the changes to the BBC brought about under John Birt and Greg Dyke. This excerpt talks about the structural changes to the Drama Group within the BBC brought about under John Birt’s leadership in 1996. Michael Wearing was then head of Drama Serials, previously he had been head of Drama at Pebble Mill.

Michael Wearing in 2009

Michael Wearing in 2009












Diary entry 1996 Georgina Born:

It is late 1996, five months after the restructuring and everything remains supremely confused in Drama Group. Almost all the critical issues impacting on how the drama departments will operate have still to be clarified of even, it has become plain, decided. For Drama, the restructuring has an apocalyptic quality. Everyone knows that Birt has removed all certainties; but nothing has come in to fill the vacuum. It is management as neutron bomb. There is paralysis and seething frustration. We are in a Drama Editorial Board and it seems that today a few things might become clearer. Charles Denton, former head of Drama Group, has left. The acting head reports that ‘the new head of Drama Group, when he or she is announced, will be bi-medial and will embrace a larger territory including radio drama and the World Service’. Michael Wearing and Mark Shivas, the two most experienced and respect editorial heads, have received letters from the chief executive of BBC Production informing them that there is still time to apply for the job of CE of Drama Group, but Michael muses, ‘What’s really going on in this letter is evasive. It looks as though we’re being required to reapply for our own jobs.’ The acting head reports that there will henceforth be two rather than one Business Affairs departments, in Broadcast and Production. The drama executives are sceptical: ‘Surely that risks two sets of business practice competing with one another, let alone unnecessary duplication of jobs? Michael comments that such duplication will ensure that production departments continue to carry huge overheads, like before – one of the problems the restructuring was meant to overcome: ‘What a bloody mess.’

The acting head continues that leading figures in Broadcast have made clear that when disputes arise between Broadcast and Production, Broadcast will be the moderators: the final power will reside with Broadcast. They move to discuss the interface between the drama production departments and Broadcast, which is only just emerging. Drama’s independent commissioning group will move into Broadcast; and the proposal is that the drama units from the national regions – Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland – will also move into Broadcast, while London in-house and Birmingham will sit in Production. No one understands why. Several people express concern about the fragmentation of editorial purpose that will ensue; there seems to be a common desire to retain an integrated Drama Editorial Board.

Born, G. (2004) page 135-6, Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC. London: Secker & Warburg


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

David Shute: “Birt, who wasn’t even on a salary at the start of his damaging reign (tax dodge of course) brought in the dreaded McKinsey and the march of the suits began, that’s why I allowed myself to be head-hunted away from the Corporation I’d loved for a lot of wonderful years. Sadly I wasn’t alone but in my new life I was privileged to employ many of the talented PebbleMill professionals on a freelance basis.”

Tim Manning: “As a footnote to this, it’s worth remembering that – following an interim period where drama in the newly-created BBC Production was overseen by Ruth Caleb (from BBC Wales) and Alan Yentob – Colin Adams, who many will remember from his time as Head of Network Television at Pebble Mill, became Head of BBC Drama Production. Some months later, I also joined the London-based Senior Management Team of the department as Production Services Director.”