Archers’ News – Dead Girls Tell No Tales

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Ysanne Churchman playing Grace Archer: Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission









There is a radio drama about the death ‘Grace Archer’, played by Ysanne Churchman (widow of Tony Pilgrim), on Radio 4 at 2.30pm on Saturday 19th September 2015. It is entitled Dead Girls Tell No Tales.

Below is the programme information:

“Dead Girls Tell No Tales

Saturday 19 September



Almost 60 years to the day after The Archers’ character Grace Archer was killed, Radio 4 will broadcast Dead Girls Tell No Tales featuring Ysanne Churchman, the original Grace Archer.

Written by Joanna Toye, the commemorative drama will depict life in and around The Archers’ production office and studio, culminating on the fateful night of 22 September 1955 when Grace perished in a stable fire after trying to save one of the horses.

As the drama behind the drama unfolds, listeners will be transported back to a post-war world of deference, Received Pronunciation and the Light Programme.

It is established media folklore that Grace Archer’s death was a ploy to thwart the launch night of ITV. But this 60-minute drama delves deeper into the Archers’ celebrated archives to reveal what really inspired 20 million people to tune in and left tens of thousands distraught – leaving the BBC switchboard jammed for 48 hours.

Familiar characters from the early years of the programme, including Dan and Doris Archer, Carol Grey and John Tregorran, and creator of The Archers, Godfrey Baseley, will also play a part in the special drama.

Producer/Sean O’Connor for the BBC”


Here is a piece from BBC Breakfast trailing the radio play:

“Sixty years ago, twenty million people tuned in to hear the demise of Grace on The Archers. It made radio history. To mark the anniversary a drama called, ‘Dead Girls Tell No Tales’ reveals what happened behind the scenes at the BBC and how the public reacted to the storyline.”

Thanks to Annie Gumbley-Williams for letting us know about the radio drama.

Tony Pilgrim – Birmingham Mail article

The article below was published in the Birmingham Mail on 4th Feb 2015

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission













Tributes have been paid to a former BBC engineer pivotal in bringing the iconic Pebble Mill studios to Birmingham.

Tony Pilgrim, who has died aged 91, was a ferocious critic of the BBC’s move to the Mailbox in 2004, describing it as “one of the worst decisions ever taken by the corporation”.

In a BBC career spanning more than 40 years, he was also responsible for organising outside broadcasts, including one by King George VI from Sandringham in 1945.

Although taking place six years after the events depicted in the Oscar-winning film The Kings Speech, it was for a momentous event – the monarch’s first post-war Christmas Broadcast.

Subsequently Mr Pilgrim took charge of communications facilities at the Wembley Olympic Games in 1948.

But it was the growing trend for moving out to the regions which led to him transferring to Birmingham – marrying actress Ysanne Churchman in 1951 and settling in Edgbaston when she took the part of Grace in radio soap opera The Archers.

At the BBC, he oversaw the construction, building and installation of all technical services in Pebble Mill, the state-of-the-art radio and television headquarters for the Midlands which opened in 1971.

From then until his retirement in 1983 he was a key figure in the provision of technical facilities to support the blossoming programme output in television and radio from the major production centre.

But the BBC move to the Mailbox and demolition of Pebble Mill left Mr Pilgrim angry, and in an interview in 2005 he said: “I remember the excitement we all felt moving into a new, purpose-designed radio and television broadcasting centre, which seemed to be a beacon for the future of broadcasting in the Midlands.

“This beautiful building, which was such a joy to work in, could still have been given a new lease of life for substantially less than the cost of the Mailbox.

“The corporation’s stated objective was to move the BBC into the centre of Birmingham to bring it closer to its public.

“But the Mailbox is on the wrong side of the inner city motorway and remote from the main shopping areas in New Street, Corporation Street and the Bullring.

“If shoppers do find their way there it is a long walk through a shopping mall to the BBC at the rear of the building.”

Speaking of Pebble Mill’s successes, Mr Pilgrim said Phil Sidey’s arrival as head of centre in 1973 led to the launch of the live, lunchtime show Pebble Mill at One which made the building famous across the country.

“He created a wonderful team spirit for all who worked there leading to many great programmes over the years,” he said.

Mr Pilgrim also helped to found the Midland Centre of the Television Society, of which he became chairman in 1964. This led to a seat on the council which in turn led to his chairmanship of the society in 1970.

The society was granted Royal status in 1966 and during his term he opened the very first Cambridge Convention in 1970, which has grown into a high profile bi-annual international event, and served as honorary secretary for 19 years.

In 1987 the RTS celebrated its Diamond Jubilee and Mr Pilgrim organised a reception at the Banqueting House in Whitehall, which was attended by The Queen.

On leaving the BBC, Mr Pilgrim devoted his time to further developing the RTS.

RTS spokeman George Pagan said: “He was forward-looking by nature, seeking to improve and develop everything he was involved in, which brought recognition in many ways including the Gold medal of the Royal Television Society in 1987, and in 1992, the MBE, for services to the Television Industry.”

Mr Pilgrim is survived by Ysanne, after a marriage of 63 years.

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

Donald Steel: ‘I’m incredibly sad to hear of Tony’s death. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years. He was the most terrific company and full of great stories. A wonderful wonderful man.’

Tony Pilgrim RIP

Tony Pilgrim is 2nd from the left in this clipping. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Tony Pilgrim is 2nd from the left in this clipping. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission









Tony Pilgrim, former Manager, Communications and Engineering Services, has died peacefully in his sleep, aged 91. He was responsible for much of the planning and organising of the move to Pebble Mill in 1970/1. The technical move involved the change from monochrome to colour TV, mono radio to stereo, and valves to transistors. It was a major cultural change. After the move, Tony was a key figure in the running of the building, until his retirement in 1983. In addition he was a pioneer in the development of the Royal Television Society, for which he was awarded an MBE, for services to the television industry.

Thanks to George Pagan, for the information above.

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

Lynn Cullimore: ‘He was my first boss at pebble mill. Always beautifully dressed. Sorry to hear this sad news.’


Keith Jones obituary

Keith Jones obit Prospero Aug 13
























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

This obituary for Pebble Mill Engineering House Services Manager, Keith Jones, written by Tony Pilgrim, appeared in Prospero, the BBC retirees’ magazine, in August 2013.

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing it.

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

Lynn Cullimore: ‘Yes of course I remember Keith. I worked in Engineering as it was my first job at the BBC. I am sad to hear he has passed away. He was always nice to me, always kind and helpful which as a young lass then i appreciated. He was known as HSE – House Services Engineer.’

Keith Brook: ‘Keith was a lovely man and did a great job, not only with the building but as chairman of the club.’

Studio Operations (Part 1) – Ray Lee


Studio A lighting gantry 1975, by Jim Gregory

Studio A lighting gantry 1975, by Jim Gregory


Studio A production gallery 1971, by Ivor Williams

Studio A production gallery 1971, by Ivor Williams

























I joined studio operations (as part of the operations engineers “merry go round”) around July 1974. For some historical reason by that stage Studio A was entirely staffed by operations engineers 3 in the gallery and 3 in TAR, whereas Studio B only the gallery was (1 or 2 engineers), the TAR staffing being done by Comms & Engineering services staff. I suspect it was largely due to power struggles / empire building by managers on the 3rd floor trying to justify their existence. At that time Bill Berry was in charge of operations engineers as Ops Organiser, a position which a little later (1976?) John Lannin took on. The Manager Comms. & engineering services at that time was Tony Pilgrim, who in later years was replaced by Doug Taylor, and later still Frank Stevens in the early 1980’s.

Studio operations staff also rotated onto CMCR9 to staff the O.B.s although it was only a sub group who for reasons explained later were often referred to as the Mafia. The staff who at that time crewed both studio’s an O.B.’s were John Bradley, John Moore, Ron Pickering, Steve Searley, Ray Sperry, Jim Cleland, John Abbot, Elson Godbolt. John Allison was the VCMS for the scanner, and Peter Hodges and Mike Lee the VCMS (Vision Control  and Maintenance Supervisor) for Studio A. In theory all 3 VCMS’s could work on the scanner, or in the studio, but in practice Peter and Mike, apart from a brief stint, stayed largely in the studio. Peter had only been appointed VCMS in early 1974, so was quite new in the job when I started working with the Studio A crew.  The other  Studio A engineers included myself, Dave White (who later moved to Norwich), Dennis Kiddy, John Kimberly, Peter Wood-Fisher, Ian Dewar,  and Brian Jones (who did go out on O.B.s’ later- I think he was the first to break in to the select group). There may have been others, and the staff movements were fairly fluid at that time around the studios, VT and TK, although there was no real movement with regard to scanner crewing until around 1977. Jim Howarth was basically the engineer for Studio B gallery, (I don’t recall Jim ever working anywhere other than Studio B) aided by one of the other ops engineers on his days off, and Pebble Mill at One Days. Jim Howarth could very often be found in the club bar, sometimes with only minutes to go to transmission, but always seemed to manage to turn up just in time!

Ray Lee