Radio WM Sports Team at Superprix 1986

Photo from Rod Fawcett, no reproduction without permission












Included in the photo are (left to right): Stuart Miller chief engineer at Radio WM sitting down laughing, ?, Mike Ronson(?), Rob Hawthorne with the Uher, Annie Barker in yellow jacket.

Thanks to Rod Fawcett for sharing this photo of the Radio WM sports team at the first Birmingham Superprix in 1986.

(The Superprix was a street based motorsport event in Birmingham. The highlight was the Formula 3000 race.)

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

Rod Fawcett: ‘I remember the gig quite well. We were set up in a Portakabin right next to the start / finish line on Bristol Street. The motor racing noise within the cabin was astonishing as it resonated the walls, ceiling, everything!! We kept going of course. The young reporter with the Uher tape recorder is Rob Hawthorne – now an established football commentator with Sky Sports.’

Gordon Astley: ‘ was taken out for a skidpan type ride with the Italian Job Mini team. I felt nauseous for the rest of the day.’

Tim Beech: ‘I remember the last Superprix was in 1990, a year after I joined the WM sports team. Rob had just left, but Ian was Sports Editor and Annie had started with Central. Great pic – great memories!’

Marilyn Ward: ‘Central had the broadcasting commission.’

Rod Fawcett: ‘Hi Marilyn and thanks go to Central TV as you were kind to give us a courtesy monitor race feed to use for commentary purposes.’

Keith Conlon: ‘I think the guy in the background was a sports reporter and I think his name was Mike Ronson i think but his surname may be wrong.’

Rod Fawcett in the WM workshop

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission













The photo shows Radio WM engineer, Rod Fawcett, in the workshop at BBC Pebble Mill.

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

Paul Hunt: ‘I’m guessing this is about 1988? I joined Dan Cooke as the second engineer there 5 years later with Tom Horsefield as the Engineer-in-Charge. The test set on the upper shelf is an ME2/5 (built by the BBC equipment department). Underneath is a Ferrograph RTS2 test set. On the bench is a DC power supply unit for powering equipment under test. Rod’s holding an AKG D130 which was the “standard” omni reporters mic that would be used with a UHER. The WM engineers workshop, room 104, had started life as the newsroom when Pebble Mill opened. It then moved upstairs to the 2nd floor and then back to the first floor in 1989 to be adjacent to TV news. It’s also worth noting the Dymo tape on the drawers – something very common in Local Radio stations!!’

Christopher Hall: ‘Top shelf, with black meter, is BBC ME2/5 audio test set, below it with white meter is Ferrograph RTS-2 audio test set, below it is an amplifier test rack, to left are two H&H AM8/12 loudspeaker amplifiers, below them is a Farnel power supply, and at the right of the bench is a Telequipment D66 oscilloscope.’

Keith Butler: ‘Isn’t the ‘scope a D66a, I think the earlier D66 was blue.’

Andy Walters: ‘My office for my first three years at WM. Room 104 with it’s views of the River Rae and plague of Ladybirds every autumn.’

George Tatler: ‘All this kit still looks current to me, i wish i had a modern dual PSU like the Farnell one. At the far end of the lower shelf is one of those Glensound Tele Balance Unit boxes with the sloping front that an old tele used to sit on top of – as used in district studios or simple NCA studio setups etc..’

Martin Cox: ‘The grey box lying on its face next to the LS3/5a might be a battery powered Level oscillator’

Susan Hillman: ‘Was just a few weeks ago that we were standing round a Farnell power supply at work and saying that they still looked the same as they ever did. This was in stark contrast to the oscilloscope which had an awful lot missing round the back’

Ian Dyer: ‘I moved an ME2/5 between bays only today whilst rationalising the old MKIII bays in Wiltshire post-ViLoR!’

Andy Walters: ‘The same room on WM’s last day at Pebble Mill in Summer 2004.’

Photo by Andy Walters, no reproduction without permission








Colin Pierpoint blog – Part 2, New Control Room (BH London)

The New Control Room (BH London)

The New Control Room on the first floor of BH Extension had a different technical layout than the previous wartime Control Room. Gone were Incomings and Outgoings; instead they had the Multiple Switching Position MSP. The Multiple or “Mult” was the name for the uniselector switching system. The Simultaneous Broadcasting Position (SB) was still there dealing with the regions and transmitters. There was an Outside Broadcast (OB) position and a Television Sound position, (which had also been on the balcony in the Old Control Room). The “Bays“ of the old Control Room were replaced by Control and Monitor Positions (C&Ms). [Later in my career when I was a Lecturer at the Engineering Training Department, I was telling a course of male and female Studio Managers about London Control Room. As I mentioned the SB position the OB position and the MSP position some of them started to grin. When I got to the C&M position they were nearly in hysterics! Contact me for an explanation if you don’t understand!]

Most of my work in the New Control Room was on the C&Ms. Occasionally I would be chosen to operate the three channel mixers which were in a separate cubicle in the Control Room, and used for some foreign dispatches, and the Shipping Forecast on Long Wave.

It was in the New Control Room where I sent +24 decibels signal level to the Long Wave transmitter at Droitwich. This event is remembered even today by ex-Control Room Staff!
About this time in March 1962 I went on TO Course 13 at Wood Norton. Here is a photo of me in the Wood Norton Control Room, where I could do less harm.












On return to London I was move into the XP unit, which did tape editing and worked in the studios on transportable tape machines; actually TR90s on wheels, hence the name XP, transportable. I never knew if this was because of my error but I gained a lot of experience of tape editing, and working with producers. At my level I was only in the recording channels, but my colleagues worked on the Jack Jackson show actually in the studio cubicle. (For readers from a television background, in Radio, the place where the artists work in called the Studio, the place where the Studio Managers and the mixing desk is located is called the Cubicle. They are connected visually by a double glazed window, as in Television).

Some of my recording in London was on disk, and on a trip to CBC in Canada a few years ago, I came across the same model of disk cutter that I had operated.

Presto disc cutting recorder

Presto disc cutting recorder












I also found the so called “Midget” tape recorder used by reporters at this time. It used 5 inch reels of standard tape, and could record for seven and a half minutes on full track. In 1961 the midget recorder was used for interviews. The recorded tape was then taken to an editing channel. Editing standard tape at 7 and a half inches per second was no problem, the BTR2 tape machine which was used for editing could be switched to 7 and a half ips. Later these field recorders were changed, first to the Ficord and then to the Uher tape recorder. The Ficord presented a problem because it used long play tape which was thinner. When spooled back on a BTR2 the heavy machine from a German design stretched the tape! So we had to copy from the recorder first. Not convenient with an urgent news story and a deadline.


"Midget" recorder by EMI

“Midget” recorder by EMI

Yoga, The Radio Position – Pete Simpkin













Late Summer 1979 and my regular mid-afternoon programme was again featuring one of those annual ‘Look after yourself’ features usually triggered by news press releases showing that we were all in need of more exercise, better diet, better teeth, etc etc. Into this discussion came listener reaction in the form of a letter from a Mrs Pat Mellor, a Yoga teacher from Shirley, Solihull. It’s not to do with diet or exercise she wrote, what everybody needs is Yoga and the particular form known as Hatha. The greatest problem facing us is stress she continued and that’s the killer. As a Local Radio Producer/Presenter I was daily becoming aware of this the hard way but was surprised to be told it by a listener. I was dispatched to her home armed with a Uher recorder to attempt to find out more. My reception was, to say the least, unusual and surprising. After the usual greetings this slim, diminuative red haired and enthusiastic lady invited me to…yes the words are locked in my mind….”loosen your tie, undo your trouser belt and lie down on the floor.” Not sure of what form of Eastern promise was about to be revealed and resisting the temptation to make my excuses and leave I did as she asked. Within fifteen minutes I was aware that the pressures of the day had lifted and I felt certainly relaxed. Pat had taken me through a few simple postures …not exercises…. and each posture linked to my breathing. As I lifted my arms for instance I was told to inhale, as I lowered them I should exhale. Same with leg raising…breathe in as they come up and out slowly as they were lowered.

Later over tea she explained that after the death a child of a few weeks old due to meningitis she had literally lost the will to live and contemplated suicide. With admirable intuition her GP had suggested that as part of her treatment she should try Yoga. It was so effective that when she had recovered she decided to take a training course to become a Yoga teacher. Within a year she was running several Local Authority Evening classes in local schools and several private ones in community centres and halls .There had been much opposition to furthering what were described as ‘heathen Eastern practices’ but as the authorities learned what she was proposing, simple relaxation and no mystical tuition they were surprised to find that Evening Classes run by this quiet lady were thriving. Now listening to endless radio presenters encouraging people to do strenuous exercises she had concluded that they were adding to the stress not reducing it. She had a mission. Stress was part of the body’s system for coping with threats and danger stimulating the production of chemicals in the body such as adrenalin to make it work harder to escape from the threat. Quietness, relaxation and what she called ‘me time’ was the answer, but it took time and it took quietness to achieve. She had contacted a local commercial station with her idea and been offered one and a half minute segments which clearly showed the man there had not followed her train of thought. Well he hadn’t been asked to lie down on the floor in a quiet drawing room had he?

So how to translate this into a radio slot which didn’t consist of dead air? I invited her in to appear on a live phone in and amazingly she took to the microphone like a duck to water as they say and even in the busy atmosphere of a telephone conversation she demonstrated just how effective a few quiet minutes in the presence of a calming voice could be and as a result I decided to let her take over fifteen minutes of my show every Wednesday afternoon. We had printed a free leaflet showing Pat demonstrating about twenty postures together with pre-broadcast advice. The broadcast format was easy…after a few minutes chat about today’s topic she would cue in her famous evening class background music the Moonlight Sonata and with that calm, smooth, Irish voice take us through a particular posture. To guide her to see how a typical listener would react I would courageously abandon the control panel and sit or lie on the floor and attempt to follow her instructions. On one memorable occasion involving total relaxation I fell asleep and Pat standing at mic.2 with the vinyl record nearing its end she took the decision to wake me by kicking my foot, trusting I would not come to with a jump or a shout. Luckily her gambit paid off and I leadenly came to, slowly clambering back up to the panel with the listeners unaware of the potential chaos that had threatened. They weren’t aware of it anyway, they were all asleep as their subsequent calls to the station over the next hour or so bore witness as they eventually woke up! Dangerous radio? I think not. Most of them revealed how refreshed they were and able to carry on the rest of their day with calmness and a better approach to the matter in hand.

For 26 weeks Pat continued her mission to relax the West Midlands. The response was amazing and luckily from the boss’s point of view too as the listener count in a traditionally low figures time of day increased. Pat had also developed other smaller non Yoga relaxation ideas…few people for instance realized just how tightly they gripped the steering wheel when driving so Pat devised her ‘traffic jam finger exercises, to help drivers overcome their four wheeled stress.

Yet another seemingly outrageous idea had born fruit as a result of the pioneering approach that Local Radio was able to take to develop the community responding to the challenge of broadcasting its own material.

I was never the same again either. My lifestyle was enhanced and my broadcasting career improved by the simple addition of ‘me time’ and ‘at the desk’ relaxation.

Oh and yes, the inevitable did happen. Pat and I got together and eventually married and I finally discovered my own Nirvana…… sometimes even without the tie and trouser belt …but that’s another story beyond the remit of this website.

I have written this nearly thirty five years after our first meeting and just a few weeks after the death of my beloved Yoga teacher and closest, best friend. Her techniques have helped me cope with my terrible and almost unbearable loss. I still practice the breathing and some of the postures. I smile and look at her photographs taken in the studio.

Simple Hatha yoga can enhance a life in more ways than one.

Pete Simpkin