Friday, 19 November 2010


BBC Pebble Mill Studios, Birmingham

About six years or so ago, I accompanied a friend on a business trip to Birmingham and, whilst there, took the opportunity to visit the famous BBC PEBBLE MILL studios.  PEBBLE MILL AT ONE was a daily lunchtime show that originally ran from around 1972 or '73 until 1986.  (It was revived in 1991 to 1996 - simply titled "Pebble Mill" - with a new cast of presenters).

I remember watching the original incarnation back in the '70s, either on my dinner-break during school or work, and there was usually at least one feature or interview which  was interesting enough to delay me from stirring from my chair when I should have.  The four original presenters (I think - no research spared) were MARION FOSTER, BOB LANGLEY, DAVID SEYMOUR and DONNY MacLEOD.  In fact, big Donny once presented a programme about the MOD (a huge festival about Scottish and Gaelic music) from my home town, and - if memory serves - I think I actually saw him wandering about my local shopping centre at the time.

Donny MacLeod

Anyway, there I was, sitting in my friend's car, outside the now nearly deserted studios.  (Although there still seemed to be a trickle of traffic in and out the main gates, suggesting that it was not yet completely abandoned.)  Parked in the very street that I (and a significant portion of the population) had hitherto only ever seen through the studio windows as Marion, Bob, Dave or Donny interviewed some second-rate celebrity eager to plug his or her latest book or record.

I couldn't miss the opportunity.  Leaving my friend in the car (he was too scared to accompany me), I got out and wandered over to the unmanned security booth outside the main gates of the entrance to the car park.  I smiled into the camera, gave a thumbs-up, and - open sesame - the gates swung inward to allow me access.  I was in.  I spent the next 20 minutes wandering around the back of the studio, exploring the famous gardens from which PETER SEABROOK had presented his segment of the show.  (I now wish I'd lifted that abandoned plastic watering jug as a memento.)

Pebble Mill logo

Emboldened by my easy invasion of the Mill, I made my way around to the front of the building, just in time to see a security guard returning with his lunch from a nearby cafe or snack van.  "Any chance of seeing inside, mate?" I ventured.  "Sure, c'mon in", he replied.  (Friendly lot, those Brummie natives.)  And so it was that I found myself in the actual reception area of those iconic studios - the same reception area that absolutely every major star (and quite a few minor ones) who had ever appeared on the show would have had to pass through on entering the building.  I spent the next 10 minutes chatting with the guard and his colleague, and then - remembering that my friend would probably be wondering what had happened to me - prepared to take my leave.  However, not for nothing am I known as "Gordie the Bold" amongst my compatriots - I wasn't finished pushing my luck yet.  "Any chance of a souvenir?" I asked.

And that, dear readers, is how a magnificent, two foot long BBC RESOURCES magnetic-strip sign came to adorn the door of my fridge. I came, I saw, I conquered - and I left with a trophy.  A trophy, I might add, which now resides in the very house in which I originally viewed the show back in the '70s.  Anyone who regularly watched the programme was as familiar with that Birmingham street (a cul-de-sac) as the one outside their own window - unlike most viewers, however, I was actually there.  Sadly, the building was demolished in 2006 - and thus vanished yet another iconic landmark from the '70s.

The Pebble Mill site as it is today


Anonymous said...

Fond memories of 'The Mill' in the early 70s when home alone on a sickie from school. Before ITV started transmitting all day in 1973 it was a case of watching anything at all. Ironically this tended to be mostly programmes for schools. Ah we'll there was always Unclre Raymondo with his recipie of the day to look forward to on the swinging Radio 1 Jimmy Young Show! Try telling the youth of today how hard we had it back in the 70s!

Cheers, Ken.

PS playing catch up with your excellent blog. Being of roughly the same age, it strikes many a nostalgic chord or two.

Kid said...

Glad you're enjoying it, Ken. It makes the effort I put into it worthwhile.

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