Saturday, 6 April 2019

RUMINATING REPOST: PEBBLE MILL AT ONE...


BBC Pebble Mill studios, Birmingham

Just watched a programme on YouTube called GOODBYE PEBBLE MILL, and it reminded me of my own one-time lightning-quick visit to the iconic studios, which I wrote about in the following post.  Yes, it's a repeat, but considering it's a post about a BBC show, that's really quite apt.

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Several years ago, I accompanied a friend on a short 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 towards the end of 1972 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 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 anout 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.  (Though 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 MarionBobDave 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.

Excuse the reflection of the camera flash

The Pebble Mill site after demolition

4 comments:

Philip Crawley said...

It is a sad fact of life that the only constant in life is change - nothing stays the same forever. Sad I guess if you prefer things to stay the way they are at a given point in time but such desires can in the long term be futile as you are unlikely to get your wish! So on one hand you can try to enjoy the moment, knowing that whatever moment you are enjoying is fleeting but on the other hand through our memories and collections, be they print or video, you can still revisit those moments albeit at a distance from them. You are fortunate in that you seized that moment and ventured into the building where your colleague will only be left with the regret that he did not.
Can't recall seeing this post on its original posting but I enjoyed the 're-run'.

Kid said...

I wish I'd had my camera with me, PC, then I could've taken plenty photos of the place. It's strange now to watch clips of interviews where I can see the street through the large studio windows, knowing that, years later, I stood out there looking in. I think the site is still a piece of waste ground these days, which is a shame.

Philip Crawley said...

That is a shame; to knock it down is one thing but to do nothing with the site afterwards just adds insult to injury! I have been at my place of work for a couple of decades now and in that time I have seen buildings knocked down in the streets nearby with new building rising up out of the rubble, as it were; the constantly changing view from the bus stop! (If you had a time-lapse camera)

Kid said...

The person who posted the PM programme on YouTube refers to the site as 'wasteground', PC, and that was in 2017. Considering that the building was demolished in 2006, that's a long time to leave it undeveloped. However, who knows - maybe they've started to do something with it in the last couple of years?

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