Pebble Mill at One
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Pebble Mill at One was a British lunchtime television magazine programme that was broadcast live from Monday to Friday at 13:00 (one o'clock, hence the title), mainly on BBC1. It was transmitted from the Pebble Mill studios of BBC Birmingham, and uniquely, was hosted from the centre's main foyer area, rather than a conventional television studio. In the beginning, visitors to the studios were seen arriving in the background as the programme was transmitted.
Reasons for this were: a planned third studio was never constructed on the site, and existing facilities were fully booked for network drama production and local news. Gradually, as the show was successful, the foyer became a studio, and visitors had to use a new entrance. The show ran from 2 October 1972 to 23 May 1986, under various programme Editors including: Terry Dobson, Jim Dumighan, and Peter Hercombe.
For most of that period there were few television programmes transmitted in Britain on any channels during the day, with the exception of the Trade test colour films transmitted for TV retailers and TV servicemen. For this reason the programme acquired a unique following from those who found themselves at home at lunchtime. Housewives, students, and those recovering from an illness remember it with fondness for its variety and the problems inherent with live television. Its best remembered theme tune was "As You Please" by the Raymond Lefevre orchestra, used from 1972 until 1979. Two weeks after the launch of the programme on Monday 16 October 1972, ITV the commercial channel in the UK launched a brand new daytime line-up starting at 9.30am with Schools Programmes leading up to an ITN News programme at lunchtime which placed Pebble Mill in direct competition with ITV's new daytime programmes.
Presenters during the long run included Jan Leeming, Donny MacLeod, Fern Britton, Marian Foster, Debi Jones, Bob Langley, Tom Coyne, David Seymour, Magnus Magnusson, Alan Titchmarsh, Chris Baines, Josephine Buchan, Judi Spiers, and Paul Coia.
There were several Pebble Mill spin-offs, particularly in the 1970s, such as the late night chat show Saturday Night at the Mill. Kenny Ball And His Jazzmen were the regular house band, and they performed the show's signature tune. In 1981 a kind of early evening version called Six Fifty-five Special surfaced during the Mill's summer break, presented by Sally James, Paul Coia, David Soul and Bob Langley. In 1986 The Clothes Show presented by Jeff Banks and Selina Scott was created from a strand produced by Roger Casstles first shown on Pebble Mill at One.
Many of the master tapes of Pebble Mill at One were wiped by the BBC following transmission. However, one episode that does survive from the early years celebrated the tenth anniversary of Doctor Who in 1973, featuring interviews with Patrick Troughton and visual effects designer Bernard Wilkie, which is included on the special features of The Three Doctors DVD. Some other Doctor Who related interviews from the series have survived due to early domestic video recordings and have been released on DVDs.
One of Pebble Mill At One's more frequently repeated scenes was in 1986 when Marian Foster introduced pop act Owen Paul who was to perform his hit "My Favourite Waste of Time". He was to mime to a backing track but could not hear the Fold back Loudspeaker as it had failed, so was seen standing looking into camera while the music played and his recorded voice was heard.(Mike Greatorex) Sound Supervisor Pebble Mill @ One.
On 20 September 1979, the show was visited by a Sea Harrier aircraft from RNAS Yeovilton (aircraft FRS.1 XZ451 of 700A Squadron) flown by Lieutenant Commander Nigel "Sharkey" Ward, which landed (and later took off) vertically, on the adjacent BBC Social Club's football pitch.
The programme returned the favour on 7 April 1986 by transmitting a live programme from the newly launched aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in the English Channel. This programme, near the end of the show's life, was produced by Tom Ross and directed by Tony Rayner. It attracted the programme's highest ever audience of nearly six million viewers.
When the decision was taken by BBC1 Controller Michael Grade to end the show to make way for the new One O'Clock News over 30,000 viewers wrote to the BBC to complain. Ironically it was a previous Assistant Editor of the programme Roger Laughton, later to become a senior executive with the BBC and Meridian TV, who was given responsibility for planning the BBC's new daytime schedule.
The Pebble Mill format returned in 1987 as Daytime Live, renamed Scene Today and finally Pebble Mill though no longer at 1pm.
- Negus, Geoffrey; Tommy Staddon (1984). Aviation in Birmingham. Leicester: Midland Counties. p. 118. ISBN 0-904597-51-2.