THE CHAIRS OF PEBBLE MILL AT ONE – EXPANDED!

Because no one asked for it, here’s some chair spotting from the BBC studios in Birmingham. It may have a slight Doctor Who flavour to it.

Oh, and if you’re a fan of logos – then you’ll find your gold dust towards the bottom of this post.

If anyone wants a potted history of Pebble Mill – the show and the studio complex – feel free to have a look at this link, which is from my perspective, or browse an excellent and extensive resource here.

‘Drop In’

When the building was opened, the foyer contained all sorts of 1970’s staples, marble, wood panelled ceiling, and ashtrays all over the place.

According to a missing episodes forum, the pilot episode for ‘Pebble Mill at One’ was actually called ‘Drop In’, suggesting that the decision to use the foyer was an integral part of the programme, and not an afterthought, as guests literally drop in and chat away. The decision to use the foyer was that of Phil Sidey, Head of the Network Production Centre at Birmingham from 1972-83 – a passionate advocate of regional broadcasting.

Naturally the choice of chairs was crucial. So by the time of the second series, in late 1973, we have Troughton, Wilkie et al, on what looks like a Swedish pod chair, manufactured by Overman in the late 1960’s. These appear to have been purchased for the foyer, before it became a TV studio, and were retained until the late 1970’s.

Style Icons

Check out these beauts in 1979. Sophia Loren and Donny MacLeod plonking themselves on these fine Pierre Paulin ‘Groovy’ chairs, circa 1972. You can tell the production team were excited to have a film star on the show – the foyer never contained flowers at that time!

Mad Men

Pebble Mill had entertained Philip Hinchcliffe on one of his final days as producer in 1977. Later that year, Tom Baker and Lousie Jameson walked a few yards from Studio A to the foyer, to be interviewed during recording of Horror of Fang Rock – the only episode of the classic series to have its studio recording outside of London.

For this 1979 interview, a 1958 Eames Aluminium Group Management Chair is seen here supporting Tom Baker’s wonderfully outlandish interview technique.

A couple of years later in 1980, the Eames also house the buttocks of Davison, not to mention his Puma trainers, as he works out how to play the role. Like Tristan but brave.

Eighties Elegance

It’s 1981 and Eric Morecambe is interviewed by Bob Langley in that broadcasting staple – the Pieff Eleganza range, which includes the lesser spotted swivel chair.

These chairs were seen a few years earlier, when Doctor Who producer was interviewed by David Seymour.

Let’s not forget the Eleganza stool.

Pure Indulgence.

We’ve reached 1982, and that staple of 80’s studio design, a Japanese Shoji screen, starts to make an appearance. Meanwhile Kate Bush and Billy Connolly end up on rather chunky Pieff Valentino leather armchairs circa 1979.

This period also saw the frequent use of ‘Said International’ office swivel chairs (late 1970’s high backed design). These famously seated Arthur Lowe the day before he died, Andy Mackay twiddling knobs, more Morecombe, and Claire Rayner in the most affectionate clinch with Donny Macleod. It’s why we pay our TV licence!

Near the end.

In late 1983, Paul Coia grapples with uncooperative Dalek birthday cake, in the company of Nicholas Courtney, Mary Tamm, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson. They sit on some ribbed office chairs, designer unknown.

By the mid 80’s guests are interviewed on chairs that look like they have been purchased at a garden centre, however Christmas 1984 redeems the whole series by using Tulip chairs designed in 1956 by Eero Saarinen.

From 1976 – 81, Pebble Mill hosted a late night version, called ‘Saturday Night at the Mill’. These largely used the same chairs, but occasionally they would bring out the big guns, such as these De Sede armchairs.

Oh, and while we’re in ultra geek mode, let’s explore the never ending logos that introduced the series – in fact from 1978 – 86, there was a change of logo every year. Logo freaks, let’s get cataloguing!

Logo #1 – ‘classical serif typeface’. 1972 – 78

Logo #2 ‘Chunky block/typewriter text’ – 1978 – 79

Logo #3 – ‘Brush text’ – 1979 – 80

Logo 4 – ‘Spinning disk’ – 1980 – 81

Logo #5 – ‘Badge’ – 1981 – 82

Logo #6 – ‘Strip’ – 1982 – 83

Logo #7 – ‘Sans serif boxes’ – 1983 – 84.

Logo #8 – ‘Handwriting’ – 1984 – 85

Logo #9 – ‘Clock – 1985 – 86

That’s all folks!

2 Comments

  1. This is a fantastic blog, really enjoying your work, the 1970s stuff especially. What an incredible era for design. Any chance of a “Chairs Of Monty Python”? I’ve long been an admirer of the striking chair that the small patch of brown liquid sits on in the “Face The Press” sketch.

    Like

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