7Inch Does It Again…

I have been a fan and supporter of the Flatpack Festival for a few years now but have been a little lax in finding out more about what they get up to for the rest of the year. I occasionally see tweets about something 7inch are doing (generally while its happening, or the day after, so no chance of popping along) but have not really prioritised finding out too much more. Although what they are doing seems of interest to me I just never think about it in time.

Fortunately, Ian contacted us to see if we would be interested in helping out with some kit for their latest project which meant I knew about it in time to go along…

“In partnership with Birmingham City University, 7 Inch Cinema present a weekend of screenings and events celebrating the remarkable range of drama produced at BBC Birmingham during the 1970s and early 80s under producer David Rose.”

The event kicked off last night at the mac with a Drinks reception that was filled with “ex-Pebble Mill” faces, many who I have not seen in years and was a great chance to catch up with them over a glass of wine. As with most of these things people get engrossed in chat and so getting us to stop talking and move into the theatre took far too long… Great for us but a headache for the organisers who really need to try and keep things running to some sort of a schedule (sorry!). Unfortunately this meant that David Rose, powerhouse of the Regions Drama department, had to cut his introduction short, making last minute edits to his speech. I could sit and listen to him talk all day. (He will be chairing a discussion this afternoon at 4pm at the mac as part of the weekends proceedings.)

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First up was an information film showing “Pebble Mill, purpose built centre for the region.” What started off for me as a bit of early 70’s nostalgia, laughing quietly at the hairstyles, camp floral shirts, smoking at your desk whilst hitting the keys on a typewriter, quickly turned quite emotional as I saw offices, corridors, workshops and car parks (yes, car parks) that I had spent many hours in over the 5 years I “worked there” and had changed little since. I say “worked there” I was really only an outside contractor, dropping in and out four or five times a week for a couple of hours at at time. To me it seemed more than just a building, first it was a rush of “I’m working at the BBC, for real??” but very quickly it became a place of shared vision and I looked forward to spending time there in an environment where people felt passionate about what they did.

Many hours were spent in the canteen or club, putting the world to rights over a couple of pints too.

I can only imagine that these feelings must have been even stronger from those in the room that had spent an entire working lifetime there. Emotions, vision and ethos that I feel have not been carried over to “the new place”. I always feel a little sad on the occasions I drive past on the A38, looking through the gap in the trees and the corner of the building that was visible from the road, now just empty sky.

First to be screened was a 1973 “Play for Today”, “Shakespeare or Bust”. A gentle comedy about three miners from Leeds who make a pilgrimage by canalboat to Stratford to see a play. Sharply written, slow of pace (compared to modern tastes), a comedy of manners, words and 70’s sexism. A real gem, with fantastic scenes shot in Gas Street Basin with the newly finished Alpha Tower standing proud above our cities skyline in virtually every shot. Fantastic to see how much has changed and yet remains the same after all these years.

Favourite line from the play, Janet Suzman, when asked what roles they play on stage… “He’s Anthony… I’m his bird, Cleopatra.”

A packed schedule of events runs right the way through the weekend with screenings and discussions from 11-7 today and 12-7 tomorrow. Highlight for me will be the 4pm discussion chaired by David Rose. Will be great to hear what he has to say as he was cut short last night. For a list of screenings and discussions visit the mac website.

For me, Pebble Mill will always have a special place in my heart. Thanks to Vanessa and Ian for putting this weekend together and helping us old duffers relive past times.