A Dudley nursery nurse has recalled fond memories of her time at Dudley Zoo when she chaperoned young extras for the 1980s BBC series, One by One.
Back in 1983, Margaret Hickman, who worked at Priory School, spent almost every day for more than 12 months on site, when children from the nearby Limes Road school were asked to be extras in the popular programme, which told the real-life tale of international zoo vet, David Taylor.
Margaret said: “The BBC used to ring me every night and tell me how many children they needed for the next day, then I would have to ring their parents, before meeting them the next morning. Sometimes it could be 40, other days just two or three.
“The children were all aged seven and eight and all had to have their hair cut into a 1950s style. I used to take school work with me for them to do between takes and things to keep them occupied and quiet while they were filming.
“They were long days, sometimes we had to be there for 7am and we wouldn’t leave until after 7pm. But that meant we got to be at the zoo before it opened and after it closed, which was great.”
For the length of the shoot, the zoo was taken over by the BBC, with lighting, rigging and lorries over the entire site, which was still open to the public.
Margaret added: “The Discovery Centre was the hair and make-up area and they used the Queen Mary Ballroom as a waiting area if it was raining.
“There were also large catering buses by the animal food stores where we used to eat alongside the show’s stars. They were great with the children and would come over and talk to us between takes. We were treated no different to them.”The show, which starred Robert Heyland, James Ellis and a young Michael Le Vell, better known today as Kevin Webster from Coronation Street, was broadcast from 1984 until 1987.
And the Priory Infants pupils, starred not only as youngsters visiting the zoo with parents, but also doubled as various school parties, with one episode being particularly memorable.
Margaret added:?”Pupils were supposed to be from a convent public school and our children were sent spectacular uniforms from Harrods while extras playing the teachers were dressed as nuns.
“The costumes came packed in a huge wicker hamper, which was delivered to the zoo in a Harrods lorry.
“I was asked if I wanted to dress up and be an extra for one scene, but it would have been impossible as I was looking after the children, so I said no. But it’s something I’ve always regretted.
“It was a fabulous experience and something I’ve always remembered. We all loved every second and it was absolutely fascinating to watch on the television. I just wish we had copies which we could re-watch and remember the fun we had.”
CAPTIONS: TOP: Margaret Hickman photographs young ‘stars’ of the show. CENTRE: Priory School pupils outside the Discovery Centre. ABOVE: A continuity shot showing crew members in the background.
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