Fond memories of zoo show filming

Maggie Hickman photographs the show's young 'stars'.

Maggie Hickman photographs the show's young 'stars'.

First published in News

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.

As the attraction looks back at the last 75 years as part of its anniversary celebrations, Maggie Hickman has revealed how she spent every day for more than 12 months on site with children from nearby Priory School, as they filmed the popular programme which told the real-life tale of international zoo vet, David Taylor.

Maggie, who then-worked at the Limes Road school, said: “The BBC used to ring me every night and tell me how many children they needed for the next day. Sometimes it could be 40, other days just two or three.

“The children were 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 entire length of the shoot, the zoo was taken over by the BBC, with lighting, rigging and lorries over the entire site, which remained open to the public.

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.

Maggie added: “The 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.

“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.”

Zoo staff are now keen to hear from any of the former Priory School pupils who took part in the programme.

Dudley Zoo Head of Media and Communications, Jill Hitchman, said: "The One by One cast and film crew became very much a part of zoo life for more than a year in the mid-80s and lots of youngsters were involved in the filming – it would be interesting to discover where they are now and if they would like to share their memories."

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