Mr Flibble Talks To... Interior Designer
Where do you get a 23rd century starship cockpit when you need one? Mel Bibby knows - he's the man responsible for the look of Red Dwarf from Series III onwards. Just don't mention the studio audience...
16 February, 2001
Mel Bibby
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

How did you get started in set design?

I went to art college first off, doing fine art - paintings and sculptures and stuff - and in the prelim year of that you're supposed to decide what you want to go into. The college I was at, which was Rochdale College of Art, had the same initials as the RCA, which was very good - you put that on your CV and everybody assumes it's the Royal College! (Laughs)

Ellis Lowry - the painter who did matchstalk men, all that lot - was a friend of the principal's, and he used to come around and crit the students' work; and his advice to me was, 'Wouldn't you be better off in design as opposed to fine art?' Which was basically I nice way of saying, 'You're crap at fine art, but get into design if you can.'

I got into interior design from there, which covered exhibition design and various things. Then the first job I got was as an exhibition display manager for a year, which is very repetitive once you've done the business. Then I did various other bits of exhibition design and stuff.

Then a couple of friends of mine told me that a BBC job had come up in Birmingham, for an assistant designer - which I went for and didn't get. But I must have done a reasonable interview because a job came up in Manchester, and they wrote to me saying 'reapply.' Which I did, and I got. That was 25 years ago.

What was the first show you worked on?

As an assistant, when I first went in, it was It's a Knockout. Which was good fun, a very good grounding. It was a travelling circus - one week you'd be in Portsmouth, the next week you could be up in Scotland. Organisationally it was very, very good.

What else have you worked on?

I was doing quite a lot for Paul Jackson - who was instrumental in getting Red Dwarf on the air in the first place - around that time. Lots of things that nobody'll remember such as Happy Families, which was written by Ben Elton. I was doing Filthy Rich and Catflap at the time Red Dwarf came up; Paul wanted me to do that. I said, 'I can't, it's too much commitment to too many jobs.'

I didn't do the first two series as it turned out. I was doing a lot of comedy at the time - Morris Minor and the Majors with Tony Hawks. Which was a big, disastrous epic! (Laughs) A whack comedy with music thrown in. Like most things I worked on, it ran one series and was then dropped. Red Dwarf is the exception.

From a drama point of view, [I've done] Common as Muck, about the dustbin men. Making Out, about the factory girls. Various other small dramas. And various other jobs too numerous...