Arthur Taylor on the challenges of being a presenter

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They persevered with the idea that I should present, which I didn’t want to do. From day one I didn’t want to do it. But I did, because it was experience and because if I hadn’t done it I would have kicked myself for being yellow, you know? So I read the news, I did interviews on local programmes, and then something really extraordinary happened. On Site had become so popular that they made a network series called World In Action On Site. And I presented three of them, I think. There was one with workers from GEC where I was out in a field somewhere in Liverpool with a microphone, doing a Ray Gosling job, and by this time Mike was so enamoured of this series, and of himself, that he wanted to present it, from the studio side, which he did very well. So there was a Liverpool job, there was an Indian guy who was trying to come into this country and being stopped by the authorities. I interviewed him on the quayside. And most interesting of all, we went to Ireland just as the troubles were really starting, 1969 maybe, I’m not sure. And the story there was that a type team, filming an innocuous thing in the Republic about the Puck Fair, which is a big celebration in County Cork somewhere where they have a goat in a cage and lots of booze. And things were hotting up in Belfast, the B Specials, the special police, who wore black uniforms and were as near to fascist as you could imagine, were going rowing machine-gunning the front of flats to keep Catholic heads down and so on and so forth. And the IRA were nowhere, I mean, just a few old man was starting to do it. So the programme in fact was about a 20-minute, 15-minute film… John Slater was the researcher, who was very good, George Jesse Turner was a cameraman, so it was the full World in Action, and they got some incredible interviews with everybody. And then at the end of the programme we cut to the studio. I’m tethered with a guy called Roy Bradford, who I can’t remember exactly, he was the kind of equivalent of the Home Secretary. But he was responsible, among many other things, for the B Specials. So the one question that seemed obvious to all of us was if the B Specials had some means of identification, then problems could possibly be solved, if they had numbers or whatever. Because they didn’t, and that was the whole thing. So everything was always denied and they was never able to prove anything at all. So I just kept asking the same question time and time and time again over the 10 or 12 minutes, and Roy Bradford was getting more and more annoyed. And the interview came to an end and he wrenched his microphone off and said, “You people try to make a name for yourself, but you’ll see, you’ll see.” And he disappeared. We then went into the Green Room. The crew had gone by this time, the film crew, so there were only two or three of us having whisky in the hospitality room, and somebody came in and whispered to the main guy. Apparently there’s a mob outside wanting to disinter (?)this interviewer on the programme, and anybody else who is concerned with it, so they smuggled us out through the back door, took us to a hotel and booked us in anonymously to the airport and flew us out the next day. So yes, that was World in Action On Sight. It didn’t last very long. I can’t remember what the other programmes were. But that was that was part of this presenting thing. What I didn’t like about presenting, it wasn’t the actual job, although sometimes, you know… I found myself interviewing Iris Murdoch, and I’d only ever read one of her books, and I thought, “I’m not really in a position to do this interview,” but you have to. And I don’t know how these people do it, without knowing what on earth they’re talking about, how they can actually carry on and interview. But that’s what daytime TV is all about these days, isn’t it? But I didn’t like that. I didn’t like the superficiality of interviewing. But even worse, being in a pub and somebody comes up to you and says, “I saw you on television the other night,” and they kind of associate you with what you’ve been saying, or the story you have been doing. So they think they know you. And I have found that incredibility irritating and intrusive. And I guess maybe I’m a kind of background person anyway. I like making the programmes. I don’t like being a star.

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