Jim Grant

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly , 12 May 2020

So let’s start about how you came to join Granada.

Well, for so many of these answers, it’s important to remember it was a long time ago. My first day of work was September 12, 1977, which was so different in every imaginable way, especially for young people. I mean, we’re talking here in 2020 and the landscape in 1977 for a young person was unrecognisable compared to how it is today. So any modern listener listening to this is going to think this was completely weird, but I was interested in the theatre. I just loved entertainment.  I loved the idea of putting on a show, that collaboration, that sort of intense relationship with other creative people. I’d always been exhilarated by that. So, I knew there was no question in my mind, I wanted to work in the field of entertainment. 

Theatre seemed, to me, to be, although it was my first love really, my brief exposure to it was so insecure, so badly paid, that you couldn’t really see calling it a career. It was much more of a vocation, I suppose. Whereas it seemed to me, television was an infrastructure that required backstage people like me. That there was a legitimate, organic career for me in television, so I wanted to apply. 

I was a student and at that point, Granada was like many other corporations where, for some reason, they had decided they would only employ graduates for whatever role, practically. And again, talking to some people now, it’s impossible to remember. I mean, I was a fairly poor student in terms of being lazy and having fun and doing other things. So, I was not a serious academic and I graduated with a 2.2, same as practically everybody. But so few people went to university back then. Demographically, I think it was only about 15% of the population. Heavily white, heavily middle-class. And given the very narrow tip of that pyramid, even an undistinguished student like me was absolutely utterly guaranteed a job. And that’s something that people these days, won’t understand, but it was absolutely true. It was virtually impossible not to get a job, and back then people would do MAs and PhDs and stuff purely just to postpone getting a job, postpone the inevitable. So there was never any insecurity. Basically, you graduated and you picked your job. 

And I remember in that July of 1977, I graduated. Hadn’t done anything about it at all. I was watching Wimbledon. It was the year Virginia Wade won. And I remember watching her win her semi-final, on a black and white rented television and thinking, “Oh god, I suppose I better get a job.” So I looked around. We had a two-day-old copy of The Guardian. Monday’s Guardian, I think, was the Media Guardian. So there was the jobs in the back and one of the jobs was for a trainee assistant transmission controller at Granada Television. And I really didn’t obviously know the specifics of the job, but there was something about it that just communicated to me that this is a job I could do. This is a job I would enjoy and thrive in. Because it sounded, without giving away any details really, it sounded like an operational job that was heavily about crisis management, when things are going wrong. And I figured I could do that. So, I went to the interview, and honestly, this is not so much about me, but just about the times really. I just thought, “Obviously they’re going to offer me this job,” and they did. 

And so, I started in September 1977, which was, looking back on it a really interesting time for Britain as a whole, and for television, and for Granada in particular, because when I got there, 1977 was approaching the end of the post-war consensus. We were heading for Thatcher in the spring of 1979, about a year and a half later. The whole country was changing, in the sense that Granada’s reputation had been this colossus of particularly documentary. I mean, I was aware of Coronation Street obviously, but apart from that, not particularly aware of Granada drama at that point, but very much aware of World in Action and the documentary strand, the documentary ethos really, that is embodied. And I think in any history of television or British culture, you got to say that World in Action, in that first 15 years, was a huge thing, a brave thing, a lot of the time. So, I was very happy to be associated with the company. 

I thought it was a great company, but I was aware that there was this sort of slight shtick they had about the regions talking truth to London. And it always struck me that that was on the way out when I joined. I was very aware of joining something that was changing, moving away from the past. That Manchester talking truth to London thing, was starting… it was very 50s and it dissipated in the 60s. And it was on the way out in the 70s. The idea that Britain was so regionally divided, but it was still very true actually in Manchester in the late 70s. It was remarkably Victorian. It was really still a 19th century city. And the people I met were, without slagging off Mancunians in particular, because everybody was the same, my granny in Yorkshire was the same, everybody was the same. It was… they were intensely regional, intensely nervous about anything else. I mean, I would talk to Mancunians in the late 70s and they would regard a trip to London with the same kind of trepidation and theatre almost that I would regard a trip to Moscow, somewhere very far away, very alien, and where you were likely to screw up and do something wrong and get in trouble. Manchester was way behind the times. 

And one of the huge enjoyments for me was, in the time that I was working in Manchester, the city just accelerated like a hundred years into the future almost on a day-to-day basis. It was quite amazing. I mean, in 1977, as I recall, you couldn’t buy a bottle of wine in Manchester and that may be at Yates’s Wine Lodge. If you are an alcoholic, you’d get some syrupy stuff from them, but in terms of what you would call cosmopolitan sophistication, it just wasn’t happening, originally. But it really accelerated. And really one of the most exhilarating progressions that I’ve ever seen in the city with all kinds of random facts is chipping in. But when I left in 1995, Manchester was unrecognisable. Completely different in 18 years.

You ought to see it now.

Yes. Well, I go back occasionally on book tours and yes, it’s amazing. Economists say count the number of cranes on the horizon to judge the economic progress, and there’s always a lot of stuff going on.

Yes. Yes. Okay. So, you had the interview. Was there anything about the interview? Was it a fairly ordinary interview or did you have a board with half a dozen people interviewing?

Yes, it was a formal board with Bob Connell. His name was, what they call the head of personnel back then. And the guy that would be my manager, David Black, head of presentation. Joe Rigby, head of programme planning, who had been head of presentation previously and had a finger in that pie. So it was a fairly formal examination, but I figured that I could spot the questions coming. But the one question that I really remember was, do I have any objection to joining a union? Because it was a closed shop, and that would be required. I was a little surprised at that question because I thought, “What, other people would object to joining a union?” And then the other thing I remember at the end, and this was something that… just a sort of naivety of youth, I suppose, at the end they said, “Is there anything you would like to ask us?” And I said, “No, I think I’m good.” And they said, “Don’t you want to know what you’re going get paid?” And I’ve just assumed it would be a salary like anything else. I said, “Yes, okay. How much will I get paid?” And they told me. I thought, “Fuck, yes, I really want this job!” Because it was a very profitable business. It was a very effective union by then. And the workers got their fair share. And I would start low on a trainee salary, but then you would get annual increments and this and that and promotions and so on. And I remember thinking, “I could earn £100 a week here!” And to me, back then, that was it. A hundred pounds a week was everything that you could ever dream of. And the established guys, the senior guys that I immediately met, who, because they were short staffed, which is why me and another guy were getting recruited, they we’re working a lot of overtime and they were making a fortune. I mean, just by what had been my standards, I just thought it was an amazing summer. At that point I thought, “This could be very cool. It’s a job that I would like to do, in an interesting environment. And I get paid a fortune. What’s not to like?”

So tell me what the job entailed as an assistant transmission controller.

Well, again, that’s rooted in the past, the old system. I mean, don’t forget obviously this was way before any kind of computerisation or automation. It was way before any kind of technological assistance. I mean, there were still typing pools. Telex was the new thing that people were depending on for emergency contacts and so on. 

The structure of ITV back then was, any one day of the week, because London had two companies – Thames during the week and London Weekend from Friday night through Sunday night – there were 15 companies in total, therefore, but 14 on the air at any one time, of which five were majors and 10 were minor companies. And the majors had a certain amount of sway, but the minors had a voice. And so you had to assemble your day’s transmission from your own stuff, the network contributions, commercials, trailers, promotions, all kinds of things. And that was the job of the transmission control team. There were two of them, a controller and assistant. It was a sort of editorial, operational type of job where whatever the viewer at home was watching on the screen, we were putting it there at the correct time and the correct sequence with no errors and no gaps, hopefully. 

And the most routine aspect of the job was making sure the commercials were transmitted correctly, because obviously that’s where the revenue came from, so that was super important. And you had to make sure it was the right commercial, in the right commercial break, for its intended duration. If somebody paid for a 30-second slot, they were not happy if they were cut off at 28 seconds or whatever. So it was a question of patching together the day’s transmission. It had to be correct, it had to look seamless on the air, but it was like a swan. It looked good on the screen, but we were paddling like crazy below the surface to keep it all going. Some days were fairly routine. I once worked out that there were 15,000 critical pieces of information in a day’s transmission schedule. They all had to be correct. It was intensive work, but some days ran okay. But when we really made our money was in the panics and the crises, which were constant in those early days. I would say the first five, even say seven or eight years, were technologically very unsophisticated. There were constant breakdowns of equipment, either locally in Manchester or elsewhere on the network, that had to be covered. 

There were news emergencies that had to be catered to, and those were decided by us, basically on a regional basis. A typical example would be, for instance, late at night, say 10:30 at night, 11 o’clock or something like that, there would be a news flash offered by ITN about, let’s say, an IRA atrocity in Northern Ireland. And typically, you would find Southern Television, Anglia, somebody like that would not be interested, not particularly germane to their demographic. Whereas Granada, obviously with Liverpool in particular, and Manchester had a huge Irish contingent and a lot of Irish interests. And so we would naturally want to use that newsflash because our audience needed to know it. So, at 10 or 11 at night, we’d be quickly cobbling together a news bulletin or something like that. It wasn’t done by ITN because it wasn’t being taken by the network as a whole. We would do it for our viewers. 

The apogee of all of that was probably spring of 1982 with the Falklands War, which is sort of one bookend to the whole process. Really, the Falklands War was two or three months of crazy, chaotic, seat-of-the-pants transmission, where the schedule was perpetually disrupted and we had constant news flashes and stuff like that. And in the control room where – it was what you can imagine as a control room, 30 or so television screens, huge mixing desk, and about, I think there were nine telephones on the desk and they would ring all day long during that period, I mean, all nine phone ringing constantly. And I do remember one night, waking up in the night, in a cold sweat with phones ringing in my head. That was the closest I ever got to stress in that job. But then, nine years later there was the first Gulf War in 1991. And that was the other bookend, that was completely pre-packaged. It was ITN, basically packaging CNN coverage in a way that was like an entertainment product. It was just delivered to us. We had nothing to do with it. And so that really was an illustration of how the job became less forensic, less chaotic, more organised, more network based, more organised by somebody else. And so the particular thrill and excitement in our job tailed off. The things that we were good at were less and less required. And we became a much more… it became very routine. When things work well, there’s no interest in it. And I’d left by the time Princess Diana died, for instance, and well before 9/11 happened, for instance, but shamefully, I do remember on both of those occasions thinking, “Damn, I wish I was still working at Granada,” because those would have been just amazing days that we had, it was a tragic thing, but we had more professional satisfaction when things were truly horrible elsewhere. It was just exhilarating doing the news like that.

Yes. I suppose in a way, for that sort of current affairs, there’s dramatic moments where what really got our adrenaline going and made it worthwhile.

Yes, absolutely. It was a job where you sort of sadly hoped that something bad would happen that day, because that’s… because of the structure, big events were few and far between. I remember I started out as a trainee assistant, as we said. And when I finished my training, I was an assistant, and then I got promoted to transmission controller when one of the existing TCs left. And not long afterwards, my first big deal was Charles and Diana’s wedding, which I suppose looking back, you regard it as rather as a silly thing to cover in that… with that kind of passion and intensity. But, at the time, we were totally aware of the viewers wanting to see this ceremony. And I remember being super on-edge because I was quite new in the transmission controller job and the stakes were very high. You know, if we screwed this up, the viewer would never forgive ITV. And we nearly did screw it up. I mean, there was a… by this point, we had a sort of crude satellite situation at Granada where we could pick up satellite feeds. And I remember preparing for that programme, saying to the engineers in the room next to me, “Make sure I have the BBC feed, if I need it.” And they say, “Well, you can’t do that!” I couldn’t… and I said, “Look. Just do it. Put it on. Get it on a satellite. Put it on an input and I’ll take responsibility,” because I wanted every backup I could get. And, absolutely, we did. We’d lost about 15 or 20 seconds of coverage. ITV’s outside broadcast truck just went dead for about 20 seconds. And I used the BBC’s feed, and I don’t think anybody ever noticed that. BBC certainly didn’t know it at the time. I never told anybody. I didn’t want to have the argument, but I just used the BBC to cover the gap. It was that important, that kind of thinking, you know? 

Before I got promoted, while I was still an assistant, albeit experienced by a couple of years, I remember a bank holiday Monday, which was a lovely feeling in transmission, actually. There was a skeleton staff in the station, and bank holidays, Christmas Day, and all that kind of stuff were a lovely feeling at work. So, it’s a bank holiday Monday. Snooker final was on the BBC, which we were sort of watching from the Crucible. And my controller went out for a long, boozy lunch, probably four hours, which was a perfectly fine, routine stuff on a bank holiday. No problem. So, I stayed there on my own. And we were showing Coronation Street and ITN called on the red phone in a panic because the SAS were about to storm the embassy, you know, for that embassy siege. And they wanted to break into Coronation Street for the coverage. And I was there on my own. The controller was in the pub. I thought, “What am I going to do?” If you disrupt the sequence of Coronation Street that is for the rest of history. You’re going to have to be playing catch-up. So, I said “No. As soon as the end credits stop, I will come to you, but I’m not cutting into the programming.” And so they reluctantly accepted that. So, as soon as the story finished, and as soon as those trumpets started up for the theme tune at the end of Coronation Street, I had the announcer quickly introduce ITN and off we went. And at that exact moment, the SAS stormed the embassy. And I figured out afterwards they were watching the television off-air. They wanted to be live on television. Because there was no way that they could have timed it that way without watching it. So, as soon as we cut to the scene, the action started and it lasted about 35 minutes, I believe. In the trivial Guinness Book of Records type of thing, I believe it’s the longest newsflash in UK television history. And so I did all of that and then we got back on schedule with the rest of the programmes and then the TC came back from the pub and said, “Everything all right?” I said, “Yes. I’m not doing too bad.”

Would you have had any kind of inquiry from on top after that? Would Plowright have wanted to know what had happened? 

Yes. Every shift, we completed a log. It was called the log, and any mistakes, errors, or departures from the schedule, we would explain in writing. And so, generally speaking, the explanation was just read and accepted. Only in a tiny minority of cases would there be a post-mortem, which was partly Plowright and that generation of management, they stuck to what they said in as much as in order to stop too many cooks spoiling the broth. The formal situation was that the transmission controller had absolute authority on that day. Plowright and everybody could plan and dream about tomorrow and such, and the future, but on the day, it was like the transmission controller was the captain of the ship, and the admiral could butt out. And so, having said that, having set that up as their system, they couldn’t really complain about it afterwards, unless there was an egregious error. 

I only really remember one unpleasantness, which is when… in due course, we’d started doing a lunchtime news bulletin that was a formal thing that was… it was a sort of thing that would normally be done in Studio 2 by the Granada Reports crew or something like that. But because it was only like a five-minute bulletin at lunchtime, it wasn’t worth scheduling anybody else to do it. So, that was a sort of extra job that got piled on transmission control because we were there all the time anyway. And so, we started doing this five-minute lunchtime bulletin, scripted by journalists and supervised by journalists, but we were, effectively, the production studio for it. And one night, we had one of these news emergencies about the IRA, actually, by coincidence. And I put together like a three-minute news report on it, using that lunchtime bumpers, you know, the intro and the outro, and making it look like an official Granada news bulletin. And I was hauled on the carpet for that for stepping on the news department’s toes. And I said, “Fine. You stay at work until 1am and you can do it. Be my guest. But if you want to go home at six, then you’ve got to leave it to us.” And it was all settled amicably. But that was more about a turf dispute rather than an error.

Yes, yes. But I remember the ledger, and I remember this always being warned we must never go to black. If the screen goes to black, there’s trouble. I think only once that I worked in a programme that went to black and there was a big inquest.

Yes, going to black. I mean, there were two minor errors. One was putting a BTR clock on the air. One was putting colour bars on the air. But going to black, yes. That was the thing because that mystifies the viewer. The viewer doesn’t know what’s going on because is the TV broken? But they just don’t know what’s going on. So that was the thing to avoid. I only saw it happen once, really, where… which was pretty late on in my career… where we got a new machine for the commercials, which was not digital. It was still tape, but it was this massively automated thing where it was a bit like, you know, where you put your shilling in and get a Snickers bar out of the selection. It was like this immense library of takes that would automatically load for the commercials. I can’t remember what it’s called now. I know it was made by Sony, but it was the first of the real new generation things that we had. And we were worried because there was no backup for it. It was a system that had no backup. And the management said, “Don’t worry about it. It’ll be all right. It’s very reliable.” And, of course, one commercial break, it wasn’t. It just failed completely. And with no backup, we had three minutes, 40 seconds of black, instead of a commercial break.

Oh, that’s a long black, that.

Yes, that felt like a year.

Yes. It would, yes. So, you must have worked really long hours?

Yes, we did. I mean, we worked… if we were properly staffed five and five – you know, five pairs of people – if we were properly staffed, it was a relatively okay, sort of around about a 37-hour week, and antisocial hours of course, but not too bad. And we had, what they called notional weekends, so that your weekend might be Tuesday and Wednesday, or something like that. And if it was running normally for the staff, it was delightful because you worked at a variety of times and days during the week and therefore, you’re at home for the variety. You know, when my daughter was little, I would take her to school. I was the only father that ever showed up at school with a kid and all that kind of thing. It was a really nice mixture. But the problem was that, most of the time, we were not fully staffed. Most of the time, we were short staffed for one reason or another. And therefore working endless overtime, that… you know, I was young, I was energetic, and I was into the job. I didn’t particularly mind it, but it was crippling, really, to any kind of family or social life. I mean, I remember when my wife was pregnant, I worked 60 consecutive days, and then I had a day off, and then I worked 30 consecutive days. So, 90 days out of 91. And that was typical for long periods of that job. It became a strange thing. 

We saw more of the person sitting next to us than we saw of our families. It was a strange thing. And it was, frankly, enjoyable in a lot of ways when you felt wanted and needed and crucial. It felt good. It felt like… and again, total naivety on my part. You know, I’m from a generation that subconsciously expected to get a job and work there the rest of your life, unless you wanted to change. But the typical expectation you would be there all your life. And so, I thought… everybody thought… we were showing commitment, we were showing loyalty. It would be in some way reciprocated, which it was in minor ways, early on. I mean, they were never very generous about the pay disputes and so on. But in a sense, again, that was a very 1950s formalised situation. It was, in and of itself, an adversarial situation and we treated it adversarially. But, in terms of the non-financial type of recognition, we were valued, we were well-treated. 

The old days were great at Granada, especially because, as I said earlier, Granada had been this brave documentary producer. But I sensed when I got there that they were getting a little weary of that, a little scared of it. The British Steel episode, which I’m certain the archive covers extensively, have been… you know, that was looking at it at this remove… you know, it’s just a little piece of history, but at the time it was truly scary. It was before I got there, but it was a truly scary thing. You know, the weight of government against you, and the Bernsteins that could have been personally bankrupted. It was super high stakes, super brave. But when I got there, there was the slight sense that they were getting tired and a little scared of the exposure. And so, what they were going to do was concentrate on drama. 

So, when I got there, they had just made Hard Times by Charles Dickens, with Patrick Allen as Gradgrind. And that was the first of a magnificent run of drama production. It was as if they were pivoting towards drama. The Patrick Allen thing gave us a nightmare because back then there was a rule that you could not use a commercial if one of the actors from the surrounding programme was doing the voiceover. And, Patrick Allen, with that dark brown voice of his, he did practically all the commercials. And so, there was always tremendous artist clashes with the commercials during that show. I remember that very well.

And the production assistants always had to check, didn’t they, that any… that there was no clash with any of the commercials, in terms of what the programme was about or who was in it.

Yes. The production assistant wouldn’t know what commercials were scheduled. The programme was made and then the commercials are sold by the sales force, and so it was our department’s job to check for those clashes. And the assistant in the morning would preview commercials for the day because, back then, there were no commercials in the morning. It opened up and went straight to schools’ or kids’ programming for about two and a half hours. And so, during that time with no commercials to actually run, we would check ahead the commercials booked for the rest of the day against the TV Times. I mean, we would have the copy of the TV Times with the cast list, and we would be expected to recognise the voice on the commercial and check the cast list. So, yes. I mean, there were a lot of regulatory things like that, including things that shaded outside of regulation much more toward a sense of taste, which we had to look at as well. You know, in the evening news, let’s say News at 10, if the first half – and we had no idea what was coming up on News at 10 – later, they would give us a bare-bones outline of what they were planning to cover, but early on, we had no idea of what was coming up. And so, let’s say in the first half of News at 10, there was a report on famine from Ethiopia or something like that, we would then look ahead, and if there was a Fray Bentos meat pie commercial in the centre break, we would have to think about the taste aspect. Is it tasteful to show glorious, succulent food. You know how food is photographed in commercials. Is it tasteful to show that directly after a report of starving people? And so, we would take out that commercial just as a… on our own initiative. And, in a way, Fray Bentos themselves would have thanked us for that because it would have created a slightly negative image, subliminally, possibly, for Fray Bentos, and so on. So, there were hundreds and hundreds of intricate regulations like that. And we were expected to deal with it, get it right. And if we got it wrong, we were asked questions about it.

Yes. So, you’ve progressed from being the trainee, becoming assistant, and then transmission controller.

Yes, when I was about 26, which was very young. It was like 10 years younger than anybody who had been before. But it was made for me, that job. The old style of that job, the first half of it, that, I was made for that. I could deal with accuracy, I could deal with routine, but I could also deal with very fast coping with chaos and crisis. So, yes, for a period of a few years, that was the perfect job for me, yes. 

But being the very creative person that you are, did you ever want to become a director or researcher?

Yes, I never really thought about it, to be honest. And I never really had that ambition. I was very satisfied doing what I was doing and kind of getting the creativity second-hand from other people, from my friends who would be… because presentation, the central control room where we worked, was literally central, you know. This was where everything went onto the air, so that we would be in constant contact with all different kinds of people. And so, I knew the directors, I knew the researchers, and the writers, and the promotion people, and other really what you might call… it was as if to the left of me were the engineers with the nylon shirts and the pens in the pocket, and on the right of me were the airy-fairy, creative types. And I was right in the middle. And I loved the exposure to both sides, but I never really felt the lack of not doing their jobs.

So, do you want to talk about any of the people you worked with at the time?

Yes. Looking back on it, the abiding memories have few of them that were really… you know, like I said, I went to Granada knowing that it was somewhat of a cultural colossus in the British landscape. But there were very few people working there, especially vertically. I mean, like I said, I walked in there as a new trainee, and my boss was David Black, head of presentation. And his boss was Joyce Wooller, who had a seat on the board, reporting to the board chairman who I think, at that point, was Cecil Bernstein, maybe Sydney, maybe. Maybe David Plowright was effectively the top guy, but that… I walked in as a trainee assistant, and there were only two layers of people between me and the board: two individuals, David Black and Joyce Wooller, and then it was the board. And laterally as well. There weren’t that many people there. And so, you got to know everybody. I mean, I remember in ‘79 or ‘80, either before or after the strike. Again, I was an assistant. I was nobody at all. I was walking down the corridor and saw Mike Scott, who was director of programming and was, at that point, really up to his eyes with Brideshead Revisited. And, as an assistant transmission control, somehow, I felt and he felt it was appropriate to have a conversation in the corridor. And I said, “Hey, Mike. How’s Brideshead?” And he said, “Every frame a Rembrandt.” And, looking back on it, I thought, “How extraordinary is that conversation?” 

But in the corporate world today, the span from the button to the top is so huge that you wouldn’t have that conversation. You wouldn’t expect it. But then? Yes! You know, it’s such a horrible cliché to say it was a big family and so on. And there was certainly a lot of bitterness about pay and conditions and so on, but it was fundamentally a family. It was the smallest number of people that… working on some great stuff, and well before it all went wrong, and well before all the layers and layers and layers of management that came in later. It was very spare, very pared down. And it felt that that enhanced the creativity. It felt people were really united, working towards a common goal. And it’s easy to over-romanticise that, but I would say, probably it’s true that everybody was valued and everybody was, therefore, committed.

And, in particular, when you compare that to the way television operates these days, where you have to go through a lengthy commissioning process, and you have to produce a pilot before the pilot even gets to stage one of being considered…

Yes. I mean, I suffer from that all the time now in this, in my current situation, where I’ve been involved with film and television as a content provider for 20 plus years, and actually, 99.99% of it is just endless bullshit talking, and very little ever happens. And it was, of course, exactly the opposite back then. Programmes were made as a right. And there was a worry that it… the network politics as a whole, there was worry that the minor companies would get squeezed out. And so, there was a formal process whereby a minor company could make a programme and designate it Category A, which meant that the rest of the network was obliged to carry it, whether they wanted to or not, whether they believed in it or liked it or not. They had to carry it. And that was a sort of… I liked that, to be honest. It was a very democratic process. And it also threw up the golden fleeces of entertainment, the thing you don’t predict, the thing you don’t expect. And, in a way, it really taught me that you can never predict in show business. You never know what’s going to work or not. 

Because I do remember this scandal really; people talking about it in the most disparaging way, that it got screwed over category A, because Tyne Tees was forcing this awful show on them that they were going to have to run network peak time that would undoubtedly be a total disaster. And everybody was very miserable and very down on the category A process as a result. But that programme was Boys From the Blackstuff. No, sorry, what am I talking about? It was the north east one with Jimmy Nail and all of that. It was the one where unemployed workers from the north east have to go to Germany to get a job.

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

That’s it, that was what it was. Which turned out to be a huge hit. Exactly the kind of upscale suburban viewers that Thames and Granada were worried about hating it, loved it. They clasped that show to their bosom. So that really taught me you never know, you can never predict what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. And I was very glad about category A because that forced that on the air that it would not have happened otherwise.

Yes. You got involved with the trade union; do you want to talk about ACTT and the shop committee?

Yes, like I say, so many things by coincidence from the beginning of my career to the end and were a progression. And those 18 years were really an arc for the union. It started out when I joined, it was absolutely all powerful. It was an old-fashioned traditional trade union, a fascinating thing actually, because fundamentally the structure and the tactics and the context in which it worked was entirely an old-fashioned 1950s trade union, except the people in it were much more of a kind of professional association type of person. It was a very difficult balance actually, because the members were obviously either very creative and intelligent or very engineering, intelligent, fundamentally middle-class people living middle-class lives, on a similar pay scale to any other professional that might be their neighbours. Back then a camera operator was earning the same as any solid middle-class person. It was a solid, middle-class job. But they were in the trade union. And so you have these sort of suburban, middle-class people, who would have been at home in like the BMA or some professional trade organisation or something, but they were in a mechanism that was fundamentally the same as British Leyland. But it was very effective, we were well-paid. 

Of course, when I started in the late 70s, don’t forget that was a period of incredibly high inflation. And from Granada’s point of view, of course, inflation did not matter because they could adjust their rate cards day by day if they wanted to. In other words, their revenue could go up as much as they wanted, but our salaries were fixed apart from the annual pay negotiation. And that became very, very bitter because they had a kind of knee-jerk sort of reflex about being combative about it. Even though there was money sloshing around, the profits were very high, they were doing really well, they sort of played a role – they had to be the tough employer, we had to be the tough trade union. It was a bit theatrical to be honest, but it was played out in tremendous detail. 

Of course, against the background of that high inflation, we were looking for double digit pay rises every year, sometimes 20 or more percent. I remember my first year I came as a trainee. I finished that training so, that was extra pay. Then I passed my one-year anniversary, that was extra pay. Then we got our annual settlement that year, and my pay went up 45 per cent in that one year. And then the next year we put in a pay claim for like 30 percent because of inflation. And it continued like that.

But a really serious formal situation, union versus management, and literally came to a head for me in a super personal way. As a metaphor, in 1979, the annual negotiations were going really badly and the ITN shop in London got into a particularly advanced situation and walked out. And so, the ITN content was going to be provided by non-union labour. And the first show that contained in the non-union labour was one particular day, the one o’clock news from ITN. And we knew this of course and ACTT’s position was to support NUJ and black the non-union content. And so at 1pm on that particular day, I was at the controls. And as the assistant sitting next to the controller and my fingers were on the fader. And on the one hand, on my left shoulder, I had Andrew Quinn ordering me to take the feed at the top of the hour. On my right shoulder, I had Malcolm Foster, the ACTT shop steward ordering me not to take the feed at the top of the hour. And my hand was on the fader, the clock ticked to the top of the hour and I went to black. I did not take it. I obeyed the union. And so Andrew Quinn said, “You’re fired, leave the building.” So technically I was fired from Granada twice, that was the first time. And at that point, 13:00 hours, I was fired, left the building and we were all locked out. We were all thrown out, all locked out. I mean, people say on strike, but technically it was a lockout.

It was a lockout, yes.

For 11 weeks in 1979. And somebody said to me recently, I don’t know whether it’s true or not, somebody said to me recently, that was the last strike that our union won because we did win it. We came back with a 25% pay rise, immediately full restitution of missed wages, a promise of another 25% the next year and all that kind of thing. So yes, the union situation was super formal, and the committee meetings were all run to Robert’s rules of order, super formal, proper minutes, all of that kind of thing. I was used to that culture from having grown up in Birmingham, but I did love the north west flavour on it. Like I say, it was the old days in Manchester back then. You would have people in brass bands, and you’ve got this very particular Mancunian slant on labour relations, which was subtly different than the Midlands, but fundamentally the same thing. So, I was totally at home with it. 

And then I got involved, I was nominated to the union committee, and I became a deputy shop steward, and then eventually shop steward at the end. It was all powerful at the beginning. And then, over 18 years, it suffered such major assaults that it was the end of it. My last two and a half years as shop steward were fun in a way, we won, or I won constant little skirmishes and battles, while always being totally aware I was losing the war. It was a very odd feeling. But I don’t apologise for any of it. It was a very, very profitable and lucrative business, and it purported to have certain values, and those values, in my opinion, should have included a fair share for the workers. Generally speaking, that’s what we got. We got a fair share and we got treated well in the end. In the middle years, it worked like it should. 

There were excesses; there were crazy excesses, and that was kind of the problem that you would have. There were many things that stick in my mind. For instance, making Brideshead Revisited for instance. That was a huge expensive show to make. And at one point there were crucial scenes on an ocean liner. So what they did was they… a lot of the interiors, for instance, the dining room, they did at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool with the stage manager, standing behind the camera, going like this to indicate the movement of the boat, and all the actors had to go in like that. But the shipboard scenes were done on the QE2 to New York and back. In other words, it was about nine days of location shooting. And the ETU, the electrician’s union, put in a hardship claim because they were going to be away from home on a ship for nine days. And so they were paid hardship money. 

To a certain extent… and then, of course, there was around about… in the very early 80s I think there was a car ferry capsized in the English Channel, the Free Enterprise. 

Yes. Free Enterprise. Yes.

Yes. And that was a major news story to cover. And of course it dragged on for several days in terms of the actual crisis coverage. And I remember the videotape editors working in London, were on call so much, they were getting just fantastic rates of overtime for it. We stuck out a bit like a sore thumb, and actually wrongly, they were working by the white book, they were claiming what they were owed. Some of them even forwent claiming some of it, because it was getting out of control, but still we ended up with a really bad reputation for it. 

And then what happened was Channel 4 started, which was somewhat under the ITV umbrella, somewhat detached. It was the first of the real third party issues that came along because Channel 4 was not us directly, it was not under our direct control, but it was associated with us and we had to deal with it. And so we did, which doubled up on the overtime because now we had two channels to run. So we were working like crazy. 

And in the bowels of the white book, which was the ACTT agreement, really, if you read that agreement objectively, you see it as it was about not being exploited in terms of excessive hours. Really that’s what that agreement was about. Getting adequate breaks, not too long shifts and so on. So there were lots of rules that were basically incentives to management to be efficient, in other words, do the job and get the crew out of there. That was what the white book was trying to ensure. And because with Channel 4 being a third party, not under our control, we were still being paid through the white book for something that the management could not control. 

And I remember one particular thing… I mean, first of all, the basic rule for getting paid was if you worked into a new hour, even by a very short time, seconds, or minutes, you were paid for the whole hour. If you were working on a bank holiday, you were paid extra. If you were working overtime on a bank holiday, you were getting paid extra. And then there was this fantastic rule that I can remember, it was rule 10J that if you were working overtime on a bank holiday, and that over time was spontaneously extended, your rate of pay became some fantastic multiple. 

And I can remember in the 1980s, I was doing an evening shift on the Channel 4 transmission that was completely outside Granada’s control, obviously the content was Channel 4’s, and the programme overran by about 15 seconds. And it took me into a new hour and because I was doing overtime already on a bank holiday, I got paid for that one hour at the end, under rule 10J. And I got £1,000 to that one hour, in the 1980s. So I would argue against that being an abuse, they signed up on it. They agreed, that was their rule. But it wasn’t a good look in the sense, especially not when Thatcher was around. And it was beginning to brew right there. 

Thatcher came to television later than many other industries, obviously, but she got there in the end. And again, the flash point was a very… as I understand it, the story I heard was a very ironic and unfortunate flash point really, which was that there was an ITN interview with Thatcher at Downing Street. And back then the practice was that if you were going to film, do news, from a sensitive location like a hospital or somewhere like that, you would always send two electricians – one to do the regular work and one for emergency standby. Because if you were in a hospital and you blew something up and the ICU went down, that is not a good thing. So for a sensitive location, we would always have two electricians. And so, because Downing Street possibly was a sensitive location, they routinely sent two electricians. And Thatcher noticed the one standing around, doing nothing because nothing was going wrong, and she said “What’s he here for?” and so on. And anecdotally, according to people I’ve talked to that, that kind of set her off. 

And, of course, then in the background, there was the Murdoch issue, which was, I think, transparent, and I think we’re seeing it again now with the launch of Times Radio coming hot on the heels of another attack on the BBC, that was happening with Murdoch in the 80s. Murdoch was preparing for Sky and satellite broadcasting of his own. He needed to damage the existing set-up. And so, it’s possible to see, in my opinion, politically that after the mid-80s, really everything that happened was about damaging ITV. 

And the first sign of that was a completely unnecessary, arbitrary, stupid desire to do overnight broadcasting. In 1988, we started 24-hour broadcasts, which of course for our department, because we always had to be there, it was a major stress. Instead of closing down at one or two in the morning, we would have to cover 24 hours with the same number of people. And so we were in uproar about it. But the main point about night time broadcasting was there was no point in it. Nobody wanted it. The programmes were absolute junk, just filler. I mean, we would literally put Teletext on the air for an hour. It was called job finder. And we would just put the employment pages of Teletext on the air. And I remember it was worse than junk programming because there was no organic desire for it. It was purely a mechanism for shaking things up. And the thing of course it shook up most was the white book, because the white book was all about protecting people from excessive hours. And the protections against overnight work were draconian. And there was no way that ITV could do 24 hours with the white book. So it was really a question of, they wanted overnight broadcasting simply to attack the white book, not for any other reason. And it did, and that was the first nail in the coffin really. And then over the next five years, it just got worse and worse and worse, because then we got more and more third parties, because they introduced this mandate that you had to show a certain percentage of your production had to be done by independent contractors. So it was just one assault after the other. So eventually, it all fell apart in the sort of early to mid-90s.

I remember very vividly, it must’ve been about 1988 on the shop committee, we had the This Morning programme. And it was a programme which offered a lot of employment. It was going to be two or three hours a day, five days a week. I mean, that was a lot of television, and Malcolm Foster arguing, “We need to compromise on this. We want it, we need it.” And we allowed a lot of those rules to be broken. The overnight rule disappeared, because you would have been able to claim being in Liverpool. A lot of poor people had to get up at six o’clock in the morning and catch the bus from outside of Granada to go to Liverpool. And that seemed to me to be a bit of a watershed. 

Yes, exactly. It was a programme of one initiative after another, and the devil of it was that you could look at it like This Morning, which was good for Liverpool. It was good for ITV. It was good for everybody that worked on it. So, you can’t completely condemn it, but you were always aware that somewhere deep in the DNA of those initiatives, was a destructive purpose.

Do you want to talk a little bit about when you left Granada, and your subsequent career and how you got involved in writing?

Yes. By about 1993, early in 1993, which is when the Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen takeover really happened, they were getting super serious and super vindictive about the struggle for control, really. It was the old world versus the new world. The old world, where I started, had this assumption that, “Yes, we’re all in this together, we’ll thrash it all out, we’ll come to some kind of equitable agreement.” The bosses didn’t earn outrageous sums, the workers earned decent salaries. It was all good. Then we moved into the new world, where it was really an emotional component to it, where the management and the owners just found it utterly impertinent that ordinary people should demand a say or have a say. And there was this slogan that they promulgated around that time, which was ‘it’s our train set and we’ll play with it how we want’. And so, it was really a declaration of war.

And Malcolm Foster had been ACTT steward for forever, really. He retired. And meanwhile, by that point, ACTT had merged and there was a new, larger, media union called BECTU, and Foster went, and the word was put around that if anybody applied for the steward’s position, that they would be fired within a week on some pretext. And the aim was clearly to have a leaderless union, that would be victory for them, they’ve destroyed the union. So they put about this threat that nobody should apply to be shop steward. Nobody should stand for that position. Otherwise, they’ll be fired. And I was utterly aware that it was going to be a costly move to make, but I just thought “I can’t tolerate that bullshit.” And I’m a Brummie, if you pick a fight with me, I’m going to beat you. It’s just an instinctive thing. If you challenge me, I’ll take it on. So I thought, “Fuck it, I’m going to apply.” So I put my name on the nomination list, the only name. And I saw some manager afterward, who I knew from being deputy steward, and he said, “You’ll be gone in a week.” And I said, “We’ll see about that.” And of course I was elected unopposed, and I was shop steward for two years and three months. It was like 120 weeks rather than just one. 

And it really, it really went… me as shop steward went through two phases. At the beginning, I was formal about it in the sense that I was following what we had done in the past, and I was following what I considered to be a respect for acknowledgement of the rules of the game. And very quickly I discovered that this new management were not playing by any rules. They were literally lying and cheating. And in a way that was… it was a shock, you know. Maybe that seems naive now, but it really shocked me that they would get down and dirty like that. So I thought, “Right, if you want to see what down and dirty looks like, I’ll fucking show you.” And that was the most glorious part of me being steward, there was about a year and a half where I was running a completely underhanded war against them. I had a whole bunch of people, the cleaners, who were actually… who were by that point in our union. I got the cleaners, I organised them into SWAT teams, where as soon as management was out of the building in the evening, these women would search every office during their cleaning for anything that looked like a torn up memo in a wastebasket, I trained them to look under the lid of every photocopier, because it’s surprising how many times people leave the original in the photocopier by mistake. Then I developed that into I would have people steam open their mail. I got engineers to hack into their hard drives, which they realised after a while and they started to put locks on the keyboard. And so I had… you know, we were there all night, so I had these engineers unscrew the hard drive, take it home and copy it and then bring it back. So I knew everything. I knew what they were going to do before they did it. I had the drafts of their speeches. I had copies of their memos. Some of them are about me, which was hilarious, looking at somebody else’s secret opinion of yourself. And I had it down to a fine art. I thought, “If you want to fight in the gutter, then… you went to grammar school, I come from Birmingham, I’ll show you what the gutter is like.” And we, we did great for about a year and a half, just constantly stymied everything they wanted to do. Like I say, won every battle.

You don’t mind this going public?!

There was one initiative where they wanted to start charging people to pay to park at work.

Ah, yes, I remember that. 

Which was, I just thought, ludicrous in the circumstances. Shift work and so on and bad public transport. So we got a company-wide our position to that. I said, “I don’t care whether you’re one of my members or not. If you’re somebody else’s member or if you are temporary or whatever, join the campaign.” And we absolutely obliterated that. So we had a lot of successes in the short term, all the while aware that we were on this downward slope where it would inevitably end in disaster, which it did, eventually.

I mean, as a separate thing… I remember hearing at the time, doctors complaining that men never admit to feeling stressed or worried or anything like that. And I wanted to go on holiday, and I couldn’t get the leave because somebody else had it. And so I went to the doctor and I said, “Now I know that men are very reluctant to talk about their personal problems, but I’m terribly stressed.” So she signed me off for a week and I went to Spain on holiday. And when I got back from Spain, there was a message on my answering machine, like the third message. And it said, “You’re terminated. Your swipe card no longer works. Do not come back in.” And that was the end of it. And it left me… if you go back to how I felt at the beginning about the family feeling at Granada and the old fashioned generational thing where you expect to work one job all your life, and you’d expect to provide loyalty and receive loyalty, none of that had come true. And so I do remember saying to myself when I left, and it’s a line that made it into my first book, it says, “I’ve tried it their way. Now I’m going to try it my way.” And I do remember that as a watershed, I was never going to work for a company again, I was never going to have a boss. I was never going to be in that corporate situation again. I was going to work for myself, partly because I had to. That final stint as shop steward meant I was blacklisted effectively in the new ITV environment, which was fine because I didn’t want to work in it anyway. I thought it was just a miserable, downward spiral. So I knew I was going to do something for myself. And I thought I’ll give this a try. And my honest expectations at the beginning were it might work for a couple of years before I had to get another job, but happily, it kept onward.

Had you done any writing before the first book? 

No, I’ve never done any at all. And I think that people are surprised by that, but that’s the wrong thing to be described about, because if you put the whole history of writing in a computer and ask it to figure it out, it would say that the people that make it have two characteristics. It’s always a second phase career. You’ve always done something first that involved an audience. And you’ve got to understand that what you already know is no use to you, except in the very barest of bones. In other words, you’re there to serve an audience. And I think that’s what did me more good than anything from Granada is that none of the specific techniques were transferable because television is very different than reading. But the idea that it’s not about you, and I’m sure everybody that contributes to this learned the same lesson. It’s not about you. It’s about the audience. First, second, and third. And so that’s really what I took with me on the basis of, “I’ve tried it their way now I’ve tried it my way.”

And in terms of writing that first book, did you have a plot? Did you have the book worked out?

I should have said also that it shouldn’t surprise people that I’ve never written anything before, because most writers… I mean, a lot of writers, sure, from seven years old, they’ve got like exercise books and they’ll draw little compositions in or whatever. But fundamentally you don’t do anything. What you do is read. You read for the first half of your life, which I’d certainly done. And then you become a writer based on what you’ve read. And I used to get bizarre interviews in TV, where if we were trying to recruit a new assistant or something, the TCs would rotate that duty. And we would be on the interview panel. And you would say to people “What do you watch?” And a few people said would say, “Oh, I don’t watch television.” And you would think, “What the fuck? Why are you here?” And it’s the same thing with writing that if you haven’t read continuously and obsessively all your life, you’ll never be a writer. So the preparation is always about the reading. So I was ready to start when I was. 

So, I didn’t really have the book worked out at all, but I had one image in mind, which was previously, I bought a book about money laundering. And I’d only bought it because the jacket design was lovely, it had a regular jacket and there was a real dollar bill laminated into the book jacket. And I thought, “Wow, that’s cool.” So I bought the book and it was about money laundering, basically to do with the illegal narcotics trade in the US, and economically the figures were staggering. That so much money is spent on illegal narcotics in the US that actually that sector of the market is worth twice the amount of cash in circulation. And because generally speaking drug deals are always cash, it meant that the dealers had this enormous industrial problem, which is the amount of cash. And they worked it all out, and they were processing 4,000 tonnes of cash every year, which was a huge industrial operation. Literally physically trucking it to the Caribbean, where it was banked in dodgy banks. And then it shows up as credits on Wall Street or whatever. But at its heart it was this industrial operation, trucking truckloads of dollar bills. And so that was the image I had in mind, like a warehouse full of money. And that was the key image in the book. And it was just the question of working towards it somehow.

And did you sell the idea to an agent, to the publishers? Or did you just write it and then submit it?

Yes, that’s the only way to do it. Non-fiction, you can often sell on a proposal, depending on who you are. But fiction you can’t, you’ve got to have the completed book. Because completing it is a huge thing. I mean, you could show three quarters of a book that was really good and still nobody would buy it because there’s no proof you can finish it in a satisfactory way. So with fiction, you got to write it first, then you sell it. So I wrote it, I sent it to an agent who took me on, and then he sold it to the publishers.

And did you plot the whole thing? I’m interested in this as somebody who writes myself. Do you plot it or do you just dive in?

Yes, fundamentally, I’m what they call the seat-of-the-pants type of writer. A pantser, not a plotter. Because I think it’s more spontaneous that way, rather than writing to a straightjacket that you designed last year. It produces better flow. It produces more genuine surprise. If the author himself is surprised at what comes out, then obviously the reader is going to be. So I would say generally, I’ve got one idea that might be just a tiny scene or even just one line of dialogue or something. I know that’s got to be in there somewhere. And it’s just a question of starting and hoping that it turns out all right in the end.

And do you have a set routine when you write? Do you write in the morning, afternoon, evening?

I never do anything in the morning. It’s one of my firmly held beliefs, nothing of value is ever achieved in the morning.

I have to say, I’m the opposite. I always write in the morning, I always write from nine til one.

I never do, I start late in the day, in the afternoon, and I’ll do five to six hours. And then sometimes I go back to it late at night, but it’s a delicate balance. The Granada days, I would work 12-hour overnight shifts and that sort of thing, so it’s not that I’m not capable of working long hours, but with writing there reaches a point where it’s diminishing returns. For me, after sort of five or six hours. Sure, I could carry on forever, but the quality will be not quite good enough at that point. So, it’s very self-indulgent, but I learned to stop after five, six hours and just say, that’s enough for tonight.

Yes. I mean, somebody had always said to me, you stop when you know what the next sentence is going to be.

Yes. That’s a really good way of maintaining the momentum. And what I also used to do is… you know, when you finish a book, you’ve got such pace, such momentum, such passion, such involvement. When I finished a book, I would immediately, literally that minute, write the first paragraph of the next book. In order just to capture… in other words, it wouldn’t be a cold start. And I think that’s very important.

Is there anything you want to say that we haven’t touched on?

No, I think… I’m glad you’re doing this project, because it’s the combination of the people, the company, and the times. I thought yes, I really did produce something that was very special, but also a lot of good fun for those of us who worked in it. And like so much for my generation, you look back on it as a jewel-like experience that has now gone. Same thing like university, for instance. Not only did you go free, but essentially they paid you to go. And you were guaranteed a job. That was a jewel-like experience that is gone. And I guess that we’re in an era now where if you go back 100-200 years, generally speaking, getting rid of things was good. I’m sure nobody ever had a regret about getting rid of cholera or something like that. But now we’re in an era where things are going, but they were actually good and valuable. And it’s sad that they’re gone.

Are you working on a new novel now?

No, I’m in the process of quitting. I’m not going to do any more, but my brother is going to continue the series. So that hopefully we can get a few more out of it. But again, you know…

But you’re not going to create a new character?

No, I just want to stop working. It’s like a generational thing for me, growing up when I did and where I did, it was just at such a fixed point in your life. 65, you retired. There were three phases in your life. You went to school, then you worked for a really long time, then you were retired. And I’ve always wanted that shape to my life, and so I turned 65 last year and I thought, “Alright, now I’m a senior citizen. I’m going to quit.”

Tim Sullivan

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly, 28 April 2020.

Tim, let’s begin at the beginning. How did you come to join Granada? What was the interviewing process like?

Well, I initially… funnily enough, I thought the other day about this, actually. The first person that I met from Granada was a chap called Jerry Hagan, who was head of script. He was one of Plowright’s performance appointments. He was head of scripts in London. I directed a play at university, which we took to Edinburgh in my second year, and I was asked to go for a breakfast or a lunch meeting with this chap, Jerry. It was interesting just to see how Granada was already then, I mean, everyone knows that they go… everyone goes to Edinburgh to see talent, like the Footlights or whatever, and try and sign them up. But this was someone actually looking at behind the camera talent, which I thought was quite interesting, because I’d directed the play, I hadn’t written it. That was my first encounter. But then I got a job…

What year was this?

That was 1978. Yes. Then I left university and I got a job as… I mean, my way into Granada, it was quite circumvoluted, because I got a job as a chauffeur for an actor called Anthony Andrews. At the time, he was working on this big TV project called Brideshead Revisited. So through him, I met Derek Granger. I was also, at the time, writing a movie script for the director Derek Jarman, which immediately… Derek Granger is one of those incredibly curious people about people, and talent, and encouraging, and so he immediately wanted to know why Anthony’s chauffeur was writing a bloody film script, what was going on. So I met him, and he became a friend and he put me up for ridiculous jobs. I was 22, I think. No experience. He put me up for an associate producer drama job. It was just absurd. Then I’d applied to all the companies, all the broadcasters, and got a flat rebuff. Granger, in his way, he called Steve Morrison, who was head of programmes, local programmes at the time, and said, “Will you see this boy?” And so I got a train to Manchester, and I came up and was greeted by a chap called Steve Hawes, who took me off for coffee whilst I was waiting to see Steve. Then when I went to see Steve, we chatted about what I wanted to do, and this and that. And I kind of, I was a bit of a luvvie, really. I thought, “I want to direct drama, mate. I want to do that Brideshead thing that I just saw that teenager, Charles Sturridge, doing. That’s what I want to do. Why am I looking at something like local news?” Anyway, I was sent away by Steve with a task to go down and watch Nationwide in London, and to read the paper every morning. In the morning, write four items that I would do on an evening show, then tell him what was on the evening show in London, write critiques of all of the things, and how I… so I did that for a week, and then I sent off my A4 Olivetti typed out pages to Manchester, and of course never heard another bloody thing. And that was okay, you know, I was working with Jarman, It was fine. Then in January, I got a call from someone at Granada, I can’t remember who it was. I think it was Jules Burns, who in those days was head of research, saying, “We just wanted to let you know that there’s going to be a board.” Every Monday, there was a media page in The Guardian. Every Monday, you looked, desperate to find a job, and then you applied for them and didn’t get them, in the media page of The Guardian. Anyway, the following Monday, there was going to be an advert for local researchers, six month contract, and I should apply. I then came up to Granada and I had two interviews, two boards, and I got the job. And I’ve always said, absolutely the hand of Derek Granger, how come out of all of these places I couldn’t even get an interview, and then here I was a few months later, at Granada. And I started in March 22 or 23, of 1981.

There’s a bit of a gap, then, from when you left university?

I left university in the summer of 1980.


So I guess, yes, nine months?


So I came up to Manchester. I knew a couple of people up here already, which didn’t make it any easier. But anyway, so we then went through the induction, then we were put onto Granada Reports, which I just found the most terrifying thing that had ever happened to me. I just couldn’t understand why I would be sent out to Stockport Post Office headquarters when there was a strike, with a cameraman, John Blakely, Mike Blakely’s uncle. Kind of a classic Northern kind of, “Who’s this whippersnapper,” type. I just didn’t get it. I remember going to interview John Bond, who was the new head of Manchester City, and I didn’t really know anything about management. I knew about football. I had my team, but I didn’t know anything about, you know. So off I went to Manchester, it’s at Maine Road, and on the way there I read the Guardian, and there was this long piece about Bond, so I kind of memorised it. Then I asked this absurd question, off-camera, that was about 40 seconds long, this question, to which the answer was, “No.” It was like, “Fuck! What do I do now?” But the great thing about Granada was, you were really thrown in at the deep end. 

Judy Finnegan was there, I was then given Judy Finnegan as my ‘mother’. The first thing we went off to do was a thing about the police in schools, or something. We went along with it for… I was there for about six months. In the end, you look back on it as a thing where, you got into a meeting at eight o’clock in the morning, and you had to come up with a story, or various people came up with stories. Obviously as a researcher, you’re going to either help a presenter or a reporter, or just do something lowly. But you had to come up with a story, write some links, get permission to film, get out and film. In those days, have it back in time to get to the bloody labs over the road. So you had to get it to the labs, and then you had to get it into the editing room, and then you had to deal with this weird thing called stripe film, where the sound was approximate, was a few frames ahead of the picture, because it was running alongside, it was on the film itself. I mean, I know you know all of this. The sound would be six, seven frames, eight frames ahead of the picture. So when you went to make a cut, the first line you made a cut, it went out of sync, and then you learned how to overlap the sound with the pictures, and… anyway, say it was fantastic training, then I finally got fired by Stuart Prebble, because I was kind of in my… I was quite an expressive young man, and I’d cropped my hair and dyed it pink. I also had a dagger through my ear, and I was hauled in to Prebble, who said, “What on earth are you doing?” And I went, “You can’t tell me how to dress, mate. What are you talking about?” And he went, “I can’t have you on the news anymore.” And secretly I said, “That’s fucking great. Thank you, because I’m just a fish out of water here.” And he said, “You know, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes up on a train to Manchester, how am I supposed to send you on behalf of Granada Reports, a serious news programme, to interview him about the economy, looking like that?” So that was my first, you know, that was me starting at Granada.

So Prebble sacked you?

Yes, which he acknowledges to this day. I’m really glad. I often wondered whether it was an apocryphal story. And I met him on a train about 15 years later, and to my delight, he told the assembled audience his pride in having sacked me various years before.

So where did you go? What happened then?

I went on to a show called Live From Two, which was a chat show. Local chat show. Got fired off that as well by someone who’s now a great friend of mine, for ordering the wrong piano for the wonderful Alberto Remedios.

Oh, yes, yes.

I loved him, but it wasn’t so much like I got the wrong piano, because he wanted an upright. The producer wanted a grand, but he was singing a Victorian ballad, so he didn’t want a grand. So I got the upright, got into terrible trouble – it was in Exchange Flags. And there was a bomb scare, IRA bomb scare, right in the middle of the live show, so we all had to run out, and then we were all told to go home. Well, I lived in London at the time. So Alberto then insisted I travelled back to London with him first class. And then when my claim for a first class travel went in I got into really hot water, and I was booted off that to what was considered Siberia at the time, which was a programme called Down to Earth, the local farming programme.

Oh, yes.

Where under the guide of the wonderful, wonderful Arthur Taylor, I had one of the happiest years of my time in Granada. Because here was an opportunity where the brief was farming, which in itself was fascinating to me, but also the countryside. And it meant that on a Monday morning I was allowed to get in a hire car – can you believe I had a hire car? – and drive up to the Lake District where I discovered a self-sufficient farm with two kind of hippies with only two cows, one called Ronald and one called Margaret, you know, Reagan and Thatcher, and then make a film about them. And directors would be assigned, I’d put it together. And it was just completely fabulous. So I had a great year on that, and then I worked in light entertainment for a bit on an aborted programme called Some You Win. But got to meet… the greatest point of that year really was meeting and having lunch with Denis Law, which was just, kind of, for me, it was the first genuine starstruck moment of my year and a half in Granada. It was fabulous. And then I constantly tried to write at Granada, because I was a writer, really. I’d written my first movie, he said precociously, but I had – and I’d been paid some money for it as well, which is pretty amazing, with the glorious, late, lamented Derek Jarman, another fantastic encourager of young talent. It seemed to be a thing in those days for some people. Actually, particularly gay men were fantastic encourages of… they didn’t have this heterosexual, sort of competitive… of course they were competitive, but even that they kind of managed to… They weren’t looking over their shoulder to see what was coming next, for the wrong reasons. They were looking over their shoulder to bring them on. 

So I had gone to see Howard Baker. I’d done a law degree, unfortunately, and I went to see Howard Baker and I said, “I think Crown Court is one of the great shows, I’d love to write for it.” And he was absolutely gobsmacked at the gall of this pink-head, dagger-in-the-ear individual coming into his office. And I was just summarily dismissed, which was very uncharacteristic of Granada actually, in those days. But to be fair, I believe he wasn’t very well at the time. And I called my friend, Jerry Hagan, who I’d met years before, who didn’t seem at all surprised that I’d ended up at Granada. And he had told me to go and see Bill Podmore, and I wrote with a friend of mine who later went on to write for EastEnders. We wrote a trial script for Coronation Street, when I was on Granada Reports. And the response was, the writing was great, but we were too young. And my argument was, “What are you talking about? You’ve got 15-year-olds. You’ve got 20-year-olds. How come the 50-year-old guys writing on this can write for them, and I can’t write for the 50, 60, 70-year-old characters? I’ve got grandparents.” So, that didn’t happen. But Bill, bless him, a couple of years later, at the end of my time on entertainment… oh, I know what happened at the end of entertainment. Some chums of mine from university came up to do a show called Alfresco. And I was the researcher on it, which was very odd because they were a year or so junior to me at Cambridge, but I’d worked with some of them and I knew them all. And here I was suddenly, they were the stars and I was the researcher, but it was a great time.

Was this with Sandy Ross?

Sandy Ross was producing.

Yes. Morrison was in…

There was one moment where the director was a really lovely bloke called Stuart Orme. Stephen Fry was having trouble in a scene. We were shooting in the hospital, I remember really well. And Stephen was having trouble in the scene and I could see exactly what was wrong, so I went up and I whispered to him… a note. And we came back. We did the tape, everyone laughed and Stewart went “Brilliant. Stephen, what did you do?” And Stephen went “Oh, it wasn’t me. Tim told me.” Oh, my god, did I get a bollocking for that. That was not my job.

And who were the other stars who worked on that programme? 

There was Ben Elton, and weirdly I’d met Ben on Live From Two, a year or so before. Nervous young man then, he was on a programme with Terry Jones and Alan Bennett. I then got to know Alan Bennett very well. I’ll tell you a story about that later. But Ben was going to do this stand up piece as a representative of a new generation. And it was about 18 minutes long. And I said, “Ben, the programme’s only 22. You can’t do…” So I honed it down to about 90 seconds for them, which was great fun. And he was lovely about it, very modest. So there was Ben. Robbie Coltrane. I remember on the first week of shooting, Robbie turned to me and said, “Go get me a coffee, will you?” And I went “Fuck off, go get it yourself.” And to be fair to him, he came back five minutes later, the two coffees and gave me one. I hadn’t quite got the hang of what I was doing yet, you know what I mean? And he was lovely, used to do up old cars. And Stephen and Hugh, and Emma Thompson, and Siobhan Redmond. Siobhan would come down from Scotland. And it was interesting because Ben was a prolific writer. We’d work a full day and he’d go home, and he’d come back in the morning with three scripts. And I kind of felt at the time that Stephen and Hugh were slightly intimidated by this. But they all got on like a house on fire. They’re all still friends to this day, but that was a great time. And then after that, before I left, because I left briefly, I was a researcher on Scully with the fabulous Les Chatfield. Probably the nicest person ever to work in television, starring Drew Schofield. And actually I think I’m going to challenge Morrison here, because I think Morrison claims to have organised for The Kop to sing Scully’s name. Absolutely untrue.


But it was much more wonderful than that. Because Scully was already a household name on Liverpool radio. And people forget that. That’s where the show came from. And it’s a comment on The Kop. It’s a beautiful comment on The Kop. A lot of them had heard the show, they knew what it was about. This aspirant boy who wanted to play for Liverpool, all that sort of stuff. And we shot a title sequence of Drew running out with Kenny (Dalglish) and all those legends. I was on the pitch, I couldn’t believe it, with the camera. And I swear to you, I almost started crying, because he ran out, the crowd knew what was going to happen, but suddenly, the crowd started spontaneously chanting, “Scully, Scully.”

“There’s only one Franny Scully, one Franny Scully!” I was there chanting.

But it was spontaneous.


How wonderful is that?


It’s like when Bleasdale after Boys From the Blackstuff went out and they got chants of “Gizza job”, it’s the same thing. So, sorry, Steve, you can’t take credit for that. I know you want to.

I tell you, he says that he scoured some of the pubs, he and Dennis Mooney went around some of the pubs in Liverpool. And so where fans met and worked out a lot of these songs and they put the word out. No, no, okay.

Well, maybe that’s true, but maybe… I don’t know. I take the fifth. Yes. Then I persuaded Bill Podmore to commission… funny enough, the chap who had written the play that we took to Edinburgh, where I met Jerry – these things always go in circles – persuaded him to let us… on the InterCity train, you’ll remember this, from London to Manchester, there was this wonderful guard back in the early 80’s, who practically told stories. He was, I think, of West Indian descent. And he was just amazing, you know he’d go, “Ladies and gentlemen in carriage number D, the lady there with her daughter, that’s her first granddaughter, congratulations.” Stuff like this. And Plowright had heard him as well. We invented this character called Shakespeare, who was a guard on the InterCity. And we invented a sitcom called The Train Now Leaving that was set in the buffet bar of an InterCity 125, when they used to cook. And it was deemed that technically, they couldn’t deal with the windows in those days. The Chroma key just was too old fashioned. We then transported it to a greasy spoon, but that didn’t really work. But Podmore had commissioned two scripts off us, that was great. But I had to go on unpaid leave to do that, because it was very complicated. You couldn’t do it under a Granada staff contract because of the rights situation. So I was on unpaid leave for most of that year. And then towards the end of the year, just before I came back, I got a phone call from Jules Burns, saying that they were having a director’s board in the next month.

This would be what year?

1984. I applied for the director’s board within about four months of being at Granada and had been told by Margaret Beckett… 

Where were you? Jules had invited you to a board but you’d been fairly precocious and had applied after a couple of months?

Yes. Well, you don’t want to be going into all of that, but yes, the long and the short of it is, I got it, which was great, because I think there was a kind of… if you were ambitious in the way that I, and several other people were at Granada, there was a glass ceiling that you reached. And if you didn’t hit certain landmarks as it were, if you were that ambitious, you had to leave. It was clear to me that if I… the director’s board only came up every two years or so. And I’d now written another movie script with Derek Granger, A Handful of Dust. And what I felt was within Granada, because in a sense, it was quite a small company. That was one of its really good and bad things. It was like a small village. I felt that if you, not me, if you didn’t get that board at a certain point, you weren’t going to get it. It had been decided. They knew you well enough, you know what I mean?

Yes. I think you’re right.

And therefore… so it was a really important board to me, because I knew if I didn’t get it… and listen, I’d just spent nine months in London. I’d been out of the Granada loop. But basically I thought, “If I don’t get this, I’m off, and I’ve now got two years of Granada under my belt, got two movie scripts under my belt, I’ll start again.” But fortunately I got it. And I say fortunately, because it was one of the best training schemes of any company in the country, including the BBC, I think. Because it was ITV, because it was Granada, it was different to the BBC. I know people who came through very successfully through the BBC, but yes, that was then. We had six months with the late great John Slater, the maverick, wonderful John Slater, and the ying and the yang… David Liddiment, who are just being another… I think to get this job in the end, there’s no such thing as a researcher on a drama project, there’s no such thing, as John Temple told me when he took over Alfresco. I didn’t want to do another series of Alfresco. It was like, “I’ve done it.” And the job of researchers like being a… it was great. It’s like being a big assistant. And so, I didn’t work with John Temple. Lovely old John Temple called me and said, “I don’t understand what a researcher does on a show like Alfresco.” I said, “Nor do I John.” And he said, “Well, I won’t be using you.” I went, “That’s okay.” But I did it on that. I did it on Scully, and I did it on There’s Something Wrong in Paradise with Kid Creole. Three of the craziest months of my life ever at Granada. Working with August Darnell and David. August Darnell’s bodyguard had threatened to break a marble table over my head in the Britannia hotel. He was immediately fired and August appointed me as his body guard, which at about seven stone 12, just under six foot… when I worked on a building site once, my nickname was brittle, because I wasn’t… anyway, I had to look after August, that was my job to get him into the shoot every day or rehearsal, every day. And the mad, glorious Karen Black and get them… make sure they’re all right and everything. But after… August, we would get back to the Britannia hotel, where I’d been installed in a room at six o’clock after working and then August would say, “Okay, I’ll see you at 11.” It’s like, “What?” At 11 o’clock he wanted to go out, and we would go out. He didn’t drink very much. We’d go out from 11 till four or five in the morning. And then going to work at nine. After three days of this, I was absolutely shattered. I didn’t… I thought he was a marvel, that he could survive on three hours sleep, until the fourth day when David had some urgent script, which he biked up to the hotel. And I was told to go knock on August’s door, who’d always told me not to disturb him. I thought for other reasons, but I went and knocked on his door and the bugger answered the door. He was asleep. He went back to the hotel at six o’clock every night and slept till half past 10. I had to start doing that, it was the only way to survive. I went through this weird three months of going back to the Britannia at six o’clock, going to bed getting up at half 10, going out till four or five in the morning and then going to bed, maybe for an hour and then getting straight to work. Anyway…

Were you working with David Liddiment as well?

Yes. I was assisting David Liddiment. But basically it entailed running out of the director’s box to go and get cigarettes. That was the long and the… it was great fun and the staff were mature. I helped Morrison with the script. We’d go to script meetings with Mustapha and Morrison and Morrison was another of those who wasn’t blind to the fact that I seemed to be writing as well. A lot of people in television categorise you as what you are. You’re a researcher, you’re make up, you’ve got no other talents. If you’re a writer, you can’t direct, if you’re a director you can’t write, but actually it’s absolute bollocks. Yes, that was great. And Pauline Black from The Specials. She was amazing. And then the Three Degrees, who took me out for dinner one night, just fabulous. One of them, Valerie, wanted to marry me. She was married obviously, but they were just wonderful, flirty, gorgeous, amazing women. So, Granada offered you the opportunity. Who else was going to have dinner with the Three Degrees for fuck’s sake? In the Yang Sing.

Ah, the famous Yang Sing. And okay. So are we beginning to get to the tail end of that Granada career?

No, just the beginning really.

All right then. Go on, carry on. 

Because I became a director. Did the director’s course, which was fabulous. And then Granada were brilliant because you went through everything. You did live TV with Granada Reports, or a chat show, and then we started in children’s TV, both with Spencer Campbell and myself. He was the other director, trainee director. And then we went into light entertainment where I did Busman’s Holiday, flew around the world, worked with a legend that is Johnny Hamp. Wonderful, wonderful man. Another encourager. And eventually got to the pinnacle which was Coronation Street. That’s what you wanted. And Corrie was the greatest training ground for drama directors as is EastEnders, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks. But a wonderful, wonderful training ground. I had a year on Corrie which I absolutely loved. And then did Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwick. I did a drama documentary about the three final weeks of Margaret Thatcher’s reign with Ray Fitzwalter, which was a different experience for me.


Well because it was becoming from a factual, World in Action background. The challenge as a drama director was to make… it had to be true. So we had to make it work within what we were given because Ray and the journalists had to be able to stand up and say, “But this happened. We’re not making it up.” But it was my first lesson in politics where Geoffrey Howe wouldn’t talk to us, but he made sure that, I think it was Peter Harris, or (??34:26) Harris, I can’t remember which, his personal, private secretary spoke to production at length. And there’s a scene where he’s watching the cricket, test match, and writing his speech. That was the ‘slaughtered by lamb’ speech, in the end, slagging Thatcher off. And this came from his assistant who was with him. And the show went out and then on the Late Night Review or Newsnight, Geoffrey Howe just pulled it to pieces and said, “I’ll give you one example. I’ll give you one example. How the hell would they know if I was sitting there watching the cricket, writing that speech?” And I’m like, “What did he just do?” And it was just amazing that he got out his version of the story through his PPS and then just totally disowned it. So yes, and then really my Granada career came to an end. I was very upset because I left sort of unofficially. When you left, there was this great tradition at Granada. Someone in graphics would do a fantastic picture for you and then someone would go around with a tatty brown, internal envelope and collect about three quid, and buy you a box of Quality Street. But it was the thought that counted! 

But I’d been approached by Morrison after I directed various dramas for Sally Head. And I was approached by Morrison, who said, “You’re going to go off and do a movie. And that’s really going to annoy me if you do it with someone else. So I want you to go and see Pippa Cross and see if you’ve got an idea that she wants to make. She’s the new head of film.” So I was sent down to see Pippa and I pitched her the movie Jack and Sarah, which they immediately commissioned. But it then meant when we actually got into production… a year and a half seems so quick now, but it felt like an eternity at the time, a year and a half later, I had been retired from Granada because I couldn’t make a movie, obviously. And all I remember saying to Steve Morrison is, “Where’s the fucking internal envelope? Where’s the picture from graphics? Are you serious? I’ve been here for 10 years. No internal…” Anyway. So yes. So the end of my career at Granada really was making a movie.

And what year was this?

The movie was shot in 1994.

So you left in ‘94?


And who actually made the movie? 


PolyGram. Right, okay. So there was no Granada input in that at all?

Well they produced it, and Morrison’s an executive producer. The classic Granada way. They put as little money into it as possible. That’s the way it was. But I’m hugely grateful because in the end, Granada launched my movie career. That’s what happened. And that was entirely down to Morrison. He’d already made two films, and they just made… three films. They’d just made My Left Foot and spurred on by the success of that. “Don’t go to London and make film. Do it with us.” Which is great.

Did you come across people like the Bernsteins very much? Or the Plowrights and…?

Plowright, very much so. Plowright, yes. I didn’t get the reference at the time, but I realised it was the reference to the painting, the Girl with a Pearl Earring. They used to call me the boy with the diamond earring. And the flat… Plowright used to have these dinners and he wanted to meet people he wouldn’t necessarily meet. And I remember I was summoned up to this dinner with David, and there were drama directors and me. And I’d been at the company for about five months so I think I was in line for him, too, at this stage so I… but Plowright had phoned Derek Granger and said, “Who’s new? Who shall I meet?” And Derek said, “Oh, you should meet Tim Sullivan.” So I was called up to the dinner and I kept very quiet. And I thought Plowright was kind of wonderful, very charismatic. And I remember it really well because Sadat was shot in the middle of dinner. And, as I say, I was horribly ambitious young man and everyone ran out of the room except for Plowright. So I stayed rooted to the spot. So I thought, “Oh, now I can talk to him.” And I’d had this, as I say, I’d met Alan Bennett a few months before, so maybe this was nine months into my time. I can’t remember though. Maybe it was longer. Maybe it was nine months. Maybe I was on the farming programme by now. Anyway, I could easily find out. Just find out when Sadat was shot. And I got to meet Alan Bennett, and we’d become sort of pally through Susan Brooks who lived up in Giggleswick with him. One night I was in my flat in Palatine Rows. Horrible little flat. I lived below Rob Cad, not that that made it horrible. And I had been watching, as you do, was really exhausted watching late night darts and I fell asleep on the bed. It’s a tiny bedsit-type flat. And I woke up about half an hour later, said “I better go to bed.” Went to clean my teeth. Came back into the bedroom, television’s obviously off. Got into bed and then this voice said from the television, “Don’t forget to switch your set off.” I almost jumped through the roof! And I switched my set off. And this was, unbeknownst to me… obviously in those days, there was a close down around about 12:00, 12:30 whenever, until the morning. And this was a safety announcement that went out every night. I knew nothing about it. So I had this mad idea, which I pitched to Plowright that night. And my idea was… do you want to hear this, or…?

Yes, yes. This is good stuff. 

My idea was… it’s more of a reflection on Plowright than me. My idea was that when you heard that announcement, one day, instead of hearing that announcement, because you didn’t want people to turn the TV off, you’d hear the sounds of someone clearing up, and a voice going, “Oh, what a bloody mess.” Then nothing would be said, and then nothing would be said, and then a couple of days later, you’d hear this tap on the microphone. “Hello? Hello?” And this bloke would start to talk. His mate had told him that he was… and he’d go, “Gerard, can you hear me?” The idea was that a cleaner at Granada would take over the continuity booth for about 45 seconds and do a comic monologue, and I’d phoned Alan Bennett, and Alan Bennett agreed to do it. So, I pitched this to Plowright. He absolutely loved it. That was the mark of the man. Here I was farming researcher or whatever, willing to listen. We actually never got around to doing it, but it made a mark on him. Then about a year and a bit later, I turned up and said… Alan was then working with the BBC, and Joan, who’s David’s sister, had just been in a play called Enjoy in the West End. And I’d managed to get Bennett’s latest TV play out of him. I went up to Plowright and said, “How would you feel if you can have Alan Bennett’s next screenplay?” He said, “We’d love to get him from the BBC.” So, I produced it from my briefcase and gave it to him, and Granada bought it and then their politics happened, and then it happened. So David was intrigued by me, I think it would be fair to say. There were a lot of great, encouraging people, and Plowright was one of them.

What about Mike Scott?

Mike didn’t like me. I never knew why.

Probably the pink hair.

I think it was also the relationship with Granada. I hear at some point he’d said to someone, “What’s going on? Is he sleeping with him or what?” Because it was quite a homophobic place in those times, I think. Yes, Scott didn’t like me, he told me he didn’t like me. I didn’t know what I’d done. I hardly had any dealings with him. He fought single-handedly to not give me the director’s job, according to Morrison, who said I had to go and make peace, which I did try to, only to be rebuffed with, “You make one mistake, you’re out of here.” I went, “Oh, okay.” But I don’t know. So, I never really got to the bottom of it. I did get my revenge though, because we did a telethon, one of the first telethons for ITV about a year or two later. I was directing The Street at the time and I had to do a live section in the middle, which was in the middle of the telethon, Doris Speed coming back to The Rovers out of her retirement. I went down to see her in makeup, and I explained to her what I wanted her to do, and was very reassuring, very confident – confident, seducing, all the great skills that a young director has – and she was like putty in my hands. Then after I left makeup, one of the makeup women came up to me and said, “I’m really sorry, Tim, but do you know what Doris said as you left?” I said, “No.” She said, “She said to me, what did that nice man say? I didn’t have my hearing aid in.” Anyway, the introduction to this was Mike Scott on The Street doing a piece to camera, because of course he used to be a presenter. I made him do 23 takes. Second take was absolutely fine, which I said at the end of this. He was getting very frustrated by the end of it. At the end of it, I went, “No, it’s fine, we’ll use take two,” and just walked off. “Gotcha, mate.” Liddiment was appalled.

Because he was a very good presenter.

He was. He worked with Derek Granger on cinema, I think on the cinema, but also Scene At 6:30. Derek said, “The great thing about Mike was he always asked the question that the audience wanted.” He instinctively knew. And so they had the Rothschilds, can you believe, one of the senior Rothschilds, on Scene At 6:30 at one point. Derek says, “And whatever you do, we’ve been told by the PR people, whatever you do, don’t ask them about being rich.” Well, of course, halfway through the interview, “What’s it like having all that money?” Actually, there’s another anecdote I’m going to tell about Derek, because Derek was a legend, as you know, and you’ve interviewed him. So, you know. It’s a story Derek doesn’t tell very often. But Bill Grundy was one of his presenters, and Bill, as we all know, had a terrible drink problem, and used to get howlingly drunk in the Film Exchange, which was a bar near Granada. In the seventies, Derek Granger made a show called Country Matters based on H. Bates short stories. What people don’t know about that programme is it was the first drama worldwide that had been entirely shot on film. All other dramas in America and this country all been shot in studio with film inserts, but Derek managed to persuade foremen to let him make Country Matters entirely on film. Alan Parker, Sir Alan Parker, the filmmaker, told me at a dinner once that he owed his career to Derek Granger because watching Country Matters changed his life in terms of his ambition. So, he was a forward thinker. Brideshead was supposed to be studio and film, and Derek said, “Well, I’m not making it like that.” Anyway, Derek, as everyone knows, is gay, and during the filming of Country Matters, he had the new cast, including the wondrous late Susan Fleetwood, and they went off and corroborated the story. They went off to the Film Exchange to have dinner on their first night. Derek’s not a very tall chap, not particularly camp, but gay. They went up to the Film Exchange, and there at the bar was Bill Grundy, who stood up and proclaimed all his… he obviously didn’t like Derek, I think he was jealous of Derek or something, this terrible homophobic diatribe, which I won’t even repeat. I wouldn’t give it the kind of credence to repeat it, came out from Grundy. I mean, just awful, virulent stuff, in front of, I don’t know, 150 people, lots of Granada people there, and Derek’s new cast. He turned to the cast, who were sort of ashen, and said, “Please, go back to the Midland. We’ll have dinner there,” went up to Bill Grundy, the cast got to the door and then stopped. Derek Granger went up to Bill Grundy. Bill Grundy said, “What have you got to say to me now then, you faggot?” Derek just punched his lights out and decked him on the floor and then just turned around and walked out. It was like, “Derek?!” Cast loved him from that moment. 

There was, as you say, a number of people that talked about the homophobia at Granada at this time, which is probably simply a reflection of what society was like. 

Well, I look back on it and I think I was probably a horrible little shit, but I had and I have, a lot of gay friends. I’m quite camp. I’m not gay, but I’ve always had gay friends. When I went to Granada, before the pink hair, which I guess didn’t help, Derek Granger would frequently come into the newsroom and go, “Tim, darling, do you want to come to the Oldham Theatre tonight?” And I’d go, “Oh, all right, I’ll see you downstairs.” And this happened quite a lot. And Derek was obviously a legend. He was doing this huge production, and here was this boy. Derek had met my girlfriend, he’d been round to my house in London. It obviously upset me, I’m not going to name names, because they will be embarrassed and probably deny it now, but I got a lot of stick in that newsroom for that. To the extent that when my girlfriend paid her first visit to Granada, a couple of months after I’d started – because I always used to go to back to London for the weekend .

Yes. Yes. And bullying?

No, never encountered it. I didn’t.

No, no.

I’ve always been… I worked with producers I did not like working with. But I wouldn’t say I was bullied. I don’t recall anyone… it wasn’t in my experience. But that’s not to say it didn’t happen.

Okay. Do you want to talk a bit about directing Coronation Street?

Oh, wonderful. In the old days there used to be a thing called Weekly Rep, in the theatres. Where they would do a different play every week, with the same cast. They’d learn, before the advent of great television and stuff. And Corrie are the greatest ever weekly repertory company in the world. They’re an amazing bunch, and some really fine actors in there. We had it quite easy in those days, it was more studio based than it is now. But I remember one story that was, amazingly, kept out of the press. In those days we used to film on a Monday morning, block on a Monday afternoon, there was only two episodes, I think. Block the two episodes on a Monday afternoon, and then Tuesday, all day we’d rehearse. Wednesday morning we’d rehearse, Wednesday afternoon we’d have producers’ run, the writers/producers came. Thursday morning was any additional filming or off, then studio Thursday afternoon and Friday. Then edit, we didn’t dub Corrie in those days. Edit on the Monday, into the Tuesday. About halfway through… We used to record on these great big two and a half inch tapes, video tapes, that were in great big box type things. We sat down on the Monday morning, pulled the tape up, and it had to be the wrong tape, there was nothing on it. But it was marked up the right tape. So we pulled up another tape, there was nothing on it. And it was marked up as the right… we had lost all of Thursday, and half of Friday’s studio recording. And it was quite clearly an act of sabotage. It was so serious that within an hour, Plowright, Scott, I can’t remember who else, were in the editing room, double checking that this had happened, talking to the technical people, who, I seem to remember… in those days, if you had a tight tape like that, and you got a great big magnet and you wiped it over the tape, you could wipe it. Something had happened, and it was deliberate, was their opinion. But of course, we now had this problem, because we went out three weeks after the shoot. So, I had to go to the producers’ run on the Wednesday, and announce to the cast that on the Thursday they would be starting in the morning, instead of the afternoon. And then at three o’clock I would take over the cameras till 10 o’clock at night, and redo the previous week. All the cast were fraught. Liz Dawn came up and said, “You don’t understand, I can’t do that. I forget the weeks before, it’s gone, so I can get the new weeks in.” And I was saying to everyone, “Don’t worry. We’ll be…” And you know what, we shot the first scene in one take, and suddenly it was like being in the lifeboats. Everyone was going, “Oh my god they just did…” And we just all rattled through it. And it was just a great, great day. How it never got into the press, I have no idea, because it was a big deal.

Yes. Did you ever find out who sabotaged…

No, it was an absolute mystery. There was an inquiry. It had to be someone technical. Was it someone who had been fired? Was it someone who was leaving? No one knew or, as I always used to say, was it a mistake? And then someone went, “There are checks, you can’t not record the show. It’s not possible.” So the mystery of the missing tapes that to this day has been unrevealed. Actually, the only other thing I did on Corrie, was when Curly lost his virginity. Got a dreadful amount of hate mail for that, because it was with a mixed race girl. It was shocking, absolutely shocking. But, by mistake, on the audio tape, the way we dubbed the titles, it was a copy of the original recording session spilled through, and I found this amazing extra tape that had an extra 40 seconds. It was a cornet solo of the theme, and it just fit Curly losing his virginity so well. So we called up to Plowright and got permission, and it went out and it was wonderful. It must exist somewhere. But yes, great. I was very sorry to leave it. In fact, when I left – again, this is a classic example of Granada, the paternalism of Granada – after my last week on the Street, I was called up to Morrison’s office, who by now was the director of programmes. And sat down, and he said, “Look, I’ve got something really exciting to tell you. Something really interesting. It’s come down from Plowright. I completely agree with it. We’d like you to take over from Bill Podmore, producing The Street.” And I went, “What?” And he said, “Yes.” The Street, eight years earlier, I’d been too young to write it, but now… and I said, “What are you talking about?” And he said to me, “It’s like, this is like giving you the crown jewels. We want…” And I went “But Steve, I’m a director. You’ve invested all this money in me. That’s what I want to do.” “No, but you know, you could go back to it.” I said, “You know very well, that if I produce Coronation Street, I will never be allowed to go back to directing.” And he went, “You don’t understand, David Plowright is saying… this is huge, you’re very young. This is a big thing. This is a big deal.” I went, “I completely appreciate it’s a really big thing. And I’ll phone David, and I’ll say how terribly grateful I am, but I’m not doing it.” And Steve was gobsmacked. He said, “What do you mean you’re not doing it? I’m telling you, you’re doing it.” I went, “I’m not fucking doing it! End of. I’m not doing it. I don’t want to. Thank you, but no.” To which Steve then said, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I said, “I’ve done The Street, now, obviously, I want to direct film drama,” to which he replied, “What if I tell you I’ll never let you direct film drama if you don’t produce The Street?” And I went, “Oh, Steve, you don’t do threats very well. Come on.” Then he laughed and went, “All right, fuck off.” And that was it, I didn’t get it. But it was funny because, between you and me, it got around that I’d been offered it because I was told I couldn’t refuse it in the moment. I had to take few days. And Mervyn Watson desperately wanted to come back to The Street. He was phoning Spencer going, “Is Tim going to do it?” And Spencer’s going, “No. He’s a director, he doesn’t want to do it.” But it was that thing of I had a really good time on The Street. They had really liked me. And it made sense to the way Granada worked. That’s the way Granada worked. “Oh, that went well. He’s brilliant. Let’s get him to produce it.” And of course, it was incredibly flattering. I was very respectful. Those are the decisions that can affect the rest of your career.

Your time on The Street was…

Hilda Ogden leaving.

Oh gosh, did you do that? 

I think Rick Mellis did the actual… but I did the hospital episodes leading up to, I think Rick did the actual episode.

You didn’t do Stan dying?



No. I did a miscarriage. I did a stabbing, I think. Oh, no, I didn’t do stabbing, I did Gail and Brian marrying for about the fifth time.

And you were pre the watershed, when The Street suddenly came into the late 20th century.

Yes. Yes. Yes. I mean, it needed a big overhaul. And then when Brian Park was offered it, because Avery Bryant was a great friend, he was in two minds as to whether to do it. And having been offered it myself, because I’d thought about what it would mean, and I said, “You’re crazy. You have to, have to do it. But you have to make an impact. You can’t just go and do it for a year and just have it on your CV. You’ve got to change it. You’ve got to be seen to have done something. Because it’s there for the taking.” It’s such a brilliant group of writers. The storyline editor was, when I was The Street, was Paul Abbott. And whatever happened to him? Kay Mellor was on it. Bill had a really collegiate sort of way of dealing with the writers. You have people like John Stevenson, Julian Roach, Peter Wally, I mean, these were top, top notch writers, really terrific, terrific stuff. And great cast, Roy Barraclough, I loved Roy. And Thelma Barlow. I went see Thelma acting in the Bristol Old Vic. I went to see Roy do his Death of a Salesman in Nottingham. Really, very talented, very thoughtful. Roy and Julie had a storyline, the characters Bet Lynch and Alec Gilroy. But she got pregnant, which everyone thought was a bit odd because they were quite getting on. And they were uncomfortable with it. Then they had this emotional scene. There was a kind of problem, The Street was commissioned in blocks of writing. And so we encountered a scene where the week before, in an episode I hadn’t done, Bet had lost the baby. And then the week after, there was the same with Roy and Julie, where no mention was made of it. And that was because it was in the break between the writing blocks. So, Bill sorted it out, got a new scene room. But Julia and Roy said, “Look, it’s nicely written, but it’s kind of embarrassing. It’s just like, I just don’t believe this.” And so I said to them, “Well, you know what? Let’s do it that way. Let’s do it that your characters can’t quite believe this. Let’s play the absurdity of it.” And they one take just… they got it straight away. They totally got it. Proper instinctive actors.

Yes. Yes. Just moving on slightly, coming from the south, from London, did you find that role just… I mean, we talked a lot, a lot of people talked about Granada as a northern company, being very much obviously based in Manchester, but being very much about the north. Did that strike you when you came from London? Well, did you see it just as another regional TV company?

No, no, no. I thought I had it great identity. Of course, it had two of the worst football clubs in the world. But aside from that, it took a while to get used to because it’s like going to a new school, isn’t it? Before I made friends, I didn’t really understand it. So I would pootle off to London as soon as I could. As soon as I got the director’s job, I left London, I moved to Manchester and bought a house because I thought, “I could embrace this,” which was great. Another great encourager at Granada, when I’d worked on Granada Reports, I’d struck up a rapport with Tony Wilson. I wasn’t alone there, many, many people did. And so, within a few months, I didn’t have anywhere to live. I ended up living in Tony’s house with him one summer. So, I quickly had the virtues of the north west and Manchester and the endlessly repeated story of driving down to present Nationwide and turning around at Watford Gap station. If I had a pound… but I loved Tony, as did most people. He became a great, great friend, as he did with many people. When I came up to direct Cold Feet, he was one of the first people that got in touch, we went out for dinner. Manchester clearly had a really interesting cultural identity, which Granada was very responsive to. And you had these wonderful filmmakers, like Peter Carr who made City, the documentary, which is like the golden age of documentaries. And then in local television, you had people, all those from the north east, like Tony Bully, making programmes like This England, which were great portraits of the north west by people who were interested in the north west and understood it. Local programmes, I would stick my neck out and go local programmes might have been a chore for other broadcasters in the ITV network, but it was a fundamental of Bernstein’s ethos. And it reflected that, it was a north west company that made really good programmes about and for the north west. My favourite story of Sidney…tell me if Helen McMurray’s told you this. She was working in Globe & Simpson, which was the building opposite Granada, which, colloquially, used to be known as Pearl & Dean. And we were making a show called Reports Action, with Bob Greaves, first of the local kind of telethon. We did them pre-Comic relief, pre all of those things. And Helen was the researcher and she’d been sent over to that big room in Globe & Simpson to set up the office. And she was having a really bad day. The desks hadn’t arrived. She had one desk. She had one phone. None of the whiteboards arrived. There was supposed to be an exchange of about… because they took loads of phone calls to take money. There’s supposed to be a little mini switchboard, yada, yada, yada, yada. She was in a really, really bad mood. And this old man wandered in off the street wearing an overcoat and a little sort of trilby hat. And she thought, “Oh fuck, this is all I need.” 

“Hello,” she went. “You can’t come in here, this is part of Granada TV. What are you doing in here?”

“Oh, I’m trying to make this show, Reports Action.”

“What does that do? Look, I’m really sorry. I’m really busy. I’ve got no desks. I’ve got no phones. What does Reports Action do?”

“Well it raises money for local charities.” 

“Please, could you go?”

“Well, how are you going to do that if you haven’t got any desks?”

This conversation went on for about five minutes, at which point he left and she thought, “Oh thank fuck.” Half an hour later, the doors are knocked down. There’s 25 workmen. There are desks flying in, there are phones coming in, switchboards coming in, whiteboards. It all happened. And she turned to the producer and said, “What the fuck happened?” She said, “Well, you told Sidney there was a problem.” And he came into the building and stripped an ear off someone. That was Sidney. I never met him. Derek had a very close relationship with Sidney. They used to holiday together. He was very tight with Sidney and his wife, but then they had a situation and they had this beautiful Oliver Messel design garden and house in Barbados. And they were held up at gunpoint one holiday, and Sidney’s wife refused to go back, but he loved it. So he used to go there regularly and on occasion, Derek will go with him, and meet wonderful people like Claudette Colbert. Has he told you the story?


So Derek has gone to spend a week or so with Sidney and he says, “We’re going to Claudette’s for lunch.” No, Claudette came for a drink and she said, “Will you come for lunch on Sunday?” And Sidney went, “Yes, of course.” She said, “It’s a bit of a nightmare.” And Sidney said, “Why?” And she said, “Oh, President Reagan and Nancy are coming for lunch. I’ve got the bloody CIA there. They’re fucking ripping the butler’s pantry out, putting an international switchboard in. It’s not like just having someone around for lunch. It’s like a whole great big event.” And so Derek thought, “Oh, this is thrilling.” So they went to have lunch. Derek was an inveterate swimmer, which is probably why he’s still alive at 99. Now he would swim 100 lengths a day, right up until the 70s. And after lunch, Nancy Reagan said, “I’d love to go for a swim.” Derek said, “Oh, I’ll come with you.” And this is when he realised that she had a slight sort of mischievous sense of humour. So they walked out onto the beach. She had a swim costume underneath her dress. They’re informally dressed. And she whispered to Dereck, “Watch the secret service.” And he said, “What?” She said, “Watch now what happens.” So they walked towards the sea. And up on the little hill, there were about 20 suited ear-pieced, secret service men who all suddenly frantically started looking at each other. Then ripped off their suits, all of them, ran towards the sea. And Derek said, “As they swam out, they had a v-shape or sort of semicircle of about 15 secret service agents, swimming in their underwear.”

That’s a good story. So a final question, what kind of a company was Granada to work for? Was it a good company, bad company?

It was a really good company. It was an innovative company, but it made its mind up about you in a way. It categorised you.

Yes, it did.

And as I say, rightly or wrongly, I would’ve left Granada after that directors’ board, because what it meant was, it wasn’t that they weren’t giving it to me then, they were probably never going to give it to me, probably. You reached the threshold. And that’s a kind of criticism in a way. I look back on it, a friend of mine went to the RSC at the same time as I went to Granada, he’s become a film director. We both were at school together, we both came out of university together. Well, he’s a bit older than me. And when I was at Granada and he was at the RSC, we didn’t see each other for a few years. And then when we met, we’re still great friends to this day, I said to him, “Talking to you about the RSC, Granada was my RSC.” That’s what it was. And it was an extraordinary company. And that influence of the Bernsteins ran all the way down. It was a very caring company. I remember I was sent off, I was researching Arts Quiz for Nicholas Ferguson. And I was sent to interview Patrick Heron, the great artist, in Chelsea, and I went to meet him to be a guest on the show. Delightful man. Lived mostly in Cornwall, did those big abstracts, and we had one in committee room B.

Yes, yes.

And when I got back to go and look at it, I was appalled to see that on the bottom right hand corner, there was a huge spray of dried coffee. No respect. So I called Plowright. I said, “I’ve just been to see Patrick Heron. I don’t think it’s going to do arse shit, but what do you think he would think?” It’s not a glass in case, this is on the canvas. The coffee’s on the canvas. “What the fuck do you think he’d say if he came up to Granada and saw that painting?” And the painting was gone within a week and restored and was back. That’s what Granada was like. Mind you, by the same token, my friend James Maw, who became a producer and who I used to do stand-up comedy with before he came up to Granada, said that it was appalling that the Bernsteins had this wonderful art collection and no one knew anything about it. The management didn’t care, no one cared. To prove his point, he did an abstract door, had it framed and hung it up next to the lifts in reception. And it stayed there for 10 years!

Is there anything else you want to talk about?

Not really. I think it was an extraordinary time, and I think that a lot of people got opportunities in the north west they would never have got otherwise. Now they came into the world of TV. It was incredibly good at promoting within… studio cameraman going on to become film cameraman, going on to become DOPs. The one thing it wasn’t any good at was women, I think. I’ve written about this actually in this week’s In The Can thing I do, but I think you’ve read it. The great thing about being a training director was you got different crews who would come in. You had a real problem and it was a kind of weirdly in-built issue that you had to deal with. Several people that you worked with, I think it was helped by the fact that Spence and I both had hair beyond our shoulders at this point. Several people that you work with had applied for the same job, maybe more than once, and felt that they were clearly more qualified to have the job than you, which may well have been true. But you had this extraordinary army of misnomered PAs because they weren’t PA’s at all. They were production assistants, but they were a mix of continuity, production management, directing. They were extraordinary knowledgeable, and you would have someone like Sue Wild or Sue Pritchard coming from Brideshead or coming from Jewel in the Crown who would be with you on a local shoot as a trainee with something that wasn’t going to be broadcast, giving you as much respect and help as they would have Jim O’Brien or Charles Sturridge. And that was extraordinary. And now, several of those women have gone on to become executive producers of Coronation Street, producers of Hollyoaks, producers of Coronation Street, heads of Lime Pictures. So things changed in a good way, but Granada didn’t exactly help that right at the beginning. And they should have done. To an extent, it was a male-dominated world. Sign of the times, I guess. The other thing I’d say is there was a certain pattern to when you became a director. If you got Coronation Street, the next thing as to get on to film and drama. And then really, unless you got a break, like Charles did with The Strike, and getting Brideshead, or Patrick Lau getting Game, Set and Match, once you’ve done a few Sherlock Holmeses, there was a decision to be made. In the right way, really. You’ve got to make way for others coming through. And by the time I became a drama director, the idea of having a drama director on staff had already become a bit antiquated. It didn’t really belong in the modern world. So in a sense, that threshold was a kind of natural one. You could only do so many Bulmers, or so many Strangers, or so many Sherlocks. Although Prime Suspect, sometimes there was a thing where… I mean, I was offered… when I was trying to do Jack and Sarah, I almost did Cracker and Prime Suspect, and I really regret… if I knew then what I know now, about the way films are put together, I would have directed both Cracker and Prime Suspect. But then, you can’t hang around in a drama company, waiting for the next big one to come along, because who knows when they are going to be? You’ve got to go. You’ve got to fly the nest. And it was a nest. 

Nick Steer

Interviewed by Geoff Moore, April 2019.

So, Nick just start us off with pre-Granada. Where did you grow up?

Well, I grew up in Cornwall, in the Tamar Valley, very rural, and my father was a market gardener. I went to the local grammar school, which was absolutely tiny. There were, I think, 240 pupils in the whole school. And that’s where I got my interest in film, basically. I had a very inspirational English teacher who introduced us to foreign movies and such like, which really grabbed my attention. And we had little film club and shot things on 8mm. So she was really the one who introduced the idea, which I have never thought of, that I could make a career in that field. And we found a course in London, which was a degree in film and photography, and so I managed to get into that. I had three years in London at the Polytechnic of Central London, it was called at the time, previous to that it’d be been the Regent Street Poly, which was like the very first school of photography in this country – it’s now the University of Westminster, so it is still going. I did film photography in the first year, and then in the second and third year I specialised in film. So we were very small unit in a little building near Selfridges, just off Oxford Street. And it was great, but it was very much sort of practical and hands on, as well as the theory side of it, which was a quite unusual for film courses at the time, purely because of the cost of actually shooting anything. Because in those days we were actually shooting on 16mm, and processing film stock was incredibly expensive. So everything was done on a very tiny amount of film. So you had to think carefully before you started to shoot. And the course we did, we had to do everything, basically. Script writing, directing, producing, camera work, sound, editing and dubbing. So I think I got what I got out of that was a pretty rounded idea of the whole process, which I always thought stood me in good stead later on. Although when I finished that and needed a job, I had absolutely no contacts in the film or television industry at all. So I started just applying for jobs, basically. And it was the days of the closed shops, so you needed a union ticket to get a job, and you needed a job to get a union ticket. So out of everywhere that I wrote to, Granada was the only one that showed any interest, which was very fortunate. They were advertising for a camera assistant and a sound assistant, and I applied for both. I had no particular interest in sound at that time. I just wanted to get into the business, and they asked me for an interview. I showed up at the interview and they hadn’t bothered to tell me which of the jobs I was being considered for, which made it a little tricky. So I found this out sort of midway through the interview that it was the sound job! I was interviewed by Bill Lloyd, Jeff White and Bob Connell. Jeff White was the head of sound and studios at the time. Bill Lloyd, head of film. I had two interviews, and got the job, which was great. I’d never been to Manchester before in my life.

Was it a tough interview, and do you remember how it went?

No, it wasn’t tough. I wouldn’t say it was tough. I mean, it was fairly friendly. I mean, they asked me how I would cover it if I was shooting something, and slightly technical questions like that, and I can’t remember too much else that was difficult at all. I mean, they quizzed me about the course that I’d done and the films that I’d made at college, which was a 10-minute documentary, which was my interest at the time. Although, as it turned out, I later specialised in drama.

So you didn’t know the job that you were being considered for?

No, not exactly.

How did you react when you found out? Were you disappointed?

I probably, as everyone coming out of film school wants to be either a director or a cameraman, I probably slightly fell into that at that category. But I thought, “Well, it’s in the business, it’s a job. It’s a way in.” And after I’d been there a little while, I began to come more around to the idea that the sound side wasn’t such a bad option. Certainly as an assistant, because the camera assistants had a bit of a dog’s life, and the sound assistants were treated slightly better.

That is true!


So this was your first job?

It was my first job straight out of college.

You had to move to Manchester?

I had to move to Manchester.

And who was your boss, Bill Lloyd?

Bill Lloyd. So there was very much a divide between the studio and the film unit, which lasted for years, right up until the time that PSC came in. At the time that news started to be shot on video and electronic cameras started going outside, basically. Right up until that time. It was a like almost like working for two separate companies.

But you started on the film side.

I was always on the film side.

You didn’t ever work in the studios ever?

Never, ever worked in the studios, not at all.

Did you prefer it that way?

Yes, because my training at college had been film, I’d never done a TV studio or anything like that, so my interest was film basically, movies and documentaries. So I wasn’t that interested in going into the studio. But there wasn’t an opportunity for that, because you’re either one side or the other; there was no crossover. There were a few people during the late 70s, early 80s who moved from the studios out into the film unit when the film unit was expanding greatly. People like Doug Hallows, Lawrence Jones, David Odd had all started in the studios and then came across the film unit.

That’s an interesting point you made, it was very separate.

It was very separate.

The studio side and the film side, and there was probably more work on the film side than there is today because of the videotape and digital.

Sure. Well, what happened when I joined, Bill Lloyd said, “Well, you’ll start on local programmes.” So I thought that would be it for a long time, but it wasn’t. Basically when I started, for regional programmes, they used to have a full crew, which was two camera, two sound electricians, PA, researcher, director who would go out to make items for Granada Reports, which is unbelievable looking at the way it’s done now…


So I was on that unit. Harold Lester was the recordist. So I was his assistant, various other cameramen did stints on it and Mike Thompson did a lot of that.

What year did you join Granada?


That’s quite early on, isn’t it?

Yes. So anyway, so working on that was a such a shock to my system, because I’d had a reasonably sheltered upbringing in the depths of Cornwall, and there’s an awful lot of things that I hadn’t ever done at that stage. So suddenly we were on this unit, and we’d go away to the Lake District or to north Wales or Anglesey for a week’s filming, and come back with three or four stories, 10-minute stories for Granada Reports, and stay away in hotels. And so I very quickly learned that the most essential piece of kit on those trips was the Good Food Guide. So that was something I’d never experienced. So we’re eating in restaurants all the time, and there was quite big drinking culture as well. But it was great. I mean, I loved it.

Did you work with Harold Lester a lot on those?

Only at the beginning, really. I mean, throughout the 70s, one of the great things about the film work at Granada in general was that you got a chance to do all sorts of different things. There was no specialisation at the time. So you could be doing a major network drama one week, the next you could be doing local news, World in Action or a documentary or whatever. And that was fantastic too. The variety, and the sort of access to people and things that you would never have got any other way, in any other job. I thought it was fantastic.

So how long did you work a sound assistant, do you think?

So when I joined they said I had to start as a trainee until I got my union card, which Ron Bowie, who was the shop steward at the time, facilitated. So it was three or four weeks. I was a trainee, and then I was immediately upgraded to sound assistant. So then, on the local programmes crew, the one of the regular things was, every Monday morning, you would do half a day on Coronation Street doing the exterior set, because it was all shot in the studio, but the studio cameras didn’t come outside. So everything on there was the very tiny original Coronation Street set on Grape Street, which was a sort of two-thirds of real life size. So it was absolutely, it was tiny, and you had to shoot it in such a way that it didn’t look, you know, that it looked reasonable. So that was every Monday morning, and that was my first opportunity to learn how to boom swing on a drama.

Every Monday morning there were just a few scenes?

So I think it was two episodes a week of Coronation Street at the time. So whatever scenes were outside on the street we would do in half a day. And that was the allowance. For whatever reason, you never went over the half a day. So whether they wrote the script accordingly, that there was only so many outside scenes, I don’t know. But yes, so I did that very regularly.

Yes. Yes. So you started in 1973?


How did your career progress through the 70s?

So after that first year on local programmes, I then got assigned to World in Action with Alan Bale, who was the recordist and George Turner, who was the cameraman. A few of the other cameraman came in for various things, but it was mostly George. And I had about a year just doing that solidly, which was again, opened my eyes basically, and we did all sorts of interesting stories. We went to Portugal, to Lisbon, when the dictatorship was overthrown there, and we were filming people raiding the Secret Service headquarters and pulling files out, and bugs out of the wall, and things like that, which was amazing. A similar thing, in the same year we went to Greece after the Colonel’s regime ended to do a programme about torture. And we went to the… a sort of funny story but I think they were playing a bit of a joke with me really. We went to interview a Mr Meanies, who was alleged to be one of the chief torturers, which he denied absolutely. And he was kind of posing as a businessman. So we did the interview in his office, and fine, and left, got back to the hotel, and Alan said to me, “Oh, I forgot to do an Atmos track,” which I don’t know if you know, just a post track in his office, which is an editing device. “So can you go back and just do that?” So okay, I’ll do that. So I drove the hire car back to his office and knocked on the door and tried to explain to Mr Meanies, the chief torturer, that I wanted to sit in his room and record silence for three minutes. Not an easy thing to get across, but I managed to do it. The rest of them, I’m sure, had a good laugh.

That’s a good story. So what other memorable shoots too?

As far as the world in action goes, the, the move we did one about with Mike Beckham about the, Maharishi, the Yogi, the Beatles guru, which was amazing. We went to his sort of world headquarters, which was in this disused hotel on the top of the mountain in Switzerland. It was absolutely amazing. So that was good fun. Another one was with Gus McDonald. We did a thing about the special unit in Barlinnie jail in Glasgow, where the most sort of famous resident was a man called Jimmy Boyle, who had been locked up for murder and sort of gang activities in Scotland. And then he sort of discovered art and had become a writer and a sculptor.

I remember.

So we’re allowed in this, this unit, which was a prison within a prison, and they were all sort of convicted murderers, and had also been, you know, involved in violence within the prison system. So that was Gus McDonald, and I think Brian Blake who did that. So that was amazing. We were allowed to be alone in a cell with this guy called Larry, who was a sort of very strange and dangerous looking, who kept budgies in his cell. And they had a detention cell for the budgie as well. So…

So this was with Alan Bale?

With Alan Bale. I mean, Alan was a fantastic mentor to me because he certainly taught me an awful lot, not just about sound recording, but about how to work as a crew. And he was great. They all were, really. And obviously I stayed working for many years, and I just worked with George Turner again recently on the, on the Up series. So I’ve done that every seven years. But we also, that same crew, we went on to do some of the, the Christians documentary series with Bamber Gascoigne. And we went to the Philippines with Leslie Woodhead and Mike Scott to do a thing called The Psychic Surgeons.

I remember it.

Which was an amazing story. So yes, so I sort of became part of that team, and then towards the later part of the 70s I started doing drama, mostly with Phil Smith but some with John Muxworthy, who taught me boom swinging, basically. And the sort of drama techniques.

So you were an assistant on the dramas that you refer to…

My first dramas, I was a boom swinger. Yes, boom operator. The first ones where we did, I think the first sort of major network one was a thing called The Nearly Man, which was directed by John Irvine. After that we did Hard Times, where we had this amazing set on what is now the Science and Industry Museum, of a huge sort of fairground, and we had lots of smoke and braziers, and circus acts and that, Timothy West was in that and Patrick… I’ve forgotten his name. Yes. So that was great. So I began to do more drama, although there was still the variety you’d go off and do, you know, and I started doing recording on news as well, which was a great training ground, because you could do no wrong, basically. So you could try things out and get a lot of experience without coming to any harm. So that was my first recording experience.

And when was that?

That would’ve been around 70… actually, I hadn’t been there that long. 1976, 1977… I think appropriate started doing news and then 77. I actually got a chance to record some music on So It Goes.

What do you remember from So It Goes? Which acts do you remember?

I’m a bit a little hazy in terms of the timescale, but I think it was probably… there was two series, and I think in the first series I was assisting Phil Smith and we recorded a band called Asleep at the Wheel at the Library theatre, who were sort of western swing.

Directed by Peter Carr, as I remember.

Correct. And then so a little bit later on, I think we did The Stranglers at a pub in Islington, which was, I mean, when they were a punk band, I mean they became sort of more sort of middle of the road later on. But originally there were right in the sort of punk heyday. So that was fantastic. But the one that I will always remember was we did Muddy Waters at the new Victoria theatre and I got to meet the great man, which was a great memory. But then shortly after that, well maybe Peter Carr was involved as well, because he was, I got on well with Peter and did a lot of work with him. I got a chance to record some, which why they let me do it I will never ever know, because I basically didn’t have a clue what I was doing! So the first one was, it was a triple bill and it was at a club on Oxford Road, a basement club on Oxford Road. It was Sad Café, John Cooper Clarke and a band called Albertos Lost Trios Paranoias, who were an archaic to say the least.

Well, I was there, I produced that one. Yes, I remember those bands too.

I mean, I jumped at the chance, but as I said, I had zero experience, to be honest. And the other problem being that we really didn’t have the equipment to do it, so we were able to hire in a little bit. So for that one, I had a mixing desk in a converted ambulance, which was parked out the back. We had no talk back. We had no video feed. So basically I was working blind. So we’d done a sound check in the afternoon and basically everything was working, but there was no multi-tracking, so I was recording on to a stereo recorder, and you had to mix it down there and then because there was no chance of altering it later on, which these days you’d think, “No one in the right mind would do that.” But we just didn’t have the equipment to multi-track, so it was quite a lot of pressure to try and get it right in the first go. There was no second take.

How did you go about setting it up? I mean, did you have certain instruments on one channel and vocals on another?

Well, I got the biggest mixing desk that I could manage to hire in, which was in this ambulance, and I can’t remember how many tracks that was, but some of those gigs, it was a case of taking a feed from the PA mix, and then augmenting it with anything that wasn’t going into the PA mix. But that one, I think I remember that we had to make everything up ourselves. So we were splitting the feeds from the vocal mics, and then micing the drum kit and the instruments separately ourselves. Yes. And it kind of, well it wasn’t great, but I kind of survived. You know what I mean? So, yes.

Well that was a big challenge.

It was, it was.

And the equipment was… you had to work with lots of limitations.

Yes. But it was great fun.

Yes. I remember on that particular night, I think it was Rafters on Oxford Road.


So, but I remember we also did Iggy Pop and I think Barry was on sound. What’s his last name?


Harry Brooks. Yes, that’s even more daunting. You know, for the technicians, all his rock and roll and stuff, it was quite new to some of them, and I imagine quite daunting. Faced with a big American band with a big auditorium, that’s really challenging.

Yes. It is. Sad Café were kind of fairly organised, and that wasn’t too bad. Yes. When it came to the Albertos, at the end of the gig they started dismantling the drum kit and the band would kind of disappear and then they would sort of be wandering around between all the different microphones and banging drums and things. And because I couldn’t see anything, I have no idea where they were going to come up next. So that was…

It is extraordinary.

I thought, “Oh, really! What’s going on?” Because we hadn’t had a rehearsal, so we had no idea. We had only done a sound check, we’d never done a rehearsal, so we had no idea that was going to happen. But as I say, it was not perfect, but they let me do some more. So that was great for some of the, I mean, Tony would sort of come up with – Tony Wilson – would come up with bands that we’d never heard of. I remember doing a heavy metal band called the Tygers of Pan Tang, at Manchester Poly Students’ Union. We just have no idea what they were supposed to sound like. We’d not even heard a record, and we went in, and they were doing their sound check, and it was literally a wall of noise. So it was a case of trying to, “How do we pick something out of this?” But it was great. Absolutely loved it.

So what other shows did you work on in the late 70s?

So in ‘76 I worked with Laurence Olivier for the first time. There was a series called Olivier Presents, or something like that. The first one I think I did, I think was actually inserts for  – most of it was a studio shoot directed by Michael Apted – with Olivier, Allen Bates, Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren. I remember being in London, in Hammersmith on the floor of a cab with a microphone, and Malcolm McDowell and Alan Bates just above me.


Then another one was Hindlewakes, which Olivier directed, they sent Jim Howson out to sort of help him, well, not help him direct it, but to translate his ideas into things that were practical on a TV budget. It was quite a funny story, we were in Halifax, I think, it was somewhere in Yorkshire, outside a cotton mill, and we were trying to record some dialogue, and the supporting artists were all wearing clogs, and there was a lot of them sort of walking up and down, just out of shot. So Phil Taylor was the recordist and he said to Olivier, “Would it be alright if we got the people out of shot to take their clogs off?” So Olivier looked at him and eventually agreed, and then he turned around and said, “I spoil you, sound.”

Nice one. He did it anyway.

He did it. Yes. So that was the late 70s, and then the film unit was expanding massively. There was much more drama. They started doing the big documentary series at Christian’s, as I mentioned, so they needed more crew, basically. So there was a promotion chance. So that’s when I got to the chance to step up to recordist. Another interview with Bill Lloyd. And he said, “Right boy, we’re going to give you a chance, but you’re going to be doing local programmes for at least two years. We won’t let you near any sort of network stuff,” which turned out not to be true at all. I think there was a little bit of a delay before the promotion was made official, and then a month after that I was doing a network drama as a recordist.

Yes, but you had been a recordist on So it Goes.

But not officially, just because I was still graded as a boom operator at that time. So even though all the news work, and So it Goes, and I did the old local documentaries as well. But that was all acting up, and not officially recordist. So then 1980, I was finally a recordist, and started concentrating on drama more.

Is that what you wanted to do?

Well, as I said, I had originally come in and my interest was documentary. But the kind of opportunities for that weren’t as great, I found. As I became more experienced in doing drama, I did really enjoy that. It was more challenging, because there’s documentary and documentary, really. A lot of what was classed as documentary was little more than talking heads, which is not terribly interesting as a sound person. So the sort of documentaries that I was interested in was more the cinema verité type, and there wasn’t an awful lot of that going on. Although, as I said, I worked with Peter Carr quite a bit and his stuff was… in terms of getting the sound was much more challenging, and also more interesting in a way. So we did the Manchester City film, which I still think is a great, great film. And they managed to get this amazing sort of access into the dressing room and into the boardroom at Manchester City, which I think Paul Doherty had sort of arranged, and David Drury, who had been a film editor, produced it and he managed to keep that door open, which, was quite an achievement, because all hell was breaking loose at City at the time. They were firing Malcolm Allison, who was the manager, and then looking for a new manager, and the team wasn’t doing well. So there was all sorts of things going on, and we were behind the scenes on all of that. When things are going so badly, it’s unusual to be able to carry on shooting, which we managed to do.

Did you work on Living In Style?


That was a Peter Carr one, I just wondered.

It was, I did the city film. I did his Goostree series, which nobody will remember, I don’t think. But when you look at the reality shows today, it was ahead of its time, because over quite an extended period of time we followed various characters in the village, and they became real characters in the TV show. But we did it without in the modern reality shows where it’s kind of what they call ‘constructed factual’ these days. We didn’t do that. It was just what the people were really about and what they were really doing. So I thought that was good. Then I did another film with Peter about a Scottish cyclist who was in the Tour de France called Robert Miller, which was another really good film, and also great fun to do. Mike Blakely shot that, and I think he also shot the City film, and his handheld work was absolutely in a class of its own. I think he was never fully valued for that. He was really, really good at following the story, always getting the shot, basically.

He was the cameraman on So It Goes, the Clash Concert.


Which Peter Carr directed. which is, as you say, fantastic work from Mike, and Peter. Yes, so quite a variety of stuff.

Quite a variety, yes.

You did everything really, didn’t you, in those first 10 years?

I know, that was a great thing. I mean later on it became, the way the industry changed, you kind of had to specialise, and there were very few people who were crossing over from factual to drama and back again. Quite a few people moved from factual to drama, but very few went back, if you know what I mean.

So what did you do into the 80s, is that when you became a drama person?

Pretty much. The City film was 1980, the cycling film was later on. So I still had a foot in both camps. But it was more veering towards drama. So in the 80s, so originally at Granada, the drama had been basically done by two lighting cameraman, which was Ray Good and David Wood. David sadly died way too young. I think it was after that that Ken Morgan came in, who worked at the drama unit at BBC Birmingham. I did an awful lot of drama with Ken, Andy Stephen was his camera operator, and they were a great team. Throughout the 80s basically, I did mostly worked with them, and with Tony Cooper was my boom op, and later on, David Eve. So we kept the same team together for an awful lot of stuff. So the first big drama series that I did with them was this thing called All For Love, which was produced by Roy Roberts. They were one off stories adapted from mostly short stories by fairly well-known writers. The series was a kind of follow on to Country Matters, which had been done before I joined Granada. I think the idea was to do that same feel really. So they’re bittersweet stories. So I think one of the best of those was a thing called L’Elegance, directed by Jack Gold, Geraldine McEwan was the lead. It was about a shop girl from Manchester who went on an annual holiday to France, and took on a whole new persona, much more refined when she got to her French holiday hotel. So yes, and he was a great director. He was famous for the Naked Civil Servant, which was some time before, the thing about Quentin Crisp. But the way he worked was, put a lot of pressure on the crew. I think video assist was just beginning to be thought about, but basically it hadn’t come in. But he wasn’t interested in any of that. So we shot the whole thing, and the only person who had ever seen the shot was the camera operator, and the only person who’d ever heard the sound was me.

I see. So explain video assist?

Video assist where these days the cameras have a video feed so everybody can watch on monitors what the actual shot. The exact same shot, the same thing that the camera operator is seeing. Now that was a new technology in film cameras. It was obviously easy on video cameras because you just take a tap out. But it was a new idea to fit a video camera into the eyepiece of a film camera so that everyone else could see the shot. So for years, up until the mid-80s, no one could see the shot. You just have to take it on trust. The first time people saw it was when they watched rushes the next day. But Jack Gold, he asked you if it was okay, if you said it was okay, it was okay, and it’d better be okay. So that was amazing. So then another of the directors on the All for Love series was a guy called Rob Knight, and we went on to do a thing called the Ebony Tower, which is a John Fowles story with Lawrence Olivier again, which we shot in France, at a chateau with an hour’s drive outside of Le Monge. We were there for a few weeks. So with Olivier, Greta Scacchi, Toyah Willcox and Roger Reese. So it was quite a high-powered cast at the time.

Indeed it was, yes.

So that was good experience. Then I suppose the next notable drama was the Magic Toy Shop, which David Weekley directed, which was an Angela Carter book adaptation. Tom Bell was the lead in that. But I thought it was a really good script, it was pretty unusual. It was full of special effects, but it was before any sort of digital special effects. So it was all steampunk special effects, which is great fun. Steve Finnoran was the designer, he was a great designer. Again, sadly died too young.

Did he die?


I didn’t know. Oh, dear.

Yes. So that was great, and that got a cinema release, which was the first of the things that I’d recorded. It was a very limited cinema release, but it was there and I’ve still got the poster upstairs on the wall.


Yes, it was great. It was great.

And what year was that?

That was in ‘87. After that we did, I’m sorry, this is coming across like a list of programmes.

No, it’s good to detail them, and to detail who worked on them too.

Yes. A series called After the War, written by Frederic Raphael. It was a huge, huge series. I think it took about a year to shoot with two crews working. So it was absolutely massive. So I was on one of the units. there were three directors for the whole series, and I worked with John Madden, and John Woods was the DOP on it. I think Sita Williams was the producer. So yes, that was again a good experience. Madden was a talented director, although difficult at times. I think that on day one, the very first day of this year-long series, we were filming in the refuge building on Oxford Road. I think the first set up, we went to 23 takes, which when you had a year ahead of you, I thought didn’t bode well, but things sped up after that. So a lot of it was shot in Manchester. But also we also went to Israel and to Paris, and one of the other units went to Kenya as well on that show. So it was quite, the days when there was enough money to send drama crews to foreign places, which was fairly amazing.

You obviously did a lot of foreign travel over the years.

I did. Not as much as I could have done because I had a young family, and I took a conscious decision not to do that. So there was an awful lot of places in the world that I could have gone to, and chose not to for family reasons basically. So I had offers to do Disappearing World in China and in Tahiti, and I chose not to go. But the drama shoots tended to be slightly shorter when they were abroad. So that was fine, that was manageable.

But I guess the film office would decide who did what, and very often you learned about things quite late on, didn’t you?

Yes. That’s interesting, and that kind of changed over the years. I think in the 70s and 80s, they figured out which crews worked well together. So certain things were put together in that way, and then as time progressed, the producers and directors began to have much more of a say, and they could choose who they wanted. Because in the early days they got who they were given, pretty much. But later on, it rested on your CV, who they wanted basically. I did okay out of that.

So After The War, and then more drama?

More drama, a 1988 A Tale of Two Cities, which is another big one. We were in Bordeaux shooting for, oh weeks, must have been nine, 10 weeks or something. Which was another great experience. That was an interesting one, because it was a co-production with a French company and the cost was half, well more than half English. The other portion were French. Some of whom were great actors. But their command of English wasn’t… it was fine to chat, but to act… I think Steve Falls was the producer who liaised with the French production company, because I think he had a background as a French teacher or something.

Yes, that’s right. He did. Yes.

Anyway, so the decision was made to shoot it all in English, and to shoot certain scenes in English and French. That was very interesting, because the scenes in French with the French cast would take half the time of the scenes in English with the French cast. In terms of running the dialogue, in French it was very quick. In English it was really slow.


But the French lead was an actor called Xavier Deluc, and his English really wasn’t great. I flagged up in the first couple of weeks, I said, “We have a problem here, because you really can’t understand him.” And they said, “No, no, no, no, no. It’ll be fine.” We’ll actually, it wasn’t fine. So they let it go for the whole shoot, and then at the end of the day they got an English actor to re-voice him. Which is really disappointing for me, because one of the things that all sound recordists want is for your sound to make it into the final show. Not to have post-sync, or ADR as it’s called now. So that was a shame.

But as I say, but you really couldn’t understand him. But that was again, fantastic cast. John Mills, Jean-Pierre Aumont.

Yes. Then I see you worked on Who Bombed Birmingham?

Yes, with Mike Beckham. Again, that was the same team with Ken Morgan, and yes, that was fantastic. Fantastic show. Obviously the World In Action had come first, but the drama kind of added to the pressure, I think. Then the Birmingham Six were released, I think it was probably within a year after that went out. So it was, yes, I thought it was great.

Who was the cameraman on that?

On Who Bombed Birmingham? Ken Morgan again.


It was kind of odd, because it was a kind of a Granada-based story. So we had Martin Shaw being Ian McBride.

That’s right, I remember. So just jumping forward, if we may, to Prime Suspect.


Which is obviously one of the best known Granada productions. Very successful. Starring Helen Mirren. And you worked on it for it looks like three years?

I did. I didn’t do the first one. The first one, that’s what kicked it off. It was a great, absolutely great piece of television. The person who recorded it, Chris (Manoel? 53:04) that directed it, wanted all of this overlapping dialogue, so that the police station incident room scenes were a lot of people talking at once. Now from a sound point of view, it’s very difficult to do that, and make it so that you can edit it because obviously things overlap. You can’t get the scissors in. So on the first one, that had been a bit of an issue. So I was asked to do the second one, and they said, “Can you cope with that, and shoot it in such a way that we can edit it?” I said, “Yes, I can do it. I just need a second boom operator.” Because if you’ve only got one boom operator… and up until that time, really the sound crew was only a two-man crew. Things had been shot in the traditional way where the actors don’t overlap each other, leave gaps so that you can edit. Prime Suspect wasn’t shot that way.

Were you recording on quarter inch tape?

Still, yes, I’m pretty sure. I can’t remember what year we changed it. I went from a recording on a Nagra mono, to a stereo Nagra, to then a DAT machine, and later on to digital. I can’t quite remember which year that change what happened. But I’m pretty sure it was on a Nagra.

On Prime Suspect, and these scenes that you mentioned in the incident room…

So we were still, we only had two tracks.

Two tracks?

Yes, yes.

So how do you cope with overlapped dialogue with two tracks?

So basically as long as you cover all the dialogue, everything that happens and there’s nothing that’s off mic, then it’s possible to edit it. It means maybe stealing bit of sound from one tape to use on another, or putting the sound edit, not where the picture edit is, either a little bit earlier or a little bit later, but you can edit it.

That’s quite tricky isn’t it?

Quite tricky. But that’s what we did. So we made sure that we… and those incident room scenes in Prime Suspect, there was a lot of people in them, and they all had dialogue. So you had to be on your toes, absolutely, to make sure that everything was covered. So as I say, as long as nothing was off mic, then the editor could get around it, and that’s the way we did it. It worked, it was successful.

Did you have a regular assistant to at this time that you chose to work with?

I’ve worked with Tony Cooper who I mentioned earlier, and I think he did the first one with me. But then David Eve, who I had been working with on a lot of the programmes which I’ve just mentioned, had a back injury, so he’d had to step away from it. So I was then looking for new boom operators, and on the Prime Suspects I worked with a number of different people.

Just on another tack here, but it was a man’s world really wasn’t it, of film crews and technicians?

Yes, absolutely. Pretty much the whole film unit, when I joined the whole film crew unit was male. Obviously we always went out with Pas, and that was the female presence. It tended to be eight or nine guys and one female, and that was for a very long time. Then in the late 80s I think you began to see a few female camera assistants, and whatever. Even later still, female sound people. But yes, very much. It took a long time to change.

I’m going to ask you about Band of Gold. what was that like to work on?

I only did the second series, but yes, it was a good one. We were mostly in Ashton-Under-Lyne on the back streets, pretending that that was the red light district of Bradford. Then quite a bit of with studio sets as well, were built for that.

Granada was still making a lot of drama in the 90s, wasn’t it?

When you look at the list of programmes, the perception was that when things started to change… I think when we were doing Tale Of Two Cities… Granada, whether there was money problems or whatever, I don’t know, Granada decided… I think it was Thatcherism as well. There had been the TV-am dispute, and all of that. Thatcher had said, “Things can’t go on like this,” because the union has held sway. To be honest, we had amazing deals in terms of expenses, and the electricians had to go on jobs where they didn’t have to put any lights up and things like that. Then in the 80s it was decided that this couldn’t carry on, and Granada came up with something called the House Agreement, which sort of did away with all of those things in one fell swoop. Everyone on the crew said, “Oh, this is the beginning of the end.” Actually when you look at the programmes that we did after that, it wasn’t the beginning of the end, it was just different.

Looking back on it, how was the industrial relations side? Did that affect the way you worked, and did it impact on the productions?

Yes. It’s kind of difficult to explain this really, but there was a very bad… with any change, everyone could see that it was unsustainable to carry on the way we were, and it didn’t make any sense. But the swing from one extreme to the other was too extreme in a way. It should have been sort of cut back, but gone in a middle way and that didn’t happen. It went to a totally other extreme, and we worked for a period where we didn’t have the right to refuse overtime, and the company could put out a schedule where you had no idea what time you’re going to finish work. If they said you had to do overtime, you had to do overtime. For a person’s social life, it was absolutely disastrous because you had no idea what time you were going to get home.

I see, or family life as well.

Family life. So that persisted for a few years, not too long. Then gradually people began to push back against it and say, “No, I’m not doing that unless you pay more money.” Because it was unreasonable, and it’s gradually gone back to a whole different way of working now where everyone is freelance. You do a deal, but the terms are much more strictly laid down. So it’s not all one way, which it was for those few years.

When did the House Agreement come in do you think?

I can’t remember the exact year. But I think it was around ‘88, ‘89.

Do you get paid overtime now, in the industry as a freelancer?

Potentially. But in fact, it’s ever-changing. There’s just been in the last year in agreement with PACT, the Producers Association, where they’ve actually laid down much stricter rules, because there’s been a huge issue with people working excessive hours, people crashing their cars on the way home from work because they’re too tired. So they’ve put some limits onto that, and as part of that to prevent excessive hours they’ve introduced some overtime rates again, which hadn’t happened for a long time.

Okay. Let me ask you about Cold Feet.

Cold Feet was great. I did five years on Cold Feet. The only one I didn’t do was the original pilot, but it was one of the most enjoyable things ever, really. I think the early series, the first couple of series were groundbreaking in a way. It wasn’t until the third series that it became a massive hit. But no, no, it was great. I can’t remember what year it was that Andy Harris got the head of comedy job, and then became head of comedy and drama. But he’d started doing a series with Rik Mayall, which I did quite a few of, which were the same thought behind it as Cold Feet. It was very relatable, but it was good stories with a good cast. We did one called Dancing Queen with Rik Mayall and Helena Bonham Carter, which was only an hour’s film, but it still stands up as a great little… it could have been a feature film. Another one was the Bare Necessities, which was the same story as the Full Monty, but we made it nine months before that came out.

I see.

Again, it was only an hour, and could have been a feature film, that was great. Andy did all these things, and then Cold Feet came along and that was a big, big success.

What year did you leave Granada then?


2003, so it was just after Cold Feet, was it?

What had happened was that from the early 90s, people… obviously had the change of management, which we all know about, and they’d started getting rid of people. They were offering voluntary redundancy, and the film unit had withered away from I think a peak amount in the mid-80s of about 37 people, camera and sound, augmented by quite a lot of freelancers. It was at the height of when we were really busy. Granada just started, if people left, they weren’t replaced, or people were offered voluntary redundancy. I’d actually applied for voluntary redundancy in the late 80s and I’d been refused. I think I was too busy. That was the problem. I don’t know whether that was good or a bad thing at the end of the day, but what had started to happen was, even though I was still on the staff, they started hiring me out to independent production companies and to the BBC. Which was a very odd situation, because I’d get phone calls from independent producers saying, “We’d like you to do such-and-such a drama, would you like to do it?” “Yes, but I can’t do a deal with you because it has to go through Granada.”

Yes, strange.

So they said, “Well, if we offered you this amount of money, would that be alright?” So it’s, “Yes. that’s fine.” So a day later I’d get a call from management at Granada saying, “We want to hire you out to such and such your production company, and we’re willing to pay you this amount of money,” which is what I had agreed… so it was very, very bizarre.


So I did that quite a bit. So it was a good practice for being freelance. I was kind of working for different companies but still being paid by Granada. So eventually in 2003 they decided to disband the film unit altogether. I think there only about four or five of us left. So at that stage they had no option but to give me the redundancy package.

I see, yes. So you were in Granada, ‘73 to 2003, 30 years in the company.


What are the high points, low points, what did you admire about the company and its people, or what didn’t you like so much?

I think we talk about the glory days really, in terms of when David Plowright was in charge. I think the different TV landscape at the time meant that the Granada could, if somebody came up with an idea and they pitched it to the management, and they liked it, they could just say, “Right, go ahead and do it.” What that meant was that it wasn’t the lowest common denominator. It was in some odd ideas could actually get made and the interesting ideas. Then in the later times when things like the Network Centre was established, and that was no longer possible, you have a much less chance of getting personal projects made or whatever, because it had to compete with the rest of the network for a start. Because Granada didn’t have automatic access to the network, without sort of pitching for it. I thought that was good. That’s what made it an exciting place because there was so many different things going on. It had its own character, really. From sort of left wing journalists on World in Action, to the (??70:08), which were the sort of northern end of the pier of stuff almost.

In your career, did you want to be anything else at Granada, or were you content?

I’d always wanted to direct, and I thought I could do it. But I think I applied twice for the director’s training course and didn’t get it. I wasn’t terribly surprised; there were few people who managed to move from crew to directing.

It was rare though, wasn’t it?

It was rare.

I remember.

Pete Connors became a producer from being a sound man.

Colin Richards.

Colin Richards, also yes. But it was very rare. The most remarkable one was Tony Prescott. He came from being a spark to being a really good director.

That’s right, that’s right.

But I don’t know, I think you were kind of… and maybe sound especially, I don’t know. There’s a bit of a thing with sound men.

I think I know what you’re going to say.

We’ll I don’t know, I don’t know how to say it in a polite way, but there is. I’ve had the odd person come up to me and say, “Oh, you’re pretty normal for a sound man.”

There was bit of a hierarchy in a film crew, wasn’t there? The camera man was the lead operator.


Picture more important than sound, was that the general view?

Always everywhere. Not just Granada, everywhere. The difference, what made Granada a nice place to work, was that within the film unit itself, everybody helped each other out. So there wasn’t, if the camera guys needed a lift, you’d do that. If you need a lift the camera guys would help you out. That certainly wasn’t the case everywhere. I worked with some London crews where there was such a divide between cameras… they barely even talk to each other, and they certainly wouldn’t help each other out. It was almost like a competition, and Granada wasn’t like that at all. That was really good. The cameraman was always seen as the leader of the crew. Absolutely, right.

And what about the electrician’s role within the…

I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

I think it ought to be a corporative unit, and when it works best, everyone’s helping each other and you sit down and dinner at night and why have a laugh.

Well, without being under diplomatic, I think in the early days when the electrician’s union ruled the roost, and some of the electricians, although really nice guys, and left to their own devices would do anything for you. But would not do that if they thought anybody would see them doing something not in their role. That was a union thing, and within the electrician’s union, there were some absolute sticklers who would come down like a ton of bricks on somebody who seemed to be doing something outside of the field. But yes, it tended, when you’re away from base, it tended to be all different and everyone chipped in.

Because the thing about… well, I’ve done more studio stuff, you’ve done more film stuff. But we work in unpredictable environments. Things can happen.


The weather can change things, or a car crash, or the equipment can break down. So in getting your schedule and your timing is very difficult thing. So you have to beg favours sometimes, don’t you?

Oh definitely, yes. Doing the job, in some ways you could say doing the job is easy, but making sure everything works is hard.


It’s always the biggest… because with sound kit especially, there’s so many bits and pieces, that trying to keep on top of that, it all gets hammered in the course of the job. So yes. So that’s hard. I was on a documentary in the states and it was one of those jobs where different city every night, different flight every day. We ended up in North Carolina, and took the recorder out of the… it was a Nagra at the time. Took the recorder out of the box, didn’t work. And we had one interview to do and then to fly onto Washington the next day. So that’s an awful situation. So I started getting on the phone in North Carolina, calling up local TV stations and radio stations and of course, nobody used that kit, because it was film kit. So that’s not what they use. So after a lot of phone calls, so tracked down a guy who was 50 miles away who had a Nagra, and called him up and said, “We’re really stuck.” And he said, “Okay, if you drive down the freeway and there’s a junction…” whatever number, “and it’s halfway between the two of us, and we’ll meet there I’ll hand over the machine.” Which he did, didn’t know us from Adam and got us out of the pickle.

Wow. That’s amazing.


That is amazing.


So since you left Granada, you’ve had a successful independent career?

Yes. Yes.

Lots of different kinds of production, lots of different clients.

Well, the nature of things these days, is there’s lot of independent production companies. So yes, I work with Red Productions quite a bit. This thing I’m doing next is for Tiger Aspect, this is the third series I’ve done with them.

So your Granada reputation on the shows you worked has stood you in good stead?

Yes, I would say so. When you get to my age, you do get discounted for some jobs because they think you’re too old. But other than that that kind of CV stands you in reasonably good stead. So yes.

So is there anything else you want to add to your story?

No. I think there’s an awful lot of programmes and you can’t mention everything. The only thing we didn’t touch on, which I really enjoyed doing the local documentaries, which I did a load of. The This is Englands, and Celebrations, which I was interested in the arts anyway. So those were great to do. And quirky little films, with the, you know, directors like Norman Howell and Julian Farino. So yes, those were really enjoyable.

And finally all of the 30 years you were at Granada, just name a few people that you really admire, if you like, people you worked with over the years.

I’m trying to think of someone that I haven’t already mentioned.

Well, you can repeat it.

So yes. I worked with an awful lot of different people, cameramen, directors, producers. I think I mentioned before Ken Morgan, I’ve worked with for a long time, and I think that was a great working relationship. George Turner, who I’ve worked with every seven years on the Up films with Michael Apted. That’s a great working relationship, that whole team in fact. We just had a preview of the next 63 Up, which goes out in about a month’s time.

Okay, did George work on that?

Yes. Yes, we’re all still going. But what was interesting was, there was a Q&A, it was at the BFI in London and there was a Q&A afterwards. Mark Lawson said to Michael Apted, what would happen. “Do you think it should carry on, and if you can’t do it, should somebody else take it on?” One of our contributors who was there stood up and said, “We wouldn’t do it with anyone else.”

Oh, that’s good, wow.

So it just shows the sort of relationship that the crew have with the people, and why that’s been such a great series, because it’s very intrusive into their private lives basically. But the fact that they’ve stuck with it is partly to do with the relationship that we all have with them. So that’s great.

Looking at Granada as a company, as an employer and the culture of it. How do you see that?

Because it went through different phases. So I can’t but say it was an absolutely great company to work for. When I look around at the other ITV companies, and I mean the BBC is a different kettle of fish, but certainly the other ITV companies, I don’t see any of the others that had what Granada had. The fact that we were in Manchester, and the size of it, that everyone knew everyone else basically in it. There was this huge amount sort of talent within that building, I think in all sort of areas. One person I haven’t mentioned who I think was incredible, who I worked with a lot and I think was incredibly talented is David Odd. He sort of just came out of the Granada system, with the idea, a definitely have-a-go attitude. He was not afraid to try new things, do things in a different way. I think maybe that came from the Granada ethos. Yes.

Okay, are you happy?

Yes, I think so. You can go on and on, can’t you? but I don’t know.

We covered a lot one ground.

We did, we did.

Thank you very much.

No, no, it’s a pleasure.

Sita Williams

Interviewed by Geoff Moore, 8 December 2019.

So Sita, your early days, your early life. Tell us a bit about that.

Well, the reason I got into television was I grew up in Sri Lanka where there was no television. But I heard about someone, through a friend whose son had joined a television company and I thought, “Oh, that sounds good. I want to do that.” So anyway, I planned my career in a very kind of structured way imagining that I would reach my goal and to my surprise I did. I went to drama school because I wanted to have a theatre background, a drama production background. And then the drama school I went to had an arrangement with the university of Kent, where they took up to six students who’d done three years at drama school. And then you got exempt from the first year and you got a degree at the end of the two years, which was marvellous. So I did a drama school and then English and American literature.

And I applied for the BBC graduate training scheme, which I got on, which was extremely privileged as you know. And there began my career as a trainee at the BBC. I worked in radio and then in television. And what was marvellous was, you really learned your craft because… I know young people do today. We had the protection of the BBC, where you were paid a salary, you were chosen, you had a mentor. My mentor was the controller of BBC too, so they kind of watched your career. And then in television, my first proper job, as not as a trainee, funny enough was with the Michael Parkinson Show. And as you know, Michael did cinema for Granada television. And then after two years, we had to relocate to Manchester. So I wrote to Granada television, to Steve Morrison who was then the head of regional programmes. And I think they asked Michael Parkinson whether they should employ me. And Michael said yes. So I arrived at Granada.

Let me take you back on that a little bit, you had all of BBC graduate trainee course?


When you were how old?

Well, I went into further education later, so I think I was 25.

Did you know what you wanted to do?

Yes, I was going to be this television producer.

Producer, yes. Okay

From the age of 12 and the only organisation I knew growing up in the Commonwealth was the BBC.

Right. How did you get into Granada again?

Well then, we had to relocate as a family to Manchester and I thought, “Well Granada television actually does the best drama I’ve seen.” For example, there was, I remember very clearly Peter Eckersley’s production of Hard Times and I thought, “I’m going to go there.” So, I applied. Steve Morrison encouraged me to apply he and Sandy Ross.

And so I remember very clearly arriving at Piccadilly station because we were still living in London. And I said, “Granada Television.” And this young man said to me, “Oh, can we share a taxi? I’m going to Granada too.” So we got into the taxi together and it was after the strike, the ITV very long strike. And the young man said to me, “What you’re going to do at Granada?” And I said, “I’ve just joined as a producer. I’ve come from the BBC in London.” And I said to him, “And what are you going to be doing?” And he said, “Oh, I’ve just taken over directing a thing called Brideshead Revisited.” And it was Charles Sturridge.

My goodness. So that’s how you came to be in Granada.

In Granada.

The first thing you worked on?

I didn’t really make the connection that what Steve Morrison and Sandy were doing were regional programmes. That was a bit of a shock.

Yes. Yes.

And I did Live From Two, with a wonderful person called Shelley Rohde, and it was a fantastic show. It came from studio two and we had all sorts of wonderful interviewees and Shelley was a journalist as you know, she was originally a journalist. And she was terrific, it was Nick Turnbull and Shelley Rohde And then it was just Shelley. And I took over from Stephen Leahy, who had been the producer of Live From Two.

All right. Now the Parkinson show was before that then?

Yes, Parkinson was at BBC. I was a producer Parkinson at the BBC.

So it was obviously a good fit for me to move into the first kind of live discussion, in Granada. And it was very good. And one of the people I remember we had on the show and I said to Shelley, “I really don’t like him.” And we gave him a hard time, which he was very upset about was Jimmy Savile.

Oh, gosh.

Because we questioned his support of charities and his proselytising Christianity. It didn’t smell right and Shelley was very good at that.

And I don’t suppose they ever kept that interview, but I remember it as a very, very special interview.

It may have been kept.

In front of an audience because Live from Two was done in front of an audience. And then I moved on because Steve Hawes left producing Celebration. And I loved Celebration because I worked with Tony Wilson then and we did extraordinary things in studio two. We did New Order, we did all the bands that he was promoting or he hadn’t started Factory even then, I’m not quite sure.

What year are we talking about?

1981, it was Celebration. And we managed extraordinary things in that Studio Two for Celebration. And we had no editing facilities, nothing. So it was all extraordinary. So it was a great time.

Yes. So you were producer of the series?


And then I thought, “Well, I’ve come to Granada to do drama,” and David Plowright was the managing director. So I got an appointment with him and I said, “Actually David, I only came here in order to do drama.” The arrogance of a young person. “And this is my background, I worked in drama at the BBC before I became a Parkinson producer and that’s what I’d like to do.” And the joy of television in those days, within 48 hours, he rang me and he said, “You can start producing Crown Court next week.”

So that was my first drama job, Crown Court.

So you’ve told me how you got into Granada television. You didn’t come in as a journalist or…?


You didn’t want to be a director, particularly?


You knew what you wanted to do.

Yes, yes, yes. I knew my limitations.

Or a researcher, you were never a researcher?

I was a research obviously at the BBC as part of my training. So I had done a huge amounts of that before I became a producer on Michael Parkinson. So I was at the BBC from ‘76 to ‘80.

I see. So you arrived at Granada as a producer.

Leslie Woodhead was one of the people on my board.

Oh, yes, yes. As he was on mine, in ‘77.

Andy McLaughlin had just been appointed a producer, Max Graesser and Sarah Harding, who is still directing drama in television

Is she really?

Yes, she’s had a renaissance and she’s directing. ….

So tell us about the first impressions of Granada. You’ve been on some regional programmes, Celebration and Live From Two and the people and you were new to Manchester?

I was totally new to Manchester.

What were your feelings about the whole setup?

Of Granada? I thought it was an extraordinary place. Peter Eckersley was still there, but I think he left shortly afterwards because he wasn’t well. And he started Wood and Walters, Victoria Wood and Julie Walters. Howard, he was wonderful. He was doing… I thought all the drama people were extraordinary. Dick Everett and Peter Rogers, I remember him. And all the women, June Wyndham Davis and they were Diana, I’ve forgotten Diana’s name. They were very good women producers as well. And Bill Podmore was in charge of Coronation Street. David Plowright said to me, “I’ll never let you direct Coronation Street because you will put an Asian corner shop in that street.” People could say things like that in those days.

And you never did.

And I never did.

On Crown Court, that was a long running series.

Yes it was. I was the last of the Crown Court producers and it ran over three afternoons a week. And then at that time we had a wonderful head of scripts called Gerry Hagan. And we had a very substantial script research department and with Gerry’s help I decided that we… and of course through his guidance we decided that Crown Court should now be used because it was such a structured format. And you’ve got wonderful actors because they didn’t have to learn their scripts to be prosecution or defence. So you got Anthony Shaw, you know, big name actors. But I wanted to use it as a forum for new writing. And so my series of Crown Court, I’m really proud of that, had new writers, Debra Moggach, who’s now a novelist, Guy Hibbert, who’s well known film script writer who also does drama-doc type films. John Godber who was in Hull. Richard O’Keefe, who died. A number of new writers because they could be supported by a very rigid structure. And they all, every writer has one thing that really wants to write about, so as a new writer they all had fantastic stories. So that was that. And we had a jury as you probably know, of people off the street, to decide on a verdict. And I got very tired of the not guilty verdicts. I thought this was a drama. So I’d go into the jury room and try and sway it a bit because they got enamoured and I would ply their performances. So I did a little manipulation, so we got a change of verdict.

Yes, you can’t leave people themselves to sort it out. I’ve been there myself. And so this was sort of a ground, this was still quite early in your career as a producer.

Very early, yes. As a drama producer, yes.

A drama producer and you could bring in writers who weren’t famous.


But how did a writer get work on the Crown Court?

Well Gerry and his team had either seen like John created and wrote for Hull Truck company. So they were very good at scouting people either in the theatre or they sent in spec scripts, things you can’t do nowadays. And then we would meet with them and take a punt on new writing.

And what about directors?


Was that from Granada’s stable?

Oh, it was always the Granada stable.

Oh, I see.

Yes. I don’t know if David Liddiment didn’t direct a couple, but I can’t remember.

So then you went from Crown Court, tell us your next move.

I think the next move was Bulman, which Dick Everitt had been producing. And that had Don Henderson as a private eye. And Siobhan (Redmond)… oh, I’ve forgotten, she’s still on television, her surname… was his sidekick. And Bulman had a passion for repairing clocks, that was his idiosyncrasy, but he was also a private eye. And I think originally they had Mark McManus who then went on to do his own series. And what was it, I remember I said this to Sarah Harding, who I’ve met recently, that Sarah directed some Bulman and I said, “David…” Production manager.


No, David Meddick.


Dave Meddick some years ago said, “Do you know I’ve got an old Bulman schedule to show you.” And I looked at it, I said, “What? Three scenes a day, is that all?” And he said, “Yes. And you were the producer and Sarah Harding was the director.” That was a whole different ballgame then.


Three scenes in an entire day.

I’ve got your CV here…

Yes. Is that right? You probably know better than me.

The Practice…


… that came before.

Did Bulman right. The Practice, I thought it’s such a shame really that… that David Plowright suggested a set up. I had the idea and it was set in a general practice probably in Hulme, for example. And it was a brilliant idea because we told the stories of individual patients as well as the team from the front of house receptionists to the doctors. And we really didn’t go into the private lives of either the doctor’s homes or the character’s, the patient’s homes. And the first episode got 16 million, which I don’t think they thought was really enough.

Really? What slot did that have?

It had, I think it was 8:00.


Mm-hmm, and it was just half an hour. And of course now the BBC, in the afternoon, have a show that’s run for zillion years…

That’s right.

Called the Practice or Practice or whatever. But then David Liddiment and Camilla came up with an alternative idea that entrance David Plowright called Albion Market. So we were dropped and Albion…

The Market took over that alternative.

How did you fell about that?

Well, oh, I don’t know. I wasn’t that upset, but I thought it was a mistake, because I felt there were endless stories to tell. And without, I mean Kay’s a wonderful writer, but I thought one of the problems with Albion Market where there were too many central characters, like there were 25 central characters, and how did you relate to? I know they took turns and I’m sure all of that. I didn’t think it was as good as The Practice, but there you go. I would wouldn’t. As Mandy Rice-Davies would say she, wouldn’t she?

But you didn’t work on Albion…

No, no, no. Because I went on, I think then. Did I do Bulman after that?

Yes. And the next one I’ve got is After The War.

Yes. Which was a big show.

Was it?

Yes. It Mike Cox was the first producer on that. It was Gerry Hagan’s pet… very treasured project because he’d managed to persuade Frederick Raphael to write 12 episodes of this. And it was Frederick’s a life story in a way. Mike Cox was the producer of the first four episodes, was it? I’m not sure. And then the whole series transferred to Africa and Mike quite rightly didn’t want to be bothered with that. He’d set it up, he’d cast it, and I took over and I was delighted to take over and go and film in Africa. The director, and he did all of them, was John Madden who went on to do Shakespeare In Love and other big movies shows. So, we went to Africa to do that.

We’re still in the 80s on this one?


In the 80s, because you said that that decade of the ‘80s you were a Granada bod, right through.

Yes, absolutely.

Doing series after series…


You never digressed?


You never took a producer of Question of Sport or anything like that?


Around the Houses?


As you mentioned Brideshead and Jewel in the Crown, in the early ‘80s. The reputation of Granada was second to none in many fields. But in terms of the drama department, did you feel it had enough backing…

Oh, yes.

Were the right people there doing…

Absolutely. No question. Because David was head of drama. Plowright. David Plowright was also the head of drama. He was managing director and head of drama. I remember going in one day to complain that my budget wasn’t enough and he said to me, and it was so wonderful. That was Granada at its best. He said, “I’ll give you what you want. Just go. I want you out of that door now.”

You did it right. How wonderful.

So that was fantastic.


Yes, that came because I think then there was a rather sad moment in the Granada department and I must, I think, talk about that. Mike Cox retired as head of drama and retired from Granada. They appointed Sally Head. Steve Morrison was now in control. David Plowright had left, I think, by then. If I could just tell you that when we heard, and we call them the caterers, you remember? Jeff took over, and I… it still brings tears to my eyes because I thought it was so special. David Plowright sent round a letter saying he was resigning and I cried because I thought, “This company is going to change beyond all recognition.” I think in many ways it did. But maybe it needed to, it had to change, and it wasn’t going to be the place it was ever again. Steve Morrison then became director of programmes. It was Mike Scott before, and Steve brought in Sally Head. She’d won a BAFTA for the Fay Weldon series. I can’t remember what it was called now. She was very much London-based. She really didn’t want any of us there. But because Maigret had been, I think Steve Hawes’ and Mike Cox’s idea, if I’m right, she brought in Mike Cox to be the producer. Mike had an office, I remember this so well, opposite me and he would come in, after a few weeks he would come in, he would lock himself in that office, and then leave at the end of the day. One day he came in, and at the end of the day, he came out and said, “I’m walking out of this building and I’m never coming back.” And I think, as far as I know, it was because we were brought up to be the producers in control of the scripts, the casting. We weren’t overwritten by the head of department. He had been the head of department and I think it was impossible for him to work with Sally Head. Then, as far as I was concerned, Keith Thompson came along and said to me, “I’m very sorry, Sita. I’ve got to give you your P45. You’ve got to go.” I took a deep breath… needless to say, I did not like Sally Head. Max Graesser, I talked to Max about it, and Max said, “You can’t leave.” He talked to David Liddiment. David Liddiment talked to Ian McBride and Ray Fitzwalter, and they appointed me the producer of Hostages. That’s how it happened.

Oh, right. How about that. Mike Cox was head of department…

When I joined.

Sally Head take his job…

Yes. I mean, Mike resigned, but she brought him back as the producer of Maigret.

Yes, that’s right. The producer of Maigret. You had a P45, but not for long.

I never took it up.

You never cashed it in.

That I did not.

In Suspicious Circumstances.

Yes, that was Ian. That was all under the kind of World in Action drama department. Ian McBride was my executive producer because the end was the executive producer of Hostages. Alasdair Palmer was the brilliant researcher, associate producer of that. Then, In Suspicious Circumstances, I continued to work on that with, who is the marvellous presenter of that? Famous actor. Edward Woodward. He was the presenter.

Oh, yes, I remember.

They were all based on true stories. That was fun. The best one I did was a First World War, In Suspicious Circumstances, where deserters were condemned to death. Steve Finneran, who I must mention, was a wonderful production designer. Steve Finneran dug and created, first brilliantly, we had very little money for these shows, a trench in the fields at Arley Hall. Aidan Gillen, who went on to become famous with Queer As Folk that he did. He was the star of that, In Suspicious Circumstances. I was so proud that we recreate the First World War in a muddy field in Arley.

Yes. I know. I work with Steve Finneran quite a lot. That was great.

He was also one of the production designers on After The War. He was a great loss.

Let’s move on to Reckless. That was in the ‘90s wasn’t it?

Yes, yes. That was a very great high point. I then stopped doing drama doc tape. I had also done another drama doc, which was called Goodbye, My Love, about the founder of euthanasia, Derek (Humphry), oh, whose second wife. He wrote a book called Jean’s Way, about euthanasia, and then his second wife was an American, accused him of getting her to commit suicide and we did that. We did them with HBO as co-partners, and Colin Callender was then head of HBO. All the drama docs were co-funded by HBO, which was fantastic because we got a lot of money for casting. Then Reckless was under the, Carolyn Reynolds was the executive producer. She was executive Coronation Street and also Reckless. She had got Paul Abbott to write the script. Nick Elliott was the commissioner of ITV and they wanted a vehicle for Robson Green. Robson Green was cast, but then I cast Francesca Annis and Michael Kitchen. Paul Abbott will tell you, we only had two scripts when we started filming. Then I would look outside his house and throw pebbles at his window to make him answer the door so I could get scripts out of him. David Richards directed that and it was a phenomenal success. It had 11 million viewers and more. And it was the time that people had appointments to view. People would leave their, they told me, they’d leave their classes early or their work early in order to watch Reckless. That was such fun.

I remember that. I remember that. This time Sally Head was still head of dept.?

Was she, then? Or was David Liddiment? I think David Liddiment had taken over. Would that be right, Geoff?

I’m not sure. I’m not sure about that.

Oh, she might have been head of department, but I, of course, had got my P45 from her, so I was never in her department. I was with Ian McBride at World in Action and then Carolyn Reynolds, Coronation Street, Branch, Reckless.

Yes. I’m with you. You never worked on Coronation Street did you?

No. After David Plowright’s threat.

Did you ever want to?

I didn’t want or not want. Mervyn Watson was producer then, and then Brian Park came on as producer. I think it was a phenomenally hard job. I was much happier doing short serials, yes.

Then we have, I’ve got a list of them here. The Last Train.

Yes. That was a wonderful sci-fi series that still runs on the Sci-Fi Channel, directed by Stuart Orme and written by Matthew Graham.

Oh, yes, I remember.

Again, Steven Finneran was the production designer and we had the most phenomenal locations to capture the end of the world and we built three carriages on a huge shifting construction because the opening is a train crash. We set it up in Liverpool at the, who are the big ship builders who also in Belfast?

Harland and Wolff?

Harland and Wolff. We had so much money to make it in those days.

Let’s move on to The Forsyte Saga. It ran in 2002?


How did that come about? Because that…

That was David Liddiment’s idea. He had thought, “Well, it’s a long time since we’ve done The Forsyte Saga.” He asked me if I would produce it, so that’s how that happened.

Enjoyable? Successful?

Wonderful. Wonderful. We had a wonderful writer called Stephen Mallatratt, who had written, I remember, 176 episodes of Coronation Street.

And those Coronation Street writers were very special. They really knew their craft. I mean, Paul Abbott started life at Granada as a storyliner for Coronation Street. Oh, and I also did Children’s Ward with Paul Abbott a long time ago. It was a marvellous, Steve Finneran again, was the designer. We cast the now very famous Damian Lewis as Soames

Okay. Yes. Right. Island at War.

That was written by Stephen Mallatratt and it was about the war in the Channel Islands, with the occupied Nazis there. And we shot that on the Isle of Man. It was beautifully scripted. We were going to do another series and Stephen Mallatratt said, “I’m very tired. I’m very tired. I’m not going to write anymore.” But we persuaded him to write another episode and then he discovered he had cancer so that was it, really. We never made a second series.

We’re into the 2000s, and by now the commissioning system was different to the ‘80s.


We had a central commissioning power. How did you feel about that? Did you feel that you had to, was the system better run that way, or did you have trouble with it?

Well, I think we were over-privileged because David Plowright could dictate how many hours of drama he was going to offer to ITV, and that was no longer the case. It was much more of a you had to persuade ITV. I think by then David had become head of ITV.

Yes. That’s right. He was at that time. Yes.

Yes. And it was Dawn Airey, I think, was there…


It wasn’t where Granada, and we’re making 26 hours of drama whether you like them or not. You had to fight for your space, really.

Yes. Okay. Vincent? I remember, with Ray Winston.

With Ray Winston, yes.

I remember having a chat with you about this because I think you were having trouble getting a recommission on…

Yes. And I think I made a mistake. Because originally, they commissioned 90 minutes. Which is actually probably too long. Ray really loved the show and he wanted to do more. I’ve always been unnecessarily bolshy. I wouldn’t do that again. And Nick Elliott said to me, “We don’t want 90 minutes. We want an hour.” I said, “Oh, we’re not doing that.” So that was that.

That was that. Oh, yes, I remember.

But it should have been an hour, actually, on ITV.

Okay. But I remember you talking about Ray Winston, and to have him as part of your production and not to carry on with him…

That was shocking. Yes.

… to lose him, as it were. You were upset about that.

I was very upset because he was a fantastic asset to ITV, really. But maybe we didn’t

You are.

Play the best game. I’m being very honest with you.

You are. Let me have The Street.


Which is Paul Abbott?

No. Jimmy McGovern.

Jimmy McGovern?


Tell us about The Street.

Well, that was Jimmy’s idea where we had a street in Salford it turned out and each episode you went behind the door and it centred on the story coming out of that door, that family. And so they were self-contained but you also saw other characters in The Street and then we told their story. They were a minor character in one episode and then became a major character in the next episode. And Jimmy wrote it brilliantly. David Blair directed it. And the joy of having single story episodes was we got Bob Hoskins, Jim Broadbent. God, you name them we got them really. One principally because of the quality of the writing and we were up for a BAFTA against Life on Mars which was hugely popular. Written by Matthew Graham who I had worked with. And to our immense surprise, Life on Mars didn’t win the BAFTA.

And we did and there was a wonderful cartoon in The Daily Mirror with Philip Glenister driving the Cortina that had featured in Life on Mars saying, “Some Manchester United supporting girlies from up North have stolen me BAFTA.”

Fabulous. Manchester United.


Okay. Let me have The Accused.

Yes. That was not Granada, that was when I…

Oh, I see.

We had made several series of The Street and won every award in the kingdom.

But then Jimmy, Roxy and I who had created The Street decided that it was time to make some money ourselves. But also, the focus had shifted so much down to London and the drama department was now really only interested in making things coming out of the department, the people in London.

Right. Was this Sally Head’s?

No. By then Forsyte was Andy Harries, and then I really can’t even remember her name. She was appointed from the BBC to head the drama department here. And John Whiston offered all of us redundancy. And for once, I sensibly accepted.

You did? Yes.


What year did you leave Granada?

Gosh, I can’t remember. When was The Street?

The Street says here…

Three series I did of, when did Accused start?

The Street 2006-09.

Right. So, I must have left in 2009, 2010.

Right. Okay. Then you set up your company?

Yes but Granada TV were very nice. I didn’t move office, I just stayed in my office.

Oh, you rented the office back there? I think I did that for a bit.

To be fair they didn’t even charge me any rent.

Oh, gosh.

Yup. Well, I’d been there for so long.

Yes, yes.

By then, I’d done my 25 years I think.


‘80 to yes.

Well, yes.

I’d done 25 years, Jeff.

I thought I did a long time. I’m before you.

You left, yes.

I left in ‘89.


So, you left in just 20 years.


So, you did your 25 years?

I did my 25 years.

And you get a free office for a bit, so.


So what?

So what? Exactly. Yes.

And then you entered the world for about 10 years of independent production.

Yes, yes.

And how has that been?

Well, it was very good but it’s much, much tougher. Caroline Hollick who’s now runs Channel 4 Drama who I knew as a young kid and was scripted to with Yorkshire, and then Red is now head of Channel 4 Drama. She said, “Do you know how many scripted independent companies there are?”

Oh, no.


Good heavens.

Yes. So, although there’s Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and FX…

And blah, blah, everyone wants to do scripted drama and the landscape has changed enormously. It’s sad really. I find that very hard for new writers. Well known writer, stars attached before you get even a look in the door. Young people will adapt to that and have very wonderful careers but it’s a much tougher world out there. There’s more money but it’s much tougher.

Your company is with Jimmy McGovern?

No. Jimmy has now set up a different company because he wanted to be entirely concentrated on Liverpool subject matter.

So, Roxy, the other two and Simon Bailey who is our accountant, we’ve set up our own company which is called Big Story Pictures. But everything takes so long to make that I’m in the lucky position of having an ITV pension, so.

Yes. Do you have contacts with current drama commissions?

Oh, yes, yes. Polly Hill at ITV, Piers Linger at the BBC. These are all people I’ve known all my life really.


And Caroline Hollick at Channel 4. And Ann Menser, who’s now head of drama at Netflix was the BBC script editor on The Street.


So, you know, one’s paths cross all the time. Yes.

Looking back on your Granada time, what other productions are you most proud of?

Wow. Well of course The Street which we did for ITV. I thought The Forsyte Saga was remarkable. You know, you’re proud of all your children aren’t you?

And then you love them most while you’re making them and then you forget them because you go on to the next child. It’s that really.

That’s right.

It’s hard. But I’m very, very proud of the fact that I went to Granada in 1980.


I had the good fortune to be brought up by a lot of brilliant drama producers and David Plowright and Dennis Forman, Mike Cox. They were all I think really good souls who cared…


And we didn’t have to worry about audiences and all of that. We were lucky.

And directors? Who do you remember as impressing you?

Well, John Madden who did After the War. David Liddiment and I did a lot of Celebration together. And David was obviously enormously talented. I’m trying to think. David Blair who did The Street. Terry McDonough who did The Street. And though I didn’t work with him, I grew up with Julian Farino and Julian Gerald who were fantastic directors.

And are still very successful. Julian Gerald was in promos, that’s where he started. Making promos. And I said to him, I know it’s horrible really. He made a promo for After the War and I said, “Julian, if that’s the best you can do you’re never going to make it as a drama director.” How wrong I was.

Indeed. And again, looking back on those years, any particular difficulties? Anything that you think could have been done better by the company?

No because we had the company of wonderful film editors. I should mention Eddie Mansell who I worked with. And Oral Ottey. I never worked with Kim because he did docs and worked with Leslie but they were fantastically skilled. And you relied on those people like the sound people, the camera men, Jon Wood, Mike… forgotten. But one of the wonderful things of having a core rather than freelance was we all learned our craft together and so there was a real belief in what we were doing and the craft was I think of a tremendously high order.

Yes. Which individuals in the company, management would you remember with fondness?

Well, I have a love/hate relationship with Steve Morrison.


I always did.


David Liddiment, Jules Burns. Of course David Plowright, Dennis Forman. I remember Andrew Quinn but I had less to do with and more to do with Jules.




Wooller. Formidable Joyce Wooller.


Mike Scott. But I think the most impressive person for me and who really changed my career and allowed me to do drama was David Plowright. I thought he was just independent minded, a clever man who took chances with people like me. So, really my career is due to David Plowright. So, he’s the one.

He’s the one?

He’s the one for me.

Just occurred to me on the sheet of productions or that you worked on, a mixture of studio and…




And so on.


Tell us about the difference in your approach to a studio production. Or is there any?

Oh, yes. It’s very different. We did multi camera on part of the studio for After the War. All film gives you much more freedom. More difficult to control because it’s locations and all of that but I think now everything has moved outside of the studio except for things like Coronation Street which is essential to remain in the studio. But they still do location work as well, don’t they? As far as I know.

There was a lot of studio drama around in the 70’s.


When I was there.


Studios 8 and 12 were in constant use.

Yes they were.

Big productions, sometimes Shakespeare in some.

Yes. Yes, King Lear was done there.

What explains this shift out of the studio? Is it finance? Is it the directors don’t want to make shows in that way?

I think it’s a combination of both really. It’s much more restricting from a directorial point of view and I think television is, why are all these film directors working in television because now television is like film and the two genres have merged really. So, we’re now making film drama basically.

Yes. But also on the kind of drama is being made. Now there’s lots of productions which seemed to have to reflect the issues of the day.


And the nature of society has changed. Women are much more prominent in productions on screen and the way they’re betrayed and so on.


Diversity is very important.

Yes. Yes.

Is there a bit too much PC?

Oh, I think so. I shall be very non PC and tell you I think so. And I think I have seen, and I won’t name them, Asian actors on television because, I mean I include women in the phrase actors. And I said to someone, “Oh, if I came out of drama school now, I’d be doing very well. I was a very mediocre actor but I’m half Asian and I would get lots of fantastic roles.”

You would. You think it’s gone too far in that direction?

Yes. I think it all should be on merit. I think I grew up in the age of positive discrimination…

But I still think it doesn’t help if you don’t match your talent to the opportunity, whatever colour, whatever race. I think that’s a mistake.

Is television…

It’s almost ridiculous now. You have to have it. It’s one of these you must have Asians, blacks, Chinese, Muslims. I don’t know.

It’s gone a bit too far?

I think so, but then I’m of a certain age and you might say I’m old-fashioned.

Yes. And what about the stories that are portrayed? Are we getting the right stories on the box?

I watch less and less television drama. And I was having this conversation about what’s happened to television drama because it’s all thrillers and do this and even if the stories actually don’t make sense, you can just do what you like. I don’t think storytelling, oh, that’s not true of everybody. I mean, Russell T. (Davies), who was my script editor on Children’s Ward, is a brilliant writer. And he did a wonderful series. I think the best I’ve seen on television called Years After Years. Was it? What was the title?

I can’t remember that.

Russell’s last show. He’ll kill me. I can’t remember. Was brilliant, it was political, it was supposedly set in the future but it was so relevant to today and that’s the best thing. And then he did A Very English Scandal, the story of Jeremy Thorpe.

I think his work is remarkable. I think Paul is of course remarkable and Jimmy. But I think if you do everything turns into a thriller and it really doesn’t matter. And I think that’s a pity because I’ve just seen a Korean film called The Parasite and there they’re making things that are political, exciting, beautifully acted with no homage to anything that’s coming out of America.

And I think in a way we’ve lost our voice a little.

Because of the power of American media?

Power of American media and American commissioning.

Yes. Final one then. It was 25 years you were at Granada. Can you just try and sum up your experience there in a few words?

Brilliant, supportive, enormously creative.

Great. Thank you very much.

Does that help?

That’s a great way to end. Thank you Sita.

Thank you Geoff. Nice to see you.

Andrew Quinn

Interviewed by Geoff Moore, 28 March 2019.

So Andrew, the early years in your life. You want to tell us a bit where you were brought up and educated, and so on?

Right. Well, the very early years, I’m a Scot. I was born on Clydeside in 1937. My father worked in the shipyards. Before the war, before he was married, three years he didn’t work in the shipyards because the Scots… in fact, the shipbuilding industry in Britain generally, was in recession. But at that point, my mother’s family left Port Glasgow, where we were, and went south looking for jobs. So my maternal grandfather ended up in Birkenhead. When the war came, my father was back at work. Reserved occupation, so he didn’t go in the forces. But he worked in the shipyards by day, and he worked as an auxiliary fireman by night. And then after the war, my mother wanted to reunite with her family, and so we came south by which time I had a sister, and eventually another one. We ended up in a place called Leighton Buzzard, in Bedfordshire. There, because that’s where my mother’s family had fetched up, and because he was able to get work there as a sheet metal erector, and replicated the skills he had as a shipbuilder. Then I think that’s where I got very lucky, because I was nine when I changed schools. There was something called the eleven-plus exam, which we hadn’t heard of, coming from working class Scotland. But I got to a grammar school, which was a great thing for me. And from the grammar school, I went to Durham University. After Durham University, I went looking for a job. And the first job I ever had was with a division of General Motors, which was based in Dunstable, which is near Luton, which is where Vauxhall cars got made. The division that I worked for made car parts and accessories. Fuel pumps and thermostats, and motors and all the bits, spark plugs. So I joined there as a management trainee, and I worked the rounds in a factory in Birkenhead, and it was a factory environment. We started at eight, finished at 4:30. The whole thing started at eight, finished at 4:30. Because to use a phrase very in vogue at the moment, even then it was a just in time business. Stuff left the factories on lorries, and had to be on the production lines for Vauxhall and Fords, and anybody else by them, buy seven o’clock the next morning. So that was my introduction to work, and I ended up taking a place in the personnel department. Now, General Motors was then an amazing company. It was the biggest car manufacturer in the world. Their slogan was… what’s good for General Motors is good for America. And it was a highly developed, hierarchical structure. Very good employers, and had a policy for everything. And I got there a very good grounding, I was thinking, in industrial administration, basically. But it was a bit boring, and I don’t much like cars. I’ve always had one, but you have to… and so, I think by this time, I was trying to sell them. I picked up a newspaper one weekend. the Daily Telegraph, because the Daily Telegraph in those days was the jobs paper. And I wrote for four jobs, and I got interviewed for two of them. The advert was for personnel officer. The companies were Sainsbury’s, who as you probably know, they’re a London family owned group of grocery stores, who, one of the first supermarket arrivals on the British scene. And one such was in Dunstable, very impressive. So that sounded good. And the other one was something called Granada, based in Manchester. It said in very short hour, the note said, removal assistance given. So I went first of all, for my interview in Sainsbury’s. And despite this startling modern supermarket on Dunstable High Street, the headquarters of Sainsbury’s is in Blackfriars in London. Very old, very dark and gloomy building. The man who interviewed me, was wearing a three piece suit with winged collar. And the whole thing reeked of Dickens rather than the future, but another great company as it turned out to be. So then I went to Manchester.

What made you choose Granada?

Manchester. I went to Manchester and met the then personnel manager, Derek Roberts, very, very nice man. And when I arrived at the television centre, there was nobody wearing suits. There was an atmosphere, and it was cheery and very relaxing. And so I had my interview with Derek Roberts. Now, I had come from a personnel department with about 16 people in it. And my interview was by Derek Roberts who had two secretaries and a clerk, and was looking for a personnel officer. So, we got on all right. Then they asked me to go for another interview in London, 36 Golden Square, which was the group headquarters then in London, and may still be. I was interviewed by a very tall, quite elderly man. He did have a suit, but he didn’t have the jacket. He had it on the back of his chair. He had braces, I’ll never forget this. He had braces and what’s called armbands, which was a thing that made sure just the right amount of cuff showed. He was very elegant, very courteous. And the first question he asked me was, “Have you ever fired anybody?” Anyway, I managed to convey to him that in a hugely hierarchical organisation like General Motors, it was slightly above my pay grade. I didn’t fire anybody. And so, we had an interview and eventually quite quickly, I had a letter from him saying that they would offer me this job in Manchester. It would be a salary of £1,200 a year, which was £200 a year more than I was earning with General Motors. And I could have an interest free loan of £200, to assist my removal. There was a strange paragraph at the end… we hope you’re free to join us. And probably after about three months, you’ll meet the chairman, Sidney Bernstein. I thought that’s an odd thing to say in a letter, isn’t it? So, I accepted. I used the £200 interest free generous terms loan. To my amazement, I was able to buy a house in Manchester. Three bedroom detached house in a place called Offerton, which is just beyond Stockport, for £2,800. I have to say, that was a big factor, because you couldn’t aspire living near London even in those days. And so, I didn’t think Sainsbury’s would be a fit for me, and I entered the unknown in Manchester. I did eventually meet Sidney, three months in. By which time, I’d encountered the Sidney Bernstein myths and legends. Didn’t like suede shoes, didn’t like cord trousers, didn’t like men with beards, and all this stuff that… anyway, I didn’t own any suede shoes or didn’t have any cord trousers, and I didn’t have a beard. And I had a very relaxed interview with him. I was somewhat in awe of the guy. Even then, he was in his 60s. He said a number of things, but he said, “We are an independent company.” Which indeed they were in those days, because the Granada share structure. Although Granada was a quoted company with two pluses of shares. The Bernstein family owned the voting shares, and the punters owned the ordinary shares. So when he said we are independent, I mean he was able to be… he said we had high standards and if you see something that’s wrong with this company, tell somebody. And if you have a good idea, you must tell somebody. And then he just got to his feet, shook my hand and said, “Good luck, young man.” So, when I arrived in Manchester… I had to come up a month ahead of my wife. I spoke to Derek Roberts and said, “Where can I stay?” And he booked me into some theatrical digs. A lovely lady called Marjorie Howie, in Rusholme, and her husband was Harry Howie, who was a foreman scene shifter at the BBC. People staying there at the time were Ralph Harris, a very well-known television actor called Peter Jeffries, a bunch of assorted artists who were doing something at the Palace. And I’d began to get the feeling this wasn’t going to be quite like General… General Motors. And Marjorie Howie started to talk to me about Coronation Street, and Scene at 6:30. People like Mike Parkinson and Brian Truman, Mike Scott… Chris Kelly, that was the other guy. None of which meant anything to me, because I didn’t own a television set. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Coronation Street, until a colleague at General Motors when I mentioned where I was going, said, “Oh, you want to join Coronation Street?” Anyway, so I arrived. That was it.

What year was this?

1964. Anyway, so I joined the personnel department. One of the biggest changes was that Derek Roberts said to me, “We have to trade you in here, and you’ll be looking after NATKE. National Association of Theatrical Television and Kine Employees. And I’ll be doing the ACTT and the ETU he said, because they’re a slippery bunch. And so I mean, the only acquaintanceship I’d had with labour relations, was simply to apply the nationally negotiated rates that are applied throughout General Motors. And suddenly found myself in the office with shop stewards who had wandered in and told me that there was a demarcation problem, or didn’t have a big enough crew. So, somewhat in your face compared to what I had been used to. However, I was enjoying it. And then about two years later, Denis Forman, who at the time I think was director of programmes… he gave me a call and said, “Come have a word.” So I did, and he explained to me how Granada had diversified into rentals, TV rentals. And it was growing very fast. It was based in Manchester at that time, but growing by acquisition, and there was no personnel function. So would I like to go to Granada TV Rental as personnel manager? And I thought oh, good idea. So arrangements were being made. Then I got another call from Denis Forman, who said, “Derek Roberts may have told you, but he’s leaving.” He said, “He’s been offered the job of bursar at his old college in Oxford, and he’s off. So, do you want to be personnel manager?” So I said okay. I thought it’s not a bad choice. So one of the roles as personnel manager was that I would attend the Labour Relations Committee for the ITV Association in London, because the industry negotiated collectively for national wage rights and so on. And it was a strange committee, because there are 50 ITV companies. There are only five of any size, and there were some of no size at all, like Channel Television and Border Television. However, this committee met monthly. This was somewhat beyond my experience thus far. I said to Denis before the first one… I forget what the issue was going to be, but said, “What’s my brief?” And he paused and he said, “Do the best you can, but don’t commit us.” And in a way, this was beginning to be to my mind, what Granada Television… how different it was going to be from General Motors. So, that was… embarked on that.

1970, I got another call from Denis Forman. He explained to me that things were changing. The technology was changing. Granada’s portfolio of activity, programme activity, expanded enormously from the early days. He would be looking to make some structural changes, and I’d hear more about it. That was it. Thank you very much. And then I got another call from Denis Forman, and I went back to his office, and to my surprise, Sidney Bernstein was there. Denis said, “We want to talk to you about this accompaniment to Granada TV Rental.” Which by this time was based in Bedford, because they’d just made a major acquisition of a solid based company called Robinson Rentals. I thought here comes the personnel manager’s job again. I said, “What would I be doing there?” And Sidney said, “You’ll be head of property.” I said, “Well, I don’t know anything about property.” And he said, “Well, you will when you’re finished.” Anyway, he said, “I’ll explain. We’ve just acquired this company. They are mainly in the south, and we’re mainly in the north, but there are area that overlap. Some towns, we don’t have a presence, others we have now two presences. So what we need is to survey that whole scene, and we’ve been growing very fast. We do not have a suitable property register for the balance sheet.” I’m saying, “Fine, yes. It’s quite understood.” And he said, “There’s a very good small company in London, called Leslie Finesse and Company, and they’ve been working with us on theatres, cinemas, for many years. And he has two very good young partners. One specialises in the north of England, and one specialises in the south of England. They’ll be contracted to you for a year. We really need to visit every area where we have presence.” He mentioned another dimension, which is that the American concept of shopping malls had just arrived in Britain. The Arndale Centres, and that’s changing our High Streets everywhere, he said. So, that’s the job. He knew I was married and by this time, had one child. “We rented a house for you in Bedford”, he said. “A nice house, and furnished. You take your family and off you go.” So off I went.

However, things got interesting. Because when I arrived, at least two of Robinson Rental executive directors had stayed on. One was a marketing man, one was a company secretary. And Mr. Robinson, who’d sold the company, was a kind of Sidney Bernstein I gathered. He was a powerful man for growing this company very fast, had his own ways for doing things. Had actually built a magnificent new building in Bedford as Robinson Rentals’ headquarters, which of course had now had Granada over the door. And these guys were starting to get the word, that these guys think I’m a spy from Granada. I was blown away, because you can imagine the tension when somebody’s big company gets taken over by another big company. Anyway, it didn’t get in the way for too long. But the other thing that made its way back to me from friends in Manchester, was that the Manchester rumour mill had decided that I’d had a falling out with Sidney Bernstein, and I’d been transferred to Motorways. One lag said, “Well he’s probably on the southbound lane, so you’ll never see him again.” But I set off for these two guys, one working with the south one. They really did know every High Street worth knowing in England and southern Scotland.

And so, got it done in 10 months. We had visited everything with the field management, the guys who knew about renting tellies. And where there was a doubtful presence, we chose the one we thought that we should stay in. Where there was no presence, we identified possibilities. On the way, we… I got every lease on properties, some of which were freehold, some of which were leasehold, and just were in a safe in the company secretary’s office, a rather large safe, and transferred, had all that data coded and transferred onto a system called Hollerith Punch Cards. So there was now a highly specific asset value register that could go onto the balance sheet. So eventually I said to Sidney, “Well, I think it’s done,” so we had a meeting, and he said, “It’s done. Now get the company secretary, give him that register, go with him with all the leases or freeholds to Barclay’s bank in Bedford and have them put in the vault.” So we did. And the next thing I heard was, and learned, that Granada Rentals has now taken over Rediffusion, which is one of their major… and that property register in the vault was collateral against a rather large loan that the group had taken out to grow the biz. And that’s the kind of guy Sidney Bernstein was. I mean, he moved at…

… an amazing pace and if something was going to happen, and it happened. The other thing that happened was that, by this time, Granada TV Rental was so large, and Granada Group value so large, because again by now the money was pouring in for the television. It had been a bit skinny in the first few years. The stock market then took the view that you could no longer have dual shares constructions, and the preferential loading shares would have to be put on the market as ordinary shares. So it was quite a thing, with the benefit of hindsight. And then, of course, Granada Group had to negotiate with the Bernstein family on the value of the preferential shares that would need to be paid to convert them to ordinary shares, and lord, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that negotiation because, well, I obviously never heard the outcome, but nevertheless I would think in a negotiation Sidney Bernstein would be a pretty tough nut to crack. Anyway…

So, on that negotiation, it was basically paying the Bernsteins out, wasn’t it?


That whole thing.

Yes, absolutely.

So they were already wealthy and became wealthier.

Indeed, yes. Yes. Oh, yes. I mean, those shares were worth a fortune to the Bernsteins. And I don’t know what the outcome was, but I don’t think they got poorer. However, having thought that perhaps I’d left the television world, I then went back to Manchester and, in the meantime… we’re back on familiar ground now… in the meantime, Peter Eckersley… did you ever meet Peter?

Yes, I did.

Lovely bloke.


He’d made the ground-breaking film called The Mosedale Horseshoe, which was the first television drama in Britain, shot in Britain, shot on 16 millimetre film. Now drama, in those days, was done in studios. In the very beginning it was done live in the studios, and then videotape was invented and videotape, two-inch wide tape, was invented, and editing eventually. But an editing machine in those days, you’re too young to remember… Granada had one initially and eventually two… but a two-inch video editor was about the size of that sofa. Enormous thing, and of course, highly rationed.

And what would that cost?

Oh, I can’t remember. A lot of money, which is why I think they only had one.

I see.

But it had also its other implications because, in terms of financial control, the way dramas got made was the producer, director and their cast would go to a rehearsal room somewhere off-site and the sets would be chalked on the floor. And they would get usually three weeks rehearsal in the rehearsal room, and three days in the studio. Now, in those days, the majority of the cost was what the accountants call below the line. It was the cost of having the studio being here and running. Anything going in had to pick up its share of that overhead. But also, then, it was eminently possible to control costs, because directors knew when they went into the studio they were going to be there for three days and they’d better get done because there was another show coming in right after them, and so you got this massive burden of cost just by being there as a production centre, and then you had a slab of variable costs, which are basically actors. And so financial control was a bit of a doddle really until Peter Eckersley demonstrated that you could take a 16 millimetre camera to the Lake District and, by that point, all the cost moves above the line, so you’re not using any fixed costs except for the depreciation on the camera. And the idea of letting highly creative directors loose into the outside world with a crew and a bunch of actors is a different proposition. So Denis Forman… bearing in mind he had (??28:44) this to me, (??28:45) of the time, that things were going to have to change. He then had another conversation, which would be about 1971. Mosedale Horseshoe was in the can and Country Matters was being more than contemplated, it was being got ready. You must remember Country Matters. It was huge, huge acclaim. It was very good, and Peter was, this was his stuff. Forman said to me, “I want you set up a new thing called head of production services,” and that means everything behind the camera. The creative guys and the director… they’re in front of the camera and the whole point is to service them, and we’ve got to find a new way of forecasting costs, of controlling costs. In fact, Sidney Bernstein was on that meeting as well. And so we discussed this at some length, and at the conclusion of the meeting Denis said, “We want you to make the TV centre a place where all the best talent will want to work.” And Sidney said, “At the right price.” Well, that then led to… I was invited onto something called the Programme Committee, which was a Forman-led thing, which met every month with the top programme makers of the day in Granada, and they debated what we’d done, criticised what they’d done. I didn’t criticise. Talked about where the focuses should be in current affairs, documentary drama. And it was a marvellous thing to attend, because there were a lot of very talented people there, like Peter Eckersley and Jeremy Wellington. Did you meet Jeremy?

I did.

Wild man of current affairs. Derek Granger, most articulate man I’ve ever heard in my life, particularly when he was cross. And so management became involved in the creative process.

What was your job title at this time?

Head of production services.

Head of production…

Yes. So, the changes that we brought about was that we had to look at location management, and we created six new jobs, six new guys. I think three or even four of them had been a floor manager. Another one was Keith Thompson, who’d been the librarian in the film library. I can’t remember the others’ names. There’s just… but we struck a kind of modus operandi where, when a project was being put together, a drama say, and the team were appointed, everybody involved, including (??32:17), had to read the script and we attempted something called, from what we knew, which wasn’t a great deal at the time, something way ahead of the actual budget, it was called cost magnitude. In other words, we tried to put in the big cost blocks that were going to surround this particular project. The location managers were to be just that. They were to find locations, manage locations, be there so that from the very beginning there was a dedicated team that had read the script, knew the director’s and producer’s ambitions, formed views which then would go back to Denis Forman, who supervised just about everything going in those days. And eventually we got the green light to get into absolutely detailed… the location managers had ridden out and determined accommodation costs and all that good stuff. And off we went. And the ambition really was to have a kind of constructive collaboration between production manager and the creatives, and I think it worked. Well, Country Matters was a huge success. Brideshead Revisited became the legend that it is, even though it got interrupted halfway through by a national strike. Jewel in the Crown, that was a miracle really, Jewel in the Crown, because again, Denis Forman asked me to see him one day and I went to his office and, on all available wall space in his office were diagrams, arrows going… and Jewel in the Crown was a kind of production of four different novels, all telling the same story, but from different points of view. And Forman, who was a genius in my opinion. It’s quite interesting. While he was doing all this, he actually wrote a definitive book on Mozart’s piano concertos, so you’re dealing with quality. And he said, “All they’ve got to do,” he said, “is we’re going to need a lot of money and it can’t all come from Granada, and I doubt it can all come from the network, so it’s going to have to come from you-know-where, America, as had Brideshead, so we’ve got to put a price on this.” And so, not just with me, all sorts of people. He sat there and people came in and, in the end, we sort of had enough for him to go to the group board and persuade them that he wasn’t off his head. So that’s what that was all about, and that was a big sea change in Granada, because up until then, as I’ll touch on again in a moment, everything really in the past had been engineering led, because at the start the engineers actually kept you on the air, and the technology was not reliable. Things were substantially reliable, but things still needed to be mended and… but now Granada was becoming a programming engine, really, and all resources from behind the camera were going to be focused. It was mostly, the big project stuff, was going to happen outside the building, and that was exciting at the time.

Well, the American money into Brideshead. Who provided that?


Was it a substantial…

Or was it Mobil? A million dollars. I’ll tell you a story about that later, when we’re not recording. I think it was Exxon did the money for Brideshead, and in a sense it came from PBS, the American public service broadcasting, which is a quality channel, which is not allowed to carry advertising, but is allowed to carry sponsorship, and in those days it was channelled through one of the local television stations in America. It will come to me in a minute. That was a million dollars. Same process with Jewel in the Crown.

Who secured that deal, to get the million dollars?

Well it was, again, the genius of Denis Forman. I don’t know how the initial approaches were made, but essentially for that kind of money, it was Sidney Bernstein, but Denis was obviously the lead and the master stroke in that, really, I think was Denis Forman’s idea, because when the accountants and the lawyers had then come through yards of discussions and debates, and it went to the Exxon board for a final say-so, Denis didn’t send Granada finance men. He sent Peter Eckersley and Derek Granger, and that must have been a bit of a shock for American media lawyers and such, but they were actually the guys out there and did the final talking and got the final deal.

Very interesting.

That was very interesting. So, what happened after that?

So into the ‘80s?

No, it was 1977.

Oh, right. I was thinking Brideshead. When was Brideshead? I thought it was about ‘80, ‘80. Anyway, ‘77 was the beginning.

Yes. …I can’t actually remember the specific dates for Brideshead, but that modus operandi of switching from tape to film and getting the result and controlling the costs at the same time…

I mean, controlling costs. Very interesting you said that it was sort of engineering focused, and then the demand for programming grew and grew, so it must have become more talent-focused.

Oh, yes, definitely Granada…

And from your point of view, more difficult to control?

Not really, no.

Not really?

I mean, I’ll just give you an example. You’ve heard of Ken Russell? What I’m really saying is some creatives were harder to control than others. Denis had always wanted to make the Wordsworth Lake District drama, which was made in, I think it was two or three episodes, under the heading Clouds of Glory. It was about Wordsworth, his sister and Coleridge and their wandering about the lakes, and Ken Russell, director of some repute, was recruited to do it. And one of the established scenes was at a particular house, the owners of which were persuaded to lease it to us… well, not lease it… to vacate it into a rather good five-star hotel down the road, and to give us this house for a set period as the backdrop to certain key scenes. And off they went to the Lakes. I got a frantic call one day from the location manager who, for a perfectly legitimate reason, had left the location for a couple of days, and when he got back, Ken Russell had got local painters in. Currently the house was painted white and he had it not completely painted pink, only the bits he needed as backdrop. So he comes back to this piebald house, the location manager, at about the same time that the owner strolled up from his five-star hotel to have a look at how things were going and went bonkers.

So, I got shipped off that one with Denis. I told Denis Forman, “You get out there and placate this man, open cheque.” So that was difficult. I will say I had on one occasion Derek Granger ring up from Castle Howard, where they were shooting Brideshead, and a deal had been done by the location manager, as part of the preparations, that the crew and the cast would be fed in Castle Howard’s restaurant because it was a tourist attraction and had a big café. And the location manager had suddenly been told by the local guy at Castle Howard that the prices were going to double what they’d said they were going to be. Derek Granger didn’t take too kindly to this, and so I had to shoot up to Castle Howard, but when I got there I was greeted by the owner, George Howard, Chairman of the BBC, who had a predilection for wearing caftans about the house. Strange man. Eccentric man. Anyway, I sat down with him for a couple of hours and then that got done. So there was the occasional outburst of creativity, conflict of interest or whatever. But no, I have a private theory that the most talented people are the least trouble anyway. That’s a purely private theory.

But in 1977, the guy who was the general manager, Leslie Diamond, died suddenly from a heart attack, and so Denis said to me, “You’re general manager” and I joined the group, the (??43:29) board at that stage, and being general manager just meant I went on doing what I was doing, but got the rest of the television centre to worry about at the same time. But when I took on that job, Granada is just, by then, is what?… nine years old. And the kind of rank of middle management people were probably exclusively ex-BBC, because they were probably quite old when they got recruited. You needed engineers who could do it. A lot of these guys were, a, good and, b, old. Because of the trade union structure, you had managers managing people but, because (??44:26), were in the same trade union as the people who were managing which didn’t quite accord with what I’ve been taught about management theory. Anyway, the business was changing and, particularly as I said, this trying to bring together empathy as well as control of what was essentially a creative process. I’d met at the time, quite by chance, a London headhunter called Nigel (Humphries 44:55) who had done a lot of work for the BBC and Government, finding bright people to go into Government jobs. I said to him one day, “How many people do you put up? How many candidates would you put up for a job?” He said, “Three.” I said, “So one gets chosen?” “Obviously,” he said. I said, “That doesn’t actually diminish your opinion of the two that didn’t, does it?” “No, of course not,” he said, “(??45:26) with people. ”I said, “Well listen, if I, Granada, if we paid you a retainer, modest retainer, when you put somebody up for a job with (??45:45) with a background, which you’ll recognise because you know the BBC and you’ve been around, the background that might suit them for Granada,” and I explained to him about I wanted to get this echelon of younger generalists rather than particular specialists who could actually adapt what Granada was doing, “Would you, for a retainer, ask them if they’d like to meet with Granada?” He said, “Yes, okay. Sounds a good idea.” That’s what we did. I mentioned this to Denis Forman. He said, “The man who was my boss in the army,” he said, “Sir Paul Bryan, was also sat on the War Office Selection Board for picking young officers. He was until he… he’s in politics now. He was on the board of Granada Group until he went into parliament, for reasons he resigned those posts because he became a minister of state.” He said, “He’s a charming man. He also spent about three years being on a very small committee that chose suitable candidates for the Conservative Party. What do you feel about working with him?” I said, “Terrific.” The next 12 months, we chose about six people. Paul Bryan was an amazing guy. He was a son of a missionary and was born in Japan. He became, in World War II, the youngest colonel in the British Army mainly because he was involved in a big action. The rest of the battalion officers got wiped out, I think, and suddenly Paul Bryan is a colonel. Wonderful man, charming, shrewd. He and I sat with Nigel Humphries’s candidates and we made them a kind of silly proposition. We said to them, “Look.” We explained Granada and what we thought it was about. They all said, “What will I be doing then? ”We said, “We’re not sure really. If you come to us, we’ll place you in an area of programme making. We’ll pay you a salary, a decent salary. If at the end of that,” I said, “And if it’s right for you and it’s right for us, things will happen. You’ll get absorbed into what we do. You’ll be doing a job. You might even have created that job for yourself. If, at the end of 12 months, we’re not bonding, you don’t like what we’re doing, we don’t like what you’re doing, we’ll come to an agreement that you leave. We’ll give you a year’s salary to go,” and that put a lot of people off. It didn’t put off people like Tony (Brill 49:15), Ian Ritchie, John Williams. I always quote Ian Ritchie as the exemplar of what a good generalist can do. When we took him on, he was a barrister, very young barrister, with the, he’s from Yorkshire, Yorkshire Engineering Employers Federation. He came to us, I can’t remember how many years. Anyway, he did a great job for Granada. Then, he was headhunted by Tyne Tees, went to Tyne Tees as managing director. When a big franchise upheaval came and Yorkshire and Tyne Tees merged, he was redundant in effect. He went off and became the chief executive of Wimbledon Tennis Club, ran Wimbledon. Then, he was headhunted from Wimbledon to run the Rugby Football Union. I think currently, at the moment, he’s chairman of the Rugby Premiership. That was a guy who took a chance, as did the others. They all turned out well, and so we had our own little War Office Selection Board with a wealth of experience on Paul Bryan’s side and me doing my best to keep up. That’s a very Granada thing, isn’t it?

Yes. It’s very (??50:41) informal.

Totally, yes.

Small scale.

Having come from totally hierarchical policy for everything, General Motors, who were very good employers, to Granada where what’s the problem? You’ll fix it. Get him and very little structure really. It was good fun. What else happened then?

Were you involved with the graduate trainee schemes?

Oh yes.


Up to a point. You probably know the response rates. Whenever it was advertised, which wasn’t every year, the year I’m thinking of, I think we got 1,500 applications. The technique was that teams were appointed by Denis Forman. That year, I was teamed up with Julian Amyes, who was head of drama, somebody else, Derek Granger and (??51:55) pile of applications. I think there were two teams going, so 750 applications each team, which were then split into… the technique was you read your pile and rejected or shortlisted, very long shortlist. Your colleague, his pile, he rejected and then shortlisted. Then, you switched over. You gave him your rejections, he gave you his rejections and (??52:35) so every… apart from the long shortlist, all the others got read twice.

Can you remember notable people that emerged from the scheme, worked for Granada?

A lot of them, I mean Mike Apted, he was there when I joined. He’d already made the first of the Seven Up series. Can’t remember the girl called (??53:07) a girl called (Carol Wilks 53:09).

Oh was she?

Do you remember her?

Yes. I worked with her, because I worked on Nice Time.

Oh right.

In 1969 with Carol Wilks.

She was one of mine and (??53:21) ended with picking the short, short, short, shortlist. She was in that batch.

And John Birt?

And John Birt, yes.


There was another one doing quite well, another film director whose names escapes me.

Wasn’t Nick Elliott?

Nick Elliott was one, yes. Yes, so that was good.

Yes, okay.

These moments that came back to me from this general manager role was the great dressing room row. Because of, I say because of, well given that David Plowright’s sister’s relation to the wife of the great man himself, we got a deal with Warner Brothers for seven productions, one of which was Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. Natalie Wood, Laurence Olivier was going to be Big Daddy, of course, Natalie Wood, her husband, what’s he called? Him.

Slipped my mind too.

Anyway. It emerged they…

Robert Wagner?

Yes, that’s him and there was a very nice lady called Maureen something or other who played Mrs. Big Daddy. However, the word came down via Laurence Olivier that these were his great personal friends and superstars, which they were. I don’t know whether you remember the Granada dressing rooms in the bowels of the earth.

I do.

This would not do. In my role as general manager, Denis Forman says, “You’d better sort out the dressing rooms.” Sidney Bernstein put his oar in and said, “This must be done right.” I said, “What would you call right?” He said, “Well just think doing one for Lauren Bacall,” he said. Why the hell he chose her and not Natalie, so that was like you can spend a bit of money. We set about with a will which meant knocking a few walls down, because they were like rabbit hutches are. Knocking a wall down here and knocking a wall down there. Then, Coronation Street stars arrived en masse, “Where’s my dressing… where’s my… why aren’t you doing my dressing room?”

It went on and on and on (??56:22) I mean in the end… I mean once they’d been made into decent dressing rooms (??56:29) don’t worry, you’ll get that one. When they arrived, outraged with some justification. We’re Coronation Street, the last show got 11 million viewers.


Who are these people from Hollywood?


Nasty moment.

It was, it was.

Again, a very Granada thing.

This would have been early ‘60s, mid ‘60s?

I didn’t become general manager until 1977.


It says here.

Oh right, yes. Some of these drama productions, one tends to forget about. We can all remember Brideshead and Jewel in the Crown, but some of the others you mentioned, like the Peter Eckersley one and… what, The Mosedale Horseshoe?

Yes, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof ain’t much talked about. They’re kind of a bit forgotten.

Mosedale Horseshoe, I think it was a good enough show, I think remembered for the fact that it was the first 16… because the IBA Engineering Division were pretty hot on quality. So hot in fact that Brideshead, which was also produced on that medium, the then chief engineer, Tom (Robson 58:01), who was a stickler, he actually went on the record. There was no attempt made to stop us doing it. When it had been done and shown and was a rave in Britain and a rave in America, I mean it got something like, in America, 4% of the peak time audience. You might think, well what’s special about that? What’s special about that is that 4% probably included every chief executive, it was the culture channel in America. All this and BAFTAs had been awarded and Tom Robson, in his annual report on Granada, said it actually was untransmittable. Didn’t meet the quality standards.

Oh no.

Needless to say, the IBA were somewhat embarrassed, I think.

Different programmes get remembered for different things.

Yes, they do, yes. Remember the title, Mosedale…

Mosedale Horseshoe.

What year would that have been?


Did that win an award?

No, I don’t think so. It was a very Northern… it was about a group of walkers on the Mosedale Horseshoe up in the Lakes. Talking of the PR dimensions of being the general manager of Granada, we made another drama series based on an auction house. The location manager found a very nice house in Chester, auction house in Chester, and did a deal with them to give us pretty comprehensive access. It all went ahead. It all got made. It was a series of seven. The first one went out and the script was about an auction house fraud. The partners of this auction house in Chester went ballistic, because it was highly identifiable place in the middle of Chester, grade one listed building containing this high level auction. The auction room itself, very recognisable. They were going to sue us for defamation.

Forman rang the general manager and I had to go to Chester and talk very fast and calm them down. It was fun.

Fun stuff, fun stuff.

Fun when it stopped, yes. Right, well that’s the point really then I started to drift away from Granada Television day-to-day business on basis towards Granada Group interests. It all kicked off with Kenneth Baker, in 1981, was appointed Minister for Technology. He came up this amazing statement that Britain was going to be cabled like America. It was all going to happen in 10 years and wall to wall cable, brave new world. Again, Denis Forman called me up and he said, “There’s a conference in London about this cable thing that Kenneth Baker’s going on about. You’d better go,” so I went. Fortunately, while I was there, I met a very nice Canadian called Roy Faibish who had been brought up in American cable and was operating as a consultant. That’s why he had come across to Britain to find out what was going on. Anyway, I went back and reported back to Denis Forman. He said, “You’d better go to America and have a look at this cable.” That was the brief. I thought, how the hell? I thought, ah, so I rang this guy, Roy Faibish, and explained it. He said, “Oh I’ll ring you back in a couple of days.” He rang me back with introductions. He’d phoned up and said, “I’d be writing to seven cable companies, five in American, two in Toronto in Canada.” I went, had a look at cable. I went to Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta where, of course, Ted Turner was operating by then.

Ted Turner was operating, two in Denver, one in Pittsburgh and two in Toronto. I did that in 14 days. These guys were great. I wrote to them and said I’m coming and who we were and all that stuff. Then, I went. If you go (??63:52) one said to me, when I was doing that property thing, there’s a…

He came to see me when I was doing that job. At the beginning of every month, for three months, and said, “How are you getting on? How are you doing?” It was like being coached in being a property magnate. He said, “What’s that place, Lisburn?” And I said, “It’s in Northern Ireland.” And I said, “It’s a terrible location. It’s really on the edge of the troubles. And they’re not doing a lot of business.” And he said, “Have you been?” So I said, “No.” And he said, “I’ll give you a bit of advice. Always go and have a look. It gives you an edge on the guy who didn’t have a look.” I said, “Well, I could do that, but actually they haven’t had a plate glass window intact in the last six months. They’re not really even trading.” He said, “Okay, I see your point. But don’t forget. Always have a look.” So it’s form and apply, the philosophy, go and have a look. And when you go and have a look, at that time. This wasn’t the technological wonder that Kenneth Baker was saying it was. It was very big in rural America, because it was supplied on telegraph poles, above ground telegraph poles, with a wire into every house, aerial wire. Nobody had ever attempted to make a first of doing Chicago or whatever. Because it was only being driven by two things. It was being driven by Home Box Office, who when they kicked off, they put on viewers at an incredible rate. Because the installation costs are nil. And then Ted Turner saw this, and immediately he banged CNN on. So it was being driven by two channels essentially. There was all sorts of little, what they call, mom and pop operations, doing bits of local stuff. But by and large, cable was above ground cable, and the programme offering was two channels. And these guys I talked to thought that if you were going to try and dig up the streets of Chicago you were off your head. So I came back. And it was quite interesting. Because I came back, and the next thing, broadcast were on to me, saying, “We believe you’ve been doing it.” And all that stuff. And then I started getting calls from merchant banks. Some of the really big boys. And would I like to come to lunch. And I mentioned all this to the Granada board, and said, “This was nothing exclusive about what we’re doing here. Tell them what you saw. It will make these bankers think we’re on the ball.” So I went to these. I was amazed. They wanted to pick my brains, obviously. They wouldn’t have asked me otherwise. But the private dining rooms of these institutions, there are bloody butlers with white gloves, and silverware, fine Bordeaux wines for lunch. Anyway, I did all that. Then the government came up with the idea that it would be some trial franchises. They would offer, I think it was 11, franchises in conurbations between 50,000 and 100,000 residents. So somebody in Granada Group board said, “Shouldn’t we apply for one?” And we’d already decided that this could not be entertainment led. The investment side of it was horrendous. In fact, just sticking with that for a moment. We’d decided, in Granada Television, that it couldn’t be programme driven. I had a neighbour then, I lived in Didsbury in South Manchester, a smashing guy called Paddy Curly. An Irishman, director of one of the biggest Irish civil engineering groups in Manchester, (Kennedy’s?). And I was having lunch at his house one Sunday. And he said, “What have you been up to?” And I said, “I’ve been to America to look at cable.” And I gave him some of the speculative prices that journalists were playing with, how much per metre to lay cable in an urban environment and all. You can imagine. You’re a journalist. I said, “What would come, Paddy? What would it cost us to install cable in Manchester?” He said, “I have no idea.” I said, “You do things. You’re an Irishman. You dig trenches. And you dig holes. And you’re the biggest outfit doing it in Manchester. Come on.” And he said, “I have no idea.” He says, “There are Victorian pipes under Manchester, and wires, and you won’t believe what’s under the pavements in Manchester.” He said, “I wouldn’t take it on, because I couldn’t get the insurance.” I said, “Why do you need insurance?” He said, “Because I start digging holes down somebody’s pavement, and I manage to cut off the power supply to the whole of a business, who can’t trade now, because they’ve got no power, I take insurance about that kind of thing.” He said, “Nobody knows. This is all speculation.” Nevertheless, Granada Group decided we should have a go. So they immediately formed a company called Granada Cable and Satellite. I was appointed managing director. A very, very good market analyst in our sales department was Denis Flack. He was appointed marketing director. And there was a very nice young business analyst in Golden Square called, Phillip (Slesser 6:39). And that was it. We were… it was a big announcement, but behind the announcement was… however, Granada Group got cracking. And got GEC and BT, should know a thing or two about laying cables, to join. So the consortium was formed. And we chose Leicester. Which is 100,000 population city. At the time it was 25% Muslim. And the theory was that Muslim women and girls were not, broadly speaking, allowed out of the house, because of their faith. And there was huge business done on video rentals in Leicester, which we assumed that appetite could be hopefully converted into get it by cable. Although nobody was very sure what the hell they would be getting. And we did all the spade work. And the date for submitting got nearer. And so there was a board meeting in Granada. And it was a will we, won’t we thing. And Denis rang up one of the partners in GEC and said, “We’re all sitting here. Do you know what to do?” And they said, “We’re all sitting here, and we don’t know what to do.” But the GEC guy said, “I’ve spoken to BT. They’re obviously going to go ahead, because that’s what they do.” And Denis said to him, because he was on loud speaker in the boardroom, Denis said to him, “Can you and I agree that we’re not going to do this?” And he said, “Happily.” So we didn’t do it. And it never happened anyway.

So what happened after that? Where are we up to in the years?

We’re up to 1981.

Obviously, I want to get on to the 80s and 90s stuff.

Let me just say, the satellite thing came along next. And it was pretty much the same thing. Putting a consortium together. The famous club of 21. BBC were given the job to do. Said they couldn’t do it. Government came back and said, “You’ve got to do it. You have 50%. And we’ll get other partners.” They turned out to be the 50 ITV companies, at Virgin and couple of… club of 21. And that didn’t happen either. Because the BBC, when they were supposed to be doing it, had ordered a satellite, would you believe, from British Aerospace, on which work commenced. And all the other partners said, “No, no, no. If we’re going to do this, big bucks, we’ll go to the world market for a satellite.” That became a huge political row. In the end, we got involved, Granada Cable and Satellite. Because I went to Bill Cotton and said, “There’s total disagreement in the consortium. We’ll produce your working document in six weeks. The pros and the cons, and all the rest of it.” And Bill said, “Okay.” And we did. And it was looked at. And it never happened.

Then it came back again, and it did happen. Because we got involved with a consortium of Virgin, Pearsons, and BSB. We won the franchise. I was the project director on that. We won the franchise. The specification for doing it, under the franchise, was our friend Tom Robson, again, at the IBA, massive technological spec, dish minimum size of a metre across, which had ripped the chimney off any house when a high wind. While we’ll all bury about that.

Exactly right. You can do that.

Rupert Murdoch rented a bit of space on the aerial European satellite. Launched his own company. That didn’t do very well either. So we ended up with two satellite companies going. Neither of which was making any headway. And in the end, the BSB consortium sold out to Murdoch and Sky. Very viable then.

How do you view that? Because you were around through all those machinations. And it was a great white hope, wasn’t it?



Oh, yes.

But it left ITV and Granada’s empire, went to Murdoch, in the end. Why was that? Was it badly handled?

No. To start, Murdoch actually got in first, before… he had bought space on an existing satellite. And was up and running. And was putting on subscribers at a great of knots. The only trouble was, he was doing it on a door to door salesman, sign here. And it very quickly emerged that what he had signed for was a lot of bad debt. There was no credit checks done. However, he was up and he was running. And it was running it on dishes this diameter. And then it was a huge political row about satellites, that would be bought. Eventually the government gave in, and agreed that the BSB could go to the world market. I don’t know if we’ve got time. But there is a little anecdote about that. The chairman of P&O… what’s his name? Sterling. Sir Jeffrey Sterling had been appointed as an advisor to DTI. It was a great mate of Margaret Thatcher’s. And this political row was going on about we had to buy British, and the consortium went, “No, no, no.” I got summoned as a project director to Sir Jeffrey Sterling. Palatial offices in Pall Mall. And he said, he made it quite plain, that he was there on Margaret Thatcher’s behalf. And he got the message, “You’ve got to buy British. What’s wrong with you?” And all that patriotism, thick and fast. And I said, “Well, I can’t recommend that to the consortium. My brief is to put up the best case.” And he said, “Oh, no, no, no.” So in his office is a wonderful water colour painting of the great stars of the P&O fleet all around the world. And I said to him, “If I were in your position, and I were told that to buy all my future ships from Tyneside, what would you say?” And he went, “Well, no, no, no.”

That’s what was going on. So at the end of the day, BSB was a long way behind. Anyway, eventually launched. Costs started accruing like mad. Murdoch was going bust, although he got in first. His bad debt was killing him. Virgin, who were very active when we bought the franchise, immediately sold their shares out, on day one and buggered off. Murdoch, although he was in trouble as well, was Murdoch. BSB was, I think, seven very powerful partners, who were never going to agree on anything really. So at the end of the day, I think they flew out and said…

We went from your early days through Granada’s early days. We’re up to the Mrs Thatcher time, and the Broadcasting Act. So obviously that’s something I’d like to ask you about. The 1990 Broadcasting Act. What were the discussions? What were the reactions within Granada to this announcement?

What the terms? The bidding and…

Yes, all that.

Obviously, Granada was going to be up for it.

Were there hands thrown in the air when you heard, oh god…

It was ridiculous. The idea… first of all, you look at the landscape. The 1990 Broadcasting Act brought in this ridiculous idea that you had to bid away a proportion of your profits on a ten year horizon. Ridiculous. At the same time, Channel 4, which had up to then, been funded by the ITV system, in return for the ITV system selling the air time. That came to an end. Satellite was coming along. They were on a subscription, but advertising was creeping in at a rate of knots. The delusion on the part of politicians, who thought that advertising revenue would grow in proportion to the number of channels available for its distribution was absolute opposite of what happens. When the channels of delivery grow, the cost of advertising falls. And at best, you might say the overall gross will go up, but it’s now being shared by five. So, no, that was ridiculous. However, nobody actually believed that if you got a franchise, and they didn’t put you out of business on the first day, then you’re in there, and you were a part of it. And eventually the rules would be relaxed. That you could own more than one franchise. So the conclusion Granada came to was that if we had to bid so much money that it wasn’t a business, we wouldn’t do it. So we set about working up what we would pay. At the same time, you were allowed to own another company, provided it wasn’t contiguous with your own area. So we decided we’d bid for Tyne Tees. We got tipped off very late in the day… start again. We made it quite public that we were going to bid for Tyne Tees. Clive Leach at Yorkshire Television was furious, because it was his ambition that, although he couldn’t bid directly, he could have held a proportion of shares in Tyne Tees. And he believed, quite rightly, that the day would come when they could own the lot. So I actually rang him up to tell him. And he was livid. Then we got a tip off that Phil Redmond was going to bid for Granada, supported by Yorkshire Television. So that was, for them, the view held throughout Granada that if it’s going to put us out of business, what’s the point? So we’ll give it our best shot up to a given level of investment. And that’s what happened.

So the Yorkshire, Phil Redmond, bid was late in the day?

Very late in the day.

So up to then Granada thought there wouldn’t be any?

Yes. Nobody bid for Central. Central got it for £2,000. Nobody bid for Scottish. But I did ask John Fairly when the dust settled, “Why was it such as lousy bid from Phil Redmond?” And he said, “Clive Leach was furious. It was late in the day. We were up to our necks in doing our own franchise application. We tried to influence Phil Redmond, but you know Phil Redmond. He wouldn’t listen to anybody.” But Phil Redmond put in a programming bid, which was ludicrous. Alan Bennett was going to write a play for him every month. Things like that. And I think he bid 37 million on top of… 37 billion he bid.

And Granada’s bid?



Yes. Clive Leach bid 35 for Yorkshire. We bid five for Tyne Tees. Tyne Tees had never made more than 3.5 million, ever, in monopoly circumstances, which we all were. They bid 15 million. We could bid five, because we could have run a massive chunk of… and given the way technology was developing, we could have run almost all their overhead off Granada for a small marginal cost. But we didn’t get it. And I did a lot of reading after the event. It was decided by the IBA that they were going to lose certain people. They were sure they were going to lose. Because they knew the bids of course. They knew they were going to lose. I think they knew they were going to lose Southern. They were very preoccupied with the programming side of the network being so damaged that there wouldn’t be a competitive offering. However, that’s not what the Act said, it didn’t say not to bid your profits away. I remember Clive Leach and he was speaking to me again, realising what they’d done. He said to me, “I get up every Monday morning and knowing I’ve got to make a million quid a week.” That’s what they bid. And there was an ensuing scandal which you may know about or not know about, they cooked the books in one set of annual accounts and got found out. Leach had to go, his finance director had to go. Ian Ritchie had already gone because he thought he had been double crossed on the Yorkshire Tyne Tees thing.

The Phil Redmond bid, was that the initiative of Phil Redmond or did it come from Clive Leach?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I think Phil was going to bid anyway, because he approached me very early on and said would I go and be his managing director. I had no intention of ever going to be his managing director but he’s known to be notoriously mean, Phil Redmond, and so, to amuse myself more than anything I said to him, “Look, I have no desire to leave Granada but if you will give me 5% of the equity, I’ll come.” And I never heard another word.

So, the Granada bid was seven million, what was the Yorkshire bid?

It was 35, I think. And Tyne Tees, yes. 50 million a year and they gave him the franchise. I mean, other franchises in the area, people lost by putting in business plans like that, but Yorkshire, because there were all sorts of talk of conspiracy that George Russell was on the board of BlackRock insurance company in Newcastle and the local gentry who was a duke of whatever was on the board of Tyne Tees, and I’m not sure that all of that’s true actually, but I think the IBA just thought they had to hold onto some shreds of a network schedule. Without having to go back and start from scratch all over again.

Let’s move on to the caterers, as they called them. The arrival of Gerry Robinson and then Charles Allen. Just give us a bit of background on that, how their arrival came about, and what was the atmosphere.

How their arrival came about in Granada Group? Well, Granada Group were in trouble. Remember there’d been a takeover bid from Rank, which successfully we escaped from simply because the IBA said they wouldn’t let Rank have the television franchise. It wasn’t a transferable asset. They’d give them to Granada and in the bidding for it they’d have to do it without. So that’s what saw Rank off. Nothing to do with our defence document. Granada recruited a new chief executive called Derek Lewis. He’d came in as group finance director and then was promoted to group chief executive. And the truth is I was on the group board by this time. Because I joined the Granada Group board after the success of the BSB application. And frankly, he’s a very bright man, Derek Lewis, he had a first in maths from Oxford. He joined the Forte corporation, and become a European something or other in the finance side. He was a brilliant numbers man. He worked everything off mathematical models and very private opinion. He had no sense of a commercial proposition. And people like the Bernsteins had it in their blood. Derek wasn’t very good at it. The group went through a series of making acquisitions, trying to grow new arms of business by acquiring small companies. None of it worked. And it got to the point where Granada Group needed a rights issue. They were short of capital. The company’s merchant bankers said, quite bluntly, not with Derek Lewis. It really was the money boys saying, “Yes, we’re up for it, we’ll underwrite your rights issue, but not with that chief executive.” And it was a very personal kind of company, Granada. There were a lot of people that actually got on for a long time, and it was tough. David Plowright was quite amusing really. You know David? “We’re not having these City people tell us what to do.” But eventually, I think Alex sat him down and said, “Look, David, keep Derek, no money.” So Derek, I think knew he was… anyway, it all ended quite happily. And the money came. But then of course that raised the question, you’d better have a chief executive, otherwise where are you going? And so, the headhunters produced Gerry Robinson, who’d… I think he was an accountant with Matchbox Toys. Then he joined Compass, wasn’t it, the catering group. And did management buyouts, very successfully. Made a lot of money. And had a huge regard in the City, as they do for people who can make lots of money. And in he came. Now, all the stuff that went on, you could say it was bad blood between David Plowright and Gerry. I think it didn’t matter. And Gerry Robinson came in, and I think Granada Television, that year, had previously only made 20 million, and his new profit target he presented us with was 54 million, which was just stupid. I got on with Gerry Robinson because I knew more about it, in a sense, they’re not programmes. I did say to David at one point, “Listen, don’t get into arguments over the profits. You don’t know about profits. You only know, and thank God you do, about programmes.” Now I could deal with Gerry, because I would simply say to him, “Look, Gerry, you can’t have it. I’m sorry.” We went through a big cost-cutting operation to win the franchise at the price we won it at. And he just kept niggling and pushing, but what I didn’t know was that behind the scenes, David took this up on an almost personal level with Gerry. But you know, I think David Plowright, he never got over the Broadcasting Act. He never got over it. He lived for Granada Television. He didn’t go home much, frankly. There at night, and there at dawn. And he hated Margaret Thatcher, didn’t we all. He never got over it. And I used to say to him, “Listen, we’ve had the best part of it. We’ve been in this business all these years. It’s never coming back, David.” But he wouldn’t have it. And it all transferred into David virtually saying, “If you don’t get rid of Gerry Robinson, I’m off.” And then of course the last person they could get rid of was Gerry Robinson, otherwise they’d have lost the whole City.

Yes, it was him or me.

The share price, frankly, at that stage would have collapsed. If Gerry Robinson had walked out the door then, it probably would have been the end of Granada Group, and Television with it.

But why couldn’t Robinson live with Plowright?

I think it became personal. I never knew about the 54. I brought into Granada the first woman finance director. Very, very bright woman called Kate Stross, who we got from the Boston Consulting Group. She and I used to meet with Gerry, every month. And he never mentioned 54 million to me. I’m sure he did mention it to David because it came out in the end as provocative. It became provocative, I think, because they didn’t relate to each other.

But Plowright was forced out of Granada, wasn’t he?

Well, apparently. I knew nothing of all this going on until one morning, Alex Bernstein rang me up, because I was on a group board. And he said, “Look, I’ve not involved you in any of this, because you would have found yourself in an impossible position, but this is what’s happening.” Gerry wanted David, in the end, out of the, he wasn’t even the managing director, out of the chairman’s job. I think the sequence was, “Gerry, I want you to go, and Andrew Quinn will take over.” And he said no. I think Gerry then said, “Well listen, why don’t you go, but we’d like you to stay on as a consultant to the Granada Group.” David said no. And I think various palliative offers were made. But to David, it was not giving in programme making to a bunch of accountants, really. But that was in his heart from the minute the Broadcasting Act came out. David just wasn’t having it.

But Granada triumphed in that bid.

In what? For the renewal? Absolutely.


The only two sensible bids that went in, apart from the ones that had no competition, were Granada and London Weekend. We bid seven, they bid nine.

Why did Plowright react badly to this, because he was…

He wasn’t against making the bid.

No, but given the successful bid, why wasn’t he happy?

Well, he was until Gerry Robinson.

He was until then?

Gerry did, from time to time, press me hard for promises of more profit. And I remember in one meeting saying to him, “Look, we’re a fixed cost base in Manchester.” And that was a major plank in the bid, winning the bid. The quality threshold and all that good stuff. “We’re a fixed base resource. Fixed talent community.” By this time, we were into what finally became the Network Centre. “We have got firm commitments from the network, which will fill our resources for the next two years, and if we get rid of key people, with that order book, we’ll have to hire them back as freelancers. And there’s a considerable cost to that.” But Gerry’s mindset was, “Yes, but you won’t have to pay pension contributions.” So he pushed and pushed and pushed, and I pushed back, and said, “This place is running at resource optimum level.” But I don’t think Gerry didn’t care about television. His whole posture was to come into Granada Group and fire as much overhead as he could fire, and stay very close to the City, and the City thought he was marvellous. As long as they thought he was marvellous, the Granada Group board had to have him. When that blew up, I hadn’t told anybody. But I’d been, after the satellite thing, I’d been on the group board for just over a year, with a division called Services to Business. Which was a group of companies, one was Computer Field Maintenance, mending people’s computers, and frankly, I wasn’t very thrilled with it. And then I was approached by headhunters, on behalf of Central Television, where Andy Allen – did you know Andy Allen? – had been managing director. Great guy. Fed up of being managing director and wanted to go back to being programme controller. So Central were looking for a managing director. So I met the chairman of Central who was also the chairman of Boots, based in Nottingham, very nice man. And we talked. And shortly after, I got a call from the headhunter, Roy Goddard, to say, they’re going to make you an offer. A few days, you’ll have an offer. So I said, oh, great. And a day later another phone rang, this in 1987 by the way. Another phone rang and it was David Plowright. And he said, “How are you doing?” And I said, “Alright.” And he said, “Denis is going to retire and I’m going to become chairman. Do you want to come and have a talk?” So I went up and met him at his house up there, and we talked, and I agreed to come back to Granada Television as managing director.

Previously your job was with Group?

Yes. And I was still at that point, with the two television directors, on the group board. Which was good.

So ‘87, you became managing director?

Yes. The preoccupation was getting the franchise at that point. But in the run-up to the franchise, the independents’ lobby was getting stronger and stronger and stronger. And sense dictated that the old quota system, when the majors do this and I’ll do that and you do the other and we’ll just carve up the production between us, that obviously wasn’t going to last. So I persuaded, with the help of Greg Dyke, the other managing director, I persuaded them that we had better start dress rehearsing for more access. The independents are going to win. And we can see if something called (Newco?), which a certain proportion of the network needs, was separated out, and could be bid for. That meant the majors giving up capacity that could be bid for by any ITV company or any independent. And the franchises were re-awarded. That idea was suggested to the IBA, because the independents thing was… the IBA was very in favour. And Greg Dyke came to see me and said, “Listen, this is going to have to become real. Will you take it on as the first chief executive of the Network Centre?” And I said, “Yes, probably, let me think about it.” At that point, the David thing blew up, and I said to Greg, “Listen, I’ve been with Granada 25 years and I like the place. I really can’t. Count me out.” So I didn’t tell anybody at Granada. The press had a field day with this. They then said to me, “Well, you chair a group of three, Richard Dunnan, somebody else, to look for a chief executive. And so I did. And eventually we thought we’d found a guy. It got right up to details on the contract and his own company offered him a big job and he just pulled out. So Greg said to me, “Will you think again?” So I thought, yes I will. So I thought. And I loved every minute I worked at Granada and in television, but I equally decided I was going to retire as early as I could. So I said to Greg, “Look, I’ll do it on a three year fixed term contract, and then I’m off. And in the course of that three years, towards the end, you can start looking for the permanent guy.”

Did you move to London to do it?

Yes. Well, I didn’t sell my house in Manchester. I did a very good deal. I was able to have an apartment in the West End, which was a very nice way to spend three years in London. But of course, the dust had just settled on the David and Gerry Robinson affair when I cleared off as well. And that’s when Gerry asked me for a list of people he might approach in the broadcast world, so I gave him a list of people and he didn’t like any of them. Programme makers. And that’s when he brought in this monster Charles Allen. Terrible man. Terrible man.

Why do you say that?

Because he went around browbeating people. He forced Ray Fitzwalter to resign. Because Ray said he’d rather resign then get sacked, because he knew he was going to be. Because you know Ray, he wasn’t going to compromise. Awful fellow. Firing people left, right and centre.

Jules Burns described what happened in those times as brutal.


The culling of staff.

That’s a good word. And not only culling of staff, the stories that got back, no doubt some exaggerated, but he diminished people, he belittled people before he fired them and made silly demands on people. And it sounds awful. What did David Liddiment say because he was there for a lot of the Charles Allen?

Yes, he was. I can’t remember exactly what he said.

Then he went off to be head of live entertainment at the BBC, didn’t he?


So there, that’s me.

Because in Fitzwalter’s book, I don’t think Fitzwalter and Liddiment got on very well.


I think that in Ray’s book, there’s a few snipes at David’s position, and along with Steve Morrison, and Jules as well. I suppose they were…

Partly sniping at Jules? I don’t remember that.

No, no, not, no not in Ray’s books.

Steve Morrison is Steve Morrison. He’s a…

There is still bitterness you know about, amongst some of the guys who I occasionally see who worked at Granada, film editors or technicians, about those people, those individuals who maybe should have done more to protect Plowright. I mean, there was a great campaign to save Plowright.

It was never saveable.


No. Funnily enough, Alex Bernstein, having phoned me up about all this, said, “We didn’t tell you because you’d have been compromised. Would you mind popping down the road to have a conversation with David Glencross to break it to them before it hits the streets, that I’d like to meet with them?” So I did. David Glencross went white. He was a great guy, you know, regulator or not. He went white, on behalf of ITV really, and then he said, “Christ, I’d better get George,” so he shot off upstairs and George came down and I spoke to him and he said, “Well, why do you think specifically it happened?” I said, “Well, because it reached a point where the chairman of a group subsidiary has told the group chief executive to bugger off. He’s not going to work with him.” George Thompson had a very comprehensive, successful career running big corporate… and people like that, highly respected businessman, and he said, “Well, that’s it then, isn’t it?” Though I reported that to Alex who breathed a bit of a sigh. Alex and Gerry then went down together, I wasn’t present for that, and had a conversation with George in which apparently George said, “Well, we didn’t award the franchise to David Plowright. We awarded it to Granada Television,” and he went through the application with them. I’m glad I wasn’t there because I think things got glossed over, but he more or less said, “This is the application. Are you going to stand by it?” They said, “Of course.” End of. Because I mean in the end, business is business. The money men are the money men, and there comes a point where, as Jeremy Corbyn will find out when he tries to renationalize Great Britain.

Yes. I think there’s a bit of resentment against Mark Morrison in particular I think, some of the people. I think Liddiment, who’s a friend of mine, was always sticking up for the programme maker and treading a careful path, you probably had to do. It’s a tricky path.

It is a tricky path.

To keep the programme making side buoyant and make money. That’s what David was doing and Jules as well, another friend of mine, but Jules was as shocked by… what went on I think, in the Charles Allen days, as you are. Let me ask you a few more things, if I can.


Things that occurred to me, just on the non-programming side, the Granada Studios tours. I produced in 1988, the ITV, no, the BAFTA, sorry, ‘89 it was the BAFTA Craft Awards.

Oh yes.

Princess Anne, limousines, fireworks, stage one, Shirley Bassey, a big deal event there.

Oh, right.

That was actually…

Did you have an American actor who was a guest as well?

Yes, yes.

Or something, big hit it was in America. Princess Anne I remember was very struck with him.

Was it George Peppard?



That was you? You produced that?

That was me.

Oh, well done. It was good. I was telling my wife about that only the other night, in the context of Princess Anne. I said, “She’s not as big a sap as you might think. I saw almost her almost sitting on George Peppard’s lap.”

I also had Norman Collier to present the best sound award because he did his act with the microphone breaks up all the time and that was hilarious, but that wasn’t the studio. I was going to ask you about studio tours, but that was on the other site. The studio tours project, tell us a little bit about that. Was that Plowright’s idea?

Very much so, yes, yes. It was a good idea in an inadequate location basically.


Yes because we put a lot of work into it in advance, even to the point I would go to America on National Association of Broadcasters’ Convention thing and I stopped off at Disneyland in Orlando and I had heard that you could have a guided tour. You paid a bit more and you got a guided tour, so I signed on in the morning for the guided tour and a very attractive young lady from the Walt Disney University, graduate, appeared in fancy dress and she was the guide and she knew everything about it. There was on about six of us and I had a chance to sit down with her and discuss it and one of things that emerged and that we were able to verify later on is that these tours, and this is America we’re talking about, the size of America, these tours actually need refreshing every so often, more capital investment. I made a note. I thought that was interesting. Then we went farther in to it and we realised that in the space we had, you can’t let in more than a, given fire and safety rules, given number of people, so if you did the sums, took a view about capacity and what you’re going to well in that limited space and we worked out quite brightly, you can probably sell out every time you did it, but there weren’t enough people that went through to give you a profit and enough money for capital renewal, so it was never going to be… it wasn’t going to be a growth investment. David wanted it badly, and in those days, if David wanted something, he got it. It didn’t matter if you were going to lose money. We also had one of those theatres put in where surround sound and the seat moves with the action on the screen. All that did was make a lot of people sick. That wasn’t a great hit actually, but that was the problem. The idea that people would queue around the block to… that’s true and it would still be true today I’m sure, but it always comes down to logistics, doesn’t it. The fire brigade would not agree to any more than about 350 being in at one time. I can’t remember the exact details and the capital renewal programme was eating up profits.

You’re saying that the site wasn’t big enough?

No. Absolutely not, but what it was good, in a way David was right about this, the studios tour, the stables theatre, the hotel… well, David’s feeling and I’m sure that if you want a regional television service in this country, you will not get anybody more regional than Granada. That’s true, but when the money men arrive, particularly when you want an open ended franchise which is what the final thing was for the broadcasting at 1990. Those franchises were open ended. They were deemed to be held on a commercial basis, therefore they were deemed once you got it, you got it.

Then the money men just look at it and say, “Well, that’s not making any money.” Although I don’t know… I think it was after Charles Allen came in. I think that was one of the first things that went. He’s an accountant.

Was there ever a move to relocate the main Granada building, Granada TV, that was ever under consideration to go to somewhere cheaper in Warrington or something?

Well way before we seriously said, I actually at one stage made the proposal because I mean I looking ahead, I couldn’t see how this brick and mortar in Manchester were going to be what would need and the technology changing, location activity. I suggested at one point that we should actually build two, seriously modern all singing and dancing studios adjacent to Manchester Airport, but that didn’t get very far.

What are the highlights looking back over these times? What are your highlights of your time at Granada?

Well, I don’t know. If I look back on it and I sort of couldn’t have had a better progression in life. I mean I suppose the norm for many people is that you hit your peak and then you jog along or you… I don’t know. I was just getting bigger and bigger and newer jobs always, but if you want a slightly frivolous answer to the most thrilling thing is went rank a bit for us, we had to produce a defence document for the city and Denis Forman said, “Well, the money men can do the thing. I’m making a film about how terrific Granada is,” and he did. He went ahead and was getting pretty close to submission time and the lawyers came in. He showed them the film and one of the things that we were doing at the time and it came about from me meeting some Americans during the satellite imaginations, I’d come across this outfit called Hubbard Broadcasting. It was a private third generation family broadcasting firm in Minnesota and we had various discussions and this guy, Stanley Hubbard III said, “Well, why don’t we do something together? Why don’t we sign a kind of agreement that we will put together some mutually agreed projects.” I had mentioned this at the group board and said, “Yes, seems like a good idea.” You can speculate now. All the old stuff is going down the tubes, so that was put in motion and Denis had mentioned it in the film and then the lawyers looked at it and they said, “This joint venture with Hubbard Broadcasting, can we see the agreement?” We said, “We haven’t got one. We’re just started a relationship. It’s been negotiating.” They said, “We won’t do it. You can’t put anything in this document or film that can’t be documented,” they said. Denis said… much of my life has been about what Denis said to me. Denis said to me, “Give your friend Stanley Hubbard a ring. Tell him quite frankly what we’re about. Then go to America, sit down with him, produce the heads of agreement.” I said, “Right.” We’ve got days in which to do this. I rang Stanley. He said, “Fine. Well, I’ll be I’m Florida for the next few days.” I said to Denis, “I don’t know how I’m going to get to Florida, sit down with Stanley and a lawyer. We had American lawyers. I’ll have to pick up a lawyer in New York.” Denis said, “It can be done. Get on the Concorde.”

Did you go?



So I did. I got on the Concord. 780 miles an hour or something to New York, go a cab straight to the New York lawyers, went to another airport somewhere in New York, got on a plane to Florida, had the meeting, and reversed the process, got back and did it… got there, signed the heads of agreement, utterly meaningless, but it was on paper and back in three days.




Apart from that, it was just one long summer. I loved it. Did you feel Granada was okay?

I loved it too. I mean rather like you, I came up… I came for an interview. There was an advert in the Guardian, “Granada Television wants researchers for a comedy programme called Nice Time.” ‘69, this was, and I was not more out of Liverpool University and I thought, “Might as well. You’re just applying for lots of things,” and this was John Birt’s baby, Nice Time. I think there were over 1,000 applicants.

With that awful Australian lady on it?

Germaine Greer?

That’s right. Fantastic.

Kenny Everett, Johnathan Routh, Sandra Gough. Anyways, I was one of a handful who eventually got picked and along with Claudia (Milne 61:03) who was in the group, so that’s how I started and then John Burt went to World in Action, after a bit I went with him, so my heart is really is back in World in Action conflicts and every month now in London, there’s a World in Action social. They meet every month.

Oh real.

At the Frontline Club in Paddington. It used to be run by Mike Beckham who died a few years ago. It’s now run by Michael Ryan.

Oh, I remember him.

And Steven Clark is there…

Does (??61:36) go to those?

No. He doesn’t.

He’s a loner, isn’t he, Stewart?


I see him periodically.

Do you?


Yes he is.

He’s very successful Sky Arts, portrait artist or whatever, or landscape artist.

Well, I think it’s probably a case that he’s made his money and he’s now going to enjoy himself. I don’t see him, no, but World in Action people and even people who used to work in Golden Square…


Before you and I joined, that turn up there. It’s fun. I don’t go every month, but it’s nice to see it’s there. John Blake goes sometimes and Ian McBride I’ve seen there, so that’s where my roots go back to World in Action. Then I was seduced…

They don’t make them like that anymore. I think the quality of documentary, facts based programming is terrible these days.

It is too.

I think Panorama is a shadow of its former self, worse than that. They’re more like cut and paste from last week’s papers.

The massive promotion for stuff you already knew because it must just be easy to assemble a few bits and pieces and…

Too much of it is half-baked.


You end up watching and think, “Well, why didn’t they ask that or that? Obvious questions.”

That’s equally true of reporting. The standard of interrogation of these bloody idiots in Westminster all running around like headless chickens is awful.

They are allowed to repeat things that are not true. They’re allowed not to answer as many questions as they can avoid answering. Terrible.

Yes, because everything is sort of rolling news, so everything has got to be short and sharp and there’s no understanding, no depth. It’s frustrating.

Pete Terry

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly, 15 May 2019.

Okay. All right, Pete. As ever with these things, begin at the beginning. How did you come to join Granada Television?

I was freelancing in Birmingham, ATV – which no longer exists, of course – in the centre of Birmingham. I got a contract there straight from college. I was in the design department, and I had, I think, a nine-month contract to work on their winter campaign of 1979. So this was 1978. A number of the graphic designers working in Birmingham were friends with, or ex-colleagues of the design department in Manchester. They mentioned that there was a possibility of a job coming up in Manchester, and mentioned it to me, linked to access to notice boards. That’s how it came about. And in a way, it just shows all those years ago, the various companies… there was a certain comradery I think, as well as rivalry with the various… well, certainly in the art and design departments around the country. In fact, we ended up playing ATV, Granada TV. We arranged a few football matches in years to come. Yes. That’s how it came about. I heard of it because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Yes.

You were working as a graphics artist. You had completed art school?

Yes. I went to Leicester, it was then, Leicester Polytechnic, doing a graphic design degree. No universities at that time actually did it, in fact. Or, only Reading. Leicester now is De Montfort University. While I was there, one of our tutors developed a relationship with the graphic design department in Birmingham, ATV. We used to get some associate designers come across and talk to us. I got quite friendly with one of them, and he set projects for us and he quite liked some of the work I did. And he said, “Well, keep in touch when you finish.” And I duly did. He offered me then a contract in the September, October to work on what was called their winter campaign, when the ITV companies had a huge region… well, regional stroke national campaigns to advertise and promote ITV programmes throughout the country. They were very big. This was a national winter campaign. Yes, so that was my first taste.

So you applied for the job at Granada in Manchester.


Did you have to go for an interview process?

Oh, yes. Yes. In fact, funny enough, that interview came about in the February, I think, and I’ve started at ATV in the September. It was funny, I had never been further north I don’t think, than Birmingham at that time, within this country. You know, I had to check exactly where Manchester was on the map. I always remember the interview I got, I didn’t make. Because it was one of the few times it was snowbound mid-February and I didn’t get further than Crewe. And I sat in Crewe Station for a couple of hours realising I was going to miss this interview. So as soon as I got back to Manchester, Piccadilly, I found a red phone box. Then phoned and apologised. Of course, there were no mobile phones then. That I didn’t make the interview. The secretary of the design department said “Oh, don’t worry. A few people struggled today. Look, we’ll rearrange.” And I think I had an interview in about 10 days or so later, towards the end of February. But yes, I can remember sitting on Crewe Station thinking, what’s happening? Where am I? Anyway, it’s a very nice station.

Was that a fairly straightforward interview?

I luckily then had the benefit of a certain amount of the interview, and I since have conducted a number of interviews through my latter years at Granada. I think the important part of the interviews is, someone can fit within a department because it’s so tight knit. So I think they look at your work. I was lucky, I then had a certain amount of work from working at ATV that sort of lent itself for television. I guess they must also look at you as a personality to know where you fit or what you fit. Also, it might well have helped that one of the gentlemen interviewing me, Phil Buckley – a lovely man, a friend of mine – was a good friend of the head of the department at ATV. So I think he had the QT from Jeff Pearson. He was Jeff Pearson. I guess Jeff must have said, “Yes, he’s all right. Give him a job.” So again, it’s one of those things that right place, right time. Perhaps knowing people. I guess a lot of careers start that way. Yes, fortunate in that sense. Yes.

So you started at Granada in April 1979?


What would be the first few programmes that you would work on, and what would you be doing?

Well in those early days, you come in as an assistant graphic designer, or even a junior assistant graphic designer. You always go, or we used to, onto the local news. That would have been Granada Reports. The ITV company has retained that name. That’s to my knowledge, the only real link with the past now. Granada Reports, the local news is still called that. A tenuous link, I feel. So yes, Granada. That as you can imagine, was a live programme. I hadn’t done live TV at all at ATV, because I was working on a promotion campaign. So I didn’t have that pressing deadline. But boy, the adrenaline certainly kicks in when you start working on a live programme, a live news programme. And in those days and then years to follow, there would have been an awful amount of live broadcasts. Not least, football and political programmes. Yes, and Harry programmes. I worked on World in Action for about three or four years. It was good training for the years to come, that’s for sure, and knowing what a deadline was.

So what would you be doing?

Well in those days, a lot of it was good old Letraset. Letraset was then actually, a fairly new addition really, to the graphic toolbox… with rubdown letters, where you would make up captions, caption names, putting naming to maps. A lot of the maps would be pre-printed, because it was regional TV, regional news. So you had a stock number of maps of the area with the main towns highlighted. You would then sort of add where there might have been some particular newsworthy event, and you would rub these letters down to form the name. That was Letraset. What was kind of new about it, it was called dry Letraset as opposed to wet Letraset, which had been around only a few years previous, where you actually had to make the stencil wet and apply the Letraset. With this, you just had to rub the ballpoint pen or a stylus. So yes, an Letraset became the standard for the following 10, 15 years, really. It was around for a long time.

So you would do the captioning?

Yes. Sorry, Steve. It would be captions. Name captions, obviously for newsreaders and GESPs. And then any supporting visual, which were often maps. And occasionally… I wasn’t in illustrator, so I couldn’t draw especially well. Some of our more talented illustrators might draw something for the news, whether it be a cartoon or something. And then you might add a graphic to that, like a sound bubble or something. But just in a side thing, going down memory lane… I remember in my interview, there was the head of PR. He was a very dour character, as often people who worked…

Who was he? Who was this?

I honestly can’t remember the name now. I can visualise him still. I just can’t remember his name. But I did comment that I actually wasn’t a particularly good illustrator or drawer. So he looked at me and just stared at me and said, “If you can’t draw, what are you doing in this interview?” So I smiled and I said, “Well, it’s about ideas as well.” But anyway, yes. No, I can’t remember his name now. He had grey hair. Grey hair, I remember that. But good old PR, yes.

So you’re working on Granada Reports and other local programmes.

Yes. I think at that time, I was on a training contract. I forget what you call them now. When your contract could be terminated after three months. If you didn’t quite match up. So I was on that for three months. On that three months, that was pretty much really all I did, really. Local news, because it was a daily programme. So you were preparing other stuff during the day as well, but that would go out. But yes, it was all totally local programmes, local news and sport. I did meet some of the sports department then, because very integral to the news. And of course, I met the lovely Paul Doherty, who I developed I like to think, a good working relationship with. I must say about Paul, his bark was far worse than his bite. I grew to like him and respect him very much.

So when you do sport, what kinds of things are you doing?

Well, sport then was… and of course, the Northwest as we all know, was a hotbed of football then as it is very much now. I wouldn’t have done it in that first three months, but certainly then in the following year or so. We had been working on local sports programmes. Of course one of our classics at the time… and we had one of the preeminent sports presenters, Elton Welsby, who then had developed a very national profile. So you would be working on live football matches. You would go out on a Saturday afternoon to record the match. So again, you’d be taking your kit apart, rubbing down the team names, and of course just hoping you got all the spellings right. But luckily, there weren’t quite so many foreign players then. So there were a lot more Joneses and Smiths. Then of course, there was always the… the directors would always panic. They wanted the score before it was actually at the score goal, and the goal scorer. But hey, you didn’t have a crystal ball, so you had to wait. Funnily enough, they always thought graphics even then, was electronic. They thought it was instant, whereas you’re still physically rubbing a name down. So yes, they would be a bit longer to wait for a name to go up on a caption.

Presumably, you could pre-do the actual scores.

Yes. Well, you could do. But they’d want the scorers, and of course you couldn’t do those. And of course, if it was a long name or something. But yes, we’d be on the outside, OB trucks as they were called, and they’d park up. I always remember, I ended up… I can’t remember if City won or City lost that day, but it was a main road and it was seven goals swinging the game. And that was a frenetic game, I seem to remember. The OB trucks were always really cramped. Although though there’s a comradery, which there is with the sparks and the electricians and the engineers, at the same time everyone’s looking out for themselves as well. So it’s an odd mix, really. Everyone is very professional in that they want to get their own bit done. You look out for each other, but you want to make sure that you get your bit right. So, yes. Yes.

It’s almost been quite good fun doing this.

It was. It was. I think some people take to live more than others. I guess it is a bit nervous. I’ve always liked football and knew a lot about football, I guess. So it helped as well to go there. And of course, going to some of these great grounds and thinking, wow. Yes, this is main road. This is Old Trafford ! Which I had only ever read about in Shoot Magazine, way down south in Devon, where I was born. So, yes. No, it was. It was good. We were also meeting various freelance people or directors and that, that you’d only work with occasionally. On the whole, like I said, there’s a real comradery and professionalism. But at the same time, there was some sharp tongues if you didn’t get things right. Yes, there was an accepted standard always, which is quite right.

Okay. You’ve spent some time working on local programmes. Did you move up then?

Yes. I think you’re a junior… I’m trying to remember now. It’s a long time ago. I’ve done some part-time lecturing in the recent past. When I was doing my lectures, I said, “Well, I worked in broadcast for over four decades.” That really made me think, wow, it is a long time even though the ‘70s was only touched by a year. Yes, I think as a junior for about 18 months, and then you go up to full graphic designer. I’ve got to say, our department, I was one of the youngest going in I think, when I started there 23, 22. The department was made up really, of more early middle-aged people. But a couple of them took me under their wing, which is one in particular, who was a lovely and very talented typographer, Ray Freeman. He was working on World in Action, and he kind of took me under his wing a bit. I used to help out, help him on World in Action. In a year or so’s time after that, he recommended when he went onto another programme, that I could take the programme over for a while. Which at that time, I thought, wow, this is quite special. It was a very special programme. So yes, World in Action. A lot of weekends disappeared, because it was a Monday night programme at one time. Not live, but it was being recorded right up until the death. I think it went out at 8:30 on a Monday. So you were working right up to 7:30 often on that one, on a Monday. Yes. Yes, World in Action was for about two years, I think. Two-and-a-half years I think, I did World in Action then, which had its moments. But the stories I would find very, very fascinating. I was lucky enough to work with some very talented people. In fact, I can remember working on a couple of programmes. He won’t remember me, but I certainly remember Paul Greengrass. Yes, I worked on a few programmes with Paul. Again, a mix of personalities. But I remember Paul being very professional and knew what he wanted, but very pleasant with it. Yes.

And you were still working with Letraset?

Yes. Letraset was… in the background, there was this looming coming of electronic graphics we heard about. You’d hear about it and perhaps read articles about it in trade magazines. But that was in the future. That was to happen in 1986, the electronic graphics department started at Granada TV. But when I moved on from World in Action, which was very much Letraset and hand-drawn maps, and it was filming rostrum techniques under a rostrum camera, where you’d have various layers of cell, and you’d build up maps and animations. We developed a good relationship with the rostrum department. The head of rostrum, who was a very strong union man, that used to be fun. If you brought stuff down during their coffee break, lunch break, “Oh, I can’t do it now. Oh, no. There’s dust on the lens.” Phil Phillips, rest in peace. But yes, he was always an interesting character. But yes, it was still, in those days, a very traditional when I worked on world in action. Yes. But I went moving on from world in action. That was the other great thing about television graphics, it’s the visual support. When people ask me, “What exactly is TV graphics?” In a book or an illustration, it’s kind of easy to say, but to me, it’s the visual stamp of everything you see on television. It is the branding of a TV programme, it’s any visual support, that is graphic design. And of course, a lot of it now, you don’t even see with special effects, but that still comes under a sense of an umbrella of graphic design. But I then went from world in action to what was called promotions. And again, promotions are… that was where you would promote your programmes on the national ITV network to promote your programmes and the whole network programmes if you were doing regional and network campaigns. And that was a really interesting time because it at that time, I suppose, that I had the opportunity to design my most famous logo, if you want to put it that way, the actual ITB logo, and that came about because the network was looking for a new ITV logo. So, there was a lot of network meetings where various designers would go down and take storyboards. And fortunately, we had a good editor from promotions, and I forget his surname now. David, ginger hair and a beard. Again, a nice man.

In promotions?

Yes, head of promotions. David…

Oh, I know who you mean, yes.

Very broad, very Scottish, loved his running. He’d always be out running every lunch hour. And again, bark worse than his bite, but he was a very strong voice on the network and the network meetings and various bodies. And so yes. And as it turned out, they wanted a new ITV logo as a filler for a year or so when they selected my design, as it turned out. So, I always kind of think I’m quite proud that I thought, “Well, actually, I had the ITV logo for about…” I think it lasted for about a year to 18 months. I mean, looking back on it now, it’s perhaps no great shapes, but it must’ve done the job. And also, while on promotions, I think, rightly or wrongly, I think I’m right… I think I was the first designer to animate our Granada G, our beloved G, in a three dimension, to make it into a three-dimensional animated form. So, that was interesting because it coincided in 1984-85 with the dawning of this electronic graphics, which we heard was coming. So, yes, we did a 3D animation of the Granada G, a golden G on a bluish background to keep the colour branding with a company in London, a small company that was starting up called Electric Image. And yes, they were exciting times, really. Yes. And I remember then doing another campaign with Electric Image. In the Christmas campaign of 1984, the Granada department had to do the Christmas network campaign, and I was working then with an editor, a promotions editor called Nick Lake, who was a very nice man. He always knew what he wanted when he saw it, so that was always interesting. So, you had a certain free reign. And I came up with a campaign of a toy train that was sitting under the Christmas tree, and then it flew around the skies, dropping TV programmes to all and sundry. And I always remember an interesting conversation with David Black.

David Black, that’s his name.

David was a very… he was a great organiser, but he wasn’t the most creative of promotion editors. So, he couldn’t quite square the circle why there’d be a flying train. He said, “Well, why isn’t Santa Claus in his sleigh?” I had quite an interesting hour trying to persuade him with storyboards, that, “Look, it’d be different to have this flying train, and we’re going to use this brand new electronic 3D imagery.” So, I managed to persuade him in the end, and I think it all turned out. It all turned out well in the end. And in fact, I was the front cover of a trade magazine with graphic design, Christmas graphics enters the new world or something, which was with a picture of the toy train on the front cover of a magazine called Televisual, December, 1984. So, that was quite nice. So, yes, it was, again, exciting times. Yes.

So, the advent of electronic captioning, etc., must have had a huge impact on the department.

It did. It did. Because it was such a revolution, and I think I use that word not too lightly. And I was very much involved because I ended up actually getting the job, the position of head of electronic graphics. And I think it was more by default than anything else because a couple of very talented designers dropped out of the interview process. It was an internal interview process, and a couple of them decided they didn’t want to go for it, but I thought, “You know what? I’m going to go for this. It’s the brave new world, all exciting.” So, I applied for it and I think I was the last men standing, so they said, “Well, look, see what you can do.”

So, yes. So, I became head of electronic graphics and, hey, the salary got boosted because I was head of a department. So, this was 1986, so sort of seven years on from starting. And the interesting thing then was, of course, my friendships didn’t alter, but it was slightly different having a certain level of authority, if that’s the right word, albeit organisational authority over some fellow designers. So, some took to it quite easily. Some, sometimes, that was a challenge. But yes. So, the electronic graphics departments opened up for business in 1986, and yes. So, we had to take over some offices that was on our floor, the second floor in Keith Street in the main building, and all this electronic equipment and fancy new furniture was made and fancy swivel chairs and lighting and electronic desks and all sorts. And of course, we got to know a lot of characters from another universe called engineers, and they’re another breed. These guys that really knew all the tech stuff, because it was then so new to us that, in a way, the engineers were kind of learning as they went. So, yes, it was an interesting… Interesting times.

So, presumably, because you no longer have the Letrasets, you’re no longer doing the scores, you’re, what, just typing it all in?

Yes. So, there was a piece of machinery that came between Letraset and full-blown electronic graphics, as we call it, and that was called the Aston caption generators, and they were being used then on live sports programmes, mainly football, obviously. And that was, now looking back, quite a basic caption machine, but it was the industry standard, and there was a number of Aston… there was an Aston 1, 2, but Granada entered at Aston 3, and we started off at Aston 3 and then went through to Aston 4. And that was a bit like a big keyboard that would not look at a place in a Doctor Who Tardis with a nice little joystick and nice twirly controls and buttons as well as a QWERTY keyboard. And the floppy disc, the good old floppy disc was an 18-inch square floppy disc, which I still have a few, and it’s just amazing now to look at it and to think the floppy disc held a font, one font, or it would hold the captions that you then typed for that particular programme. So, it didn’t exactly have a great memory capacity. But the Astons, they were actually, like I said, to look at now retro, are a nice work of art, I always feel, and Aston Industries. And yes, like I said, it wouldn’t look out of place on a Tardis, a Doctor Who control panel.

So, the advent of electronic must have caused major ripples within the graphics department.

It did. It did for all of us in a way, because we had all… we were all of a certain age. And of course, this is before the mobile phones and before the household PC, household computer. So, we as a breed, we used to… metal rulers, pens, pencils, Rotring pens, Letraset. So, we used to working with our hands, cardboard, creating imagery, cell, hand-painted animations. So, the skillset isn’t totally natural to go from that to actually a more technically minded sort of operation, and I think I alluded to earlier that a lot of our staff were that much, perhaps seven or eight years older than me. So, it was a middle aged department on the whole without too many youngsters. So, it was a huge, huge learning curve, and I remember some… I wouldn’t say anyone took to it like a duck to water, but a number of us became very, well obviously proficient, good at it, etc, but there were one or two that certainly struggled. And it was obvious in perhaps their future programmes stayed away more from the heavy use of electronic graphics because there was still a need for drawing illustration and what have you, traditional skills. So, yes. The word “Revolution,” I think, is about right within the business, for sure.

And did that cause union problems? Were there long discussions?

I’m trying to think now. I don’t really think that were particularly union problems. Obviously, there was the new sense of what duties and what skillset you then needed to encompass certain payments, additional payments or a change of working title, but as a piece of equipment, it was never… there was no sense of the Luddite approach in that sense at all, no, because it was… by that time, that was the future. Yes. So, there was no problem actually having in, but I think, to be fair, the unions helped to protect and evolve new working titles, really, as people then became proficient with it. Because of course, it’s… because I can remember seeing TV programmes soon after saying, “What are we all going to do with us spare time? Because all these great pieces of equipment can do so much so quickly, you’ll get all your work done in three days.” But hey ho, funnily enough, it means you can do a lot, lot, lot more work that much faster. So, in a way, ironically, deadlines became tighter and a lot more work, looking into the future as they evolve. But I remember we had to do… I did a booklet and we did introductory reviews and workshops for producers and researchers because there was this new beat called electronic graphics. So, the way graphic design was then outputted and, more importantly, required and requisited – is that the right word? – actually authorised and required, it had to be… it was a new learning for the whole building. So, we had producer workshops where producers would come up and look at the equipment and, like I said, researchers and very… and of course, we then developed a lot tighter working relationships with the VT editors, the videotape editors, whereas once upon a time, we would not really have had a great deal to have done with them. So, yes. It formed very different working practises as well to introduce it to the building.

So, you continue to work as head of the electronic graphics department.

Yep. So, from… that was ‘86, and yes, I retained that title until I left, which was in 2005, I think it was. 2005 or 2006, I can’t remember it. But yes, about that time. And obviously, electronics just grew and grew. And in a way, a bit like a tsunami, it took over the whole department because graphic design then was electronic graphics, and everything of the past was consigned to the past. Excuse me. Certainly, by perhaps 1990, the old had completely gone in that sense and it was by 1990, sort of three or four years later, it was a completely new way of working.

And the electronic equipment is coming more and more sophisticated?

Yes. I mean… but to give you some example, when we started the department, one of the market leaders at the time, and I’m not sure where they sit now with a company called Quantel, which was in Newbury. And in fact, the only time I’d flown in a helicopter, the Newbury helicopter picked myself up and an engineer and a manager, and we flew by helicopter from Manchester all the way to Newbury and back, which was thrilling. But yes, Quantel were the market leaders, and they had a system called The Paintbox, which was the kind of Rolls-Royce system of graphic design. And to give you an idea, I think when we brought that into the company, one Paintbox was £120,000. And now, your mobile phone, or the graphics capability of a little graphics card in your computer can do a thousand times more than the Paintbox could ever do, and for pennies, and that then… we’re not going that long back with the £120,000, just to give you some idea. So, it was also an expense by the company to invest in the equipment. And of course, the company, we brought their return for it, but the return was a natural evolvement of graphics for the whole station.

So, by the year 2000, Granada has started to change considerably.

Oh, crikey. Yes. And the graphic design department had changed considerably because we had a merger, and I can’t remember when exactly, probably late-1990s, ‘98, ‘97. I can’t remember exactly, with which I’m sure a lot of colleagues will remember when we merged with the BBC to form a kind of production company called 360 Media. So, that was, as we entered the 2000s, was graphic design then. We had merged with BBC, and the BBC came up from Oxford Road and we had four or five BBC designers within the department as well, but we were all rebranded then as 360 Media.

And you were running that?

I wasn’t running it, per se. No, I was still… there was a head of that department, and that was Paul (Kierden? 20:40). And I was head of the electronic graphics. So, there was more the personnel side and the… so, there were two of us, I guess, sort of jointly looking after it, but from a personnel point of view, Paul (Kierden? 42:01) headed that department. But I was still head of electronic graphic design. So yes, it was a joint operation in that respect. Paul was head of the personnel side, so would ask people to do various projects. He would hand those out, so to speak.

And Granada is changing as a company?

I don’t think Granada exists anymore, personally. The irony is that Granada… because, again, early on, I really enjoyed the network side of promotions. And at the time, I was a Devon lad, so I had Westward TV. So regional TV always made an impact with me. And going to network promotional meetings, all the various companies were there, Anglia, ATV. All that changed as well. I can’t remember. Harlech, all the various companies. So I guess I learned early on that Granada was quite a key player in those early days. And, as we all know, Granada gradually took them all over, and Granada in effect became or did ITV. But for me, Granada does not exist as a brand any shape or form other than Granada reports at 6:30 or 7:00, I don’t even know what time it’s on now, 6:30 or seven o’clock at night. That’s the only time you’ll really see the word Granada on a broadcast programme. So for me, Granada does not exist, and it was becoming very evident the shift of power. Whereas once it was handy to have Golden Square, and I was well aware of it because World in Action office is in Golden Square. But the shift of power now is completely and utterly London. And we just have a floor or so at Salford Quays. And sadly, with moving to Salford Quays, moving out of Quay Street, the graphics department moved for about a year, maybe two years, 18 months, and is no longer. So there is no longer a graphic design department at all, which is sad but I guess inevitable. And it was quite nice that the two designers that did actually go across to Salford Quays, I had interviewed an employee, both of them. So, in a funny way, I guess I had a slight involvement to the bitter end when that department finally went.

So you decided to leave?

No, I didn’t decide to leave. The writing sadly was on the wall. I took a redundancy, but it was becoming quite evident that finances were playing an important role, and it had become an unrecognisable company in many ways. We were then under the auspicious ruling of, I think, Charles Allen, and I think Gerry Robinson was still involved. But it was all about finances, budgets, and what had been spoken about with this merger of the BBC at Oxford Road. And we did create a fantastic opportunity for a design company within Granada TV called 360 Media and the facilities was second to none. And the BBC designers that came across were excellent designers. And our output, our designer output, was I thought very, very of the highest calibre. But it was all monitored so strictly by budget, and of course we now had to pay very high rates to rent our department within the building at Quay Street. So finances were always there in the background and the number of meetings we would all have as designers with budgets and, “Why are you going over spend?,” etc., etc.. It was becoming more and more evident. So, in the end, I think Granada didn’t feel we were commercially viable and had no energy or enthusiasm to support us anymore. I’ll just take this opportunity to say that the general manager of Grenada, who was head of design services, management head of design services, Michael Taylor, Mike Taylor, was a big supporter and he really pushed us. I’ve got to say that, very much. And although of course Mike is a manager and knew a spreadsheet, but I think without his will and I think an enthusiasm and I think a bit perhaps like Margaret Thatcher’s tunnel under the channel, I think Mike might wanted to have that as a legacy perhaps to a degree to his managerial time. And yes, Mike was a big supporter of the department, the electronic graphics department, and the design services. And of course he went on, as we all know, to become general manager of Granada. But again, Mike then left the company. But yes, sorry, getting back to an earlier point. Yes, the writing was on the wall. And the senior designers, as a head of a department and what’s called a production designer, my level was then production designer, we had a reasonable salary, quite a good salary. And yes, so I was encouraged to take a redundancy while the terms were pretty good, so I took it. And then the department haemorrhaged a number of people over the coming 18 months. And then finally, when they moved to Salford Quays, I think they moved with just two designers. And sadly that’s all gone now.

Yes, yes.

But no, if I had my choice I would happily have stayed on for another probably five years or so I think. But certainly, yes, it was neither the company nor the department that I had started out in all those years previous. Yes, but that’s progress.

Was it a good company to work for in the earlier days?

I think so. I think so. In a way, I can’t compare it to many because I was fortunate enough to work for ITV from leaving college at the age of 22 up until my early 50s. So that’s the only company I’ve ever known, Granada, ITV, ATV for nine months or so previous. And looking back, it’s a bit like I was at college for nearly 30 years, 28 years. It had that slight feeling of a university environment, campus. We’re all there trying to do whatever show you were working on. It was a bit like doing your final show as part of your final qualifications, if that makes sense. It had that slight feel to it. I think, yes, Granada was a good company. I think they looked after us as long as you did your work. Like any company, you’re going to have your run-ins with people and you’re going to have your issues. And the unions were a strong, major part of my early time at ITV. I mean, ironically, I was only working there for about three months when there was the major summer strike where all of ITV went off the air for about three months. So I was actually, at that time, not a member of the union so I had a whole summer of full pay because I wasn’t on strike. I wasn’t a member of the union, I wasn’t on strike, but I couldn’t cross the picket line because there was no work to do. So I had a paid summer. But, excuse me, through that particular summer strike, which I’m sure a number of us will remember, there was a huge percentage increase in wages across the board at ITV. There was a lot of frustration with the unions as well, of course, with the demarcation of jobs when you were filming things or shooting things and strict time breaks and woe betide if you did something you should not do on a film set. So, in many ways, the restrictive practises were very frustrating as a designer when you were trying to get something shot, when you were out filming for a title sequence and time was against you. And then there would be the protected breaks, all the protected jobs, what someone can and can’t do. Or if someone wasn’t on that set that could do that, you’d have to wait for that person to come out to your shoot. So there was an awful lot of frustrations, but the unions I think evolved as well, because they had to. But it was a closed shop. I had to join the union. You were either management or you were a foot soldier I guess. And you had to become part of BECTU whether you wanted to or not. But I think, again, when redundancy was facing a number of us, the unions were supportive. And I can’t remember his surname, Gerry, the very broad Irish gentleman.

Gerry Robinson?

No. No, no, the union rep for BECTU, and I can’t remember his surname now. But he always spoke passionately and eloquently in various heated meetings that happened. So I think, on the whole, the unions were good to me and generally supportive. And I think they did modernise within themselves, within the company, because they realised that things had to change as well. And again, as things change and there were certain new job titles and certain new allowances for what people could and couldn’t do.

There was a point in I suppose the late 1970s and early ‘80s when graphics department was not known for being the most cooperative. There were always obstacles put in your work when you went up to get things done.

What do you mean, Steve? You may well be referring to one or two personalities.

Yes, just one or two people. Yes.

But I would not ever dream of mentioning names.


But yes, it was all part of the banter. Yes, so looking back, I can appreciate that. And of course graphic designers notoriously are not the best spellers because we just draw things. We don’t write things. But yes, I know what you’re alluding to. But I hope and I think the show reel of Granada’s 30, 40 years in the spotlight will tell a very good visual tale. And we had some very motivating talks in the mid-90s when the company was going through some changes, changes of management with ownership really I guess, with Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen. And to rally the troops, I can remember a few big meetings in the studios. And the show reel, there’ll be an awful lot of graphics because there’d be clips of programmes headed with graphics. And I remember sitting there or standing there often in the studio with various other members of the department looking up and thinking, “Actually, that’s quite a visual, show reel of our department and Granada are intertwined.” So yes, yes, I guess every department has a few occasionally awkward people. But we were all very nice really. And we had a few reasonable footballers. We made up a contingent of the Granada football team. Yes, yes, the Granada football team, we’d go and play a few matches. Yes, so happy days.

And lots of good social activities within the department?

Yes, there was a number of keen golfers within the graphic designers, although I didn’t really play golf to be fair. So one particular sport that became very popular with graphics, again, because of the age, and I use the word break, the age break, was Snooker. And again, it coincided with a huge popularity of Snooker on the television. And we covered live Snooker matches, again, with the old electro set scoring system and into the electronic age. Snooker was a very popular pastime with the graphic designers. We had a few evening sessions and little mini tournament’s. Yes, yes. But I think, yes, I think, on the whole, reasonably sociable.

I think that’s good. I mean, is there anything else you want to add? Was there anything that you’d be thinking of that you wanted to say and did not have the chance to comment on?

I’d like to put on record that I was proud to be part of I think Granada, and I think still part of its golden heyday early on. And I was able to work on some great programmes, meeting very interesting people. World in Action, right? I had a great respect for Ray Fitzwalter and I worked on a number of programmes with Tony Wilson. And I can remember filming long into the night with Tony for a title sequence for a chat show of his till about four in the morning. I certainly enjoyed that. But I lost my train of thought for a second. I feel honoured, in a way, that I worked for a world-renowned company. And I think, at one point, it was kind of billed as one of the world’s leading television companies. And I think it enjoyed that status because it was I think, for a time. Again, great programmes were worked on when I was there, such as Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown. And then I worked on Cold Feet, and then some ongoing favourites like Krypton Factor. So yes, yes. But I think what I feel now, it’s only a, probably a personal take, I don’t know, that I can’t help thinking that the Granada legacy and the word Granada was a huge brand to the point that it was well known in the Northwest, especially Manchester. There was some cleaners near us called Granada Cleaners, dry cleaners that had nothing to do with Granada television whatsoever. And I don’t think you even got a discount for going there, but they picked up on the name. And what I’m trying to allude to is I think the name has all but absolutely disappeared, and it is ITV. And I can’t help thinking that Manchester as a city has missed bit of a trick because they once upon a time had the greatest TV company in the world right in the centre, and it’s disappeared. And whichever format Quay Street comes back in now, there’s not a great deal of reference really to Granada TV was once here, and the big, red littering that adorned the building that you could see for miles around on the skyline is gone. Of course there’s a lot of high buildings now. And the Beatles famously did their first television recording in a studio, and I forget which number, one of them. Studio two?


And I can’t help thinking City Council of Manchester has missed the trick. And I appreciate this recording is going some way into a time capsule of archive. But physically, I think Granada had been removed from the landscape of Manchester City centre. And I think that’s an indictment to the city really, personally. And to me, Granada does not exist. It is ITV.

Claudia Milne

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly and Judith Jones, 5 November 2015.

How did you come to join Granada television? What had you been doing beforehand?

I’d really done nothing. I’d been at university, dabbled on the student paper but not very much. But I knew that I didn’t want to be a secretary or a teacher, which is all the recommended that you should do at university if you were a girl in those days. I thought I’d like to go into publishing. Did I tell you all this yesterday? Shall I go on with that? I liked reading so I thought, “Oh, publishing. You sit around reading books all day, that sounds jolly nice.” And the trade magazine was called Books and Bookmen and they used to advertise for graduate men. So I would answer these adverts and I’d sign “Claude Milne” and just make my squiggle so that they’d just assume that I was a bloke. And lots of them I didn’t get an interview for because I clearly had no experience and I didn’t have a good degree, I only got a 2:2. I wasn’t a smarty pants. But I did get an interview at two. And neither of them would actually interview me when I turned up at reception because I was a girl. One of the interviewers came down to reception and I said, “It’s not fair, why won’t you interview me?” And he said, “Because you’re just an attractive girl, you’ll go off and get married. We’ll lose you and we’ll have spent all that time on money investing in you.” And I pointed out that a huge percentage of graduate men left their first job within three or four years anyway, so his argument didn’t actually hold water. But anyway, he just said, “Yes, very interesting dear, off you go.”

So I was working in Selfridges in the coordinates department, just literally to earn money. And my mum was a teacher and I had a half day and I was lighting the fire for her before she got home from school, and it was the beginning of November, this time of year, and I was shoving The Guardian into the fireplace and putting a match to it and just as the flames were licking up I saw Granada Television wants researchers. So I pulled it out and answered the ad.

But by then I’d tried so many times to get jobs in various media things that I knew, because I had no experience, not to write to personnel or human resources because you never got anywhere. You would just get rejected. So my brother had been an assistant film editor briefly at Granada, so I phoned him and told him to find out for me what this show was about and who the producer was. And the producer was John Birt. So I wrote, “Dear Mr Birt, I’m sure this is the only application you’ll get from the coordinates department of Selfridges.” And that got me the interview. It was simply that.

And what year was that?

1968. He took it very seriously, Birt, unlike most people. He shortlisted a number of people. I was interviewed in London by Marion Nelson. Those that were shortlisted, there were about 10 or 12 of us, went up to Manchester for two days for sort of being given exercises, research tasks to perform, and interviewing. I was one of the lucky ones.

So a lot of people have talked about the interviewing process and have very distinct memories of things that happened during the interview and questions they were asked. Do you have any?

Yes, I remember that it was a board, it wasn’t just John.  They really took it seriously. And I can’t remember who it was but somebody, I think it was Leslie Woodhead actually, said, “So in five years’ time, what would you like to be doing?” The sort of standard question. And I said “Working on World in Action.” Because I loved World in Action. I’d grown up with it. When it started in ’63, I remember it when it started. It was just so completely different from Panorama. And it think that is what really got me the job because they loved World in Action too!

So you joined Granada, came to Manchester, and how did your career then develop?

Well it was a light entertainment programme called Nice Time. It had Kenny Everett and Germaine Greer, and Sandra Gough who was a Coronation Street star, and Jonathan Routh who had done a programme called Candid Camera, I think. It was very popular. It went out on a Sunday afternoon and they were hiring because it had gone onto the network; it had been a local programme before. It went out on a Sunday afternoon at about 5 o’clock as family entertainment. You’d do things like drag 50 sergeant majors into the studio to sing a song, or whatever. So that was how I started, working on that. I thought it was rubbish. I really wasn’t very impressed by it. It was a six month contract, and towards the end of the six months John said to two of us, Geoff Moore and me, and I think there were something like six researchers working on it, “Don’t worry about getting another job, you’ll be alright. Granada wants to keep you.”

Geoff and I sat around not desperately applying for other jobs. All the other researchers were applying for other jobs. I didn’t do anything. Then at the end of the contract, it was, “Bye-bye, sorry, there isn’t anything after all.”

John had then taken over World in Action with Gus and become the joint editor.  I was unemployed for about three months. That was over the summer, so it wasn’t too bad. I just went home to my mum’s. Then I came up to Manchester just to spend a weekend with some friends, and somebody told me that Mike Scott was looking for researchers, and that’s how I got back in. That was on a religious programme called Seven Days. It was sort of religious current affairs. And then I worked on locals. Do you know Brian Winston?

I think he’d gone before me.

Well I worked with Brian on a thing called Campaign where we campaigned for things, like we persuaded lots of factories when there were factories to allow their women employees to go out into mobile trucks in the car park to do cervical smears and breast x-rays and things. So we did socially good campaigns of that sort. And that felt sort of important.

And then I went onto World in Action in something like the summer of 1970. Basically I knew that was where I wanted to go, but I thought I hadn’t got a hope yet, that I was still you young and inexperienced. But I thought, what I’ll do is I’ll send Jeremy Wallington who’d become the editor – I knew I wouldn’t have a chance with John Birt because I answered him back too much, but Wallington didn’t know me – I sent him a memo. I sent six programme ideas. One of them was before there was any local radio and they were just debating in parliament I think, about whether or not to have independent radio. One of them was to go to America and look at the bible-thumping stations, not that I knew anything about it because I’d never been to America. So I wrote it out and sent it in.

Wallington called me and said, “Well I like one of your ideas, I’d like to use it, with your permission.”

I said, “You’ve got my permission if you give me a job.”

He said, “How long have you got in your contract?”

And I said, “Six weeks.”

He said, “I’ll give you a trial for six weeks and if you’re no good, you’re out on your ear. And if you are good, you can stay. But local programmes won’t have you back.”

So I said, “Well I’ll try it. I’ll do it!”

And that’s how I got onto World in Action. And I found out afterwards it was because there was only one woman on the team, Vanya Kewley, there was no other woman at that stage. There had been a couple of other women but they’d left in the earlier days. Ingrid Floering was one. They were doing a programme which they called I’m Alright, Jackie, which was about feminism. Have you heard of this programme? It might be worth seeing if you can get it. I think they were so embarrassed by the fact that in the Manchester office World in Action didn’t have a single woman on the production team that it suited them to hire me!

So you were there as a researcher, and stayed from ‘70 until when?

I think I stayed on World in Action till ’77 or ’78. Then I was on locals. I was never a producer on World in Action. I was a researcher and they didn’t have APs in those days. I just thought I’d get promoted. I didn’t understand that you had to lobby for it and ask for it. I didn’t get that at all. I just thought one day they’d say, “Oh, would you like to be a producer? You’re doing very well.” Eventually when John Blake got made a producer and he’d started on World in Action after me, I thought, how come? I don’t understand! I asked David Hart, “Why did they make John Blake a producer and not me?”

And he said, “Well, have you mentioned to anybody you want to be a producer? Have you told Gus?”

I said, “No, it’s obvious surely!”

And he said, “No, it’s not obvious. You have to ask for it. You have to push for it. You Have to say, ‘I want to be a producer. When am I going to be a producer?’”

And that was when they changed the rules and started doing boards. When they started doing the boards they then no longer made people up to producer straight onto World in Action. You had to go to locals and do a stint in producing Granada Reports.

So you went to locals working on Granada Reports. Tell us a bit about Granada Reports. Let’s assume the people who listen to this might not know what it is.

Granada Reports was a 6 o’clock magazine show. Maybe it was at 6:30, I can’t remember. It was linked to the six o’clock network news and it was the regional opt-out so it only went out in Granadaland. It was studio-based but with film inserts. It was a typical magazine, so it had sport every day, local news every day, and then a little mini feature of some sort, then something humorous, and there’d be studio interviews as well. Producing it was quite good fun but I realised I didn’t really like studio. I much preferred doing things on film, because it was so uncontrollable. It was just not so satisfying, really.

I did that for a bit, then I went for a director’s board, which they’d never had… Director’s boards in those days were very much the way that studio camera men, floor managers, people like that, technicians, would become directors. They’d go for a director’s board and they’d become directors. And they’d never had a producer apply for a director’s board. Anyway, I went to this director’s board, I think it was Mike Scott who said to me, “So, Claudia, if you were a director, what would you do about So It Goes?” which was the late night popular music show that Tony Wilson presented. And I’d never even watched it really. I didn’t know what the fuck to say. So I said, “Well, I’d just like to preface my remarks, Mike, by saying that if I was deputy programme controller, I’d take it off the air!” And I got such a great laugh. Plowright was like [Claudia bangs the table] and I never had to answer the question!

So I got the director’s board, or I was one of the trainee directors. So from being a producer, I became a trainee director. That was quite funny because you had to go into Studio 2 and direct Granada Reports, and because it was a live show it was quite hairy. People were always under supervision, there’d always be an experienced director with you. But for me it was an absolute doddle because I’d produced Granada Reports, and I was very popular with the studio crews because they always put sandwiches and tea in committee room A, B or C, and if we didn’t have studio guests I’d pull the key and I’d say, “No studio guests today, anybody who wants tea and sandwiches, go to the committee room!” – whichever one it was. So they really liked me. So when I started directing they looked after me so well that I was taken off supervision really quickly because they thought I could do it. They didn’t realise it was just the crew looking after me because I’d given them sandwiches!

Then I had to move and do something like What’s On, where it was a different studio where I didn’t know the crew. And I fell flat on my face! The vision mixer sorted me out but my god I was a mess. Anyway I knew I didn’t want to do…

When did you become a director?

About ’78.

I worked with you when I’d only ben at Granada a few weeks. I arrived in the summer of ’78 and worked on Granada Reports.

Was I doing Reports Extra?

You were. And I worked with you and Dave Jones on Reports Extra for a few months. We did about half a dozen programmes.

Well I think I was directing on that as well as producing.

You were doing both, yes.

I think I was doing both.

We went to the Conservative party conference.

I was heavily pregnant at the time and we were at the Tory party conference in Blackpool. There was no security in those days. We had to finish shooting by the Wednesday I think because it went out on Thursday night, or was it Friday?

Friday, 10:30 I think.

So we filmed the first few days of the Tory party conference. Dave Jones was huge, he looked like a rugby player and he was very funny. He was form Liverpool. We decided the theme would be him going round and trying to get Thatcher to dance! So we found every ball that was taking place and we filmed at every single one! And at every single one, Dave would go up and say, “Could I have this dance, Mrs Thatcher?” And he ended up saying, “Any chance of a dance, Missus?” It was hilarious. And she was sort of saying, “Oh, not you again!”

She made more remark like, “I suppose you’re one of those comprehensive school boys aren’t you?”

[Claudia laughs]

And Dave said, “No, actually I went to a very good grammar school!”

CM: He went to Merchant Taylors’ I think!

I remember that programme well. Then I think we did the Labour Party as well. I don’t remember much about that.

We were so naughty in the Labour Party one. It was just before the winter of discontent. Do you remember this? Callaghan had been doing, “Will I-won’t I go for election?” and it was the last Labour Party conference before an election. And we went to film at Welsh night. Do you remember Welsh night? It was absolutely full of MPs and there was a Welsh choir or something, and a big piss-up, basically. One of those funny things happened where there was a big crowd of people, there was a row of chairs at the end of the hall where this party was taking place, and there was Callaghan the Prime Minister sitting on his own! So I said “Dave! Get over there and ask him for an interview!”

So Dave pushed through all these people to this figure sitting isolated on his own, and just as we get there with the gun mic, you could head Callaghan saying, “No, no, no! Leave me alone! I’m here to enjoy myself!”

So when we were in the cutting room we wrote a line of commentary which went, “I begged him to go back to Downing Street and sort out the country!”

Then says the Prime Minister, “No, no, no! Leave me alone! I’m here to enjoy myself!” [Claudia and Steve laugh] We left this in. God knows what would have happened today. Nobody said a word. Nothing happened. I don’t know whether anybody upstairs ever noticed it because they probably weren’t watching Reports Extra. Great line.

I remember that now, yeah.

You also did another famous programme with Margaret Thatcher didn’t you?

I didn’t. World in Action did; I was on maternity leave. I was the first woman at Granada to get maternity leave on a written-down basis. They had said to a couple of other people, “Come see us when you’ve had the baby, dear, and we’ll see if we’ve got anything for you.” But I wanted to go back onto World in Action. God knows how I thought I was going to do it, but I did. And I went to them and asked. I went to the union. I was London-based. I went to the shop stewards and asked if they would negotiate maternity leave for me, told them what the TUC said, etc. And they said no. It was Gavin MacFadyen and David Hart and they said no, it’s pretty much a side issue.

Judith Jones: So were you ACTT?

I was ACTT, yes.

So I negotiated it myself. I sent a memo to whoever the editor was, Ray or Lapping, and said I wanted maternity leave. And they got somebody called Julian Amis, one of the early directors of Granada, and he was an absolute sweetie pie. He just said, “What do you think is reasonable?”

And I said, “This is what the TUC says, and I’d be very happy with it.”

And they gave me three months on full pay, three months on half pay, no loss of holiday entitlement, and kept my job open for a year. It was fantastic. The only thing they said when they sent me this piece of paper – which I wish I’d kept, but of course I didn’t – was, “This is not a precedent.” Well, of course it was. Within a year, Sue Woodford had a baby and got the same deal, so that was pretty good.

JJ: I tried to go back part-time when I had my child and I should have pushed but they weren’t interested.

Well they were shocking about nurseries. After I had Catherine[sp?], my second baby, I had maternity leave obviously with her, and that’s when I left. That’s it, I went and said, “What am I going to do when I finish?”

And they said, “You’re going onto World in Action.” And I just thought, well I just can’t, not with two. It’s just going to be too difficult. And Mike was a freelance cameraman so he was all over the place. I just thought, I can’t do it. And that’s why I ended up leaving Granada really, because I just thought I didn’t want to go back onto World in Action.

But when I had just given birth, I think Catherine[sp?] was about 6 weeks old, I got a phone call from Steve Morrison. And I’d been sort of campaigning for a day nursery at Granada because I just thought it was really needed. And the management knew that. Catherine[sp?] was six weeks old and I wasn’t due back at work for months. And I was breastfeeding her. And Morrison phoned me up and said that Geoff Moore, who had been producing Granada Reports at that stage…

So Geoff Moore is ill and Morrison says, “Can you come in?”

And I said, “Steve, I’m breastfeeding, I can’t come in!”

He said, “I’m absolutely desperate, can you come in?”

And I honestly don’t think I thought, a-ha, day nursery! I don’t think it honestly crossed my mind. But I said, “Well I’ll do it for a few days, yeah, but I’ll have to bring her with me, she stays with me in the office, I need a room” – you know, one of the rooms they use for artists down near the studios – “so that I can go and feed here there, where I’m going to be comfortable, etc. And when I’m in the studio, somebody, a mother, has to be with Catherine[sp?] all the time I’m in the studio from 4:30pm until the show goes out.”

“Fine.” He said. So I go in with this tiny baby. And Mike Scott saw me and he went absolutely apeshit. I was almost hassled out of the building. They were absolutely convinced it was part of a conspiracy to get a nursery!

JJ: I was going to ask, was there a campaign at the time for a nursery?

We just started talking about it really. What we were talking about was that it should give priority to women but if there were enough places, blokes should be able to use it as well. But I don’t think there was a campaign as such. It was just something we’d just started talking about. And I think it would have been pretty tough in those days to have got it through the union up there because it was so dominated by old style men

SK: It was totally dominated by the technicians


SK: There were very few production staff on.

My experience of being an equality rep in Liverpool is that it was incredibly difficult to get those old style technicians to entertain anything to do with gender equality or any other. So whilst there were very strong unions, they…

JJ: They were very old-fashioned, weren’t they?


SK: Sandy Ross and I had a campaign, because we were on the shop committee back in the eighties. In those days if you died your pension went automatically to your spouse, but if you weren’t married, that was it. The technicians just assumed that everybody was bound to be married. Sandy and I managed to get that changed so that you could nominate someone.

We were on strike a lot of the time. There were a lot of strikes.

SK: There was the big strike in, what was it, ’79?

The big ITV strike, yeah. There was also a film shop strike. Mike by then had started working at Granada on the staff which didn’t work out. Because he was such a good cameraman they said they could give him lots of opportunities to work on dramas and drama documentaries, and asked, “Why don’t you come and join the staff?” He joined the staff for a bit and he hated it. Just hated it. But anyway there was a film shop strike. I can’t remember what it was about. So he was on strike. And I was crossing the picket line and he was on picket duty!

And then there was the big ITV strike when I think Mike appeared on BBC News outside, I think, The Tickled Trout! Where there was a meeting between the management of ITV and the union. Mike was there with a placard shouting, “I can’t manage on fifteen thousand a year!” [laughs] Which was a sort of joke!

SK: They met at The Tickled Trout and sorted it all out, didn’t they? Because I think the TUC were meeting in Blackpool or Preston by the side of the motorway.

It was a long strike, that. I think it was about 12 weeks.

SK: Nine or 12 weeks, yeah.

We had a nanny, and of course with both of us out of strike we were having to pay the bloody nanny, because we never knew when we were going to go back to work.

SK: Yes, a lot of people were in serious financial difficulties.

JJ: You said when you were on locals you tried to do some programmes around women employees and the cervical smears. In World in Action or in other programmes, did you try to bring any women’s issues in? You were one of the few women on World in Action. Or a women’s slant?

I don’t think so. I don’t really remember. But I think that I put up many more ideas about social issues. The one about truancy was an idea I’d had. We did a film about single parents. I objected strenuously because they did a mini series within World in Action called Conversations With. So you’d get one person who would encapsulate a social dilemma of some sort. They had conversations with a working man, conversations with this and that. And they wanted to do conversations with a single parent. They asked me to and producer John Shepherd to find someone. I found this great woman and he found this bloke who was really good but he wanted to do it about him and I was like, “No!” There are so few men, it creates… And they absolutely took the view that it would be better to do it with a man, that more people would watch it. So I didn’t get my way with that at all. The woman never appeared.

I don’t remember doing anything specific. The Equal Pay Act had already happened. I don’t think there was a huge amount – I mean, obviously feminism was really strong at that time but I can’t remember actually pushing for… I remember doing programmes about… I was on the nuclear unit. We had a nuclear unit where we specialised in nuclear issues so that was about the dangers of radiation and those sorts of things, and I don’t know whether the blokes would have been as interested in it as I was. I think I was so keen not to be thought of as a soppy girl. I was often putting in things that were just as hard journalistically as anybody else and I objected if I wasn’t put on the programme.

JJ: Did you ever feel that you were discriminated against?

Not really. No. I mean I think I got a lot of opportunities actually, because I was a woman and they wanted to be seen to be giving opportunities, I think. I mean, I think I was a token woman.

JJ: And presumably you were probably quite unusual being a director, being a woman.

Yes. There were practically none. And when I became a freelancer, which isn’t Granada, obviously, there were absolutely no freelance producer-directors. The reason that the whole Channel 4 thing happened with me was that there were so few women in current affairs anyway, the vast majority of them were still on the staff of whatever company they worked for, and I was about the only one who was making a living as a freelance director. I made an investigation for ATV with Dave Jones about the Salvation Army. We attacked a well-loved national institution. It was jolly good fun!

SK: Did you find there was a macho culture on World in Action?

Yes, very much so. I can remember for instance when I was Manchester based. Do you remember Gerry Dow? He had this company called Green Dow[?]. And their Christmas parties were quite notorious and I didn’t really know why. Everybody on World in Action was invited to this Christmas party, and I went along, and suddenly this strip dancer appeared and started stripping. I was just absolutely appalled. All these what I thought were nice men were standing round leering, jeering and laughing. I said, “You should be ashamed of yourselves. Can’t you see that by her face that she’s not enjoying it? It’s horrible!” And I was told I was a prude and to grow up.

SK: You talked about the campaigning kind of programmes in World in Action. And Granada had this ethos of being an unashamedly left-wing company.

It had this reputation of being a left wing company. In many ways I think that it did have a different sort of culture, and that you felt that your job was, to if not make trouble, then to ask questions. I think that culture pervaded quite a lot of the place, even if you were on Coronation Street. I think Coronation Street was the first soap that ever introduced an Asian family. Things of that sort.

Oh, I’ve just thought of a programme that I did that was an issue programme. It was about arranged marriages. It was the first programme that was ever made about arranged marriages, which was very sensitive in about ’76-’77. We’d found this fantastic girl who had run away rather than be forced into a marriage. I’m sure there were others.

JJ: But if you hadn’t done it, it wouldn’t have been done?

Nobody would have suggested it. No, absolutely not.

Culturally I think we were supposed ask questions, but the senior management seemed to be much more interested in evidence than whether or not you had a left wing stance. If you had evidence for what you were saying then it was alright. We did a film about the rise of the National Party in Blackburn. One of the councillors who was a National Party member had convictions for living off immoral earnings but they were spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. There was no established defence for breaking the rehabilitation of offenders act under law. You couldn’t say it was in the public interest. They were really good in asking how we got the evidence. I can’t remember how we got it but we absolutely proved he had got this conviction, and they just went with it against the lawyers’ advice. They said that it was more important that the people who are voting for this bastard know who they are voting for.

So I think that you had to have evidence. That was the big thing I learned. Which was really good.

SK: As a journalist and a producer, would you get backing from the company?

Yes, if you provided the evidence. It was the big thing that I felt that they would back you if you had the evidence and they wouldn’t if they thought you were just being biased. I remember that I worked on a programme with David Boulton about opposition to the Industrial Relations Act and we filmed miners, dockers and all sorts of people opposed to it. And the management wouldn’t back it. They said, “What about Tory trade unionists?” There are some Tory trade unionists and they made us go and find some and talk to them. It was a better programme because of it. So journalistically I thought they were pretty good. I mean, they were paternalistic.

SK: They were?

Oh yeah. I mean, you must have heard about how women all travelled first class? Sidney had decided that all women were going to travel first class on the train, because if we were going to get raped he wanted us to be raped by an upper class gentleman, a first class passenger, and not by hoi polloi. I was in the ludicrous situation of going down to London with male researchers and I’d have a first class ticket and they’d be in second class. This lasted for ages. Producers all travelled first class but if you weren’t a producer you only travelled first class if you were a woman.

SK: And how else did the paternalistic culture pervade? 

I suppose just the way that if you wanted a raise, the way it was handled. In those days they had researcher grades, A, B and C. And I can remember going to see Wallington and wanting to be moved up to from B to A, coming out feeling completely great, but with no extra money!

You mentioned something about pensions. This isn’t paternalistic but, it was great for her, but I’m sure other people they wouldn’t have done the same thing for. Do you remember Colin Richard? Colin and Mike used to work together because Colin had been the sound recordist. They’d worked together for years. When Colin died, Mike Scott arranged for the Granada pension – because Colin had only been on the staff for about three years, something like that – he somehow got the trustees to up the pension, so that Polly had a really good pension. Now on one level that’s really great, but on another level, I’m sure that if you were a second assistant studio cable kicker and that happened, that they wouldn’t have done anything.

SK: Yes. They did that for David Fraser who had actually left the company. He’d left the company a couple of months earlier, before he died.

JJ: Do you think that sort of paternalism came from the Bersteins and Forman?

I think it did. Really when the whole World in Action enquiry and fight happened, do you remember that?

SK: It was before my time.

Okay. Well you must have heard about it. Basically, from my perspective, Gus Macdonald started being pretty tough. Some people were on the staff but most people were freelance. I think I was on the staff. The freelancers were on annual rolling contracts, so they were effectively on staff, but they weren’t technically. But researchers tended to be on the staff and there was a researcher called Richard martin on work in action, a very nice man, and he had wanted to get made to being a producer for years and they just didn’t rate him. He was one of the people that they didn’t rate. They either rated you or they didn’t. And Gus said to Richard, “Well the thing is, because you’re on staff it is very difficult for us to make you up. But if you went onto a contract then it would up your chances massively.”

So he went onto a contact and he did become a producer on What The Papers Say. And they didn’t renew his contract. And we were appalled. He’d worked for the company for years. There were two or three incidents like that where Gus threw his weight around.

So we just got out the old union rule book and we looked up things like time off in lieu. Which nobody had claimed, really. They might have a day of but nobody did it rigorously. And we started going by the letter of it. So if we made two phone calls on a Saturday, we’d claim a day off. And it got more and more entrenched. Gus stuck his heels in. A lot of this happened while I was on maternity leave. Gus accused us of behaving like we were miners and like we were members of the industrial working class. And we accused him of acting like a 19th century coal owner! [laughs] And it got very bitter and nasty.

I gave up on it really. We were thinking we should have workers’ control and all that. And there was talk of us electing the new editor, we thought we should elect the new editor. And when they suggested Mike Becker, who in lots of ways is great, but would be hopeless as an editor, I thought, “You’re just being ridiculous now.” So I opted out of it. But it got very, very bitter.

JJ: Did Plowright step in or anything?

CM: I think Forman did. But I think they were really hurt by it. He couldn’t understand how it had got so nasty. I just thought when I was talking of another way that I thought they were paternalistic. I have forgotten what it is now, it will come back to me.

SK: Did you have much to do with the Bernsteins, Forman and Plowright?

Not a lot. Plowright scared me. I was really frightened of him. He had this reputation. I can remember the first time I went to a team dinner and I was the only women there, unless Vanya was there but I don’t remember her being there, it was probably just Manchester, and it was in one of the dining rooms. And he said, “Oh, well, Claudia, you can sit next to me.” And it was the last thing I wanted to do. And I sat next to him and talked to whoever it was on the other side the whole time, and didn’t say anything to him at all, because he scared me so much.

SK: And the Bernsteins?

Sidney more or less took a back seat. In Manchester I had no real dealing with them. The only dealing I had with Sidney was in Golden Square and I ran in to the lift and was just pressing the button to go up, and the commissionaire shouted, “Hold the lift! Mr Sidney’s coming! Hold the lift!”

And he rushed over and held the lift, and Sidney got in and he looked at me and he said, “Who are you?” And I knew exactly who he was because the commissionaire had said that Mr Sidney was coming. I said, “Claudia Milne, who are you?” [laughs]

And he obviously thought that was quite funny, he was fine about it. And he said, “What do you do?”

I said, “I work on World in Action. What do you do?” [both laugh]

SK: What did he say?

I can’t remember. I think maybe the lift arrived. But he had a twinkle. He thought it was funny.

And that was the thing I thought about Granada, that’s what I was going to say, is they liked you to answer back, but only so much. There was a line and if you crossed that line you were as much not to be trusted as you were not respected if you didn’t answer back at all. Do you see what I mean? That was paternalistic. It was like a father who likes their children to be ‘spirited’ but not too spirited; they mustn’t challenge his authority. So I think they were very like that.

SK: A lot of people talked about the canteen and the bar, the Stables or the Old School, both being areas where people would bond and network.

Well the canteen was certainly a place where people bonded, I think. I made some of my best friends there. When did the stables open? I think it must have been a couple of years after I started.

SK: It must have been about ’77.

No, it was before that, about ’74 or ’73 or something like that. Before I went down to London. Because I used to go there almost every night. The canteen was also somewhere where… It was good that there was no sort of executive dining room where all the ‘big knobs’ used to be. They would always go into the canteen.

SK: And was there that culture of egalitarianism in the company?

I’m not sure there was, really. I mean, I think there was a northern culture, quite rightly, but I don’t think they really thought about egalitarianism, really.

SK: Tell us about that northern culture.

I think that people like Plowright were very proud of its links with the north. I don’t think that came from Forman as much as it did with Plowright. I might be wrong. As far as I know Forman never lived in Manchester and Plowright did live in the North West. I don’t think he lived in Manchester. But I think that they did resent the metropolitan bias of the establishment and I think that was why there was this sort of questioning attitude, and not accepting the status quo attitude.

SK: You mentioned Dave Jones, the Liverpudlian presenter. Were there other presenters from the north?

Oh yes. Bob Greaves, Bob Smithies, they all were, virtually, apart from Sue Woodford who was a presented or Granada Reports. This is interesting as well: in Stewart Pervis’ book, do you know his book When Reporters Cross the Line? He writes about Bernstein and about Granada and he has this fantastic story about how, in 1966 I think it was, before Northern Ireland was on the radar of anyone in Britain, Scene at 6:30 did a major item that they called The Six Counties. They talked about discrimination against Catholics in housing and jobs, they talked about gerrymandering, rigging elections – on Scene at 630! It only went out in the north of England, I can’t remember when they actually lost Yorkshire and became a seven day a week company in the North West. It might have been before that.

SK: I think it was ’68.

I think it was. Anyway, it was extraordinary, and they got their knuckles severely rapped by the IBA. Really severely. I presume they did that, it’s all in the RBA archive in Bournemouth apparently, they did that because of the big Irish population round Liverpool that they thought would be interested in it, I suppose. But I can’t think of another company that would have done something like that.

JJ: My perception of World in Action is that it’s the one programme that did straddle Manchester and London. Was there a tension between essentially Granada being in Manchester and there also being a London office?

Yes, there was a bit, because quite a lot of people in London really resented having to go to Manchester and had never worked in Manchester, so yes, I think there was some tension. Also in terms of the union, because the London shop was dominated by production people and not by technicians, very often the London shop was passing resolutions and doing things which they really objected to in Manchester.

JJ: And did that affect the stories that you did?

No, I don’t think so.

JJ: I suppose you were looking nationally and internationally.

I’m sure that there were more stories rooted in the North West that we could have done anywhere but we decided to do them in the North West. When there was the Liverpool docks thing about stuffing and stripping containers… actually that’s a bad example because it started in Liverpool. But I think with industrial things, we did a lot of programmes and we tended to do those in the North West.

Things like The Village That Quit, the smoking show, that was done in the North West but you could have done that anywhere. You could have gone to a lovely little scenic village in Wiltshire or somewhere. But we went to Longnor. Which was a bizarre place. A lot of the villagers had one of four surnames – so inbred! And there were people there who had never been to Manchester, living in that village, and they’d never been to Manchester, which was 15-20 miles away. It was a different world. Longnor, it was called. I think it was in Derbyshire.

SK: It has that great opening scene, doesn’t it, with the coffins coming out of all the doors?

CM: Oh, that was the bronchitis show. That was a different show. Longnor was where we persuaded this village to give up smoking in order to give you a narrative and bombard them with information about how it affects your health. The first person to crack did so after about 20 minutes.

SK: Meanwhile, all the producers and directors were around the corner smoking!

Is there anything you think we haven’t covered?

CM: Well, sexual harassment we haven’t covered. From the producers and researcher, none. But XXXX (Redact) ,maybe if you do use this you can just say ‘executive’, I can just remember getting into the lift with him and I was about 21, come on. I was alone in the lift with him. This was when I’d first started. And he stood like this, leaning over me, and put his crotch really close to me, and said, “Do I frighten you?”


And one of the things I also remember, which always made me feel very uncomfortable, was that some of the blokes would make you complicit in their naughty behaviour. So one night you’d be sitting in the pub and their wife would be there, and the next night you’d be sitting in the same pub in the same chairs and his arm would be round his girlfriend or his current squeeze. And I hated that because it made me feel complicit in something I didn’t want to be complicit in.

Mike Scott, he was a naughty one. He was always pinching bottoms and things like that. I was friendly with his secretary, Jean Siddall, really nice woman, and Mike was still appearing on the box, this was when I was still on locals, and he’d go down most nights at about 4:30 for rehearsals. And I’d go into Jean’s office and they had a coffee percolator and she made decent coffee, and we’d have a nice cup of coffee and a gossip. And one day I went in and Jean wasn’t there so I was pouring myself a cup of coffee and Mike came in, and he had all his makeup on, and he had on a clean shirt, and he said, “What are you doing in my office?”

And I said, “I’m just helping myself to a cup of coffee. Jean’s not here”. He held the door, I walked out, and as I walked out, he goosed me. So I jumped, and this hot coffee went on my hand. I said, “Don’t do that, that hurt! You made me spill the coffee!”

And he said, “Oh, I’m really sorry, it won’t happen again.” He held the door. I went out. He did it again. And I turned round a chucked it at him. I was so furious.

But he was alright because although he behaved really badly, you’re not supposed to chuck hot coffee all over your boss, and he just said, “I deserved that, didn’t I?”

And I said, “Well, I thought you did, but I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it.”

And he just said, “Let’s just say no more about it.” And we didn’t. We never said anything about it. But that was horrible and I know a lot of the secretaries had a really bad time from various people.

JJ: I don’t think I was openly sexually harassed but there was a lot of touching. I remember one director used to pat me on the head, and things like that, and it was just okay. If you objected to it, people would wonder why you were making a fuss. I think for me, I know this isn’t meant to be about me, but I think for me as a PA, especially if I went away filming, it would be assumed that I would take on the role of, like, paying for everything and hiding the wine and generally looking after people in a mothing, maternal way. It would be more than the job you were expected to do. You’d have to run around and tidy up after everybody. Not tidy up but I suppose metaphorically tidy up, do all those kinds of tasks.

I can’t think of anything else really.

SK: When did you leave?

I left Granada in ’79 and went freelance. Then I went back and did A Disappearing World in about ’81.

JJ: Did you think the ethos of the company was changing? When you went back did you think there were any changes?

CM: I don’t think then I did but I think certainly when I went back as an independent producer it seemed to be much more corporate and less informal.

SK: Some great stories. Anything you feel you wanted to say but haven’t?

For me it was the thing which formed an ethos that I tried to bring into Twenty Twenty, about being rigorous with journalism and I was always committed to as a programme maker. I always thought that if you believed something to be true then you should be prepared to put the strongest opposition to your particular point of view. So I think about how people like Beckham stuck it out, he did 110 programmes he said yesterday, I mean, extraordinary. I certainly learned a huge amount, and you just met some extraordinary people out on the road. It was fantastic.

World in Action was, I think, very innovative in terms of style. It pioneered a genre of programme making that you see all the time now. So things like The Village That Quit when we persuaded a whole village to give up smoking, and things like observational film making – there was hardly any observational film making. Panorama wouldn’t do observational film making, but you know, World In Action did with things like film that Leslie Woodhead made about the Vietnam demonstration in ’78, things about the democratic convention. Getting access, access documentaries. We did all those sort of thing in World In Action, which was new for current affairs in those days. They didn’t do it. They interviewed people but they didn’t actually observe life as it was happening. So there’s those, and when World in Action moved off its own agenda and moved on to a political agenda I think it lost its way, so when it made things like the Thatcher programme.

I did a film with John Birt called The Man From Number 10. Birt had stopped being joint editor of World In Action and Jeremy Wallington had taken over. Jeremy Wallington came to me one day and said, “Claudia, John Birt’s got this awful idea, but I’ve got to take it seriously because it’s John Birt. He wants to make a film about Ted Heath on Morning Cloud, Ted’s yacht, as a metaphor for Ted Heath being the Prime Minister of the nation.” Ted Heath had appointed this PR man to handle all the press interest in Morning Cloud. So he said, “Phone him up. When you say World In Action he won’t want to touch it with a barge pole.” And to my horror, the guy said yes!

So I was lumbered with doing this bloody film about Ted Heath on the Morning Cloud. Ted Heath was a person who was impossible to get to know anyway because he was so, sort of, I think he probably had Asperger’s or something. He was a weird man. I’m sure he wasn’t a sexual deviant in the way that has been rumoured. I have no evidence of that – about children, I mean. But he was very repressed. But this film was so deferential. It didn’t take the piss out of him at all. We filmed on Morning Cloud frequently and he had a very good crew, all these brawny working class lads from Southampton, and they’d be saying, “Left a bit, Skipper! Right a bit, Skipper!” They didn’t even say port and starboard. I didn’t know anything about sailing then, but he didn’t seem to me to be the man in charge of this boat. You could easily have done a hilarious cut where you actually made him out to be the incompetent idiot that I think he probably was. But oh, no. It was deferential. This man was the Prime Minister. So when they strayed off their own agenda like that, it failed, I think.

SK: It could never cover British politics very well.

No, it was absolutely hopeless as it.

SK: I’ll come back to that when we’ve finished. But the other thing about World in Action was it liked to tell a story, and that was the secret of documentary making, wasn’t it?

Absolutely. And that’s something that John Birt didn’t like, because he did this big thing about the bias [against? 04:12] understanding. He hated that. But at World In Action you were absolutely encouraged to find a story first. Or if you were doing an issue you had to find a story that encapsulated the issue.

There was a tiny piece in The Observer, literally a half-inch piece, I can’t remember why, but just commenting on the fact that there was this man called Ben Hunter who put children who needed adopting on TV in Los Angeles and how this was massively successful in finding homes for hard-to-place kids – mixed-race, disabled or older children. Adoption was becoming a big issue. World In Action had never done adoption really. So I went to Gus and said, “Why don’t we bring Ben Hunter over, and we’ll find some hard-to-place kids who are in care and up for adoption, and see if we can get them a family?”

And he said, “Okay, fine.” And I was pregnant at the time. So we made this show and Sue Woodford produced it and it was really good. It had a huge reaction, and Gus decided that he wanted to set it up in the North West and do a regular adoption show in the North West, and he asked if I would go up to Manchester and set it up. And I said, “Yeah, absolutely! But you know, I’m quite pregnant, so I don’t want to sleep on somebody’s floor, I want to stay in a hotel.”

And he said, “You’ve got the ACTT allowance, you can stay where you like.”

Well the ACTT allowance was, well, you certainly couldn’t stay in The Midland. And I said, “Where do you stay?”

He said, “The Midland.”

I said, “Well, I’d like to stay at the Midland.”

He said, “No, you’ve got the ACTT allowance, you can stay where you like.” So I went immediately to the union booklet and it said ‘reasonable accommodation’. It didn’t say that you had to stay on the ACTT allowance.

So I phoned him up and said, “Gus, it says in the agreement ‘reasonable accommodation’ and I think for somebody who’s over seven months pregnant I need to have access somewhere where I’m going to be safe, just in case. ‘Reasonable accommodation’ I think means The Midland.”

He said, “You can say that. I will go and talk to Plowright. I know what he’ll say,” sort of, “fuck off.” And he put the phone down. Oh yes, and Gus had said, “It will be the first time Granada sacked a pregnant woman.” And this was I think before I even had maternity leave.

So I phoned up David Hart who was then the shop steward in London, and said, “I’ve been threatened with the sack for sticking to the union agreement. I want you to put it into dispute.”

He said, “I’ll put it into dispute.”

I put the phone down from Hart, and Gus phoned back and said, “Claudia, I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.”

And I said, “Too late, Gus, it’s in dispute.” And he was really furious at me for putting it into dispute. So that was quite unpleasant really. And that was all during the time of the build-up of the World in Action troubles and enquiries and things.

Then, about two years later, I was in, it must have been Blackpool at party conferences – oh no, it was a Christmas party in Golden Square. And Gus said, “Shall we make friends?”

And I said, “Yes.”

And he said, “Shall we have a dance?”

Oh and before that, I was wearing a tight all-in-one jumpsuit and I’d got totally pissed. I went to the loo and wriggled out of this jumpsuit and I wriggled back in and I realised I’d peed on it. Anyway I didn’t have any choice. I wriggled back in. I had very long hair. I went back and he said “Let’s make friends.” We’d hardly spoken for ages. And he said “Let’s have a dance.” So he had his hands on my shoulders and on my neck and he said, “Claudia, why have you got a wet collar?” [laughs] And I didn’t like to tell him the real reason so I said oh it’s just sweat. But actually it was urine!


So anyway, I think that’s it.

Daphne Hughes

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly and Judith Jones, 9 May 2019.

Okay. Daphne, let’s start at the beginning. How and when did you come to join Granada Television?

I joined in August 1980. At the time, I had been working for BBC Radio Merseyside, where I had been very happy for five years. But Chris Carr, who at the time, was involved with Merseyside Arts, used to come into Radio Merseyside and do short items and reviews on arts in the Merseyside area. He told me one day that Granada was setting up a studio in Exchange Flags, and they were looking for secretarial staff. He himself was going there to be deputy manager. He said would it be worth my while putting my name down? It hadn’t been advertised in the press. I’m not sure, well, if it had, I had missed it. So I went along for an interview. I was interviewed by Mrs. (Margie Otter? 1:40). Did my typing test. They offered me the job. I started in August 1980 as the secretary for Granada Reports, in that office in Exchange Flags.

What was the job defined as?

It was defined as newsroom secretary, if I’m right. I have to say, because I never saw the advertisement, if there was an advertisement. Chris had said to me, “They’re just looking for secretaries.” So I was assigned to the newsroom. I think that was my title, Newsroom Secretary.

That was a fairly simple interview?

Yes, straightforward, in that the sort of interviews you had in those days, because we were then, obviously, it was not computerised. We didn’t even have electric typewriters. It was shorthand and typing. The usual things about what you had done in your previous job. I think it counted, the fact that I had worked at Radio Merseyside, so I was used to a certain amount of pressure, odd hours. I think that helped. I was familiar with certain ways of life, really. The way a newsroom operated. Also, that news isn’t 9-5, as we know.

You were in there right at the very beginning?

No, not quite at the very beginning. I think it might even have started a few months before I arrived, but because I was in this job at Radio Merseyside, the Radio Merseyside manager, who was a man called Rex Borden, knew David Hyatt, the manager at Liverpool Granada. They had known each other from The Echo. They decided, between themselves, when I should start, when Rex would let me go, and when David was okay to take me on board. So I wasn’t there at the very, very beginning. It was already up and running when I arrived.

What programme would you have begun working on?

It was just Granada Reports. That was the first one. I really stayed on Granada Reports. There was, a few years later, they had some afternoon programmes like, I can’t half remember them. The one with Shelley Rohde.

Live from Two.

Live from Two, and then there was another one called, it wasn’t called Swap Shop, but it was that kind of thing. It was an afternoon programme with Judy Finnigan and Bob Greaves.

Was that Scramble?

Scramble. Yes. Yes. Sort of got involved, that, but the main job was Granada Reports.

Who else would have been working in the Liverpool (??4:36)?

In the newsroom, my first news editor was Steve Anderson. The producers were Mike Short and (Marianne? 4:45) Nelson. But also, in the team, there was Roger Blyth, John Toker, a really wacky Canadian called Peter (Vernon? 4:56). I’m just trying to think. I know that, but it did change. Staff came over from Manchester and rotated, but I think they were the main people that were there all the time. I’m just trying to think of anybody else. They were the main people in the newsroom.

Okay. You remained on that for how long?

I remained there until, I’m sorry, I’m just going to have to think about that. Sorry. Do you want to stop while I think about that?

No, don’t worry. Don’t worry.

I can’t remember exactly. It will come to me later. I know what happened. Then the next thing, this is 1980, so I’m there during this Granada Reports there, but then, 1986, it was the start of Granada in the Albert Dock. We all moved down to the Albert Dock, which, as you know, was the premises there. The Dock Traffic Office, and that whole Albert Dock development, was part of Heseltine’s initiative for Merseyside following the riots. Then, because of the whole structure of Granada Reports changed, it was decided that Liverpool would be more the focus of Granada Reports, rather than Manchester, which it had been prior to that. They created a post, and I think I was called something like crew coordinator, and I was Grade H. I’m still on Granada Reports, but I’m not a secretary. I was responsible for rotating and placing the crews, because we had a studio crew, and then we had three or four crews, this is in Liverpool, going out and about. Plus there were three crews in Manchester, and one crew in Lancaster. I manoeuvred these crews, depending on the jobs, and the locations.

This was the new ENG setup?

Well, no, ENG had actually already started at the Exchange Flags, but yes, it was taking place, obviously, in the Albert Dock.

This is the big, new, fancy newsroom?

Oh, yes. Absolutely. Also, it’s actually quite funny. It was supposed to be a paperless newsroom, but that has never happened. There’s no such thing as a paperless newsroom! But it was all very high-tech. Beautiful building. We had two newsrooms, a futures newsroom, a current newsroom, and the most magnificent hall, which is still there, with a balcony.

Just to go back slightly to Exchange Flags, did you work on any other programmes besides Granada Reports?

No. Only, as to say, that Scramble programme which I mentioned before, and maybe Live from Two. It was predominantly Granada Reports. Although there was the Bulletin went out in the evening. They swapped, used to go over to Manchester, over to Liverpool, and we were responsible for getting the scripts out and passing these scripts out to everybody in the studio. The mission control, sound people on the floor. But also during the day, you’re taking in copy from various news agencies, predominantly Mercury Press, but they were from various locations around the country. Mercury Press was the big feed for any Northwest sports and courts is what they specialised in.

What would your job entail, as newsroom secretary?

Well, doing that, and obviously, as I say, there was loads of filing. In fact, many people don’t know what filing is about these days, but we had these vast drawers, of probably stuff that was irrelevant, but we used to take cuttings out of the Liverpool Echo, and following on a story, keeping them. That took up quite a lot of time, as well.

All right. You’ve gone to the Albert Dock. That’s quite a change in work that you would do.

Yes. Then, as I say, this was the work that I did coordinating the crews throughout the Northwest.

Okay. You remained on Granada Reports as crew coordinator?

Yes, yes.

For how long?

Up until about, I’m going to say, about ‘92, ‘93. But prior to this, in 1988, This Morning had started at Riverside, or the Albert Dock. The production coordinator then was Hazel (Coe? 10:11). If Hazel was on leave, or sick, they would ask me to go over and take over Hazel’s job, because obviously, it was only the other side of the dock. If somebody, a really lovely lady who is no longer with us, Nicky Hargreaves, could take my job at Granada Reports, she used to work alongside me. So she knew what to do for Granada Reports, and I’d go over. Then, about 1992, I’m really not quite sure about the exact date. ‘92, ‘93. Hazel was being moved and promoted to something in Manchester, and I went over to This Morning. I’ve just actually remembered something, as well. If it was ‘92, I remember Judith (Fraser? 11:04). There had been some staffing decisions about moving people here and there, and Judith Fraser saying to me, “Your job is safe in Liverpool.” I went on holiday in the October, and when I came back, they said, “We’re moving you to Manchester.” I worked for a short time in Manchester, on Granada Reports, doing the same thing, but I was in Manchester. Because they then turned it around, so that Manchester became the centre for news, rather than Liverpool. I don’t know whose decision, where that came from, but…

Presumably, it was they had got the franchise?

Yes. Politically.

Then, when I was in Manchester, then they had said to Hazel, because this was when there was big upheaval of redundancies, and a lot of middle staff went, or moved on. They were bringing Hazel back into Manchester, so they said, would I go back to Liverpool and work on This Morning? That’s approximately ‘92 or ‘93.

Right. You didn’t spend too much time in Manchester?

No. I was probably there about four or five months. But one thing I did do, occasionally, during my period when I was just at Granada Reports, Liverpool, a lady called Linda Capper, who worked in… I cannot think what the division was called, but she was responsible for all line feeds, satellite links, and so forth. If she went on holiday, or was sick, I would occasionally come over to Manchester and do her job, and work. I can’t remember what the department was. I can’t think what the department was called, but that’s what they did. I had to liaise a lot with MCR, and that gave me quite a good technical…

MCR? What’s that stand for?

Master Control Room.

They were, well, if you can imagine, it’s just this vast array of screens, and machines, and knobs, and so forth. They were responsible for having made a booking, let’s say, to have a feed of material from London. I have to liaise with them about the time, book the feed, and so forth. Then they would bring it in, and I would get the tape from them, or else if it was a live feed, they too would be responsible. So I did that occasionally, so that stood me in good stead for future, because I had that experience, albeit minimal. But I had got that experience, and knew what it was about, to a certain extent.

You were officially still on Granada Reports?

When I was doing that. That’s why it was good. Nicky Hargreaves could take my place in Liverpool, while I went over to Manchester and did Linda Capper’s job, if she was away.

So in ‘92, you’re on This Morning.

Okay, then I’m on This Morning, then in about ‘96 they made this announcement that This Morning was going to move to London. They just made this announcement saying this had been decided, that This Morning would move to London. I was happy to go, although they targeted certain people they called “key staff”, one of which was me, to go to London. I was happy to go, because I’ve lived in London, and I like London. We went to London, I’m going to say it was about August 1996. It was quite a lot, because a lot of things I inherited, in This Morning in Liverpool, I inherited from Hazel, which she had set up, which was fine. But to be down in London was a whole new ball game. I was involved in interviewing studio staff, setting up certain systems. You didn’t have the luxury of, if, say, somebody went sick in Liverpool, I would ring up Manchester and say, “I’ve got a sick cameraman. Can you send somebody over.” And they would. They would be there in, I don’t know, an hour? Half an hour? But in London, if somebody went sick, I hadn’t got that luxury. I had to find people. It was just a whole new setup, doing that.

What was your job title there?

I was then called programme coordinator. And as well as setting up these systems, and finding new staff, I got more into the budgeting side, as well, because I was pulling in lots of freelance staff. They all had to be accounted for. So I was responsible for the studio staff. The whole production had got so much bigger, and I worked closely with the technical supervisor, who was Craig Williams. Craig Williams is a really nice bloke, who had come from the tech staff in Liverpool. It was all new to him, as well. So the two of us muddled, and found our way through various entanglements. But we succeeded, I like to think.

How long were you in that role?

I was there for two years. I had to decide whether I wanted to stay on there, and maybe buy a property in London also. And I’ve kind of decided that I would return to the north, and I subsequently came back to Manchester and I worked on the satellite programmes, GSB, as a production manager.

What was the satellite programme GSB?

Stood for Granada Satellite Broadcast. They did various satellite programmes. Those…

Those Men and Motors things?

Yes, Men and Motors, Shop, that sort of thing. I was in Manchester, and I have to say I didn’t like it at all, whereas everything else I’ve done I’ve been quite happy. It’s not a question of hard work, but there was no budget. Somebody went sick, you just had to extend, say to somebody, “Would you mind working another… extra hours, coming in on your day off?” And it just didn’t work for me. And then, so I had actually only been there four months. And again, I bumped into John Toker in Manchester, John Toker, who is… who I’d always liaised with throughout his career in ITV. And I said, “Why in Manchester?” He said, “Well, I’ve come to talk about this new programme, Tonight with Trevor McDonald.” And again, so I made inquiries and I put in… I’d seen advertisements, they were looking for production managers and a production coordinator. So I applied for the production manager job, but also who had gone in for that was Hazel Coe, who had a lot more experience at being a production manager than I had. Nonetheless, I thought I’d put my head above the parapet, show them I’m interested, and Hazel got the job. And I have to say I’m not surprised because she was a better candidate than me. She had more experience as management than I. But then I applied for the production coordinator job and I got that, and again, going back to my experience with line feeds and satellites… and by now I had a huge number of contacts, not just UK-wise but worldwide. And I remember saying to them in the interview, “I’ve got this Filofax,” as we used to have. “It’s full of contacts around the world and I don’t think anybody else has got what I’ve got. I’ve got crewing details, facility houses around the world. I know how to arrange satellite leaks.” And that actually stood me in good stead because Tonight With Trevor McDonald was… we did a lot of that, feeds around the world.

And that was the successor to World in Action?

It was, and this… it was, well you perhaps know better yourself the format of words in action. It wasn’t quite the same. It wasn’t quite the investigative scenario the World in Action had been. Nonetheless, they did some serious investigations. The obvious one was… the first programme was the interviewees with the men who attached Stephen Lawrence, that was the very first one. Later on though it was the Michael Jackson interview, which Martin Bashir did. And then there were more light-hearted ones as well.

So how long were you with Tonight With Trevor McDonald?

Until 2007, when I retired.

Right. You just generally had enough by then?

I felt so… I felt that it was not so much the work, I just felt I didn’t want to quit… I wanted to quit while I was on top, again, I’d had this decision, shall I move to Manchester? Shall I continue commuting from Wallasey to Manchester? Which was not easy, because I did it for 10 years. You know that route? So I just felt it was the right time to go. The programme, I knew it was going to change slightly in format, so I thought it was the right time to go.

And the company had also changed?

Oh, yes. Yes.

In what ways did it change?

Well, I don’t know…

People were being made redundant?

Oh, no. Okay. Can I stop on that? Because I can’t think really think of an answer to that.

Don’t worry.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an answer, but things had changed. Yes.

Yes. People were being made redundant or offered redundancy?

Well, I think there was short contracts. I mean I was one of the few people left who were staff. People had short contracts. It wasn’t so much that that made me retire, it was just part of my plan. I didn’t want to die at Granada actually. I thought, “What a dreadful thought!”

I can’t remember anyone who did, really. So where were we? Well, what kind of a company was it to work for? Can you compare what it was like working there in the 80s when it was working there in the 90s? Were they good employers?

Yes. Well to me, yes, I didn’t have a problem. I had a case of bullying, which I won’t go into, which I didn’t think they dealt with very well. I also felt, and this may be me being sour grapes, I always wanted to be a researcher. At the time, because I was a secretary, I was in the NATKE union. Researchers were in ACTT. And the then union man for the ACTT was Gordon Johnson, the camera man. And I can remember him saying, “Researcher jobs are only for ACTT staff,” and I would just go for these interviews. And once I got round to the second round and he came to me and said, “You shouldn’t have got to second round, you’re not ACTT.” And I thought, “I’m just wasting my time if there’s this attitude, it may be that the company chose better qualified staff than me for these positions.” But I felt if this is the attitude, I’m not going to… so I gave up, so I never became a researcher, which is what I wanted to do.

Because your company is quite… willing to give you a researcher’s job and then for you to become ACTT.

Well, as I say, I wasn’t getting that feeling at all. It didn’t come through to me at all, I’m just thinking, “I’m wasting my time here.”

Any distinctive things that you… you’ve described how wonderful the Albert Dock was.

It was, it was great because it was new. I mean and it was a new job for me. Yes, it’s… the building was, you know, good to work in, it was a good location to work in.

And just going back to Exchange Flags…


It almost had this reputation of being very, very friendly.



But I think it was in the dock as well. I think what was nice was there was no… and I don’t know, can’t compare it to Manchester, but everybody, the management… let’s say the new staff, the tech staff, the canteen staff, everyone got on all up very well. Probably because we’re in a much smaller building than at the Manchester building. So we all knew each other and socialised with each other.

And people have talked about the canteen?

Oh, yes. Oh, well that was the associative institution, wasn’t it? So…

And who ran the canteen?

Well, officially a lady, again, sadly not with us, whose name was Helen, and I can’t remember… her maiden name was Bateman. But also there was Joan, Joan Daley, and Jane, who’s… these ladies served up lunches, breakfast, and so forth.

Afternoon tea as well?

Afternoon tea, yes.

Thinking about Exchange Flags, Daphne, Liverpool was obviously somewhere that was very kind of newsy. And then when did… can you remember any, you know, particular days when Liverpool came into it? So like when John Lennon died?

Oh yes. I can remember John Lennon, the death of John Lennon, because working with us was, as you probably know, Thelma McGough, who had known John Lennon very well. I remember her being very upset about his… as indeed were a number of people, and people were coming into our office and saying how sad they were to hear the news. I remember that, various people coming in. And I’m just thinking as well as big events, obviously there was the Toxteth Riots, there was trouble that… and your pups, correct me if I’m wrong, the first crew that was able to get to the Toxteth Riots was a freelance crew, and the camera man was Alan Almond. And the sound man was Peter, whose surname I can’t think of.

Pete Connors?

Yes. Anyway, and because they were freelance their material was not allowed to be used. I remember that. And so some valuable and historic material disappeared, and I don’t know whether it’s ever been recovered. I remember that, I also remember the Heysel stadium situation. We were all gone for a drink after work, and somebody coming into the pub said there’s been this trouble at Heysel. So we all go back in the office and again, I don’t know whether there were flights then those days from Liverpool, many flights certainly. And so it was proposed to send a Manchester crew to Hazel. But there was… somebody had said, and I suspect Gordon Johnson, that a Liverpool crew should go. I suppose it’s a sort of poor story. And Liverpool did go subsequently, but not as fast as if a Manchester crew had gone. Moving on, I don’t really want to talk my memories of Hillsborough, how we reacted to that. And I always… I’d been off sick, I’d had bronchitis and I was at home, and Saturday I was just getting over this bronchitis and Saturday afternoon Jet Clark rang me up. He was the news editor, and he said, “I’m hearing reports a couple of people might have been killed at Hillsborough.” And he said, “I’ll come back too and see if we need to send anybody over there.” And then obviously a little while later he phoned and said the full picture was coming into play. And so we then organise crews to go to Sheffield, crews to meet the fans who were returning. Set up studio crews for programmes, interviews with persons who’d been there. We had a programme on the Sunday, I remember, in the studio we did that. And obviously the rest of the next few weeks, months, etc, were devoted to Hillsborough. But lots of time, but that was the first instance. I think the producer at the time was Mike Short, I’m sure he was still there then.

I think Louise (Landen? 30:03) was… did she do the Sunday?

Judith: I think she was the editor, or the editor of local programmes.

She wasn’t a Liverpool producer, I think it was Mike Short still. Yes.

And there was a World in Action from Liverpool.

Yes, there was. There was certainly…

Which I was involved with.

Were you? I remember… is it Dr John Ashton, was he there?

Was John on that programme? I can’t remember.

And also the man from Formby who’s… I cannot think he was involved. He was part of an action group, Hillsborough Action Group, and I think he might’ve lost one of his children. I always remember this man from Formby, and I cannot think what his name was.

Right, right. Thinking back to Exchange Flags as well, Daphne.


Judith: Sorry, go on. You were involved in the early days of the other one. Just a story, whether you want to talk about…

I can’t remember that much about (crosstalk 31:05), but I do remember Jade Layton being very involved in it and she was quite passionate about it. And obviously her hard work resolved… I hope resolved the problem, but I can’t remember any detail about that.

Judith: I’m thinking about This Morning, it was quite a different programme, wasn’t it? In terms of its format to anything that had gone before in terms of the length and the kind of diversity of it?


Judith: And how difficult was that for you then in terms of the kind of technical coordination side?

The thing I found difficult, they did use to have a bit at the beginning of the show which they called news reactive. So they would comment… not so much Hillsborough, because that was… they devoted a lot of time to that. But they were devoted… bit at the beginning, a news reactive story, and they might have an interview with somebody. What I never got my head around was… because I’d been used to working in news, we knew what was important and what wasn’t. And in This Morning I would be told… oh, I don’t know, just as an urgent cookery item. Well, to me, cookery wasn’t urgent. How can that be urgent? And I liked that, and I always followed this maxim of saying to people… and not just on This Morning, but on Tonight with Trevor, and people would say, “This is urgent.” And I would say, “Is anyone dead? Has anyone been killed? No? Then it’s not urgent.” And I used to say, “I’ve only worked on half a dozen urgent stories, Toxteth, Heysel, Hillsborough, so forth.” Those are urgent stories. But so that was the kind of thing that I never quite got my head around on This Morning. But I mean I reacted because it was my job, but I didn’t quite like the way it was a bit of a panic scenario, that whether we were out to have a live link with a giraffe or who’d had a baby at London Zoo, or a siting of a UFO in Norfolk, which definitely happened.

Judith: And when you started coordinating crews they would be staff crews?

Yes, they were. Yes. There was no freelance.

Judith: Presumably over the time that you were there, there was a shift.

Well, there were… I mean when I went to This Morning, and it was still in Liverpool, we were having… crews would come over from Manchester. They were assigned on rotationally, but when I went down to London, the plan was to use an LWT crew, but at this point, Granada had taken over LWT and there was a lot of resentment at LWT. We were assigned, they weren’t overly helpful, I was assigned each day a crew, but because of the nature of the morning, I didn’t always know what stories were happening the next day. If at five o’clock I haven’t got a job for them, they’d go home, so I then had to use crews. I’d go out and use the freelance crews who were a bit more receptive. As I say, there was this resentment that Granada had taken over LWT. I mean, they weren’t obstructive, but they weren’t overly helpful to the point where I would go into… at that time, I think it was called GMTV, whatever the very early morning programme, it preceded the morning and it was done from a studio within the LWT complex and Craig Williams and I used to go in there. If somebody had gone sick or one of my camera men suddenly had gone sick, we would go into the GMTV and kind of say to people, “Do you want to come and work on the morning? I’ll pay you as a freelance.” We would just get a hold of people and bring them into the studio. That happened because you needed somebody straight away and rather than going through the correct channels, so LWT, it was easy to go and police people into our studio. That went for a graphics person, we’d say, “Would you like to come and work?” Pull them in and come and work for us.

Judith: As your role went on from coordinating crews, did the importance of budgeting and accounting, if the (??36:07)…

Yes, yes. Yes. I’d always kept a record on This Morning anyway, but increasingly I was always aware of costs and this too became a factor on the Tonight with Trevor. That was very important about how much you paid for travel and accommodation, for feeds, and all those sorts of things.

Judith: Yes. Presumably, your budget was becoming squeezed more.

It was being squeezed and I always felt this on This Morning, I’d really kept within budgets and someone would say, “Oh, you’re within budget. Well, we’ll move that money from your budget to something else.” I used to say, it’s hardly worth me budgeting if somebody else isn’t budgeting. They’re taking my pot away from me. Yes, it was an important thing. Increasingly so.

Judith: You must have built up a great technical knowledge.

Yes. Well, I mean I’m not a technical person as really, but I knew where people were. Again, just to go back to Tonight with Trevor, because we were in Manchester, but even when I went down and worked in London and the ITN office, I used to get, rather than pick up the phone, say to somebody, “Can you help me with this?” I used to go in person and I’d go and say, “I want to arrange, let’s say, I want to arrange this satellite fee from Washington. Let’s talk through how we can do it.” I did that in Manchester. I used to go down to the area where the technical support people were. I’d go down there. Some of them were a bit touchy, but I would also sit there and wait while the material was fed from London or wherever, I’d sit with them. I’d take the tape. If I needed a copy making, I’d ask them most politely. You have to be very diplomatic. I did always make a point of not trying to be too much of a show off or anything like that or being unpleasant to them because someone them of them would be a bit of angsty about it. I always made that point, so I didn’t necessarily have the knowledge, but I knew who to go to and say, “Help me with this, talk me through this. I’m not a technical person.” I got results by that rather than picking up the phone and shouting at someone saying, “Why didn’t you do two copies when I asked you for two?” Just little things like that.

Was it a problem being a woman?

No, I don’t think so. No. Because I never felt that. No.

Right. It was more techie than gender.

More techie. Yes, more techie. I wasn’t techie, but I was never afraid of asking a question and I never pretended. What I’m trying to say is I never pretended to know something. I’d hold my hands up and say, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

Judith: Something I remember, and I don’t know how much you want to talk about it is, it’s like when we want to Exchange Flags, having to get audiences.

Gosh, I had forgotten that. Yes. Yes.

Judith: I wasn’t sure whether you wanted to talk about how you go about that and what Exchange Flags was.

Oh, gosh. I had forgotten about that. Yes. Bringing audiences. I think they must’ve been… what programmes would they be for?

Judith: Would be Exchange Flags I think?

It must have been Exchange Flags. Yes. We would be sitting. There would be people sitting in the actual area of Exchange Flags behind the town hall, sitting there having their lunch and we would come out say, “Do you want to be in the audience?” I have a glass of wine and a sandwich. I’m just rounding up these people. Sometimes though, we would ring up the university, and John Moores University and Liverpool University itself where the students would come down because they got free lunch and a drink. Various people’s mums. My mum used to go, and I dare say your mums may have been, and they got lunch and a drink and I don’t think they cared who they were watching. As I say, various people’s parents had to… but they had some weird combinations of people in that Exchange Flags. I remember Dame Edna Everage being on, and Les Dawson. We had some quite well-known people on that, but rounding up the audience and there was occasionally or there must have been, we did this live link from St. Nicholas Church, St. Nicholas Church, which is the Liverpool church at the bottom of Water Street, and it has quite nice grassed area, gardens around it. Again, we did this live link from there and I think they were… I can’t remember if it was part of a festival that was going on in Liverpool and there were various dancers and bands and again, we have to round up. Each end of the gardens had gates, so one of us would stand at one end and the other, to corral these people into being in the audience. Even if it was raining. While they were just probably trying to go from their office to a cafe or something or going home. We would just corral them in. It’s just… you couldn’t do that now.

Judith: Yes, yes. Do you remember the programme where Roger Blythe was doing something about not being able to go to sleep?

Gosh, yes. He’d got the… we had a flock of sheep! He was sitting in bed if I remember rightly, and somebody, who again, I think this was Peter Vernon, the Canadian researcher or producer, whatever his rank was, produced a flock of sheep to come in.

Judith: Got them from Knowsley Safari Park. They careened around the studio.

Yes, so I had forgotten that.

Judith: Do you remember the woman who was doing the kipper eating?

Oh, this poor child. I mean she wasn’t that… perhaps she was a teenager, but they had her eating these kippers. Had she got… I think she might’ve won some competition for eating beans. The poor kid was sick all over the studio. And no wonder! I mean, just the smell. It was just bizarre. We couldn’t do that now.

Judith: Did you think there was a sense, certainly in the early days of Exchange Flags, that Liverpool could almost do whatever they wanted?

Oh, certainly. I think so. I think that people who used to come over to Liverpool from Manchester looked on it as bit of a swanny, because they could claim an overnight and various expenses, which they could have a good time with that. I think they looked on it as bit of R&R really. Yes, it was. I just think you’re left to your own devices. Oh, dear, I do. Yes. Gosh, that business of the sheep, I’d forgotten about that.

The sheep just ran amok?

Oh, yes. They just wandered all over the place.

Judith: There were sheep because they had come from the safari park. They were special breeds.


Judith: They weren’t normal sheep. There were sheep with horns.

Yes, yes.

Judith: Or, oversized sheep. Yes.

I remember doing an April Fools, again actually with John Toker. There were newsagents over the road and we had this measuring stick and he would stop people and say, “We are measuring people.” I can’t think for what reason. It was April the first and he and I were there measuring people. We were saying we were doing a survey. I don’t know for what reason, but the number of people who got measured. Oh, we used it as an item.

Judith: I’m trying to think of any others. I mean, I remember you and I going, and I don’t know how we did this, but we had a phase of going for cocktails (in the Lakes? 45:18) with John Flat.

We did. We did. Yes. Oh, I had forgotten John Flat was the news editor. Yes. Yes we did, didn’t we?

Judith: Yes. Yes.

What was the pub?

The Crooked Billet.

Oh yes. A lot of life went on in The Crooked Billet. One reason being that it was a shortcut to the car park, but inevitably, you didn’t always make the car park. You just stayed in The Crooked Billet, but for one or two or three and your car stayed in the car park. There was a lot of socialising. Also, I do remember in the early days of the early eighties, I think licencing hours were still in force. The pubs closed at three and they reopened at five. There were various places within that city area of Liverpool where there was a lot of, I don’t know what you call it, but out of hours drinking and if you couldn’t find someone, you had to go ring round all these pubs and clubs and various dens of iniquity to try and find the crew or the staff. Once we were down at the Albert Dock, that didn’t matter because there’s only one pub where they could be, so you could find them quite easily.

Judith: Were there any particular characters that you remember, presenters or anybody who sticks in your memory?

The people like Roger Blythe and Tony Wilson and Bob Greaves. I had always admired Tony and Bob for their ability to make… if there was a gap and the producer would say, “Could you talk for two minutes?” and these two could do it. They could do two minutes. I thought, “That’s amazing.” They can pick up from this. If there was a hiccup, they could pick up from it and they could talk for two minutes or else they’d be told… because you know, reduce it, and they could do that. I thought they had a real good ability for that. Apart from being skilled interviewers, very knowledgeable.

Judith: You’ve worked at the BBC. Did you notice a difference in the culture or the way, even though it was local radio?

No, I didn’t. I mean, the difference was that there was a much bigger budget at Granada in terms, not only in my salary, but things we didn’t do. I mean, local radio, you couldn’t really compare it with Granada. A lot of people came from Radio Merseyside and subsequently worked at Granada. I think it will be from my point of view, from my level, I’ve been a secretary, and a secretary was a secretary, really. Shorthand and typing. It wasn’t developed as much as it is now. Again, no electric typewriters, no computers. I do remember when computers came to Granada, and we were at the Albert Dock, and for some reason I was given the job of organising the training. So much so that I didn’t actually get trained myself. I put this down to the fact that I’m not very good on the computer. I got everybody else trained, but didn’t train myself. We were at the Albert Dock when the computers came through. We this system called Basis. That was the first one they had.

Judith: Yes. Is there anything else?

I can’t think of anything else, although I probably will when you’ve gone on your way, but I have to say this. I really was happy at Granada and I still have lots of friends who I still see, even though I’ve been retired 11 or 12 years, I’m still in touch with lots of people. It was a great fit for me. It was never… nowhere is 100% perfect, but it was a great place to work and it was work hard, play hard. I don’t have any regrets really in any decisions I made with my working for it.

Judith: What do you think it was that made it special then?

Well, I think personalities as well. The people that we worked with, they thought the same way as I did. Same sense of humour and so forth. I think it was… it was just like nothing else really. You couldn’t say, “Oh, but it was like this job.” I mean, prior to working in Radio Merseyside, I worked in a shipping company, which was dreadful. I’d worked at different places outside. There was no comparison with it. It was casual, but at the same time it wasn’t strict.

What year did you actually retire?

2007. I was there 27 years.

Norma Percy

Interviewed by Geoff Moore, 3 April 2019.

So Norma, can I just ask you to just tell us a bit about your earlier years and background education, and so on?

Right. I grew up in New York, and when it came to go to university, I wanted to get as far as possible from my family. So I went to a small college in Ohio called Oberlin, where there was an extremely charismatic Hungarian professor of International Relations. And all we government international relations students actually learned a lot from him. He had been at LSE in the 30s and in love with Harold Laski’s daughter. So when it came to graduation, he asked me what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go to graduate school – everybody had already gone to graduate school, and what I wanted to get out of it. And I said, “I want to learn about how politics really works, and get as far as possible from my family.” So he enthusiastically suggested LSE, and off I went to do a two-year M-Phil at LSE. The topic of the thesis I put down, not knowing very much in Oberlin Ohio, was to study the Labour Party’s adjunct to European integration. This was 1963, and the McMillan bid had just been finished, it was in the early stage. I went to LSE, actually I was comparing Labour Party attitude to 1945 with the current day, and I started work on my thesis. But LSE being in the centre of London, had visiting politicians, it also had theatres, and coming from a small town in Ohio, there was a lot of distractions. I went quite slowly. And it was fine, because another good thing about LSE was it was very cheap. But suddenly, the Howard Wilson government put up overseas students fees by a ginormous amount at that time. I think it was the first time, and I realised my money would run out, and I had to get a job. And I got a job in the House of Commons, where I was absolutely, supremely happy. In those days, the Labour MPs couldn’t afford researchers, but my guy was a wonderful professor called John McIntosh, who had just been elected, and a social science research council grant to write a book. So he had money to pay me for three years. And I really… he sat in his office for all night sittings, while I sort of did intelligence in the Strangers’ Bar, and truly was having a wonderful time, and learning much more about politics than I did in my graduate course at LSE. Until four years when the research money was obviously coming to an end, and I could see that he was very worried about how he would ever get me off the premises, because I was so happy, at which point Brian Lapping turned up. He had just been commissioned by Granada to do his first big series, a sort of Royal Commission of the air. Sidney Bernstein had asked for Royal Commissions, televised Royal Commissions, on important subjects, and his first one was about parliament. And he turned up to see my guy for a suggestion about someone who knew about parliament, who he could hire as a researcher. And my guy was so delighted because he was someone who would take me off his hands, or his salary, and he gave me a fantastic reference to Brian Lapping.

What was the title of the programme?

It will come to me in a minute. I definitely know. Did Brian give you the books?


There were…

And what year was it?

State of the Nation! State of the Nation.

State of the Nation.

That’s what the series was called, and this was State of the Nation Parliament.

And roughly what year?

Brian first came to me to help develop it in February 1972, and we wrote a proposal. I guess we got started actually. You didn’t have to write proposals and get them to develop it. We started work. But there were a lot of us. I was the kind of Labour parliamentary researcher, there was a former lobby correspondent, there was a Tory researcher. But Brian and I got on, so I stayed. But parliament wasn’t televised yet, so we decided to use the structures of parliament to examine parliament. Actually this was the reason I stayed, because we commissioned an opinion poll from MORI about what was wrong with parliament. That had happened before I joined, and I said it was ridiculous. You don’t care about what ordinary people think about what’s wrong with parliament, you care about what the practitioners think, what the MPs think. So in the end we did a select committee looking into what was wrong with parliament and how to reform it. We did a mock parliamentary debate, which was absolutely fantastic. With the pro and anti… the reform I believed in, the reform I had learned from my MP, John McIntosh, was that there should be more select committees, that it would make MPs far better able to scrutinise the executives, and the sort of cheerleader stuff that they did on the floor of the House of Commons. And MPs were divided as to whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. So the centrepiece of the programme was a mock parliamentary debate on each side, eight people. And the people who believed in the floor of the House were people like Brian Walden, Michael Fuller, Enoch Powell. And on the other side was Anthony Crosland, Sir Richard Crossman, my MP, John McIntosh, Reggie (Maudling? 6:54), and the good side of Reggie Maudling, and some other nice (??7:03)…

So this was a series, was it?

No, it was… so it took us two years to research. There was also a film, which was supposed to be directed by Leslie Woodhead, in which we were going for a fly on the wall of one bill… of one clause of a bill going to the civil service and the House of Commons. And it took us so long to negotiate permission for this, that Leslie went on to do something else. And we looked around for someone else to do it, and we realised this was modelled on Roger Grave’s film, Diplomacy, which had gone out recently. And so we thought, “Why don’t we go and talk to Roger Grave?” Roger Grave was so outraged that we had gone to anyone else in the first place, but when he swallowed this he agreed to do it. So in the end we got permission from Geoffrey Howe, who was in charge of consumer affairs in the Department of Trade and Industry to study clause two of the Fair Trading Bill, which set up a director general of fair trading. It was kind of the fuzzy end of the Heath government, and it was doing something good to protect the consumer, which was why they let us in. And we filmed for six months. And whenever this director general was being discussed by the civil servants who were about to go to the House of Commons…

It sounds like a dream job for you.

It was a dream job, yes. It was a dream job. So anyway, at the end of this two years, we did actually make some programmes, and I think it ended up being five hours of television on three consecutive nights. And I remember going to see my first actual seeing of the gods that ran Granada, was when we went up in the flat to show it to Denis Forman and David Plowright. He thought I was the PA, and he kept asking me timings! I knew absolutely nothing about television at the time, because it was like being on a big research project. And it wasn’t until the very end that we got anywhere near a camera, and there was… I think, I didn’t go to the film Roger’s film, because there were nine people and I would have been the tenth, I think. And Roger’s biggest job was trying to make the electrician stay at home, because he filmed without lights. So I did these two mock parliamentary select committees.

The Fair Trading Bill was two hours, and the select committee was 90 minutes, and I think the debate was two hours. So we went in the flat to show, I think it was the Fair Trading Bill, and we said, “Denis is this very boring?” and he said, “It’s just a Granada board meeting, I absolutely love it, and you mustn’t cut him in it.” So they started at nine o’clock, but they were so long that they went on, and they were on ITV, three nights in a row. And they were far too good to show it to the press on VHS in those days, I guess, or (new matics? 10:35). So the outside broadcast unit came down from Manchester to play them to the press shows, so that they would be high quality.

Wow, that’s amazing.

And I do remember Tony Crosland and his slippers, sitting in the cinema on 3 Upper James Street as they came up with some critics. And they got amazing reviews. I mean, they were so wonderful, Chris Dunkley and the FT. Anyway, Brian and I got on, and so we decided I would stay for the next one, which was another kind of ministers and civil servants thing. It was the minister and his civil servants discussing the genesis of a bill. It was Richard Crossman and (Damian Allonshaw? 11:23), that was the amazing one, in conversation about housing policy. And they almost came to blows, and then there was one on Tony Crosland and his civil servants about education. And one about (??11:42), and Geoffrey Howe about changing the legislation… the first change in the legislation. They were good, serious programmes, but they probably would have been best on Radio 4. What did we do next? But some of the things I remember, for example, in this amazing document that we prepared as the research paper for this, what was wrong with parliament, Brian went to see Sidney Bernstein to show it to him, and Sidney Bernstein took this document we had spent probably six months preparing, and threw it in his face, and said, “This is a terrible document.” And Brian came back very bemused. But what happened after that is, it didn’t have a date, and it didn’t have a title, and it didn’t have proper page numbers. So we put all these things in and he read it, and he liked it, and he… and so, Sidney was indeed a fan.

I just want to ask you a couple of questions, your first meeting with Brian Lapping, was that in an interview?

He came… god, do you really want to hear this? I had actually met a girlfriend of a friend of a Cambridge friend of Brian’s six or seven years before, and I knew Brian from going to dinners at his house. And so, when he rang me up, I thought it was somebody who was ringing me up that I knew, and I was therefore quite relaxed. At that time I had commandeered a room over the terrace of the House of Commons, where the cleaners used to rest, or the women would play cards on all-night sessions, but in the day was empty, because I didn’t have a proper office. And so I received Brian in this room overlooking the terrace, and then he took me to lunch. And I thought he was coming to me for advice about what to cover in the programme, because I knew about parliamentary reform, and we talked for two hours. And it would not have occurred to me that anyone would give me a job in television. I didn’t think about such things, and I had been planning to go on to some very boring parliamentary digest job that Bernard (Crick? 14:11) had accepted for me. And so I was very relaxed, and very pontificated, and the next morning… well, first of all, Brian went home and said to Anne, “I met this amazingly wonderful woman, and she’s going to be great in my programme.” And Anne said, “Brian, you know her really well.” Brian hadn’t recognised me at all! That was something to… a quality I noticed in him with other people. So we had these researchers, and we were taken on for a year to do research for this programme, and most of the others went, but because Brian and I got on, we stayed.

This was kind of a particular strand of Granada’s output, wasn’t it?

It’s kind of special political programmes. People actually list… Morgan was talking to me the other night about the Granada 500, which I also worked on in, I think, the ‘74 election, which was something that they had kind of… I have pamphlets about these things that the publicity department of Granada put out, and then they definitely published the transcripts of State of the Nation Parliament again. But Sidney definitely… Granada, at finding new and serious ways of covering politics, is something that they really prided themselves on. And so we continued to do that. We continued to look for… I mean, we considered ourselves… we weren’t film makers, and therefore, we had to find sort of special ways of making programmes. And I’m trying to think what we did next, because there were Hypotheticals, and there were journalist reconstructions.

Yes. And Granada 500, you worked…

Granada 500, Kate Haste and I were researchers, and I think it was the 1974 election.

Was there one in 1979?

I think there were… Granada 500, it kind of developed.

I worked on the 1983 one.

Right. I think there must have been. This one in 1974, Steve Morrison was making a fly on the wall film about it and managed to completely alienate all his colleagues who were trying to get on with making a programme. But what Kate Haste and I did, was bring… they had lunch time studio shows. The 500 would come every lunch time to the studio in Liverpool, I think… no, Preston.

Preston, yes.

And our job was to get important experts on different subjects to speak to them, and this was to prepare for the big interview with the party leaders that happened at the end. And Liz (Forgan? 14:11) was saying, that was something that she thought was really significant and we ought to bring it back. At this time of thinking one ought to find new ways of educating the electorate, because look at the mess they’ve created, we should do this more often. In ‘83 they knew they were going to get party leaders from the beginning, didn’t they?

Yes, they did. It was again, based in Preston, so the whole team just went up there, and all these typewriters and phones, and teams were everywhere, and the 500 were chosen. And then the train went from Preston to London with a few drinks, but more drinks on the way back. Relationships were started – and ended.

Yes. We were based in London, because we…

Did you go on the train?

I don’t think so. I don’t think I had, I went with the party leaders. I did go… I was based in London and I would come with the talent at lunchtime, and then go back and forth. But I did have a time of staying. Maybe I must have done something else then. But we went on to journalist reconstructions, which I could talk about, because they were great. And in a way I feel this Europe series that I just finished is the… finishing the business that they started. And it was another brilliant idea of Brian’s, that he was reading about around cabinet over the decision to bail out Chrysler. And it was between Eric Foley, the Minister of Industry, and Harold Lever, and… it will come to me, someone who wanted to cut it because it would be more cost effective to…

I really want to ask you about that.

The early stuff?

No, no, that period, Granada’s tradition of political coverage.


Which was both local and national, it’s reflected in World in Action too, and Hypotheticals, and the Granada 500 and the programmes you did with Brian Lapping, all are part of the same type. Because Granada, at the top, though it’s worth doing and it’s important. So you got to entertain people, but also inform people.

Yes. You had to entertain. There was the PT Barnum photograph…

That’s right. That seems to have gone now, isn’t it, from ITV?

Yes. Well, they’re still entertaining. But surely that’s Mrs. Thatcher. I mean, before Mrs Thatcher, the ITV companies, got a licence to print money, but they had to produce a certain amount of serious stuff in order to get the licence, and they chose their series… the owners of the companies chose their serious stuff, and Sidney and Cecil chose politics, because it’s what interested them. But it was amazing. I mean, the idea that money was no object, and we were the London outpost that would come up to Manchester.

Were you at…?

I was at Golden Square first and then 3 Upper James Street. I was longest in Granada when we got to End of Empire when we were editing End of Empire, but I was unusual that I never had a spell on Granada Reports. Most people of my era were…

But you never worked in Manchester did you?

I never was on a Manchester-based programme, but edits increasingly had to be there and End of Empire had many months long…

What was your first producer job?

End of Empire, I think.

End of Empire.

I think. I had semi-produced (??20:49). When Brian ran World in Action, I was kind of… he moved upstairs to the fourth floor, and I had this little kind of outpost on the first floor. It was the bit that went out, three offices and bookshelves. Gosh, we had (??21:08). I have not many (??21:11), and I would make my programmes and occasionally go and see Brian, but I really was a producer. But David Plowright had this idea that we specialists couldn’t be producers, so the Disappearing World lot, Andre Singer. That’s what I think is very ironic, that Andre Singer and I are still working. And Jeremy Plowright decreed we would never make producers because we were specialists. They were sociologists, and we were… I was a political scientist, and so we couldn’t be a producer because we weren’t… but there was one I really had done on my own, and I was given maybe, we called it assistant producer, but that wasn’t a credit Granada recognised. And when David Plowright found out about it, he came into the studio on Sunday – because you put the credits on at the last minute in the studio – and changed it back to researcher. I was very upset. Many of like these journalist reconstructions… well, Brian was certainly the producer of the first one, but they went international in… ‘79? I wasn’t even the producer, but I was called a researcher, I think until the End of Empire which started in ‘82.

What were you doing through the rest of the 70s?

Well, I did three journalist reconstructions.

What were they called?

Chrysler and the Cabinet. It wasn’t, there wasn’t actually, they went out as specials.

They were one hour?

Yes. The idea was that… Brian very soon, with our fly on the wall films, we discovered that you could only get access to what they really want to let you in for, and it’s not the top stuff. Therefore you have to find other ways of doing it. It wasn’t the top stuff. He came up with two ways that were the reverse of each other. Hypotheticals when you’ve got the real people who did the decisions, and you got them to discuss hypothetical cases which were very much based on the real ones. It was the people who took the decisions telling you how they took the decision on a hypothetical case. Journalist reconstructions are the reverse. When there was a huge row between cabinet, and then we went on to do international EU ones, and again, something leaked out. We got the top journalist in the cabinet case, we got the top journalist, who seemed from his writings to be closest to the cabinet minister who was taking a particular position. Peter Jenkins… no, the first one was Adam Rafael, who is another person who is still working, he’s on The Economist. Adam Rafael had seemed to… Eric Foley. I think Eric Foley was the minister of industry and he wanted to let Chrysler go. And a story briefed by Eric Foley appeared in the Economist. Then Peter Jenkins had a fantastic piece in the Guardian, which was briefed by, I think, Harold Lever and yes, they must have been because (??24:38), Harold Lever, and it said that he made the case for bailing out Chrysler. And then David Watt had a fantastic piece in the FT which seemed to be based on Wilson, because it put the prime minister’s point of view, and deciding between them. So each of those people… and we then peopled the rest of the cabinet with top journalists, were told to go back to their guy, say, “I’m playing you on television, you have to tell me exactly what happened in cabinet, and what you said, and what they said to you and I’ve got to get this right.” And it was very good, it made the journalists work hard because they were going out, and they were going to be on television, and they couldn’t make a fool of themselves, and it made the politician want to… well, it gave them anonymity because we couldn’t say they were briefed by them. We said they know politicians well, and I sat there gathering these reports of everybody going to see their cabinet minister. And then before we shot each scene, I drafted a scenario, but before we shot each scene we would have an argument which was even more exciting, between the various journalists about what happened. Because sometimes their accounts differed, and we had to come to some basic agreement as to what happened and we would shoot the scene and then we would discuss it. It was like a three-day encounter group. We went to the Royal Commonwealth Society, I guess they went home at night. I actually had a bedroom in the Royal Commonwealth Society. I was working so hard I couldn’t go to Camden Town. And we spent three days filming this.

Where did you film it?

In the Royal Commonwealth Society which had panels and carpets and upholstery, and it could look like the cabinet room. But then when… was it a… (??26:39), must have been. I really (??26:43), because I know… it then went on to the IMF row, which was fantastic, because that was such an existential row, and Peter Jenkins got briefed by Tony Crosland. David Watt it turned out was such a good journalist that he didn’t actually go and talk to Wilson or Callaghan, but he just sort of worked it out. But he was so right that he… and he had also such authority amongst the other journalists that if he agreed to play the silly game, the rest of them agreed to do it as well. But the IMF one was really… we really got the story of one of the biggest things that happened in the 70s, and then very soon after we recorded it, but before it was broadcasted on the 9th of February, Tony Crosland died. And there was a big, “Oh my god, could we put it out with Peter Jenkins?” and the family of Tony Crosland rang us and said we want him to do it because he really gave him great access.

These are the really interesting things that we did. And I think they had the… the IMF was the most accurate account of a cabinet argument, and it’s been shown to various people, like Queen Mary College afterwards, and everybody thought we got it right. But it got more fun when we tried to do an EU one, we were tasked to show how the EU really worked, and in that case I think it must have been for Harold Wilson’s referendum campaign yes. And we did a fly on the wall, this one I was absolutely the hands-on researcher. I was in Brussels for three months following… thank god, Stanley Johnson was the commission official in charge of it, and he was in those days as charismatic as Boris is now, because it was, you know… following close to (??28:45) director would have been hopeless, but he was fun.

Can I just interject? These programmes, they were kind of innovative television.

They’re incredibly… Brian Lapping was a genius at finding ways of finding ways of doing these things.

The BBC wasn’t doing anything like this.

Nothing like this, no. And they went out as World In Actions, and everybody thought in those days that Panorama was better at politics than World In Action, but I think these things were… they got at the truth. But something occurred to us when doing the international ones. Because in one sense, all you could say is this is the ravings of journalists, and you couldn’t say that… it was the truth. The EU ones were even better because each journalist had the national characteristic of their guys, so that the chap who played (??29:46) was tall and elegant and looked like he changed his shirt three times a day, and the German was also terribly supercilious, and when it came onto the Mrs Thatcher era, we got Sarah (??29:58) who absolutely had the manner of Mrs Thatcher down. But people didn’t believe them. So I realised that one of the prime ministers had left between the meetings and the broadcast, and we showed him the fine cut and filmed his reaction. And that was something that made people believe it, because one of the ones… he didn’t even have to say, he didn’t have to give secrets. He would come in at the end of a scene and he would say, “Yes, Mrs Thatcher really was that arrogant and bullying.” And so it gave it credibility, but it started in my head the fact that you really need to have the real people talking about the real events to get people to believe you. I mean, those five journalist reconstructions I think are absolutely accurate, but nobody knew it. And that led us onto End of Empire.

Okay, so these were World In Actions, but were you a member of the World In Action team?

I was, in theory.

Did you get put on other shows?

In ‘76 when Brian became head of World In Action and they didn’t… I worked for Brian, they didn’t know quite what to do with me, so they put me on World In Action and I made a completely conventional World In Action. It was about unemployment, it was Brian’s first World In Action, and it was with… Collin Richards was one of them. It was a quickie, it was looking at the unemployment statistics that were rising, and saying the Labour government ought to take more notice of it. It was boring, and not very good, and I didn’t like it very much. So we go to the weekly meetings of World In Action but I continue to spend my time trying to think up things that would do things in the special way of doing politics. And so while Brian was running World In Action, I started thinking up ways of continuing to do the forms he invented, and he would come in at the end as the final supervisor.

What did you make of the World In Action people?

Well, I was quite snooty in the beginning. In the beginning, I was quite snooty about it. In fact Brian and I were quite snooty about it, until we discovered how clever they were. And it ended up… the World In Action… John Blake, Gus took John Blake, this was before Brian ran it, Gus took John Blake from World In Action and gave him to me when… I must have been the producer then, you’re right, I must have become the producer at this point. So John Blake was the researcher and he worked for us and then went back on World In Action, and (??32:53), he was from Disappearing World, but the more you worked with these people, they obviously were…

Did you feel a Granada person at this time in the 70s because you were…?

More and more, I also do party conference, where I did meet Sidney. I remember at the Granada dinner at party conference, I of course spilled something on my dress, but I was sitting next to Sidney, and the next morning his secretary rang to say, “Mr Bernstein would like to buy you a new dress.” That was Sidney, because in the 70s… they were in Blackpool all the time, the conferences, because the Brighton one wasn’t built yet, so Granada supplied the team, so I was party conference researcher for a bit as well. But yes, I certainly… I was impressed by the way they were prepared to spend time and trouble to research politics, and soon realised that television could get the access that ordinary researchers couldn’t get. The story I told about the first one, that was what hooked me about television, is that when I was working with my MP, and he was writing a book about what was wrong with parliament, he asked for permission to follow himself, like interview (??34:24), so he could see how much parliamentary scrutiny worked on the bill. And he was turned down absolutely flat. Then the House of Commons procedure committee, which was looking at ways of reforming the House Of Commons scrutiny (??34:37), asked permission to speak to civil service without working with MPs, well, they were turned down flat. I working for Brian Lapping, it took a year, but we got permission to do it on television because politicians need television, and if you’re on television you get access to decision and secrets and politicians’ time and…

Well, this is a question that’s probably been asked of you before, but obviously after your recent productions, you get the very highest level of politician appearing on your programmes. How do you do it? How do you go about getting a president or a prime minister on screen?

With difficulty! And with a lot of time. And it takes time. The first thing you need is time because Percy’s first rule is that everyone worth having says no at least three times, so you need time to keep going back. And in this series, the two people we saw first for a research interview… because to research decision making, which is what I suppose we slowly came on to, first you have to know what the big decisions are, and the meetings that happen in secret. Normally the people don’t know it, so you have to find out what they are, you have to find out people to tell you what happened at them. You have to meet the people who were there to tell you what happened, off the record. Then you have to persuade them to do it on film. And that takes time. But also the really important people, so you’ll go up to the advisors or the junior ministers to the top ones, but to get the top people to do it, it takes time. First of all when they say no, persistence does not mean just writing another letter. What you have to do is find someone who they trust, who knows to trust you, and get them to get back to them. With Dick Cheney for the Iraq programme it took a while. But we had Paul (Waterworth? 36:51)… am I allowed to talk about this because it’s not Granada?


But it’s a technique we developed on. It’s End of Empire that I really should be talking about because End of Empire was the biggest thing that we did for Granada for me. Brian was working on it probably from ‘80. I don’t think I started until ‘83, and it felt like more than two years (??37:16) it was broadcasted in ’85.

It was 13 hours, wasn’t it?

Brian probably told you it was 13, it was 14.

It was 14.

We have arguments all the time about this. Allan (Seymour? 37:26) got the India programme to be three hours, so it ended up 14 hours.

Yes were you producer of the whole thing?

No, Brian was producer of the whole thing.

Brian was producer of the whole thing.

It was absolutely, Brian’s vanity project, he had been commonwealth correspondent at the Guardian, he always wanted to make it.

And when he finished on World In Action, it’s like when… did he tell you about Denis Forman recruiting him?

Yes, he did, he told me all about that.

But when they got to the… when Ken decided to come off World In Action they let him do it, and I was just the producer of two episodes. And I first thought… I thought he was crazy to do it, because it was conventional, it was film. It was films live everybody else’s films.

What were your two…

Cyprus and Rhodesia. And it was Cyprus, making Cyprus was where everything I’ve done since came afterwards. And again, I didn’t know how lucky I was, both Greeks and Turks are fantastic storytellers. And we went (??38:39), I really felt that was the first thing I was the producer of, but I definitely was the producer of at least (??38:48).

So on these programmes, you had to find your own director and researchers, did you?

Yes. And it was… I also think about that. In the cutting room there was me the producer and a director and a researcher were paid for the entire time on the programme. But Cyprus grew, you know… we showed probably two or three… we must have shown at least a three-hour rough cut to Brian the first time we showed it to him. And he said, “This is ridiculous.” And we said, “Well, actually, we really ought to have two hours.” And he went to Mike Scott, and they put out two hours first before the whole series on the anniversary of the Turkish invasion, it was called Super Cyprus but (??39:50) grim legacy, and it’s definitely the best version of it. And then we cut it to an hour to go out in the series when it did. So that was in ’84, so…

Did you enjoy that period working on End of Empire?

I think so, although I never worked harder and I never felt so responsible as I did then. I mean, Brian wasn’t very hands on, and I somehow thought that the producer had to do everything. And I was in Manchester staying in a bedsit, renting a room either at the Midland Hotel, I really never felt harder worked. Because I was on my own, I can’t believe that I actually was with Steve then, because… but he was back in London. And I guess at one point I used to go home on Saturday. There’s a point where we did have it sorted, where I’d go home on Saturday and we’d have a project on Sunday afternoon, and then I’d take the train to Manchester, because I do have this strong feeling of getting out at Sunday night at Piccadilly station when it was raining. Or being on the sleeper with all my little bits of paper that we edited with Sellotape and moving bits of interview around with movable Sellotape in the top booth of the sleeper.

But this would have been quite new to you, this way of programme making, compared to…

Just filming and editing.

Filming and editing.

Well, I took to editing, but I took forever, and I took so long with… we had a row towards the end of working on Cyprus, what was Cyprus (??41:44) legacy, me and the director. The first name will come to me in a minute, about the revelation of Grievous, of Grievous and (??41:56), he wanted to reveal him after the first programme, too soon, too early. God, I can’t remember. But the researcher and me were on one side and he was on the other.

And in fact his contract had run out long ago because we had over run so much so he just left. It was the eleventh of November, he left and went on to his next job, which left me, me and the researcher, to make it with the editor. And that’s where I learnt how to make television programmes.

In the end it was (??42:31)

Yes. (??42:32)

(??42:31), who was… probably his first grown-up editing job. And he used to make me sign the (??42:39), I changed my mind so much. So that became the catchphrase with directors I worked for afterwards… sign the (??42:48).


But I really definitely learnt how to edit then. Yes I loved it really, I mean it’s always a delight when you have good material, and we had absolutely fantastic material.

Did you not think, why TV? You could have done all this in print.

No. No. No. I can’t remember when I worked at… why television was so good for me. One is that I had been working on a PhD when I ran out of money, you know, and sitting on my own in my lonely room, I had one of those telly (??43:25) who cared about being on Panorama and not looking after his students, and I didn’t like working on my own, and the communal business of… Brian is absolutely brilliant as somebody to bounce ideas off, and the essence of… people think the essence of our programmes is the access, and maybe that’s my bit, but the other essence is the clarity and the absolutely getting the narration to the minimum, but right, and storytelling and at… certain shoots, usually before each broadcast or viewing, and then at the end, we’d have some com writing sessions, which are again, a bit like in counter groups where you slowly and painfully, you’re supposed to be just writing the narration, but you see structural changes and things too. Editors go wild because it’s the night before the com recording, you’re moving a significant sector. It’s being wedded to one, being surprising, and two, being clear. That is what Brian Lapping instilled in everybody.

What did you do after End of Empire?

What did I do after End of Empire? Breakthrough at Reykjavik, which was supposed to be a journalist’s reconstruction, because after the Reykjavik Summit, Gorbachev gave a fantastic press conference where he revealed an awful lot of details of what went on in the meetings. And this was the Soviet Union. Gorbachev had just got in, and it was just amazing. So, the idea was we would get Soviet journalists, and then American journalists to play Ronald Reagan and Richard Pearl and all the people who were at Reykjavik. But we failed. The Glasnost had not gone that far. Actually, the Americans weren’t much better. Americans have this ethos of you shouldn’t be too cosy with your sources and so the idea of playing Ronald Reagan, particularly, didn’t really appeal to them. But the Russians turned us down flat. So, we had all this material, because we did good research interviews with all the Americans, and we had this amazing stuff from the Russians. And it suddenly occurred to Ed Harriman, actually, that we should write a play. So we got him off World in Action. And he and I, we worked with Ron (Harwood? 46:05) and we wrote a script and then got actors to do it. And again, it was really, really accurate. But in order to give creditability, we had Richard Pearl and Paul (??46:23), who had been there, interviewed at the end to say that it was real. Yes, I think it was something else that I did before I left. But it was in ‘88.

When did you leave?

Brian was offered voluntary redundancy and set up… and Steve Morrison, or maybe it was Jules Burns, or maybe it was both of them, said, “Well, we could give you a job if Brian leaves, but it definitely would be in Manchester.” They made it quite clear that they probably thought it would be a good idea if I left. And, although Denis Forman said to me, “I wouldn’t exactly go and join Brian as an independent, I’m not quite sure that he has the business sense.” But I really felt like I had no choice. He was absolutely convinced he would go bankrupt quite soon. But he agreed to give me a staff contract for the existence of as long as the company existed. So, I went on it, instead of getting any of the backend. So, it was he and I, and we left with a leaving present from Granada, which was a Granada commission to do another play, which was the Road to War in 1939, which we used the transcripts which were published. It was for ‘89, the 50th anniversary of ‘39. And we got (Patrick Lawe 47:59) to direct it, and he realised that all the really great actors were in plays in the West End and available for being in a television. My introduction to real drama was making coffee for Ian McKellen, who played Hitler. And I think much of his Shakespeare acting, he was Richard III, has been based on playing Hitler for us! So we did this. Brian came in ‘88. He was determined to be the sole founder of what was Brian Lapping Associates. So, Charlie Smith, the researcher, and I stayed at Granada working on this for a couple of months enjoying Brian. He must have gone in June and I joined him in September. And so Charlie Smith, the researcher, Brian’s secretary, and me were Brian Lapping Associates. But we came to where Brook were, and Lapping and Phillip Whitehead were, and kind of used their accountants and stuff. But we did finish this leaving present from Granada, which turned out quite well. I hadn’t realised that you had to be thinking about what you’re going to do next. Brian went to see the BBC about a news quiz that they were asking for tenders for. It was a funny news quiz. It became Have I Got News for You. But they gave it to Patrick. They said, “Why don’t you do something like your End of Empire about the Soviet Union?” And that led to the Second Russian Revolution, which we’ve been doing ever since.

So Granada-wise, you were there about 15 years, working?

Yes, exactly. I came on properly, probably in the beginning of ‘73 and I left in the end of ‘88.

So looking back, what were the highlights? Ups and downs? Any significant people or moments?

Getting to know Forman and Plowright, and Denis Forman in particular, who was such an amazing wise man. We did end up having these night sessions in the flat where they looked at our programmes and gave wise thoughts. It was just the commitment to making the best programme possible. On End of Empire, we overspent so much that for the last two interviews, Mike Scott rationed us to two rolls of film, and we had to turn it on and off. But that’s the only time I can ever remember worrying. If there was a deadline, it was to do with some event that you had to come up against. But never because you were running out of money. Well, you know, on World in Action – you were one of them! – who were burying away at some.

That was our job, was to worry.

You were given an investigation and you did it until you completed it.

I remember we were in the Upper James Street at the same time together.

You were in the basement.

I was in the basement. You were on the fourth floor.

The fourth floor with people like (Roger Grace 51:36) and Disappearing World.

Now, tell me if this is true. Because somebody told me you have a reputation for being very hard working.

Yes, I was then. I really, really was.

Somebody said that you would telephone all 635 MPs in one day. Is that true?

I don’t think I’ve ever done that! No, and as a matter of fact, telephone is not my thing. I write letters. And that, I think probably came from State of the Nation Parliament. We wrote letters on real paper and envelopes miles after everybody else was sending emails. Now it’s emails. But we still… the answer to how you get them is you write a lot of letters. Once you’ve found these meetings and the people that were at them, you write them letters and you send them DVDs. I would give you a Europe DVD. And writing letters that establish your credentials. Pompous letters, you would say, that say that these are not all the ordinary television programmes, they’re histories. And give them DVDs of past stuff that shows that they are. I think that must have started on End of Empire. But even before, writing letters that catch people’s attention that say what we’re doing is important.

I know. I remember it well, because the art of letter writing, it’s your one chance to make the right pitch, to write it attractively, informatively, and so on.

And you can imagine Brian was a brilliant sub at the Guardian. He was fantastic at making letters have an impact. No, I thought you were going to say sleeping in the office, because I did that at Granada too. Charles Sturridge had just done the Granada director’s training course, and he didn’t want to work on Coronation Street, so he came to World in Action and he was on World in Action. And I needed a director for the first foreign journalist reconstruction. And so, he and I were in this little offshoot place. It went wrong because there was that electrician’s strike, and we got the top journalist from… of course, the trade union problems with making programmes were perhaps as the money problems now. We got the top journalists in every country, other than nine members of the EU, on a particular day. And they were terrible. Then we had to completely redo it. We could do it in the middle of the week so that they could travel on Monday and Tuesday. That’s the only time I ever made phone calls. To persuade these guys that they could do it at the weekend and they had to come on at the weekend. But, we definitely would sleep on the office, on the floor, off of James Street. He then went on to direct Brideshead.

He did indeed. I remember.

Did you work on the Jack Straw one? Because the other thing I did for World in Action was bring Jack Straw.


Because we were worrying about how to get World in Action’s British politics as good as Panorama’s. And we were looking for somebody who was good with politics. And I ran into Jack Straw, who having just had his leaving party, because he’d been selected as an MP; political advisors, which he was for Barbara Castle, couldn’t work once they’d been selected and the election wasn’t for two years. So it was ‘77.

I was on the Nuts and Bolts of the Economy with Mike Scott.

Right. So, you weren’t on World in Action yet?

It was a World in Action sub-unit. And we made a series of shows over a few years on the Japanese…

Yes, I remember. We made things like that with Mike Scott when we were independents. That were kind of offshoots from that.

Let me ask you about your experience as a woman in television. How was it for you as a woman in those years?

I had a lot of problems with that. I got an award for women in film and media this year. And I probably made a not particularly well-judged speech that said, “I have a terrible thing to confess, I don’t have women in my programmes.” Because, of course, I have the people who are inside the room when the decisions are taken. And there are too few women. And for Europe, we had a real problem because the two people in the Europe Crisis programme were Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde, who turned us down. And we presented Joanna Carr, the head of current affairs in the programme we had no women in. Our solution was one, to send us back to find one, but secondly, to have a woman narrator. But I made this speech and I said it’s not my fault. It’s like telling people you should go get more women in high places. As far as Me Too-ism, I experienced the sort of things that people complain about in the House of Commons. I’ve never felt it in television. Once I was television, I was sufficiently… MPs need television, I was treated like a grown up.

So you’ve never experienced any kind of discrimination?

Well, you could say that my relationship with Brian Lapping is a kind of relationship that a woman would have with a man. It was in some sense, a kind of definitely subservient. And I can remember Neil Kinnock shouting at me about why does Brian get.. I felt that when he was running World in Action and I wasn’t, whether or not I was a producer, he was getting the credit, that I was doing the work and he was getting the credit. But I have since learned that the thing about being in television, and I say this at award ceremonies, you spend your first 10 years resenting your bosses because they get the credit for all your hard work. And the rest of the time feeling terribly guilty because you’re getting the credit for everybody else. And I think I have had more years when I have got the credit for both doing what Brian Lapping invented, you know, Norma Percy’s special way of doing history, which is Brian Lapping’s. We talk about… Brian Lapping would say every single day of working on programmes…

But the women in television issue now, which is quite vocal. How does it compare with then?

I’m a 50s woman, I suppose. I never felt like I, a woman, should be getting more attention. (Carrie Gracie 59:22) gave me this award, so I talked to her at length about it. I’ve always felt it was to do with me if somebody else… maybe if it was to be with doing a woman, that I allowed myself to be bullied. But I think that my relationship with Brian, I never would have got to do what I wanted to do if I didn’t have this subservient relationship with a great man, whose work I… I suppose it’s disciples. I was definitely his disciple. And then I became more Catholic than the Pope, in that I’m much more pure about the method than he ever was. But I can’t imagine a man having the career arc that I had. But I don’t think I ever ranted and railed against it. I must have some, because I do remember my dentist shouting at me about grinding my teeth, and at one point when I was in this chair, and she said you’re grinding your teeth now, what are you thinking about? I was definitely thinking about Brian Lapping. But it would be being angry at Brian Lapping for not seeing that my line of commentary was better than his line of commentary.

Creative discussions.

Yes. I think, in many ways, the BBC is a good employer of women. And my controllers of BBC2 or heads of current affairs have been more often women than men. Certainly since the mid-90s. Not even. There’s Joanna Carr, who is head of current affairs now. Before her, it was Janice Hadlow. Before it was Jane Rute. Jane Rute was BBC2. And Janice Hadlow was BBC2. Fiona Campbell was head of current affairs. There was another woman before her. And my BBC execs have quite often been women. The only man’s world I exist in is the top politicians. And I suspect being a small woman is part of the trick. Is part of being non-threatening. Because we do non-threatening interviews. We do, “Tell me the story. Forgive me, but could you possibly tell it again, because it would come over better if it was more like a story,” rather than, “You’re lying.”

Do you actually do the interviews?

We all do. You have off the record interviews, with them, and you tend to see who gets on best. There’s a very good radio programme made by Brook Lapping Radio about how we do our work. It was on Archive Hour in 2016. Which you probably should have listened to first. But then you wouldn’t have asked the questions. Sorry, I don’t know why I said that. But, like I do Bill Clinton because I’ve done him three times and I just (??63:06) because the producer was having a baby, I got to go and do my fourth interview with Bill Clinton. But it just depends. I would say I probably do less, because my particular talent is sitting behind and making the person do the interview ask it again. We have a kind of double act if someone else is doing it and they’ll say, “Fine. Just let me check if Norma is happy.” Or, “Well, that’s fine with me, but I suspect Norma will be…” And I can be the bad cop and let the interviewer have it. So, I do more of that these days.

Final question. Looking back again at Granada, anything else you’d like to say about the Granada experience?

Oh, dear. See, that’s not the kind of question I’m good at answering, so I don’t ask them. But it was great. It made us. It’s amazing that it made people of such different sorts. But my mother worked for the American government and she retired at 87. Because it’s ageist in America to make you retire, so nobody could make her retire. And she would say, “Why should I retire, exactly? I’d have to pay for my own travel, and there wouldn’t be anybody interesting to meet at the airport.” And I kind of feel that about my job. It was the kind of experiences I had at Granada that instilled my belief that real life is working.

And you have another project after Europe?

Well, I have people asking what I want to do. I refuse to think about it until Cuba’s finished. Because Cuba was something I was just doing as hands-off exec-ing, which I’m now doing full-time for a month. And then I’ll think about it. But the two logical ones to do, I’m resisting. One is the sequel to Europe, which we have to wait until the dust settles and there’s an end, like End of Empire. And the other is Trump, in which I’m not convinced that a politician who won’t play by the rules would work in my sort of way. But that’s what people would like me to do.

Brilliant ideas. You have to do them.

You will fail sometimes. I thought Europe would be a failure. But it’s the characters that saved it, isn’t it?

It’s great.

It was the Sarkozys and Tusk are what saved it. I just feel that, while the Trump White House has scandals, it doesn’t have interesting political arguments. But we’ll see. Ask me in May. Thank you, that was fun.

Dorothy Byrne

Interview conducted by Stephen Kelly, September 20, 2015.

How did you come to join Granada?

I was working on the Northern Echo and I saw an advert in the Guardian for a researcher. I applied, and I found it very interesting that, when I think back, that this was an advert for the Guardian for a staff job in TV, and how that just doesn’t happen in that way any more, and I think because they advertised, you got a wider range of people going to work there, because it was open advertising. I had applied before to work at the BBC but it was obviously that I wasn’t the BBC’s sort of person. At Granada, it was interesting because I did a jolly good interview on my first round, and I didn’t do a very good interview in the second round because I thought, when I was at the BBC, it was when I started to express my views and ideas that I always found that they didn’t like me and disproved of me. And after my second interview, Rod Caird rang me, who interviewed me, and said, “You were really good in your first interview and you were really boring in your second interview, what happened?” and I said, “I was really worried that if I expressed all my thoughts and ideas, you wouldn’t like them.” And he said, “No – this is not the BBC, this is Granada – we want people with lots of different thoughts and ideas.” So I went back to a third interview…

Who was that with?

I can’t remember. Rod Caird was there, and I can’t remember who else was there, but I think that’s really impressive that they gave me a third interview, because they could work out something went wrong. And I went to work on Granada Reports. I think this was spring 1982. And I think that’s right… we were about to have the first election at which the SDP were going to be putting up candidates. And what I remember is that I’d always heard that Granada was very left-wing, but in the Granada Reports newsroom, they took a vote, and the majority was going to vote SDP, and I was really amazed. I thought, where were all the Trots that I heard were at Granada? And most of the people hadn’t come from a journalistic background like me, I had done the NCTJ training course, and I was at first very intimidated to think that here I am in TV and they’ll all be brilliant and know everything, but actually in fact because they didn’t come from a news journalistic background, I felt it was not as difficult as I feared it was going to be. They had a system where you had a father or a mother in your first week who was supposed to look after you and make you feel good, and my “father” was Brian Park, who went on to found and run Shed, and incredibly successful, and he said to me, “As your father, I’m supposed to help you fit in in television,” or words to that effect, “So let me help you, let me tell you that in TV it’s every man for himself and every woman for herself, so you can look after yourself.” And I still see him now, and whenever I see him I remind him of this, because actually in a way that’s funny, but in another way I did need… it was a nice idea to have somebody to help and support you, because it was such a very different world.

It was a bit ‘sink or swim’?

It was a bit sink or swim, and then my first week I was told that I would go out to film, and to see how filming as done, and I would go out with a particular director, and that he would sexually assault me but I wasn’t to take it personally because he sexually assaulted everybody. And sure enough, at the lunch, he stuck his hand up my skirt, so obviously I took it back down again and I thought, “Oh, my God!” And I have to say that I do think in those days in TV there was a lot of… not a lot, but there was some sexual harassment by men of women and nothing was done about it. One of my friends, her line manager made her cry and then asked her to go to bed with him, and I know another woman… just completely inappropriate.

Let’s come back to that. We’ll continue with the chronology but we’ll come back to women’s issues, that’s very important. You’re on Granada Reports, is that right?

Yes, Granada Reports – and it was really, really a good programme, and within a very short number of weeks I was out making 10-minute films myself, and I just thought it was absolutely fantastic, and because we made, in Granada Reports, investigative films. I did a film investigating how bed and breakfasts in Blackpool were taking money from people who were on social security, I did several investigations into housing conditions… it was really a fantastic place to work, with some brilliant people. Tony Wilson was actually a very kind person in my experience, and absolutely brilliant on camera, and he just had ‘it’ – the magic quality. He was really good. I do remember, for the general election, I was sent out with him, and I must have been naïve, because we had to stay up all night for the election, and as the night went on, I got more and more tired, and he became more and more awake. And at about 2am I said to the sound man, “How does he do it? It’s remarkable! Because I’m really flagging, and he’s just got more energy all thee time.” And the sound man laughed and said, “He takes drugs, Dorothy!” So… and I was shocked. I hadn’t come across that before. So yes, there was fantastic journalism that went on. I was a researcher from time to time for Richard and Judy, who were presenters, and they got together while they were on that programme, and I have to say that both of them had… there’s a quality some people have that, when the camera goes on, the camera loves them. And the camera loved them. So I think it was a time of very talented people and really fantastic programming. Then I went to work on Union World, and I had to pass a test to work on Union World. So I was called in by David Kemp – many people said, “I don’t know why you don’t work on Union World, because you’re Scottish,” and there seemed to be at Granada, as they called it, ‘the mackia’ – but I was called in, and I can’t remember what the questions were, but I had to show a knowledge of obscure trade union leaders of the past, and strangely, I didn’t know who they were, you know, you would name somebody and you had to say, “Oh, yes – he was general secretary of the TGWU in 1973,” or something like that. And Union World was an extraordinary programme that was made for Channel 4 by Granada, and we only interviewed trade unionists – we didn’t interview the bosses. And every now and then the bosses would ring up, the factory owner or whoever, and say they wanted to be interviewed, and they were told, “We only interview the trade union side,” because this was part of Channel 4’s vision of balancing the way that the media was perceived to be more in favour of the employers. When I think of that now, the lack of due impartiality was extraordinary. But Union World… I mean I worked there during the miners’ strike, and I would say that we had the curse of Union World, a bit like the curse of Hello magazine, about how many people who are interviewed in Hello magazine end up divorced. I can honestly not think of a dispute that I covered for Union World where the workers won. And I used to feel a bit bad if I turned up on their picket line to interview them about their dispute, because I think, “Well, you do now, because I’m here, because there is no dispute that I have covered where the unions have won.” Of course, that was because, when the NUM was smashed, you could just see on Union World all the waves moving out beyond that, which meant dispute after dispute in completely different areas were lost. Union World was not a good programme to watch, I think I have to be asked about that, and it was really boring. It was great fun to work on and it was really politically interesting, but Arthur Scargill was quoted as saying he would rather watch the test card. No programme like that would ever be allowed now, not just because it wasn’t duly impartial, but it was so boring and it had tiny viewing figures, but it was good practice. I think the lowest viewing figure that we ever had was when the presenter, Gus McDonald, said whatever was the opening headline and then said, “But first I have with me in the studio the industrial organiser of the Communist Party.” And you just think, “Woah! And that’s a lure?” I mean, how many people wanted to hear from the industrial organiser of the Communist Party? We interviewed an awful lot of right-wing Labour Scottish trade unionists, and indeed every now and then I would meet a right-wing Labour Scottish trade union official of some sort – with glasses, they nearly always had glasses on, they were all white, they were all men – and I would say, “Oh, my God! I can’t believe it – you are a white, right-wing Labour Scottish trade unionist with glasses, and you haven’t been on Union World! How did that happen?” We didn’t cover women’s issues nearly enough, and also we saw trade unionism far too much as a programme – I don’t mean I saw this, I mean this is how the programme saw it, I certainly didn’t see it in this way – but the programme saw trade unionism too much from the top downwards, and I think that was also the problem of trade unionism itself, that one of the reasons that unions lost so much power is that they weren’t sufficiently in touch with the every day interests and problems of their members in their lives, and particularly women, whose problems were so much to do with how they would look after their children, were they getting the same pay as men, you know, their basic conditions and health and safety at work. So I went on from…

Who else would have been working on Union World?

Well, Gus was the presenter…

Gus MacDonald?

And he was Scottish, David Kemp was the producer, and he was Scottish, I was Scottish, Dennis Mooney worked there as a researcher, he was Scottish, Charlie Rodger worked there as a researcher, he was Scottish… it was bizarre really.

Who was your reporter?

Ann Lester did some reporting, Julie Hall did some reporting, Mike Walsh  occasionally did reporting… those are the reporters I can remember. But English people were allowed to work on the programme so long as they passed the test demonstrating that they knew who old trade union leaders were. I don’t think one would say that that was a programme in touch with the spirit of the times, but as I say, it was fun to work on, and I think I learned a lot about going out and making, and setting up 20-minute films on my own, and I think… you know, it’s a programme of a bygone age. I tell people at Channel 4 now where I work now that there used to be a programme on Channel 4 that only interviewed trade unionists, they actually don’t believe me –they just go, “That can’t be right.”

How long were you on Union World?

I think a couple of years. And then I went to work on World in Action as a researcher, and that was fantastic. Although we were called researchers, anywhere else we would either have been called assistant producers or producers, so it was a bit of a misnomer. Because we were either given an idea or we came up with the idea ourselves, and then we would often go off on your own and try to stand up your story, get all the interviewees, work out the sequences that there might be etc., and then when you though the film was in a good state, quite often it was only then that the producer/director got involved. So obviously on a longer, more complicated thing, you might be with a producer, but you could work entirely on your own for 6-8 weeks maybe, and what was interesting about that was how much freedom you had, but obviously when the story went wrong or you couldn’t work it out, you were very much on your own, But if I think about that now I had extraordinary amounts of autonomy, and that was really exciting. And I can’t now remember how long I was a researcher, because I just loved it. I thought World in Action was the best current affairs programme, I had always wanted to me a current affairs journalist, and I got to do the stories that interested me, and I got to go off and do this fantastic well-funded journalism – I mean, it was a wonderful life. In some ways it wasn’t really World in Action, quite often it was more Accrington in Action. I spent a lot of time in a lot of grotty places, doing things… I loved the fact that some of the programmes were investigative, but some of the programmes were conceptual, and I thought that was, you know, it was just such an exciting programme, and so many ideas about other forms of television arose out of World in Action, I think. The drama documentary, obviously, started there, but features type programmes like can you live without your car, I worked on that… when I was at Channel 4 I made quite a long-running series called Can You Live Without, so… World in Action didn’t have a view as to what a current affairs programme was. Its form was absolutely open. Nowadays, a lot of those other sorts of ideas are now happening in other genres, and I think that current affairs television has been responsible for a lot of the dynamism in form of television generally, but after a bit, I thought… and of course one of the things was, when I got my job on World in Action, I was at that point the only woman on the programme. So it’s not that women hadn’t worked there before, they had, as it happened at that point I was the only woman. And I always remember the first big meeting I attended of the team. They didn’t have big meetings much, we didn’t have meetings in all the things you have in TV now, we didn’t really have that – it was more mavericks going off and doing their own thing, and maybe rightly or wrongly that lack of control wouldn’t be allowed now. But at the first meeting that I ever attended, I went into the room and sat down, and it felt really strange, and I couldn’t work out what it was that felt not right about it – and then I realised, this is how you feel as a woman on the very odd occasion when you actually wander into the gents toilet, where you just think, “Oh, I must be in the wrong place,” because I’m the only woman. And what difference does it make being a woman if they are nearly all men? You just feel less comfortable for a start.

How many women would there be on the wider team?

None! I was the only woman, I was the only woman working on World in Action.

On a team of how many?

Gosh, I don’t know how many there were. Between 20 and 30 I think. So the secretaries were women, but I was the only female producer or director, just at that moment when I started, and then after a bit I thought I… I had visions for my programmes, and then a director comes along and they do it in a different way, World in Action, producer/director as was named, though really, we the researchers were effectively the producers, and they would come along and change my vision for the programme. So I thought, “I think I need to become a producer/director,” but up to that point, only once in the history of World in Action had a woman who was a researcher on the programme been promoted to being a producer/director on the programme, and that woman was Sue Woodford, and people told me that that hadn’t… my likelihood as a woman of ever getting a job as a producer/director on the programme without leaving was very low. So I went off and got a job at the BBC as a producer, and told them I was leaving because I’d got a job as a producer/director at the BBC and they went, “Oh. Well, we actually need a new producer/director, and we’ll hold a board and you can apply for the job.” So there was a board, and I got the job, and I mean… I just couldn’t believe that I, Dorothy Byrne, was a producer/director on World in Action – I had the best job on the best programme in the whole world – it was absolutely marvellous. And I love the fact that one of the men on the programme said I’d only got the job because I was a woman! I thought, “Only got the job because I was a woman? You can really see that women get promoted around here just for being women, can’t you, because there are just so many of us?!” I think by that point there was another female producer/director who had come in from the BBC, Debbie Christie was working there then as a producer/director, and I think there might have been another one or two female researchers, I can’t remember. And the first programme that I produced was about rape in marriage, and I… one of the most senior men on the programme said that that wasn’t a story. I love that. I don’t know what the ‘story’ was if rape in marriage wasn’t a story, and one of the other senior men on the programme said that rape in marriage was a subject more suitable for morning television, which made me laugh. I said, “How could rape be a suitable subject for morning television?” And then I made a programme about children’s safety, so I made quite a number of programmes that some men on the programme weren’t ‘stories’ – but it really meant a lot to me that I was making programmes about the every day lives and concerns of women, and because… certainly when I joined television, the definition of what a story was, was very macho. So a perfect story would be a story for them, as they saw it, macho people, it would be a story about the nuclear industry or a story about the CIA. And they are important stories to do. To a certain extent, I used to think, when I watched programmes about the CIA being involved in a far-off land and making everything worse… well, I’m not really… I mean, tell me a story where the CIA went to a far-off land and made things better! I’m not saying those programmes shouldn’t have been made, they weren’t surprising and I think that programmes that told you stuff about the every day lives and concerns of women, actually that was surprising on TV – and again, you now see that everywhere. You now see that across current affairs and documentaries, the every day lives and concerns of people are seen as proper subject matters for current affairs. The way that we operated in terms of rights to reply and due impartiality was very different then. When I was a researcher I worked on a two-part World in Action special on Kurt Waldheim, who had been accused of war crimes. And after the first programme went out, the Austrian Embassy – he was the president of Austria at the time – rang up and said that they had heard that there had been a World in Action the night before about their president, saying that he was a war criminal, and they missed it – could we send them a VHS? And we said, “Well, if you missed it, your lookout,” and put the phone down. I mean, now, that could just never happen at all. Another time, Mary Whitehouse rang up to say how much she had liked one of my programmes, and I was so mortified… I can’t remember what the programme was now, one of my programmes about women or children, you know, and this woman said, “Oh, hello, it’s Mary Whitehouse, I’m ringing up to say how good I thought that programme was last night,” and I couldn’t actually bear to say to her, “I made it.” So I said, “Thank you very much, madam – I’ll pass on your comment to the producer.” I mean, the idea that I would go out and say to all the macho men, “That Mary Whitehouse just rang up, and she really liked my programme last night!” That wouldn’t have gone down very well.

Did women face difficulties working at Granada?

On the face of it, Granada was a very open place. I mentioned to you that, when I messed up my second interview, they gave me a third interview, and gave me the job – and I’m a woman. So in one way, I would have to say that they seemed to be open, there were women who had good jobs there, but women did suffer sexism and sexual harassment; women were, from time to time, sexually assaulted. Everybody knew who the men were who sexually assaulted women, and you didn’t feel that you could make a complaint about it. I mean, look at what happened to me – in my first week I was actually told, “You will go out with a director and he will sexually assault you, but don’t take it personally, he sexually assaults everybody.” And indeed he did sexually assault me. So I couldn’t then feel that I could go and make a complaint about the sexual assault, because I had been told by somebody more senior than me that I would be sexually assaulted, and that I just had to accept it. And sometimes men would laugh about other men who they knew were terrible. One evening, and only about 6.30pm, a man with a terrible reputation for sexually assaulting women, who was drunk, grabbed by breast, and he did that in front of another man – I mean, it was just a disgusting, hideous instant, and the next day at work, I said to the man who had witnessed this, “That was absolutely appalling,” and the man said, “Oh, no – but he feels really bad about it Dorothy – he said sorry to me.” I had to go, “Hang on, he said sorry to YOU? You, the witness? I, the victim of the sexual assault, he didn’t say sorry to me – and you seem to think that it’s okay, that it somehow condones his action, that a) he was drunk – which is no excuse at all – and b) he apologised to you, another man?” So I think there was that awareness among women that the sexual assaults went on, and people knew about it, and if people above you know about it and nothing is done about it, then that isn’t good. From the fact that, at the time that I went to work in World in Action, I was the only woman, well, you asked me what was it like being a woman. It can’t be right that in the whole of Britain I was the only woman suitable to work on World in Action? How did that… I mean, it’s just wrong to have so few women, and I think you would get more women in certain sorts of programmes, more women in regional programmes, but at the harder edge, that was more male.

Did women tend to be single?

Well… yes, I mean I think that what did happen was that because there was no nursery, there were a couple of campaigns to get a nursery, I led one campaign to get a nursery… I mean, we never got a nursery, so… and women tended, if they had children, to just stay at a certain level, you know, working on local programmes also where they didn’t have to travel, and programmes where they are working… you know, they could go home in the evening, and that was just accepted that… and for me, I thought I would like to have a child, and so I left Granada – that’s the key reason I left. I thought, “I can’t keep travelling as a producer/director and have a child,” so I went to another company where I became deputy editor, and then editor of another programme for ITV.

Is this Channel 4?

No, this was… I made it for Carlton, it was called The Big Story, and a key reason I did that was so that I could have a child. And I think you always felt that everything about your life and career was for you… Brian Park told me on that first day, “In TV you’re on your own,” and really I think it was like that. There was no notion of your boss calling you in saying, “So, how are things going, and how can we help and assist you in your work like balance?” or anything like that, I mean, nothing like that ever happened, and I think that there were odd people every now and then who would break down for whatever reason and disappear for a bit.

A lot of them talked about Granada being a very benevolent company, very paternalistic, described as a family. Would you disagree with that?

It wasn’t a family for me. I think it was a family… I wouldn’t call it a family. I would say it was a really brilliant and vibrant place to work, full of really exciting, interesting people. It felt… we believed in ourselves as a company, we believed we were the best company, and we were the best company – we made the best in everything. Jewel in the Crown was the best, World in Action was the best, Coronation Street was the best – I don’t feel any doubt about that, that in that era, before I worked there and while I was working there, that Granada television made the best programmes in Britain – and we knew that, and we felt incredibly lucky to work there. You were always meeting interesting and exciting people, and you felt you could say and do what you wanted. You could just… you weren’t held back – there weren’t apparatchiks and bureaucrats and politically correct people – but I couldn’t describe it as a family. Because a family wouldn’t have allowed women to be sexually assaulted, and would have cared about how people were going to have children and looked after them. So I wouldn’t agree with that, but it was a fantastic place to work. And actually, that all went and Granada became part of ITV, and that’s the way of the world. There’s no point in crying about it, it had to become more and more commercial. I would say that now, Channel 4 was like Granada used to be, and many of the best things about Dispatches, I took from World in Action. In fact, I even took some of the good ideas and recycled them and did them again, you know, that feeling that you can say anything that you want to say, you can do anything you want, and your boss isn’t controlling your every move. That issue of your boss isn’t controlling your every move… I see nowadays that just is not a possibility in the way it was then – you have to have more control now. I mean, now, in TV, programmes have set budgets. I didn’t know what the budget was for my programme. There was even a discussion, when I worked on World in Action, that producer/directors shouldn’t be told how their programmes rated, because if they knew how their programmes rated – I must say I think this was stupid, as an attitude – then they would just make programmes for ratings. I mean, now, everybody has to care about how programmes rate, and if programmes don’t rate at all, then nobody is watching them, and therefore they probably shouldn’t be made. And also now, companies and organisations are, the minute they even get wind that you’re making a programme about them, they are on you like a ton of bricks, and if you get anything wrong they will complain to Ofcom, they will get all their lawyers… the freedom that journalists had then to go out and make programmes about people and not even seek rights to reply often, that would never happen now – and I must say, I think it is right to get rights of reply, and I think some of the stronger implementation of due impartiality and fairness in television now is good, but those days of freedom were exciting.

But the programmes that didn’t get ratings might still have been very important programmes.

Yes, but that would still be true now of a Dispatches or a Panorama, that if they were a very important programme, they weren’t worried about the rating. It was just the notion that some people had that the producer/director shouldn’t be told the ratings at all and also that we didn’t understand how much our programmes cost – that would never happen now. And when I left World in Action and went to The Big Story as deputy editor, I mean, I knew everything about what programmes cost, and every producer/director would have a good understanding of the budgets of programmes. But I think Granada just had so much money that we weren’t tied down by budgets.

Did you ever work in the Liverpool office?

Just occasional days.

Golden Square?

Oh, I worked in Golden Square – for a long time I was the mother of the chapel in Golden Square. I mean, there’s an interesting thing that people used to say, that men watched pornography in the Liverpool office, and that was just sort of accepted – not all men, just one or two – which was extraordinary! I mean, if I found out now where I work that a man was watching pornography, I would immediately report that. I mean, that’s a very, very serious offence, completely undermining to women to think that men are allowed to watch pornography at work, but yes, I worked in Golden Square, and that was… I mean, that was a great place to work, really exciting things going on. I mean, there was a World in Action office there, and then just along the corridor were Brian Lapping and Norma Percy working on their deep, lengthy programmes about huge matters in the world, surrounded by documents and books… and of course, so much about investigation is so much easier now with the internet. I can remember doing an investigation about asbestos in Australia, and having to get the customs officials in Australia to somehow find the right documents for me about where the asbestos from Australia had gone to in England, and so I couldn’t look at those documents online, I had to sort of describe where and what they were, and they had to try and find them, and then they had to fax them to me one by one – now, all their files would be up online and I would be able to access them, and I would probably just order them directly. But yes.

Was networking important? In the bar, in the canteen?

Yes, I think. And probably I wasn’t that good at networking. Yes, people did network, and you could say networking has its good side because people are exchanging… people from different genres and backgrounds are exchanging ideas, but there was also the bad side of networking, which was people smarming up to people to get on – but that probably happens in every industry and every television company. But it was a very friendly place to work, and I thought the bar was fantastic! I couldn’t believe when I first went there that standing outside the toilet were all these women who worked in the factory in Coronation Street – and they would all stand there with their arms folded, talking just the way they did on Coronation Street, going, “Oh, he said to me, and I said to him, and I told him: ‘You can’t talk to me like that!’” and I thought, “My God, they’re just employed to be themselves!” They were fantastic. And then the man who played Mike Baldwin, he would smile in an alluring way, I don’t know what word to use, at women… I’m not saying he was necessarily trying to get off with them, I don’t mean that, I just mean the whole way that he was on the programme and his demeanour is what he was like in real life. I think the one who surprised me was XXXX, who talked to me in the bar, and I think either I asked her for a light, or she asked me for a light, and I thought, “Gosh, this isn’t quite what I thought XXXX would be like.” I was quite surprised.   And that was great fun, meeting all the different actors and seeing Hugh Laurie rush past and all that, it was really exciting. And another thing that was fantastic was the wonderful art on the walls. I just couldn’t believe it when I went in and I went, “Oh, isn’t that Francis Bacon there?” Even down in the corridors in the basement there were fantastic pictures, and there was something wonderful about having fantastic contemporary and modern art all around you that did make you feel… you know, I am in a real creative hub here.

A lot of people talk about the canteen.

Yes! Well, you were always seeing the most fantastic people in the canteen, and you would find yourself sitting next to some famous actor munching his grub. What was nice about Granada was… it wasn’t like a family but it was lacking an ‘us and them’ mentality, and I think that was partly because it was based in Manchester. I mean, I don’t feel any doubt that the programmes were better because they came out of a different place, and you felt that people perceived themselves to be equal to each other much more than in a very hierarchical organisation. Like I would get in the lift, and Steve Morrison, the boss of Granada, would say, “Tell me about what programme you’re doing now, that sounds just so exciting.” And there was no idea that he was too high up to speak to me. And again, you didn’t feel because you work in drama, I can’t know you – and I think some of the best ideas came because people in different genres were really relating to each other. And people say it’s wrong for a company to have a bar, and in some ways it is wrong, because you could argue it’s encouraging people to drink alcohol, and why should a company do that. But in another way, having a place where everybody socialises with everybody else was a very important part of the creative spirit of the programmes.

Much drunkenness?

Well, some. Not terrible… no, I mean, you didn’t see people rolling around, no. I mean, I’m sure people did sometimes drink too much, but no – I never saw a fight or anybody get really, really appalling.

You talked about Union World, but how did you find Granada’s own industrial relations?

I went in as an NUJ member, and then I became… I moved over onto an ACTT membership – I was amazed at some of the rules. So when I arrived, I was told that under union rules, the crew had to be guaranteed a choice of two or three starters for their lunch and that my job was to ensure that on the story we went out to do that day, I find a place they could have lunch with a choice of starters. Well, I came from a newspaper! I couldn’t believe this, and I found it utterly demeaning as well. So when I was setting up the story for the day, the key thing that I had to work out for the story of the day was, could I find a pub, restaurant or café where there was a choice of two starters? I mean, some of that was ridiculous. I can remember also going to interview for World in Action an elderly woman who had been mugged, and we went in, and there was a producer, a researcher, a PA, two sound men, two cameramen… I mean, I felt, “This is ridiculous.” I felt like we were mugging this old lady all over again because… you know. Were those people needed? Let’s be frank – of course they weren’t needed. Oh, and an electrician of course, and we were always told that the electrician was absolutely essential for safety. I mean, really? So it was inevitable that those things would go – they were unsustainable, and you couldn’t really argue for crews of that size being needed on a normal story. I became the ACTT equality officer for Granada and I remember the national office asking us to do a survey of the number of people – they didn’t say ethnic minorities in those days, they said ‘black people’ – and I thought I couldn’t do that without doing the survey, because I counted the number of black people in Granada and as far as I could make out there were five. So at our Granada ACTT committee, I said, “We have been asked to do this survey, but it’s really quite easy for me to do it because I have counted them in the canteen and there are five.” At which, a man down the table, a member of the union, said, “And that’s five too many – they should go back home.” And the man next to him said, “Hear, hear!” And I said, “What do you mean, they should go back home? They come from here! What on earth are you talking about? So that was absolutely appalling –and one of the things that surprised me at Granada was that even the cleaners were white. It was so white. So here’s this company that thinks it’s all radical and fantastic and everything but actually in the north west at that time there were hundreds of thousands of people that weren’t white, and it shows how we’ve moved with the times that now in TV we would regard that as absolutely unacceptable. And you know, did the union take up the fact that women felt that men sexually harassed them? Well, no. I mean… and then, near the end of my time at Granada was when there were these waves of redundancies. I mean, that isn’t why I left, but… and then that changed the whole spirit of Granada because it just seemed to be redundancies after redundancies, and the whole issue of budgets and all that came much more to the fore, and then people began to look at why is a programme like World in Action still there? And the idea of what advertisers like is to know how many viewing figures there are going to be for a programme week in, week out, and the trouble with current affairs from an advertiser’s point of view, is you don’t necessarily know that. So it was only a few years after I left that World in Action went the way of all flesh. Although I understand the name still exists, so they could always bring it back.

What year did you leave?

That’s a very interesting question… 1994, I think, maybe 1995, something like that.

You talked about some of the World in Action programmes that you worked on. Are there any that you are particularly proud of or had disasters with?

Of course I never had any disasters with programmes! Because when you realise that the story isn’t turning out you turn it around another way. No… I mean, I worked on a huge range of programmes from a programme about women being scared to go out at night – and that was actually Stuart Prebbles’ idea, that programme, I was researcher on it – it was called Nine out of 10 Women, and it was just about women being scared to go out at night – and I always remember it was the front page of the Daily Express, and I didn’t know if that was good or bad. I mean, was it good that the Daily Express’s male journalists were so shocked that nine out of 10 women were scared to go out at night, so they put it on the front page, or was it bad, because they should have known that anyway. But I thought that was a great programme to work on, because some of the best journalism isn’t some revelation about the CIA and El Salvador, it’s about revealing the truth about every day life that people are suffering. But then there were other fantastic things, I went to South Africa and did a programme about the role of the third force and interviewed Nelson Mandela, and that’s a completely different sort of programme, which was fantastic. I think what I loved about it was you could do anything – you never knew what you might do. And there was no limit to what you could regard as being a programme idea.

Was there anything else you wanted to say that we’ve not covered?

It was great fun. It was really great fun. And lots of those people that I met then are my friends now. And a lot of people are sad that those days are gone, but I think that you have to see it in a different way, and you have to go, “Well, it was great while it lasted,” but lots of the things that grew up there are out there now, on TV, you know… and as I say, lots of the great principles that governed Dispatches, I learned on World in Action.

Jules Burns

Interviewed by Geoff Moore, 6 December 2018.

Before Granada, just tell us a bit about your background. What was your education, and where did you live?

I was born here, emigrated to Canada, my family emigrated to Canada. I came back when I was five. Went to prep school and then to Haberdashers’ school and did very badly. Left at first year of sixth form. I got a place at Brighton art college that I didn’t go to and went to work in a garage. And then four years later I started a rock band which I was in for four and a half years touring minor venues in the UK and in Europe.

That was Guggenheim?

No, that was Witches Brew. Guggenheim was before all of that.

Witches Brew were quite well known, weren’t they?

Yes, on the sort of club circuit they were known. They weren’t a known band as bands are known now. And I first met Chris Pye when we did the Guggenheim album in the Granada studios in 1970.

In the Granada studios?

Yes. On a Sunday in the sound studio. I don’t know if anybody knew we were there.

Was Chris already working?

Yes, he was already there. It must have been about ‘71.

And a man called Dave Kent-Watson was one of the sound engineers there who then started up a studio round the corner called Indigo studios, do you remember that?

Yes, I do.

Which is where we’d recorded a second album in ‘76. Which was never finished.

What were you working as over the 70s, the mid 70s?

I was working in a garage and then I left the garage to form the rock band after we’d recorded the Guggenheim album.

And as I said, four years in the rock band. And then when that came to an end, Chris Pye invited me up for the weekend to his house in Saddleworth to try and work out what I should do next, and he said, “There is actually a job going at Granada, would you like to stay on until Monday and come in and meet some people?” So I went in, I met Andrew Quinn. Was offered a job and we moved up four weeks later.

Good heavens, what was the job?

It was organiser of local programmes, working for Harry Urquhart.

The wonderful Harry Urquhart who was my mentor.

What year was this? What year did you…?

1976. And on my first day I remember the first person I met when I walked in was Steve Leahy who looked after me wonderfully.

You were given a job as organiser of local programmes. What did that entail? Was there an interview process or were you just offered the job?

Well the interview was the meeting with Andrew Quinn who was then general manager. Interestingly, I didn’t meet Harry Urquhart. So I was imposed on Harry Urquhart.

I see. I remember seeing you on the first floor with Harry.

When did you join?

Oh, ‘69.

Oh, right, you were there a long time.

But I left one year later to become a rock star, like you, and came back to World in Action in ‘74.


So there you were with Harry Urquhart. Larger than life Harry.

Harry Urquhart. Chris Pye was the… was he actually a producer of local programmes then?

Something like that.

And Jeremy Fox was the producer of Granada Reports.

And they had offices next to each other and they had a sliding window, once side of which, Jeremy Fox’s side, had a picture of Chris on it and Chris’s side had a picture of Jeremy on it.

And I remember Kay McPherson was the deputy news editor.

And I can’t remember the name of the news editor.

Yes, I did Granada Reports ‘78 so later than that.

Yes. Well I was there ‘76 to the end of ‘78.

So organising local programmes… because your background had not been in anything that would lead you to…

I knew nothing about television. I hardly watched it. No, I mean I had management background because in the garage when I worked I started as a petrol pump attendant but I was manager of the garage after a couple of years.

I sort of found I could do it quite naturally.

So what was your experience in discovery of local programmes and people?

Well I was shocked by television. I thought these incredibly bright, haphazard people who were living a very high life on expenses. And indeed I was very grateful for Chris Pye’s expense account for the first year when we moved up. I was given a salary… I remember, and enormous salary of £4,500 a year. Which is took me 12 months to discover wasn’t enough to live on. Because we had our first child nine months after we moved up. So I was grateful for the expense accounts.

Yes. Because local programmes was a bustling little enterprise at the time.

Oh it was fascinating. And you had Tony Wilson… I was after Mike Parkinson but Brian Truman, there were some wonderfully big people there. It was really exciting. I didn’t quite know where it was going to lead me, this is the first formal job I’d had apart from working in a garage. And I remember Bill Lloyd telling me that he really didn’t think I had a future in television and I should think about moving on. And then I was… Joyce Wooller asked me if I’d like to come and work upstairs on the sixth floor and help her to run programme services. So I think I started as head of researchers.

And gradually got involved in negotiating contracts so I think the job evolved into signing directors and researchers and negotiating writers contracts and directors contracts.

So by the end of the 70s you were upstairs?

Yes, ‘79 I went upstairs.

Working for Joyce and then increasingly with Mike Scott and David Plowright and that sort of secretariat area.

Yes, it was a… Mike Scott was one of my favourites and…

Oh he’s a lovely man.

He was. I mean he helped me become a producer because of the time on World in Action we did together. And then there’s that lovely picture that you sent me.

Yes. I thought they were all wonderful people. I thought television was incredibly privileged both financially and in what they were paid to do. I thought it was a… I never really felt part of it but I thought it was a fascinating process. An industry stacked full of interesting people. So it was good.

Granada had a real strong reputation at that time in the network. Producing a range of quality output.

Yes. Not always wanted. I mean neither London Weekend or Thames were particularly interested in the Granada output, apart from Coronation Street, which was the one thing that delivered them very significant… or it rather delivered Thames very significant ratings because at that time there was no weekend episode of Coronation Street. And so London Weekend were quite bitter about that.

Were you privy to all these battles between the companies at network level. I remember I talked to Joe Rigby about this quite a bit.

Yes, I mean I wasn’t in the middle of it until later. But at that time I was very much aware of it. Certainly Mike Scott’s weekly visit to the programme controllers group and the preparation for that I was quite heavily involved in.

Yes, I remember him telling me about that. How fraught it became.

Yes, there was a lot of tension within the companies and a lot of jealousy because Granada seemed to get a great deal of… a great many accolades for what it produced, but I think many of the companies felt that it wasn’t really of much use to them. It was good for Granada’s reputation but not good for ratings.

Are you thinking of drama or documentaries?

I’m not thinking of anything in particular but I suppose you could say, you know, both Brideshead and Jewel in the Crown were not massive ratings but fantastically high profile and reputational programming.

And, you know, I think other companies were jealous of that. Because then, of course, the system was that your franchise was really renewed based on the quality of your programming. It was not really a financial consideration at all at that stage.

And of course, you know, David Plowright was quite a strong man banging around the network.

Yes, he did. Did you get on with Plowright?

Yes. I didn’t have a great deal to do with Plowright. I respected him, I thought he was a very impressive man who I think sadly, over time, rather lost interest in television and became more interested in Granada tours and things like that which was perhaps his undoing.

And of course you met Steve Morrison in that period.

I met him in… yes, well he was in World in Action when I arrived in Granada and then he came out of World in Action to run features.

And then I worked quiet closely with him when he was running features.

So as the 80s emerged… so you started the 80s in programme services?


And how long did that job run?

Well it went… Joyce left in, I don’t know precisely, but the late 80s I think. And I became head of programme services. And that really continued until Charles Allen took over and we went on the acquisition trail. And then Steve was moved down to London to run London Weekend and I was made managing director with Andrea Wonfor of Granada.

Yes. This was when? ‘89? ‘90?

Early ‘90s, ‘94 we were joint managing directors.

Right. Just going back to the programme services job, did that involve a range of specialties and personnel management as well as legal affairs?

It was responsible for all the contracting. It had HR as it’s now known reporting to it. It had all of the creative functions, so everything from PAs through production managers into producers, directors, researchers, reporting in and scheduled by programme services. The technical ones were dealt with separately, so Bill Lloyd ran film and Tony Brill ran studios. So programme services, that was probably three quarters of what programme and services did and the other quarter was really supporting Mike Scott, David Plowright and Denis Forman.

Yes, yes. I’ve been reading Fitzwalter’s book, you’ve obviously read it. And, well, everyone who knew Ray wouldn’t be surprised by his version of events. I remember David Liddiment writing a piece for the Guardian about it. But there was a culture of which I am certain, a programme making culture in the ‘60s and 70s which kind of was anti-business. Granada wasn’t a conventional business company like others out there. Because there was a load of journalists in it I suppose. So the 80s saw a challenge to this culture in that it’s just another business. Perhaps that was Charles Allen, Joe Robinson’s point of view. But I’m being vague about it… just give us your view of that, what happened in the late 80s because there was Thatcher’s act. There were the bids. Were you involved in the bids?


What was it like?

Well, actually I’d go back one before that because when I first arrived on the sixth floor as part of programme services, or when I was first settled in there, I was surprised that entertainment was regarded as really a bit below the pale. Drama and current affairs, they were the things that Granada did. I remember Paul David as the head of entertainment, taking up from Johnnie Hamp, found it really hard to get attention in the system. So, that was a bit like it’s Granada’s attitude to business as well. Business was something that somebody else did. Our purpose was to make good drama and current affairs. It did change. It changed quite dramatically when Charles Allen arrived, of course. Because, we were in competition. There was a flexy pool to go for. That was a portion of the network budget.

Do you remember? That’s what fundamentally changed our business. Where we lost our right to, I can’t remember what it was. 11% or 12% of the network output, a whole slice was taken off and created as a flexible pool that people had to bid for. It was at that time that really that Steve Morrison was coming through. He was Mike Scott’s successor, as the programme controller. I can’t remember the sequence of events, but Andrew (Quinn? 16:25) was the managing director then. Steve was the programme controller. Steve, being as competitive as he is fought like hell in the flexy pool, which is what eventually got us to be a huge over supplier of programming to the network by comparison to other companies. We were, by far, and we were the largest single producer on the network, and that was simply by competing on price and, and content. So, I think it’s because of Steve Morrison that we turned into a business, not Charles Allen. Charles Allen arrived, and Charles did something different. Which was, Charles in a very brutal and efficient way, slimmed the company right down. Cut out a lot of the noise and the complexity of the running of the company and the politics of the company. It was brutal but it was quick. Fascinating exercise to watch, and also for you and I, fascinating exercise to be survivors of, rather than victims. Because, a lot of people went. I think, 25% of the workforce and a third of the management were made redundant within four months of his arrival.

I know you’ve described it as being brutal or culling.

It was brutal. Yes, it was a cull. So, combination of that. And Steve’s commercial competitiveness really transformed Granada. There was a new management team on top and it was now competing against other companies who’ve gone to get commissions.

Can you explain to me how Allen and Robinson came to be in Granada? What was the sequence of events?

I wish I could remember.

Was it one single incident?

Well, Robinson was appointed first. I think Alex Bernstein. I think he was the Chief executive of Granada Group at one stage, and then moved to be the chairman, and I think Robinson was brought in.

It was a group. Wasn’t it?

Yes. Robinson came into group, and Robinson brought in Charles into group, and then moved him into Granada when fell out with Plowright.

Because, Plowright, I think, as I understand it. I wasn’t in the room. Unlike Ray who claims he was in every room on every decision. I wasn’t in every room.

I’ve been reading this model about Plowright’s dismissal and according to the book, they just did not get on, these two. Robinson and Plowright.

I think it was simpler than that. They certainly didn’t get on. I think Robinson said, “I want more profit.” And Plowright said, “No.” Believing that he was invulnerable. And, Robinson just chopped his head off.

Was there a revolt about Plowright.

There was a lot of noise, but there was never a revolt.

What about the letter?

The John Cleese letter?

No. Not the John Cleese letter. But signed by various executives of Granada, and you were part of that?


Did you withdraw your name from that letter?

I don’t think so.

As alleged in the book?

I can’t remember. I don’t think so.

Because, the book says you took your name out from the letter.

I don’t think that’s true, but I don’t know.

Anyway, the revolt wasn’t successful.

It wasn’t really a revolt. It was a cry of anguish. It wasn’t as if people were going to down tools and refuse to work. Jerry just put Charles Allen into the company.

Their backgrounds were not TV or broadcasting or anything like that, making programmes. Pure business. Occasion companies…


What did you make of these two and how they run things?

I didn’t really see much of Jerry. I think that he was very much group rather than television. Charles Allen, it’s hard to… He was a complete alien when he arrived, and he worked very hard, I think with a lot of help from Steve, to quickly understand television and to create relationships with the rest of the network. I’m sure they found him rather strange as well. Because, everybody else sitting around the network table, the chairman’s table, had a television background and he didn’t. But Charles is a very hard worker and works hard to work with people. Both he and Jerry were, I think, quite brutal in a lot of the things that they did, and certainly Charles Allen’s first go at Granada was very brutal. They were business men. Not the sort of people we were used to.

But you survived.

Yes. I mean, I owe Charles Allen a lot, personally. He was the one who persuaded me to be the joint managing director of Granada and go on… He saw me through my career at Granada. I’m not sure he was good for everybody, but he was good for me.

When did you leave Granada? What year?


During the 90s you were joint managing director?

Well, I was joint managing director of Granada, and then I was joint managing director with Andrea of Granada Group Production. Who was by then we bought London Weekend, we bought Yorkshire Time Tees, and the Southern Franchise and were integrating. If you’ll remember, what we did was we created a production business and broadcasting business, and Steve, essentially, run the production business, and I run the production business with Andrew (Barnfold? 23:22), so that was through the 90s. Then Steve became the Chief Executive of Granada when they separated it from hotels, and all the other bits and pieces and separated it as its own PLC. Steve became the chief executive and I became the managing director of operations of the Group.

A demanding job with lots of aspects to it, around the country.

Yes. Lots of sights. Lots of different political environments.

Did you enjoy it?

No. I enjoyed running production. I didn’t enjoy running operations across the group.

What did that involve, running production? Were you making sure that the…

Essentially Andrea was the creative side of it, of course. She was driving it, and my role was to run the business and the management side of it. So, it was distribution, production, and the studio business.

Your career seems to have evolved from… you came from Rock and Roll and (garage? 24:38) services, and you took one step at a time, didn’t you?


Took it to different places.

I as lucky because I never actually sort any of the jobs. I was always offered the next one. But only because I was pretty good at managing people.

Absolutely. Granada had some good managers at that time.

Yes, very good managers.

You were around when the Broadcasting Act of 1990 came in. It’s had many critics. What did you make of the process?

I wasn’t really that close to it. I was clearly aware of it, because David Plowright and Joyce and Denis in a distance, because he was then in group and Mike Scott were very much involved in it. It was a tensed time with our friend in Liverpool.

Mr. Redmond.

Mr. Redmond. It was a tensed time. But, I wasn’t actually involved in the process. That was dealt with, very directly, by Mike Scott and David Plowright.

You were in Granada for 25 years or something.

27 or 28 years. Yes.

In a period which saw Granada and the broadcasting landscape change beyond recognition.

I think I’d saw two… it seems to me that there were three generations of Granada. There was the ‘56 to probably the mid 70s, which was probably the most exciting time. Then the mid 70s through to the 90s was probably the fattest time, when you know, everybody got a bit lazy and it was all a bit easy and a bit self-indulgent. Then from the 90s, late 80s through to early 2000 when I left, was the tough competitor time, when it turned itself into a business. I think the first period, it clearly was a business, because it almost went bust. And, I think it was very difficult. The middle was the bit that everybody seems to remember with affection, but I think it was probably the least interesting. Except one or two good programmes were made, but there was also quite a lot of not very good programmes made.

That period was a lot of fun, I can tell.

Yes, it was a lot of fun. Everybody had a lot of fun, without much care. I mean, the only thing that ruin one’s day was the relationship with the unions, which was completely terrible in that period.

The late 70s?

Yes, 70s.

Did you have responsibility for…

Certainly, as far as directors, producers and researchers, the ACTT, one of the people I had relationship with. Malcolm Foster and then Jim, (??27:58).

Oh yes. What was he doing?

He was a transmission controller.

How did you deal with the unions? I remember Mike Scott telling me that it was totally mad having to deal with the ETU, and others.

Well, some of them used to hijack us every Friday, around about 3:00. I wasn’t really involved in that. It was people like Tony (Brill? 28:30) and Andrew Quinn who really dealt with the tougher issues. I was only dealing with the ACTT, which covered producers, directors, researchers and PAs. We just talked a lot. It was sort of a ride. There was a degree of realism in the ACTT as things started to change and stature rights transformed television. But it’s interesting, that era was really… management’s time was really, largely dominated by its relationship with the union. Then, in the third era, it was dominated by commercial activity, competing with the outside bodies and trying to raise money and get commissions. It was a very different era for management.

Looking back on your time in Granada, what are you most proud of?

I think the thing that I’m most proud of is that I believe that I helped, in different ways, a number of people to do what they wanted to do. So, I worked with Steve Morrison for 27 years, and as his right hand person for most of that time. I worked with David Letterman for, almost, the same period, apart from when he went to the BBC. There were individuals like Tim Sullivan. I’m proud of a number of the people that I’ve worked with. I think that’s what I look back on.

So you left in 2002?


I wanted to just ask you, another aspect of the story is the power shifting to London because in the early days, ‘60s and 70s, it was a different climate as the Granada group got more important in the whole picture. Steve Morrison moved to London and so on. Plowright’s obsession was the north, and we speak from the north, programmes were end credited from the North and so on. But London became more and more important. Today you’d hardly notice that it was (??30:50) in a way as a company except the Granada Reports. What’s your view on the shift of power from north to south? Was it a regrettable thing or inevitable?

Well I think it’s regrettable in that it gradually has dismantled the production capability in the north. Is an inevitable consequence of it. When I first arrived, Manchester was completely buzzing. Probably 80, 90% of its production staff, its creative staff were actually based in Manchester. There were some in Upper Jane Street, but that was half the world in action and a few features people. By the time I left, it was a very almost the reverse, I think. Maybe not 90% in London. But I think it’s an inevitable consequence of moving into a competitive environment. You could sit in Manchester and base everything in Manchester for as long as you had an absolute right to make programmes. The minute you lost that right and you had to go and compete, you’ve got to go down to where the decisions are made. You’ve got to be in the building that the people who make the decisions in order to win the commissions. So I think the creation of flexi-pool was one big factor in it. The acquisition of London Weekend was another very big factor. We were always clear that we had to have a seat in London in order to keep our place in the network. So if Carlton had managed to buy London Weekend, which I think probably wouldn’t have been allowed, but if one of the sudden companies had bought London Weekend you would have had a very strong north/south split. The north would have shrunk very badly. So we knew we had to have a place in London, and the only one available was London Weekend. Then use that as our lever to… towards the end we were providing, if you say the network was broadly split between Carlton and Granada, I know there was still Scottish and Northern Ireland and all of that not quite sorted. But we were providing close on 75% of the ITV network from our companies, compared to Carlton’s around about 25%. We were by far and away the biggest producer.

Yes, the London Weekend takeover was a key moment, wasn’t it?

Absolutely fundamental, yes.

Flexi-pool, London Weekend.

Yes. Then becoming such a dominant producer.

Yes. So you wouldn’t go along with Fitzwalter’s sentiment that it’s a kind of sad story, and there was a dream but it died, was allowed to die?

It was the third era. For me it was the third era. Fitzwalter I think, from reading his book, was completely stuck in the second era. He had a great time. It was where all his best moments were.

Was that when the satellite broadcasting came in, and the market simply changed?

Well, we had the joint venture with Sky, which was eventually thrown out by Ofcom which resulted in BSkyB.

Were you involved with that?

Oh yes.

At Granada?

Yes. Absolutely. We set up all kinds of other businesses. We took stakes in football clubs.

Yes, you did.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal. We started a shopping channel with Littlewoods. We were doing all kinds of diversification, trying to get our production into new areas. The joint venture channels with Sky, the five channels that we created.

Yes, I remember Men & Motors.


All that stuff.

Then we were setting up the international businesses, setting up the LA production hub.

You should write a book. You’ve seen so many aspects of the business.

Yes, there are plenty of other people who can write better books than me.

So you moved from Granada to, did you go straight into All3Media? When did that happen?

Coincidentally Steve, David and I all left Granada in 2002. At slightly different times, but by the end of 2002 we’d all left. David went to work three days a week at the Old Vic, as the producer with our now famous actor, his name has just escaped me.

Yes, I’ve forgotten, yes.

You know who I mean, the disgraced man.

I think, I’m not sure really.

Steve was insistent that we should start an independent production company, which neither David nor I thought was a particularly good idea. We were in our mid-50s and we thought now is not the time to start a new business. But in 2002 if you remember, the broadcasting act brought about the change in the ownership of copyright. Steve recognised that this was a real opportunity, because if the independent producer could at last keep the copyright to the programme, they had something that could be backed. They had an asset, basically. Recognising that we were too old to actually really do a start-up, we went off in search of some production company. We wanted to try and buy a bunch of production companies to be our starting point. We did a deal with Chrysalis to buy their seven production companies from them. We got a private equity backing from a company called Bridgepoint, who are fantastic. That’s how we started All3Media. So we finally left Granada at the end of 2002, and we started All3Media in September 2003.

So you’re still in television, a television business?

Yes. We started with seven production companies, and then the private equity people taught us how to buy and sell companies. Because of course that’s what they do all the time. We grew All3Media by buying up production companies.

So the landscape in which All3Media worked and works is obviously totally different from then. How would you describe that change? It’s obviously much more competitive now than in Granada’s heyday. Much more commercial, and it’s more international.

Yes, much more. Do you mean the difference between the beginning of All3Media, because over the period of All3Media the market change has changed dramatically anyway.

Yes. In what way?

Well, over the period?

All3Media’s time.

Well, when All3Media started, the independent was a protected species. The broadcasting act had just disallowed the broadcasters from keeping the copyright. They could only take a licence in the programming. All3Media was the first independent group to start rolling up companies. We were about nine months ahead of everybody else. We managed to get out of our starting list of six, we managed to buy four of our targets. Many of whom David had known as the head of entertainment to the BBC. But we were a protected species, so the broadcasters were behaving by and large. What then happened was the broadcasters started to reduce their prices, saying if we don’t own the copyright we’re not going to pay the full cost of the programme. Which forced the independent sector to become more international. Which is fine. It was difficult, but it was fine. Gradually over my time in All3Media, and I left in 2014 so I can’t tell you about the last three, four years, but over my time the respect for the terms of trade began to wane. Broadcasters were able to start taking shares of profit streams and things like that. So business became less profitable. Then I suppose the biggest change, which we’re in the middle on now, is that most of the big commissions are now made by people who will not let you keep any rights at all. They’re not subject to terms of trade. Netflix, Amazon, those people. Sky in themselves, they’re not subject to terms of trade. So the independent sector is now struggling to retain rights again. So again we were lucky, we were in the heyday of the independent sector.

Indeed. Times have changed. Do you think the law will be crossed by the Americans?

No, I don’t think so. I think what’s interesting, if you look at the commissions that are reviewed in the Sunday papers by the online commissioners, who are spending billions every year, not like ITV’s spending 800 million, they’re spending billions, the amount of English or English related production that is in there is very high. If you turn on Netflix, apart from the feature films, if you look at the television there’s a lot of English production, English actors, English writers.

They need their business to be international, and gradually they’ll want to make their business more and more local. That will just naturally happen. So I don’t think we’re being crushed. I have to say the quality of the fiction as a viewer that comes out of these commissions is extraordinarily high again. There was a period in the eighties, late eighties, early nineties when I think British fiction was supreme. It was fantastic. If you think of Prime Suspect and Cracker and those sort of things that we produced, it was extraordinary. The Americans were nowhere near it. I think it’s now the reverse, personally. I think the smartest stuff is coming out of American writers than British writers on the whole.

Vanessa Kirkpatrick


I was a Politics graduate Leeds University. 1978. Professor Ralph Miliband was my tutor and also Head of Department. David and Ed came in a couple of times.

To fund my MSc course at University of Bradford, I managed to get a Research Assistant post with the Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine Committee. Thousands of redundancies had been announced across the UK plants. The University, alongside shop stewards, developed an alternative corporate plan that identified the highly skilled workforce could apply their knowledge to ‘socially useful production’. At the same time, job losses could be reduced. We were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

My first foray into television was working as a consultant to a Yorkshire TV school series. We picked up The Times Education Award.

I subsequently joined Granada in 1982 after seeing  an ad. in the ‘The Grauniad’ for researchers. I didn’t think I stood a chance but I suppose I had various  credentials and a couple of anecdotes to fill those awkward silences – should I ever get to interview.

I had mixed with the likes of South African exiles who later were to join Nelson Mandela’s government and dined with Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill, Mick McGahey and other ‘commies’. I had useful contacts and, unbeknown to me, supped drinks with an “agent of influence” for the East German Stasi! Now, that would be a great filler!

I sent off my c.v. with a very brief covering note. ‘I would like to apply for the position of researcher as advertised. `I look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely.’

After two boards. Chris Kerr – a gentleman – called to give me the news. I told him that he might have the wrong number.

The Induction weeks

I was to start on Granada Reports and would be shadowing Judy Finnigan – ‘my mother’ for the two weeks induction. My unassigned ‘brothers’ were the three amigos: superstar editors, Oral, Dave and Kim who adopted me on the recommendation of a mutual friend.

Everything was a haze, maybe because I was the mother of a ten month old baby. Each day for 10 months, I was travelling 80 miles round trip by coach from Bradford ( where I lived ) to Manchester.

I’m a brisk walker with a long stride and it’s my first week at Granada. Having got off the 06.15 from Bradford Interchange to Chorlton St. Bus Station – I noticed a familiar mop of hair. It was Mike Scott in front of me – then Programme Controller – swinging his leather attache case. He was sort of idling along –  but with purpose – in that casual manner he had. He seemed to be looking forward to his day.

I froze hoping he wouldn’t turn round. I considered a detour but that would have meant being late for the morning news conference. I had to scoop up as many newspapers as I could  to filch my mandatory 3 ideas – before the rest of the Granada Reports team plundered stories from the same papers.

Scott stopped – and turned round.  He was terribly pleasant for a chap who’s ‘upstairs’ on the 6th floor when I’m ‘downstairs’ on the 1st floor – but for me the next twenty minute walk  was self-induced angst. He asked what I looked forward to working at Granada. I can’t remember what I said, which is probably a good thing. I doubt – in fact I know – I didn’t make the best of impressions.

The newsroom – and everywhere else in the Quay St building  for that matter – was a health and safety hazard. Papers, lighters and the plumes of smoke from the cigarettes that fired our thoughts for the day. I also had a slight pre-occupation. I was sporting a Kevin Keegan curly perm and desperately worried that my hair  (treated with chemicals) might encounter a match and go up in flames – which did actually happen in a restaurant some weeks later.

I was tired from the early morning starts from the other side of the Pennines  and desperately nervous of the fast pace of the newsroom. I wasn’t used to turning over fresh  copy every hour. An opening paragraph for a dissertation used to take me weeks. After 10 months of gruelling travel, I moved to Manchester. 

Granada Reports

One of my first assignments on Granada Reports was covering a large demo about public sector low pay.  Some of my new Manchester friends were extreme left – and there they were on Bury New Rd. with their banners, some emblazoned with accusations of right wing media bias! One of them spotted me and shouted ‘traitor’. It was actually awkward, because I kind of agreed. Further, I was surprised when Granada unions had voted against walking out in support of  the Nurses’ pay campaign in 1982. That ‘one’ by the way, went on to become a very, very well paid international, jet setting bureaucrat.

The 1984 Abbeystead disaster really tested my underdeveloped journalistic mettle in my early days.

I was sent to St. Michael’s on Wyre to knock on doors and vox pop anyone who might know or be related to the casualties of the explosion in the water treatment plant near their village. I felt uncomfortable asking ‘do you know anyone who has died?’ – but it was where I earned my stripes to be a dispassionate journalist – a kind of door step actor. We were in a ratings war with the BBC and simply had to get there first – for live, first hand reaction.

If you came up with an idea, you had a bit more control. After weeks of research – I gained unique access to a mother and daughter who agreed to be interviewed about abuse and incest in their family as long as they remained anonymous. My editor wanted them to appear in vision to give their interviews more authenticity, to lend the piece empathy. I went back to the women, with whom I had built up a relationship of trust, to tell them it was a no show unless they agreed to speak in vision to camera. They agreed. I received bundles of letters from female viewers and Refuges applauding these fantastic women for refusing to be victims and to feeling shamed.  For me, it was a fast track in the complexities of researching exceptionally sensitive issues, the art of negotiation and keeping journalistic integrity. Thankfully, mother and daughter never regretted their decision.

In 1993, Granada Reports sent me to Berlin to cover their 2000 Olympic Bid. Manchester was also a contender. There was an extremely vociferous anarchist movement protesting against the city bidding to host the Games.  Every day, there were demonstrations through the streets, counter demonstrations, armed police – all against a backdrop of billboards and multi million pound marketing campaign welcoming the world to the new Berlin.

It was also absolutely sizzling hot. I pulled on a short Moschino dress and sported some dark shades to sum up all these perspectives in a piece to camera while walking along the track lines of the old wall. Unwittingly, I was channelling  Magenta Devine. I didn’t think it looked that cat walked – but wisely my news editor cut a fair bit of it out.

It was an exhilarating shoot because I was witnessing the very early days of a potential cultural and commercial pact between old East and West. The crew and I pulled together a really loud, colourful and coherent summary of an Olympic bid.  

The shoot was equally memorable when an elderly women on the east side of the former wall spat at me and yelled ‘schwarze’ in my face. I was ready to punch her lights out – but another piece to camera had to take priority.

Manchester didn’t really have a chance. Nonetheless, I was dispatched to the Town Hall, Albert Square, to report live on a hopeful victory. There were hundreds there. I had parked up not far away in the ‘gay quarter.’ After the disappointment, I returned to my car only to discover I was blocked in. Foo Foo Lammar mustered a bunch of ‘her’ friends to bump the car blocking my Scirocco as far as they could so that I could get out.

I just loved the theatre, the drama that went into producing Granada Reports programmes. There were some brilliant people in that newsroom. It was a hothouse of creativity.


Between 1982 and 1989, when I left temporarily, I had worked on a whole swathe of regional and network programmes as a researcher/reporter. Granada Reports; This Is Your Right;  A Place to Livewhereunder the energetic and scrupulous eye of Jack Smith (Head of Schools programming), we roamed North Manchester industrial estates for rare orchids and filmed on polders in the reclaimed land of Lelystad. From Eyam, Derbyshire to Washington to New York to Haight Ashbury, San Francisco we researched a series of programmes for Channel 4 schools on the epidemiology of disease and HIV. I’m not sure how Jack pulled that one off.

Then apart from working on local and general election programmes there was: Jobwatch; Flying Start; Hold Tight; Connections; What the Papers Say, Hospital Watch (one of the first live simulcasts from Manchester and London hospitals) – and University Challenge where I would stand in for Bamber Gascoigne in rehearsals warming up the smarty pants students for their starter for 10.

Bamber and Christina entrusted me with their treasured photos of far flung places for the picture round. I was to duplicate the originals and return them. I diligently put the originals in a box, securely taped the box within an inch of its life, stashed it under my desk and wrote in shiny black pen  ‘DO NOT REMOVE’. The next day the box had disappeared before I had even had a chance to make copies – and was never seen again. Thank you Bamber and Christina for being so forgiving.

I returned to Granada in 1991  – and to again Granada Reports (which zig zagged between various makeovers from Granada Reports to Granada News) as a reporter and newsreader.

I was part of the team led by Rob Mcloughlin that produced  IRA Bombing of Manchester, which picked up a Royal Television Society Award.

I was playing tennis, 6 miles away from the city centre, when I heard a loud bang. Minutes later, I received a call from the news desk to  meet a crew at Hope Hospital, Salford where some of the casualties had been taken. Making our way back to the studios, there was a police cordon around Quay St…the area was being searched for other devices.  I jumped out of the crew car with my tape and persuaded  – in fact demanded – that the police let me through. I mean. Come on. I had a bulletin deadline.

This prepared me perfectly for perhaps my most challenging programme.  A year later I produced a series of late night programmes featuring the ‘movers and shakers’ who were reviving the city  – New Dealers. I ditched the usual, awful talk show chintz furniture and went for monochrome and minimal. Director and crew said the set couldn’t possibly work. Something to do with some technical stuff – like lighting. I stood my ground.

It was recorded as for live and would go out about 30 mins later. I was producing one of the most egotistical yet most invigorating and interesting people I have ever known. Tony Wilson. I was a rookie producer and scared stiff of him but Tony showed me the most  utter respect. The shows were a great success. They had a big student following. After the first broadcast, Jeff Anderson called me to congratulate me. Even today, that set is ahead of its time.

I also did a pretty good job of producing a travel guide/ recipe book  ‘Too Many Cooks’ – for Live Challenge ’99, Granada’s marathon TV  fund raiser for children’s charities across the  North West and corralled chefs and the production team to sell the books by any means necessary –  in supermarkets, book shops and live outdoor kitchen events I had set up. By the way, the book is available here in very good condition at: https://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=1046511661&searchurl=isbn%3D9780953408801%26sortby%3D20

I followed  that up with a very risky idea to raise more money. A theatrical spectacular dinner for 200 guests at Baker Street, Bonded Warehouse. I foraged for 20 chefs and implored/ demanded that they help me sell tickets for 20 tables of 10. Quid pro Quo? The chefs would be filmed live on TV, become celebrities overnight (which they did) and at the same time we would raise a load of dosh for our charities. We raised thousands and thousands  – and Live Challenge ’99 raised in total 1.8m.

Racism, Sex and ‘Blond Blue Eyed Girls’

The first week of my induction at Granada wasn’t especially welcoming. After one of my first news conferences, a senior journalist frenziedly wheeled their chair to my desk (Hamilton couldn’t have done it faster) and whispered in my ear ‘you do know don’t you that you’ve only been taken on because you’re black.’ – then wheeled back to their desk like Billy the Whizz. Eh? It’s probably not the best analogy but it reminded me of a scene from ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.’ This was going to be one hell of an induction.

Sitting in the back of the landmark Granada blue Volvo estate on the way to trying to secure an interview with Viraj Mendis, the crew was sounding off that ‘these bloody immigrants should be sent back to their own country.’ Eh? There I was making sure that at 1.00pm precisely your feet are under a table with three choices of hot and cold on the menu – including the prawn cocktail – and you’re spewing abuse.

I complained about their unprofessionalism and their racist comments – and was assured I wouldn’t have to work with that crew again. So, there you go. Problem solved. Eh? 

I was certainly no ingenue but this is one I didn’t see coming. A producer called me from his hotel – via its switchboard – inviting me to his room to discuss presenting opportunities. I actually apologised that it wasn’t possible!!! The Nanny was out and my husband wasn’t yet home.

And in any case, I wasn’t in the least interested in being on screen. He called me a further four times – increasingly irate. Only after the last call, did it occur to me he was drunk. I thought he would massively regret the calls and avoid me the next day.

And it was only when my husband came home that I realised the calls were an invitation to the casting couch! How absurd and naïve was I!

The person in question came into the newsroom (not his programme) the next day and hovered behind my chair for several minutes without saying a word. Later, I stormed into his office without knocking and told him to never, ever do this to me again. I left trembling – and for the rest of the day waited for my P45.

Various fabulous women, Rachel P, Dorothy B and Liz B, encouraged me to do screen tests. Rachel P would take me to the Granada roof top and patiently coach me. Not only was I scared of heights, but also, I really didn’t want to be in front of camera. So, now I confess. I pretended that I had lost the videos through some magical evaporation. Rachel P found them in my desk drawer.   

I was approached by Luise Nandy  – and returned to Granada in 1991 to Granada’s Albert Dock and very soon after it was suggested that I might be one of the daytime newsreaders. The day I started the dummy runs,  journ.journ was carrying anonymous posts of me taking a job away from ‘blond, blue eyed girls’, ‘get her off’, ‘she’s there because she’s black’ etc etc. Eh?

John Huntley was very supportive and had tried to shield me from the comments – but it wasn’t possible. The super sophisticated portal had been set up so that the authors couldn’t be traced.

When I went live, the racist external letters were pretty rampant. I did actually confide in one colleague who advised I dismiss them. I know she was just trying to reduce my upset.  ‘It’s only the same as someone not liking you because you have ginger hair so just ride the silly comments.’ Eh?

I buried the letters that were left on my desk. Some were threatening. I really didn’t fancy being found floating in the Mersey. I wanted to call it out and spoke to another newsreader. She was network. On multiple times my salary – and a national treasure of sorts –  we privately shared our experiences about the harassment and isolation black employees face in the industry. I was disappointed when she refused to go public.

Sadly, I suspect that it was just HR  procedure that the Police were called in when I decided to make an official complaint. Interestingly, the malicious internal stuff suddenly stopped.

When franchise auctions came along, Granada would cite its recruitment of 5/6/7 black employees (out of a workforce of 1600) to demonstrate its commitment to representing diverse audiences – and to provide the extra turbo energy to get the company through to the last lap.

Heart stopping moments…and camaraderie

It was the Granada canteen that introduced me to the irresistible but heart disease inducing cheese and onion pie.  The canteen filled me with trepidation but you could star gaze – and create opportunities. It was a bit like speed dating. It was supposed to be rest time for an hour or so but it was also an audition – the stage –  for the actors, narrators and story tellers that we all wanted to be. It was sheer theatre, crammed and exuded an illusion of egalitarianism.

Everyone from the basement to the penthouse stood in the same queue for Chips and Bakewell Tart – and sat at the same tables. I don’t remember healthy options. Perhaps it was one ladle of cream – instead of two.

I thought about skipping lunch and going hungry because I really didn’t feel able to sit with David Plowright and Jules Burns – the only seat that was available in this trussed up diner.

I ended up at their table. It was especially foggy that day – so what better than to talk about the weather.

Car park lodge, Manchester. You had made it if you could get in there.  A smile – and the barriers would lift and a space was made available. The canteen staff at Albert Dock who always had my breakfast ready at 7.30am  – and then of course Mary, the indomitable cleaner from Rhyl who, for my 40th birthday, bought me a feather duster. I still have it. She made my day.

The Stables was the inebriated and fertile hub of creativity – from morning to night. If you came back with a ground breaking programme idea, it was tolerated. If you didn’t –  it was still tolerated. It’s also there that I had my first brandy and port. Carole Townsend  (This Is Your Right and second in command) said it was good for stomach upsets. Never, ever, ever again.

Pigs really don’t fly. Underinvestment?

The crew and I were driving to Lancaster in the’ Flying Pig’ – the blue Range Rover with the proud Granada ident. Everybody knew the Rover should have been retired. In fact, as we set off from the newsroom, there was a sense that we might be on our final mission. Each of us was on phones warning HQ  we may not make it. There was nothing in the engine. Graham couldn’t make it go any faster. I was mentally and physically pedalling like mad as it croaked and groaned  – at no more than 10mph – up an insignificant, gentle incline through the town centre. We were overtaken by the BBC heading for the same story. We never made it.

Marjorie Giles, my mentor

Working for the gorgeous, sexy, sensational, witty ,bright eyed, intelligent, terribly posh and motivational producer Marjorie Giles, This Is Your Right(TIYR).  

Journalists and ‘serious researchers’ were very condescending to researchers who worked on TIYR. We had been cast into the wilderness of ‘programme making on pitiful budgets.’ But Marjorie didn’t care. She nurtured us, fed us fantastically juicy stories about working at Granada, gave us confidence – and often came in late because her mashed up Mazda had been mashed up again. She was a dreadful driver. 

The team was very resourceful despite the meagre funding and disdain. We were always last in the queue for crew and post production facilities. Nonetheless,  Carol Townsend always made sure we had a few bob left over for a couple of bottles of plonk for the end of the week. Now, that’s the mark of an extremely good account manager!

None of us – Marjorie, Carole, Elizabeth, Oenone, Linda, Julie – had any air and graces even though we had a collective IQ that would smash today’s University Challenge contestants. TIYR was a trailblazer for network campaigning consumer programmes.

For some reason, I – not Marjorie nor the Director Dick Guinea – was summoned to see Andy McLaughlin, Editor, Regional Features. Andy gave me a right stripping off that the five minute weekday programmes and the Sunday midday half hour that I had researched on how to calculate and write up your tax return was possibly the worst and dullest broadcast in the history of television. I must admit I found it rather hard to disagree with him. I too was virtually comatose interviewing the financial advisers. BUT one viewer on taking in the programme’s advice did actually get a 2K tax rebate. Dull. Yes. Fruitful. Very definitely.

I left  – or should I say I was given mandatory leave  – in 2000.  I should have seen the writing on the wall.  I was interviewing a senior manager for a Granada TV corporate video about opportunities for the growing media graduate market. During the interview, this ‘senior manager’ explained that the average age of Granada staff was strategically declining to below 40 years – and the business objective was to make it even younger and leaner.  I was very definitely lean – but I was 43.

I can’t write a love letter to Granada –  but equally I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. Granada was the media frontier.

Jon Savage

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly and Judith Jones, 11 July 2016.

JJ: So let’s start at the beginning. When did you join Granada and how come you joined Granada?

I actually joined Granada in April 1979. But I went for the researcher’s board in November ‘78 and my position was that I was living at home with my parents still, I’m an only child, I was completing a Law Society’s solicitor’s qualification course and I absolutely hated it, and I was desperate to get out of it. And what happened was that – and I was of was course intensely pressured by my parents, being an only child to do this is, what they wanted me to do. They actually said to me, you know, “Why do you think we’ve sent you to Cambridge? So you can be a solicitor.” I thought, “Fuck that.” So… and I’d already been writing about punk by then for the music papers for 18 months, I’d written for Sounds for 18 months and I’d just started at Melody Maker in November ‘78. And somehow I got in touch with Wilson, and I think it must have been through Richard Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire, who was one of the groups that Tony had showcased in Factory and was also on his first Factory record, Factory sample, and I knew Richard because I’d done the first music press interview of his group Cabaret Voltaire. So I’m pretty sure it was Richard who made the introduction. I got in touch with Tony and I said, “I really want to come to Granada,” and Tony said, “Okay, I’ll put you in touch with Steve Morrison.” So I went to see Steve Morrison, Steve Morrison obviously liked the cut of my jib because I leapfrogged into a final board without having to take a first board, I think people usually had to take two boards and I leapfrogged into the second board. And it was in November, I’m pretty sure, I think Alex Goode and Liz Macleod got the job at the same time as me, I’m pretty sure, maybe Stephen Garrett as well, but there were something like 800 applicants for three jobs, and much to my surprise I got the job. I think part of the reason was, number one they couldn’t believe that somebody who was undergoing a law training like me was a big city firm of solicitors, Linklaters and Paines, was also an expert on punk and writing about punk rock for the music press, and also at the time when I’d had the interview I was on circuit with a high court judge called Sir William Miles Jones, this is the last attempt to try and get me to be a lawyer and maybe I could become a barrister. And of course I had no idea about what was involved and Sir William and I were getting on incredibly badly, and we were just not speaking to each other, and he was just being vile to me and I just thought, “You can piss off.” And so after having a week of this really serious judge having a go at me, I then turned up to the Granada board and they started having a go at me, and I was so fed up with everything and I just had to go back and I got the job! I couldn’t believe it. They were absolutely foul to me, and I was absolutely foul back. I remember at one point Mike Scott said something and I said, “Well, that’s an idiotic thing to say, isn’t it?” Half the people there kind of smirked because of course Mike Scott wasn’t that popular, and he glowered at me, and of course that’s one the reasons I think I never advanced at Granada because he was programme controller and I hadn’t realised. Anyway, I got the job and I arrived in Manchester, green, you know, wet behind the ears, in April ‘79 and I have to say I had absolutely no idea what was entailed and I didn’t for quite a while; it was an intense culture shock to come from London to Manchester, number one, and my head was really with Tony’s groups and what he was doing. My head was really in the music. And that’s one the reasons why Tony got me up there because at that point I was a reasonably big name in music journalism, and he thought, “Well, Jon can write about our bands,” which of course I did. And so I was always… my friends in the first few months of Granada were… I didn’t have any friends in Granada, I was busy… you know, my friends were all in Factory, so Martin Hannett and Rob Gretton, who lived just down the road from me in Chorlton, and of course Tony, and I lived in Tony’s house in Charlesworth for the first two months that I was a Granada, so of course I did see the disintegration of his marriage to Lindsay Reade, and I can talk about that, but… I thought, “What I got myself into? All these people are insane!” And of course, in London everybody – and I’m sorry to talk about this, but it’s true – in London everybody had been taking speed and cocaine and had started to take heroin, and Tony and Lindsay and lots of people around Factory were still smoking shitloads of dope and taking LSD, so the whole thing was very strange to me, but you know, I got along with it. But it was very odd; I was working for What’s On, which was Geoff Moore, David Liddiment, both of whom were Granada lifers and professionals, and I just really… I was completely clueless about what to do. I look back and I just think, “Bloody hell, you really were just an idiot,” you know, because I naively thought that compared to being in the law, being in telly would be fun. And of course there were a lot of arrangements that had to be done and taxis and phoning up people who don’t want to be on, all that arrangement side of everything which I was fairly hopeless at until I got it together, and I was Margi Clarke’s researcher, and you can imagine what that was like! It’s just… I adored Margi, but she was hopeless and I was hopeless, so we’d just egg each other on, and I remember one day she and I got stoned somewhere in the car park and then she had to go in and do an interview with Mollie Sugden, and of course Mollie Sugden, quite apart from… what was the thing… what was it called… Are You Being Served. She’d been famous for working with Jimmy Clitheroe, so Margie turns up, you know, and she’s stoned, and so the first thing she sort of crosses her legs and said, “Right, Mollie – what was it like working with a dwarf?” And I remember the producer – it must have been Geoff – coming down out of the box, down the stairs and screaming, “She’s fucking pissed! JON!” So it was always… so I’d always be moving things on set and getting in trouble with the props guys, and I was… you know, in retrospect – and I’m not over-selling this – I just think I was absolutely hopeless. I had no idea, didn’t really grasp what was involved in working in television until about six months in, and I was very lucky to scrape through my probationary period.

JJ: And was it… you said that you wanted to work for Granada, was it very distinctly you wanted to work for Granada, or you wanted to work in television?

No, it was just a whole accident. As it happens I’m incredibly glad I did, because it was a complete education really. It was an education… because Granada was very left-wing at that point, so it was a political education for me in the widest sense. Also it was a social education being in the north west, and I used to think feel very strongly that anybody who lives in London should spend time in places like the north west or the north east because it’s such a different world, and you get a much more greater understanding of what this country’s like. And also being involved with Margi, which I was, I was very friendly with Margi, and then Caroline Duffy who was Margi’s friend and assistant and kind of, you know, she would help to work on scripts with Margi at that time, and so I was very much inducted into Liverpool way of life and also used to go out to Kirkby to Margi’s mother’s house, and Margie’s mother was of course Frances Clarke, who was Labour mayor of Knowsley. So I got a total… I’d trot off to Knowsley, this council house in the middle of Knowsley, and get a political education. Actually, Frances and I got on really well; I used to go there for Sunday lunch. So it was a complete education for me in that respect, and I’m so grateful for it.

JJ: Tell me what Manchester was like in 1979.

I just remember it… London was derelict, (but only in parts? 8:55)… I just remember… what I liked about Manchester was the space. I always liked urban spaces, one of my problems with London, one of the reasons I left London, was because all the space was filled in. And one of the things that I liked about Joy Division was that they were almost like an ambient group in that they had a lot of space in their music, and that space reflected the spaces in the city, to do with obviously the deindustrialisation and the very peculiar way in which Manchester zoned anyway with this commercial centre, and then the bits immediately outside the commercial centre were then derelict, and then you had the places where people lived like Didsbury, and also you had Hulme, you know, which is such a bizarre experiment in retrospect, and I lived in Chorlton which was then very leafy and rundown though I lived in a huge Victorian house, and that cost me £8 a week, and it all seemed… what I do remember about Manchester was the wet Sundays and how grim they were, and it just seemed certainly even being Granada, with the course was a big, you know, supposedly liberal employer, it was like being 20 years behind London. So I was very wary of that, and not always in a good way certainly in terms of sex and gender politics, which I was interested in, and not just gay politics but also feminist politics. I just thought it was, you know, really behind in many, many ways, and the environment was pretty brutal. I do you remember that. I remember I used to go to concerts in the Apollo and it was just a wasteland all round the Apollo. And first time in fact I came to Manchester was in October 1977 to see the whole… the punk groups at the Electric Circus, and of course that was in Collyhurst! And it was opposite these decayed 1930s flats which I took photos of, the complete estate which has been left to rot because everybody had been moved out, and actually, probably now those flats would be prized. But then, everybody was being moved out and it was just dereliction that went on for miles and miles and miles and miles, so that was what I remember about Manchester memories. And I mean, it’s completely changed obviously in the last nearly 40 years. So much more, you know, so much more (surface now? 11:24)

JJ: Getting back to your position in Granada, you said Granada didn’t quite know what to do with you.

No. And I didn’t know what to do myself to be honest, so I’m not blaming anybody. I think… I don’t know why I was brought in. I think Steve just thought I was interesting, and actually that’s probably a good side of Steve in that he just wanted to bring in people who he thought were interesting, which is kind of great. And it took me quite a while to really find an niche, and actually at the time I started, and I didn’t find a niche for very long, because actually what I wanted to do wasn’t on the agenda, and I’m also very stubborn and if I don’t want to do something I don’t want to do it, and it’s obvious that I don’t do it, so that’s always a problem in an institution. I was like that at school; I found my report cards recently. In the subjects I was interested in I did really well and the subjects I wasn’t interested in I was bottom of the class and I just didn’t care, that was the problem. Anyway, so I was happy when I was moved onto This is Your Right with Marjorie and Michael Winstanley.

JJ: So tell me a bit about that programme and what was the…

Well What’s On was very… I just remember What’s On was sort of light entertainment, and I hated light entertainment, I just thought it was complete bullshit, and I always did, and that was a major issue between me and Liddiment, because Liddiment was totally pro light entertainment and I just thought, “This is utter crap.” And at least This is Your Right was about something tangible and also to some small extent drew on my experience as a lawyer, and I have plenty of autonomy, I’d just go off and make little films, and Marjorie was very relaxed and Michael Winstanley was very relaxed, and they treated me like an adult instead of having to do all this stupid stuff with these stupid scripts, which I just… I didn’t get it, you know, with What’s On. And I really enjoyed it actually. I remember we went up to Pendle, there was a mental hospital near Pendle, and we went up there to do a thing about care in the community, we were there for two days and it was so brutal. I remember I literally saw people crawling up the walls. They were actually crawling up the walls. I’d never seen anything like it, they took us into a secure ward and it was like a charnel house, and we were all very, very shocked. And it was all stuff like that, so it’s quite serious programming, which suited me much more to be honest than froth and the light entertainment stuff, which to be honest I always despised and I still do. But of course that is a staple of television as we all know, and really probably in to some extent realistically what pays the bills, and that was always the strength of light entertainment is that I kind you knew that’s what paid the bills.

JJ: And how do you think working on This is Your Right linked into the north west community?

Well, it was just very interesting. First of all I was sent out, I wasn’t in an office arranging taxes and trying to get people to come into the studio, I was actually going out to make films. And because it was very short – it’s only what, five minutes, 10 minutes max – and the great thing about This is Your Right it was a sort of fiefdom unto itself and nobody really cared about it at all. It was just this thing that they let Marjorie and Michael do, and you know they were both very nice, they were nice to me, I would go out with all these directors, most of them were nice. There was one director who was completely useless and everybody laughed at, he was called Mike somebody…

SK: Mike Becker?

Yes, Mike Becker. Yes, we went out with Mike Becker. I was amazed, everybody just laughed at him, so I basically directed the whole thing, you know, which is great, so I had quite a lot of autonomy there, which of course in a big programme like What’s On you didn’t have. So that was… I proved myself on that, and Marjorie was very pleased with me and Michael was very pleased with me, so I was secure in actually being in the building, which as I said before I wasn’t, I was… scraped through my six months’ probation period, and then in the middle of all this I went off and re-sat three of my law exams so that I could actually qualify as a solicitor, and then I gave up straight away. And then I’m trying to think what I did after that. I know I did a Hypothetical with Brian Lapping, and McLaughlin?

SK: Yes, Andy McLaughlin.

Andy McLaughlin, the producer, and I think Geoffrey Robertson was the interlocutor, was running it, and it was about business ethics, and I really enjoyed that because again, it was using your brain and… it was very stressful, I do remember, but I enjoyed that and I think I got on with Andy well enough, I don’t remember any major problems during that. And it was quite nice to go off and talk to serious people, and again not be involved with all this froth. And so I was obviously made for the whole sort of documentary side as opposed to the drama because I knew nothing about it and still don’t. Which isn’t a criticism, but that’s not what I’ve been trained in, and obviously I wasn’t going to be interested in LE, so I was moving much more to doing factual programmes, eventually documentaries, which was obviously the sort of programming that was not being done by Granada at the time, so I was actually already edging out because the kind of programmes that I ultimately wanted to do, which is the programmes I’ve gone on to make, weren’t being done by Granada at the time. Granada was very… I regarded as quite sclerotic by the late ‘70s,there wasn’t the freedom to sort of move around, there were all these fiefdoms and the lines between formats were very, very rigid. And I didn’t like that because I just thought, “Why can’t you have a serious documentary about pop music?” And of course realistically there’s only one or two places in British telly where you’re going to get that of course, because actually… Tony’s So It Goes was a rare moment of indulgence, of course it wasn’t scheduled across the network anyway. Most TV executives do not understand or particularly like pop music, so… and the interesting thing was, I remember in the early ‘80s, it must have been just after the This is Your Right time, I was approached by Gus McDonald, who was a great panjandrum then, and his assistant – what was his female assistant called? – and I did a treatment about the (??18:17) subculture, which is basically a way into the history of youth culture. And I did a memo on it, and eventually the wheels ground on, and within a year we’d started making that, and that was really the fabulous disaster that brought an end to my time at Granada.

JJ: So in between that…

I’m trying to remember what I did.

JJ: Did you go to Liverpool? There was a period when you worked on (??18:45).

I’m trying to I’m trying to put everything together. We haven’t talked about Tony, which we should. Oh, I remember what I did, Jesus Christ. I did Fun Factory.

JJ: Tell me a bit about that.

Oh, that was awful! That was really, really, really awful. Fun Factory was the follow-up to The Mersey Pirate; it was a Saturday morning kids’ programme, and you remember how awful The Mersey Pirate was, because most of it was on a boat, and you were watching it on a Saturday morning – I used to drink then, so I knew I’d be hung over – and you’d be watching the stuff on the screen that’s going and down, and it was a complete disaster. I don’t know whether you worked on it, but it was awful, awful, awful. And Fun Factory, it was a fundamentally misconceived follow-up. I laugh about it now, but it is so grim. It was – and I was sort of being punished for something, I wasn’t quite sure what – because obviously I knew about music. Did I get to arrange music on the show? No. They give it to Trish Kinane. And producer Sandy Ross, he and I got on absolutely dreadfully, we couldn’t stand each other. And who else was on it… Martin bloody Day, Jesus. God, he was awful too. And it was just a slow motion car crash for about six months. It was live in one of those big warehouses at the back. You know… what was the road that went across the bottom from Quay Street? Do you know what I mean? (Parallel to the Irwell? 20:16) and then there’s a big warehouse, and a big warehouse, it was live on a Saturday morning, and we all had to wear yellow boiler suits in case we got in shot, I mean, and this was the whole period in Granada, everybody wearing pastels and rainbow badges, and it was like sort of play time, and the clothes were like going back to the bloody nursery after time, all the PAs used to wear boiler suits and little rainbow badges, and it was all very (??20:42 )… oh God… and I used to wear punk rock clothes so I was wearing Vivienne Westwood trousers. I remember one day I turned up to my final thing I worked for… what was the daily newspaper… Granada Reports. And I turned up in a pair of Vivienne Westwood… I wasn’t even trying to be shocking, it’s just the clothes I wore. Nice corduroy trousers, and then the zip went from there right round the arse! And I remember Rachel Hebditch, she just looked at me, she didn’t even say anything. But actually, I really got on with Rachel, I really liked her. A lot of people didn’t but I really liked Rachel. She and I got on. But it was funny. So Fun Factory, yes, so it was live, and we have bands on so it was a recipe for mayhem, and I was always in trouble with Sandy because we didn’t get out of there until two o’clock on Saturday afternoon, and my attitude was, “Well, I’m not going to turn up until Monday afternoon, you can piss off, I’m having a weekend.” And Sandy’s attitude was, “Well, you’ve got to come in on Monday morning,” so we were just butting heads about this non-stop, and he actually got quite personal. He was always going on about me being middle-class, which really hacked me off. And eventually I just got fed up and said, “Well, Sandy, don’t think you’re not middle class with your bloody house in Didsbury and VCR and motorcycle and two cars – don’t tell me you’re not middle class.” And then of course I got hauled up by Morrison for insubordination. So it was all… that was going on all the time and then we had the first VJ we had – this is going to show you what a disaster it was – the first VJ we had was someone called Gary Crowley who I knew from London who I’d helped to get up, and he was kind of a mod guy, and he had this friend called Vaughn Toulouse who came up once, and Vaughn, who’s now dead, was later in a band called Department S who had had a hit single called Is Vic There? Anyway, Gary turned up with Vaughn, saying it was my mate, and Vaughn was sort of dressed a bit like Clockwork Orange because that was his mood for the day, and they did this thing, and of course Vaughn turned around and said, “Bollocks!” to camera. Switchboard jammed, Sandy Ross rushing around, Jon, you’re responsible for this, what are you doing? And Gary Crowther got sacked from the show, and guess who replaced him. Thank you Granada. Ray Teret.

Because there was that whole creepy side to everything. And that’s what I hated about light entertainment because I knew that light entertainment was a lie. I knew it was a dirty rotten lie, and I thought about how many of those people in light entertainment were just creepy, and Teret was creepy. And in retrospect he was let loose on an audience of teenagers. Come on. And he actually said the immortal thing, which was he introduced a video for Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division. Ian had just killed himself, and he said, “Oh, here’s a singer! Here’s a single by a great new female singer, Joy Division! Ho, ho, ho, ho!” Oh, God. And then – so we have Ray Teret, and then one week we had Freddie Starr, so you can imagine what that was like, he was taking his cock out behind the camera and waggling it at the presenters while they were doing live links, and then we had Dexys Midnight Runners on one week, and their idea of fun was to grab every kid in sight and say, “Every time you see a red light, just run in front of the camera and say: ‘Karl Marx rules’.” So the whole way through the programme was kids running come through going, “Karl Marx rules! Karl Marx rules!” Haha! It was a nightmare. And that was what I was doing in 1980. It must have been between Hypotheticals and This is Your Right and so I was zig-zagging between serious programming, or fairly serious programming, and light entertainment. I couldn’t deal with all those big hussly things where, you know, you’ve got to do it every week and it’s, you know, ‘get that band in’ and the bands are smoking dope in the Portakabins, and… it was just a nightmare. It was a complete and utter nightmare, a real low point. Actually, I had several low points but that was a real low point. So after that I must have done Hypotheticals but I couldn’t get any toehold in any of the fiefdoms, that I now realise, possibly again because what I wanted to do was… I really wanted to do what I wanted to do, I knew what I wanted to do, and I would have liked to have got a toehold with Brian Lapping but I didn’t quite make it, I fit it, and obviously I wasn’t of the World in Action ilk by that stage because of course World in Action had become something different from what it was in the ‘60s, it was much more investigative and also quite macho, and also some would say I was a sort of radio with pictures to be honest, it was Mike Gillard banging on people’s doors, that’s what I remember about World in Action a lot of the time. And I was interested in television, I was interested in images and sounds and words – I actually love making films. I absolutely adore it, and I thought it was supposed to be play, and I didn’t understand all these rigid hierarchies and I didn’t understand… I mean, of course I understood, but I didn’t… I understood intellectually, but I didn’t understand emotionally. I didn’t understand why, when you’re in the middle of something and you’re in VT, it had to stop at two minutes to one. That drove me insane. And I was very, very aware that – you know I talked about this, Steve – that as a researcher we were very, very low down. We were actually squeezed, because we were exploited and occasionally bullied, not always, I mean I was bullied by some, but I wasn’t bullied by Geoff Moore who was very nice to me and actually very patient, but you know, you were liable to exploitation by producers and at the same time the actual union members, because obviously the ACTT was dominated by studio staff, you know, the guy was Malcolm (??27:08) and he was a lighting guy wasn’t he? He was lighting.

SK: He became an (ENG cameraman? 27:15), didn’t he?

He was lighting. And they were all real ‘don’t touch that dial’ merchants. And so you were kind of squeezed actually, so you didn’t really have anybody to fight your corner. But I do remember those (masked? 27:32) union meetings and just being amazed, and what I felt was that the management had ceded control of the running of the company to the unions, and I felt that it was to some extent it was a failure of management as well.

JJ: How do you think researchers were exploited?

Like I was saying to you about Sandy, I didn’t get a proper weekend, I was furious. I was absolutely furious. And you always… you’d often have to stay. A classic example, another example, which was the end of my career at Granada, the definite end, was after… so I did Hypotheticals and I spent nine months making Teenage which I will tell you about later, and then I worked on a kind of studio entertainment thing which was a kind of heightened concert by Kid Creole and the Coconut, which is a great idea, Liddiment directed, and I had to go all over the country chasing August Darnell, so I had to go to Nottingham, I had to go here, I had to go there, and it was fine, you know, so I was obviously doing a lot of extra hours and a lot of driving, and worked my tits off, it all went really well on the night, and then there was a standoff in the back car park, and what had happened is… we bussed kids from London from a club called Beetroot and they all… and I knew the guy who was organising it, (??29:01), was called Olly, and unbeknownst to us had all taken ecstasy, so this was 1982 and it was one of the first outbreaks of ecstasy in the UK, way before it became a thing, and they were all on E. So they are out of control. And so, you know, way-hey, the gig was all fine, and then they were on the bus and the coach driver said, “I’m not driving this down to London without somebody from Granada there,” so Steve Morrison turns to me in the car park and says, “You go, Jon,” and I say, “No.” So he sent poor (Ian Softly? 29:37 ) down. I wasn’t going to get on a bus with all these idiots and try and play policeman, you know, it’s not my job. And of course, because I’d said no that was the end of everything really. But Tony said to me afterwards, “You shouldn’t have done that, Jon.” And I said, “But Tony, the job wasn’t worth it to me if that’s what I had to do in order to keep it. Don’t you understand?” That was my breaking point.

JJ: Tell me a bit about working with Tony Wilson.

Well, Tony and I worked on another… we were always working on things… in retrospect now, and I piece it together, actually I was always working on things that never worked. I did three pilots for possible programs and none of them got made, so that in itself is indicative. The first pilot was in 1979: (??30:20), I’m laughing because actually, this all seems so absurd to me now, it’s so funny, at the time of course it’s deadly serious but I’m not talking myself down when I say that, I just had no idea, and I look back and I look like a dick. I just had no idea! But in a way, that was sort of kind of great as well. We did this thing called (??30:44) and it was written by Tony Warren. So I got very close with Tony. Tony and I hated each other to start with and we bitched and bitched and bitched, and eventually he took me out and we had a drink, and then we got on like a house on fire. Because Tony was very difficult. He was very waspish, he was coming out of a terrible period of alcoholism, you know, he was quite a difficult man. But I really liked him and he told me… we used to go to Stables and used to tell me lots of gossip, and he told me about all the gay gossip in the 60s, particularly about Brian Epstein, because he worked with Epstein on the Ferry Cross the Mersey soundtrack, film, and him telling me about Epstein, parenthetically, led the Brian Epstein documentary that I did with Arena which won the BAFTA, which I worked on in ’97, it won a BAFTA in ’98. And so that was one of the things that came out of this whole experience, quite a lot did. Anyway, (??31:47 ), script written by Tony Warren and Carol Ann Duffy… it was just… we had a scene where Margi was singing Cottage for Sale, and she was dressed in this huge (?? on stilts? 32:04) a huge dress that was shaped like a cottage, and Carol Ann and I were so demented by this stage that we actually… and the kids came out of the door and we said, “”Right we want the kids swinging out of Margi on ropes,” you know, Margi’s pubic hairs, and we want crabs on the ropes as though she’s got an infestation. We were that crazy, that’s what I mean. And it got made, it’s probably in the Granada vault somewhere. And we interviewed April Ashley, it was basically a complete campfest, and it was completely ridiculous in retrospect, and it obviously never got commissioned, it’s there lurking in the Granada vaults. And the second one I did, to go back to your question, was obviously Teenage, we should talk about, and then the third one I did was with Sandy Ross who I had obviously made it up with by that point in retrospect, although I think we had a you know an armed truce, and we did a thing called Wilsons World of Pop. And that was the sort of music, it was like a current affairs pop show. I’ve got a tape of it somewhere, upstairs. We went off to interview Dexys Midnight Runners who weren’t talking to the music press at that time, and I remember going to Birmingham to do that, and we did a whole programme, which is actually not bad, but again it never got made. Tony and I really liked… oh, and we did number one. I can’t put all this in order but we did another one which was a documentary about Trafford Park, which I was obsessed with. Because Tony used Trafford Park in some of the imagery for his band, so there’s a group called A Certain Ratio that he used the Metrolinx tower and all that stuff, and of course by ’82, I remember I definitely did this in ’82, by ’82, Trafford Park was really… this was before the big, whatever it is, Trafford Park, whatever it is now, it was almost completely derelict and again it’s this idea of urban space but also the collapse of the manufacturing industry. And Tony went around with the situation, this book, spouting the situation as nonsense all the way through it, but it was still quite fun, you know, that was an interesting thing to do but again not easy to slot in to, you know, the fiefdoms basically, and this was the problem that I think Granada had got, very (??34:36), the arteries had hardened by that stage, and you couldn’t cross the boundaries, you couldn’t…

JJ: Do you think that was a problem for Tony?

Yes, very much so. Tony and I were very close and were quite similar in that we had wide-ranging interests, and when I met Tony first he was like a hippy intellectual who’s very interested in urban space and architecture, who is obsessed with Rem Koolhaas, and so was I, I was interested in all these things; it wasn’t just pop, you know, words and zoning and, you know, all this sort of stuff… industrial… going into your environment, and obviously the thing about Manchester that was fascinating was the post-industrialisation and post-manufacturing, which of course was happening with Thatcher. So in retrospect we were completely dead on in many respects, doing a thing about Trafford Park in ’82 was actually a really great thing to do. We probably didn’t do it as well as we could have done now, because we didn’t quite put it all together with the context of what was happening politically, and you know Tony wandering around city situations spouting a whole load of stuff could have been replaced by something else. But yes, I mean, our instincts were dead on the money but I think it was so difficult by that stage to work within that hierarchy, certainly for me it was, I found (??36:00) at times was impossible. And Tony obviously as well I would have thought… I never really talked to him about that, we were always talking about ideas and his bands and all that sort of stuff, you know.

JJ: Because presumably that seems like a really missed opportunity for Granada, that he had this huge impact on Manchester and its music that was happening alongside but Granada never really tapped into that.

Well, I think again it goes back to this thing about people in television not understanding pop culture and not actually liking it. And of course, nobody knew at the time, everybody goes ‘Joy Division, rah, rah, rah’ now, but you know, it was a man and a dog then. It really was. There was 200 people involved.

JJ: So does this link in to what you were saying about Teenage?

Well again, you see ,I finally made the film of Teenage 30 years later. As a feature documentary in America. I made it in New York with a New York director. And Teenage again, it was another fabulous disaster, and more I think about it…I mean, I’m laughing about it but at the time it was a bit galling, you know, I just… I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.

JJ: So was it your idea?


JJ: OK so to talk me through that.

That came because of my meeting Gus McDonald, and the memo that I’d written about subcultures, about (??37:23) book, which was kind of skeletal. We were fleshing that out into a simpler history. So Geoff Moore picked up and run with it, amazingly – and actually I had a lot of time for Geoff, he was he was very, very good and very fair, and very thorough. I think I exasperated him and we spent nine months on it, and I had a wonderful summer, must have been ’81, where I went round all the archive houses and just looked at endless bits of footage. From the first programme is going to be ’45 to‘56.

JJ: So is it going to be a series of however many programmes?

Yes. It never worked out… certainly the first one, which is a pilot, was going to be ‘45-‘56. So it was from the end of the war to rock ‘n’ roll. And it was going to include cosh boys and teddy boys and spivs and early rock ‘n’ roll, and that kind of thing, and we got these fabulous clips from all those films like Hue and Cry and I’d be always in a viewing room, viewing theatre in Granada looking at these old films like Hue and Cry and It Always Rains on Sunday and all these great Ealing films… cosh boys, which was (??38:47) to the second film. And it was going to be a sort of montage, and so I brought in my then friends with whom I’m no longer friends and haven’t been for a while, Peter York, was going to present it and Julian Temple was going to direct it. So after I had this wonderful summer going around all these are archive houses – I went to ICC, I went to ITN, I went to Pathé, I went to this, I went to that, the BBC, I had a fantastic time. That was probably my high spot at Granada, was to spend the whole summer going in these places two or three days at a time by myself, making notes, proper research, and then being lateral, you know, not just going for teenagers, but getting the atmosphere and the mood of the time, which is of course very much from I’ve gone on to do, and that was that was just great – I was doing proper research. And then we got Julian Temple in to direct it, who had a couple of good ideas but basically couldn’t direct his way out of a paper bag, never been in studio before and he was hopeless and arrogant, and he alienated the studio staff, and he had one terrific idea, was that we used the climactic scene from The Blue Lamp where Dirk Bogarde is a spiv and shoots George Dixon, PC Dixon, and he laid the theme from Shaft over it, which was great, that was fantastic. But the rest of it was just a nightmare, and we had this idea of having these kids in sort of vitrines, and so in reception, one week there were teddy boys being lairy and the next week there would be skinheads terrifying everybody, the next week there would be mods terrifying everybody, you know, so that was noted. And then Peter York was sort of fantastically irritating as well. And we finished a very rough plan, I’ve got a tape of it somewhere, at the end of ’81, and it just got canned. Somebody said no. I think a lot of resources were going… it wasn’t really there to be honest, I think the team wasn’t up to it, and also again, it wasn’t the kind of thing that Granada wanted to make. It was very busy with Brideshead, and it had put a lot of money into that, and I think that Temple and Peter York were just too annoying!

JJ: And was it at that point that you…

I began to think, “Eye, eye, this is not…” so my last year was really… I did this Kid Creole thing, and I must have done the Tony Wilson thing about Trafford Park, and Kid Creole and then suddenly I went for director’s board, totally cocked it up, got to the second board, totally cocked up and then I was back on Granada Reports and that was it, I had to go. And then Granada Reports, I actually went back to the total incompetence of my first three months because I just couldn’t be bothered. I remember I went to some meeting in Colne that I had to cover and I was just so disinterested and did it all wrong, and Rachel was furious with me, and then she just realised that I actually had to be let loose on something I wanted to do, and I went off and made a film about something, I can’t remember what it was, and it was really great and she was very pleased with me, but I just thought, “No, this is it, I don’t want to be turning up and…” I learnt then… someone there called Peter McHugh?

SK: Peter McHugh, yes.

And he was a shitbag. And I learnt really to dislike news journalists, and I don’t like news journalists.

JJ: Tell me about… because I think there’s something particular to researchers, directors and producers is that the idea of a board.


JJ: Which is kind more than an interview. For somebody who’s never experienced that…

Well, it was a full-blown attack, really.

JJ: So how many people would be on it.

Five or six. And the first time was full-blown… and actually after my first board, Chris Pine came up to me and he said, you know, “You’re really obnoxious in that board.” And I said, “What the hell do you expect? You were being obnoxious to me! Do you mind?” And he went, “Ughhh.” Haha. And I was always brought up to stand up for myself, so if someone’s having a goat me I have a go back. But the final board, I was so out to lunch I can’t even tell you. They asked me what… I must have been on a self-destruct mission. They asked me what programme I wanted to make, and I said I wanted to do a drama documentary about the life of Chairman Mao! (Laughs loudly) And the only nice person there was Leslie Woodhead, who was always really nice to me and always very supportive, and of course it was fantastic because I really respected him.

JJ: I think one of the questions that people have said is, “Where do you want to be in five years time?”

You know, I don’t remember what I said to that, but I obviously didn’t get the job. And I’m sort of glad I didn’t actually, because I think Granada was going to go through a downscaling period pretty much after I left, which is December ‘82.

JJ: So could you see the signs of the changes?

Not yet, no. But I did very quickly afterwards, because I went to work at TV-AM, which was another television disaster. I just regard my time in television as a total disaster, I’m afraid. Not in a bad way, in retrospect it’s funny, but TV-AM was completely chaotic and I got myself a sinecure for nine months where I just programmed one pop video a day and that’s all I had to do, so I could do my whole week’s work in the morning and just bunked off and wrote articles for The Face and other magazines. And anyway, TV-AM was obviously non-unionised, it was run by Bruce Gyngell and Greg Dyke, it was… you know, it was chaotic and you know, there was no union representation. Then I suddenly remembered one day a whole lot of Granada executives turned up. Mike Short turned up, and I thought, “What is Mike Short doing here? Oh, he’s picking up tips.” So that must have been late ‘8, early ‘84. That’s what I thought the dissolving was going to happen. I suddenly thought, “Oh, okay, they’re going to do this to Granada.” Because TV-AM really was an awful place to work.

JJ: To get back to something really kind of a practical level, you said that the offices you worked in were in awful and I wondered if you could describe the environment.

I just remember pastel colours everywhere. And I remember being so… and you can see them in Daniel Meadows’ photos, there would be posters up on the walls, and there would be… oh, God. I think the building was beginning to really fray at the edges, it must have been 20 years after it was built, was it built in ’58?

SK: No, about ’60.

Same difference really. It was getting on for 20 years after it was built and it was really begin to fray. I’m just interested in the disparity between the glamorous image of working in television and the reality of it, and that fascinated me, because the reality of it was fairly squalid. I mean, people smoked then, didn’t they? And horrible, cheap office furniture and everybody will terrible clothes… I was interested in that then. I mean, deputation from Jon Plowman and Liddiment came up to me one day and said, “You’re gay, how come you don’t wear clothes like us and how come you don’t like disco? You know, (??46:43), piss off. But it was that sort of thing. As I said before, it was all rainbow badges and pastel colours and boiler suits and… it was as naff as old knickers really, and it’s just all lumped together, the clothes and the work environment is all lumped together as one. It was just really, really sort of run-down, very bad taste, and not even in a good way really; it was just slightly squalid, I seem to remember. It was fraying a bit.

JJ: And did you ever go to those places like the canteen or the Stables?

Oh, yes – I was always in the canteen.

JJ: Did you think that was similarly squalid?

No, I seem to remember not minding the canteen. I mean, I’ve always been into practical food. I didn’t like the canteen. I just remember… I remember being in there once and we had a group called Dead or Alive in, Pete Burns, and he was not the total outrageous Pete Burns as we know, pretty much on the way. So 75% there. I remember he stopped all the heads in the canteen, I’ve never seen anything like it. And Margi was always getting into trouble in the canteen, she was always dropping trays or something, there was always some scene going on with Margi there. Actually I quite liked the canteen because you’d see all the actors in there, and that was a laugh. I sort of quite liked that aspect of it actually, you felt it was a bit more of a community with the canteen, and the Stables was just where people want to go get pissed, wasn’t it?

JJ: So when you worked in Liverpool, tell me about your impressions of the Liverpool office.

Well, I must have worked on Exchange Flags twice, I can’t remember how long I was there for, I must have been there for at least six months, and of course Liverpool was really the poor relation and it was away from the main sort of panopticon of the Manchester office. You know, nobody really… to be honest it was a fig leaf wasn’t it really, nobody managed to give a shit about Liverpool. And so it was much more relaxed, much less high-pressure, a lot more fun actually, in the people there of course were a lot more fun because you didn’t have people like Rod Caird, you know, looking over your shoulder. And certainly by the time I worked there – I knew people in Liverpool anyway, so I had quite a social life, I knew Adrian Henri and Carol Ann, I spent a lot of time with them, and I spent a lot of time with Margi’s friends – and I knew people in bands there as well like Jane Casey and a couple of other people, Pete Wylie, people like that. And Exchange Flags, again was like a more fun What’s On – it was more fun because it wasn’t so high pressure, it was probably quite well run, I don’t remember who the presenter was, but it just seemed to be a lot more fun, and the people in the office were a lot more fun, you know, secretaries and everything, and you know, I always got on with them anyway because to be honest they were a lot more fun than the production staff, than the producer or the director. So I remember we had Orange Juice in, I think we had Pete Burns in again, and there are loads of complaints after Pete Burns had been in because he was so loud and I think that might have been the final band we had in, and we had… my final act was to do this show called Sex Change Flags and I don’t know how anybody agreed to it, but anyway they did, and this is my thing about having fun – I thought television was fun, and so why not call it Sex Change Flags and why not have a bunch of whole sex changes, it might be quite interesting. And then of course so we had April Ashley in, who was very much a Grande Dame, and then we had a woman who become a man that was fine and then we have maybe another transgender person, and I was do fine, it was my last day in Liverpool and I’d been out the night before was very hung over, and I was maintaining… and then this 60-year-old docker came in in a red dress and high heels, red high heels, and I freaked and hid in the loos! I couldn’t take it! Oh dear… but it must have gone off okay, because I don’t remember getting into trouble for it. It was a sort of an end of term feeling really, and I don’t think anybody took Exchange Flags particularly seriously. So obviously, there’s a lot more fun… I remember meeting Derek Hatton there and thinking he was shifty because he had bad shoes. So… Tony always had bad shoes; he always dressed quite well in expensive suits and had terrible shoes.

JJ: This was at a stage when Hatton was a militant.

Yes. But he had terrible shoes. I know this sounds trivial, but actually, clothes are often the key to the man, and the shoes were rally bad. And I thought, “No.”

JJ: Because in comparison with other militants he was quite a snappy dresser, wasn’t he?

I thought he was a spiv.

JJ: Yes. Yes.

I thought he was a spiv. I thought, “Yeah, I know what you are, you’re a spiv.”

JJ: He didn’t look like Tony Mulhearn did, or… he had obviously made an effort about his appearance, and I do remember him hanging around Exchange Flags quite a lot.

But I always thought he was a spic anyway, to be honest. So… yes… and Exchange Flags was in a lovely place, of course, it was lovely being in the Flags and the Town Hall. I really liked that aspect of it and I have always, again with my interest in architecture and urban zoning, I like that space, you’re near the centre of town, and of course my father worked… when he was younger, so I sort of had a family connection with Liverpool, which means I can… because my father was born in Ireland, and I can get an Irish passport, which I am now doing, thank you very much dad.

SK: Can I ask you about politics at Granada?


SK: Somebody has described Granada as being ‘unashamedly left-wing’.

Yes. I thought it was left-wing in conventional political terms. I perceived it as being very, very conservative in social terms.

JJ: So would you like to…

Yes, I would have to explain that. Obviously – and I’m very glad it was left wing because that was a real, I mean, I’ve always voted Labour since, so it was a real education for me – and I was very much struck by the poverty in the north west. I totally got it that this was the correct response, and going talking to Frances Clark and hearing her experience and all that, so that was a complete education for, you know, a middle class London boy, been to public school in Cambridge, and had never… I’ve never seriously been into politics at university. I went to a sit-in once and everything was going fine and then somebody the piped up and said, “We are in the sit-in condemn the Heath government for so-and-so.” I thought, “Oh, fuck off.” Just a stupid… and so… but I found that very interesting, and in retrospect I’m glad I experienced that, even though I didn’t dive in to that political side, but then it sort of infused everything you did really.

JJ: And you think that Granada represented that kind of… the poverty that you saw when you moved to Manchester? Do you think that was replicated in Granada’s programmes?

I don’t think the company made a bad fist of it actually. I think it did, and it was like I said in the Daniel Meadows thing of seeing Bob Greaves talking to somebody in the street and then you get this picture of this woman looking out from her door and everything’s really grotty, and there’s grass coming up between the paving stones, and it’s just… and you think, “Granada did have a connection to the north west and the people in the north west.” I do genuinely feel that. I think it went pretty soon after I left in ’82, I don’t see that it really maintained. But you know it was pretty… I mean, it had the local news and it had the magazine programmes Liverpool and it had the magazine program in… and had This is Your Right, which I think probably deserves more credit than it got actually, because my last act on This is Your Right is actually talking to a Muslim GP in Liverpool about starting a – and I can’t remember what language it was, it might have been Punjabi – called Aap Kaa Hak, and that was my last act, was to set that up. And that was fascinating. I mean, I was very open-minded about all that stuff. And so to me that was completely fascinating, and I don’t see how you couldn’t have become more political being not only in the Granada environment but also in the environment of the north west at that time, at the start of Thatcherism. It was brutal. And I remember particularly Liverpool, and I remember going round Liverpool and I had this memory recently – because of course Heseltine has been back in the news – it must have been when I was on Granada Reports and Heseltine was stomping around some… I remember going in with a film crew to see Heseltine stomping around the (??56:32) estate, and actually have to say in retrospect Heseltine was quite impressive, but I remember thinking about the disparity between… you’d had the Toxteth riots, and how really poor Liverpool was, really desperate, in a way that Manchester was more cloaked because the poverty was much more to the north and the east, and in Hulme, where it was cloaked by the existence of Didsbury and Chorlton and the suburbs in the south, and you could almost not really see it. But Liverpool was in your face the whole time. And I genuinely found that very… and of course I had a tie-in to it with Margi, you know, so here I am, you know, the southerner who was brought up in Kensington from the age of 13, going to Margi’s house in Anfield – that was a mind-blower. And Margi and I were very close, it wasn’t like, “Well, you’re posh and you’re working class, we were just friends, very close friends. And so that to me was a complete and utter education. But when I say conservative, there’s a whole other side to Granada which was what I was saying about it being a hierarchy, the becoming sclerotic and roles being very firmly defined, and people actually being socially quite conservative. So particularly from the point of view of being gay, I never got any shit because I wasn’t necessarily… I mean, I didn’t deny it but I wasn’t… I was just who I was and it was obvious that I was gay and I didn’t really talk about it very much, and I don’t remember getting into trouble for it. But I just thought people like… I’m afraid to say it, I just thought all the kind of disco queens were just ridiculous, and very sort of conservative… and, you know, also I observed that there was a lot of sexism then, because of course in the gender politics at the time, and I was interested in gender politics, and in the gender politics of the time, feminism was much more advanced than gay rights in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, so I had more than a passing interest in feminism, and in fact the first March I ever went on was when I was at Granada and it was against the Corrie Bill, do you remember that? And that was first march I ever went on. Because gay rights hadn’t got the stage that there were these massive Not only sorry going on cried with us like going on that there were these massive marches, and I only started going on Pride marches… it must have been when I was back in London in the later ‘80s, in the mid to late ‘80s, and then you had the whole AIDS thing and a whole kind of wave of gay activism, that’s when I really got involved with gay politics, with people like Derek Jarman, and so that was five years later. But certainly there was no gay politics worth speaking of at the time, and you know, I was aware of, you know, somebody like Vicky Price is my friend, who is quite unusual to have a technician, a skilled technician who was a woman. And obviously Rachel Hebditch, who I actually really liked, a lot of people didn’t like her but I really get on with her, she was quite unusual as well. And I think I must have… did Bruce live in that lovely row of streets near Platt Fields

JJ: Yes.

Yes, okay, I went to his house once. And I never quite… I can’t remember what happened, it must have been very near the end of my time at Granada because that could have been a friendship that developed because I really liked him, him and his partner, and I liked where they lived, but now when I look back on it, gay rights were so primitive then. And of course we had Anderton, who was a complete and utter total bloody nightmare, who’s still alive apparently, he was very funny when we were doing the Joy Division documentary, we had somebody really slagging off Anderton, and somebody in the edit said, “Is he still alive?” And then we realised he was, and we had to cut him out. But yes, no, it was super great as far as I was concerned, and Granada really seemed, in those essential ways, to be 10-20 years behind London, still, in the ‘90s, which of course it wouldn’t be now. In those particular… in terms of gender politics and those areas, and I was very aware of that, and I thought, “My God, I’ve stepped back in time.”

JJ: Because people have described Granada as being paternalistic in the way that it was run, in that, you know, in some ways it was like a family, in some of the ways that they looked after you. But there was obviously a downside to that.

Well I… you know, in retrospect of course, as I said to Steve on the phone, we did the film about Joy Division which was funded by the band, and by the management, and it won a Grierson for the best documentary film of the year. We were all really surprise, we didn’t even have a speech prepared, and we just went, “Oh, thanks, great.” And I found out afterwards that most of the board had been Granada-ites. And one of them came up to me, I can’t remember her name, I looked for her afterwards and I couldn’t find her, who said, “You got the atmosphere of Manchester in the late 70s really well,” which is our intention because it was again, like I said earlier, Joy Division seemed to be very much to be a group that reflected the mood and the environment of Manchester in the late ‘70s, so it was valid to do what we did in the film, which was to put them in context of time and place, which pop groups can be very good at reflecting. And anyway, I suddenly thought, “Oh, Granada really is a kind of family.” And I just thought that was great, but it’s much more in retrospect than at the time. I mean, it was… I do think it was very, very tough, it was very tough for me. I didn’t complain at the time because I was used to putting up with a whole load of shit to be honest, but when I look back on it, it was very tough. You know, I always knew that what I wanted to do would be hard because what I wanted to do was what I wanted to do. And people don’t want you to do what you want to do! Being independent. It’s always hard to be independent, truly independent. And so I wasn’t complaining but it was tough. I was always in trouble. I was always in trouble in any hierarchy I was in, by the way, because there was some part of me that just never got it. What you had to do to be in a hierarchy. I just… on a fundamental level, I might have learnt a lot of the codes but because of my personality, on a fundamental level I never got it, and that would slip out and I’d do something stupid or I’d forget about something, or I cross a line or I’d pick up something in the studio and have people screaming, you know, all this stuff. It was very rigid, Granada, by this stage, and there were lots of things you couldn’t do. And I got really annoyed by that. And so I liked the, you know, I liked in a lot of ways, I mean obviously it’s gone far too far the other way, but in a lot of ways I liked the freedom you had with, you know, when we did Teenage, the shoot, we had a monster row with the union whether or not, because we’re using these kids in cages, it was a drama shoot, and if it had been a drama shoot we would have had to Equity people. And it was so insane. And eventually it was prevailed upon these kids were not actors. Oh, but then they’ve got to be extras. And it seemed to me that… the structures that had grown up for a very good reason were becoming unworkable for the reality of making television programmes. I’m not on… I mean, I’m totally sympathetic to the unions in that I’m totally – unless of course you’re talking about (?)– I’m totally in favour of workers’ rights. I hate people getting exploited. I’m incensed by internships. People should get paid well, at least reasonably, for what they do – and that means minimum wage plus. So, you know, I’m very much in favour of that. People should be paid for working, and you know, I get asked still now to do lots of stuff for free and I just say, “Fuck off.” How dare you? The BBC called me up fairly recently and said, “We’re doing a programme about people’s favourite novels, and Sebastian thought I was talking about Gormenghast, and I said, “Well, I love Gormenghast, I could talk about that for hours.” So we talked a bit and then they said… I said, “Is there a fee?” and they said, “Well, no.” And I said, “Well, you have just wasted my time for a quarter of an hour. How dare you. You are being paid, Sebastian Faulkes is being paid, why are you not paying me?” Slam. It happens all the time and it’s disgusting. I’m in a position where I can make a fuss about it –kids in their 20s now cannot, and it infuriates me. So, there’s part of me that’s very, very pro the idea of people’s rights in work, but it had really gone beyond, and everybody knew it had gone beyond by the late ‘70s early ‘80s, as far as the unions were concerned. I’m sorry, I wish it wasn’t so, but it really had. I mean of those mass… and bloody Malcolm Wotsisface, what an absolute bastard. He was so intransigent and ugly. It was just awful. And I remember being in those meetings and just really feeling alienated, partly because the unions, you know, the hard core unionites, thought we were baby management, which of course on some on some levels we were baby management, doesn’t mean that we weren’t getting a whole shit dumped on us. You know. So it’s kind of an impossible… the whole thing in retrospect now we’re talking about it, was creaking at the seams. I now realise. And I was ahead of my time in making the kind of… I mean, the fact I was ahead of my time is that I’d gone on to make the programmes, the films that I wanted to make. And successfully. So I had a clear idea of what I wanted, but it took me a long time to get there. But…

JJ: But you couldn’t have made it in the environment that was…

No, no, no, no – it was impossible for me. I couldn’t do it. It’s such a shame in retrospect but it wasn’t flexible enough to deal with somebody like me, you know, I wasn’t a revolutionary; I wanted to make interesting programmes but just couldn’t by then. Maybe if I’d been there 10 years before I had been able to.

JJ: Yes.

SK: The ‘60s and early ‘70s you probably could have done.

JJ: Because somebody like Leslie I think…

Exactly. He’s my idol.

JJ: He had the freedom to almost go off and do what he wanted, didn’t he?

Yes. He was the guy that I aspired to. He was my sort of hero in the organisation. And he also, as I said, he was incredibly nice to me for no good reason at all; we have a connection there. But, you know, I couldn’t have been Leslie Woodhead then, in that time, because it was so… you know, you had drama, which was very much a thing with Derek Granger and Brideshead. you had the whole LE department, which was very much a thing, with David Liddiment, you had… a lot of the documentary stuff had been hived off into World in Action, resources put into that, you know, there was no… I realised really a few months before I left that there was no place for me there really.

JJ: No, there was not much wiggle room, was there?

SK: (??68:24)

Oh, good! Exhausting. Do we need to talk any more about Tony? Have we got enough about Tony?

JJ: Well, if there’s things that…

SK: If you think you’ve got more to say.

JJ: About Tony. Because I think what’s interesting is, of all the people that people talk about, Tony is there as a constant thread. And it’s interesting that the impact that he made, or… I don’t know, that people talk very fondly about him or his importance to Granada.

I saw Tony is a very complex person. I thought he was a genius presenter and have an enormous respect for that. I thought he was… I thought with Janet Street Porter, he was by far… those two were the best presenters in the UK because they did something beyond just parroting, reading off autocue. This was a major source of disillusion to me, by the way, when I actually started working in telly, was how unglamorous it was and how people had to read autocue, and just other presenters who you thought were these people, were actually saying what other people have written for them, so that was a major source of disillusion, and we all thought presenters were all a bit sort of the wanky type to be honest. I mean, I don’t know whether you remember that, because I’m thinking, “They’re just a bunch of tossers really, just reading off the bloody autocue,” and of course that wasn’t entirely fair, but you know… anyway, as I said, I was very close to Tony and I saw him as a bit of a hippy intellectual, and he and I were very, very close, really until I left Granada because, you know, I’d write about his bands and I did posters for Joy Division, and Tony was a real impresario, like he brought a lot of different people together and gave them freedom to be creative which is something great. He wasn’t… but the downside of Tony was that – and I remember feeling this time – was that Tony would always be rushing around and he would never stop. “Oh Jon, I’m off to Moston to pick up an amp for Peter Hook.” “Oh, I’m going there.” “Oh, I’ve got to go to Sheffield, do you want to come with me?” You know, set off at 11 o’clock and smoke dope on the Snake Pass and not get in til two o’clock, and all this kind of rushing around just endlessly in his red Peugeot with all sorts of amplifiers and leads in the back – it was just complete chaos. And he seemed to me to live his life in complete chaos and not to… and I don’t think ever did find his centre, and that’s a very, very dangerous thing because you’re actually sort of, as a person, you’re quite fragmented, you’re leaving bits of yourself all over the place. And so… and Tony, obviously, Tony changed my life. I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, which I always say, and he was inspiring and he was a very big figure in Manchester I remember driving around with Tony a lot, and he’d stop at traffic lights and (people would be like, “Yo, Tony!” and all this stuff, you know. “Tony!” So he was a huge figure in Manchester. But of course, being a Londoner, I was always slightly sceptical because I thought, “Well actually Tony, you’ve got to go to London and you’ve got to be able to make it there,” and of course Tony bottled it, and so he was kind of doomed not to be a national figure, which he could have been, but he was doomed to stay in Manchester. And then of course, he made a virtue out of a necessity, which meant that he did become a great booster of Manchester from you know, in the later ‘80s and ‘90s, which actually did a lot of good for the city, so it all turned out okay in the end. Tony could be very careless with people. He could also be a bully. He had disastrous relationships with women. He and I had major issues about the fact he was used to give me shit about being gay, which really surprises people when I tell them, but it’s true. Because of course Tony had issues, and Tony’s issues primarily focussed on his father, Sidney, who turned out to be gay. And Sidney’s partner was called Tony. And Sidney’s partner was a vicious queen, Sidney was a nice old aunty, but Tony was a vicious queen, and Tony W felt… just couldn’t deal with it, so he gave me a hell of shit for years about being gay, and then the late ‘80s I turned up some stupid Granada programme… I drove up from London and I saw… it was one of those things I never heard it before or since I looked in my rear view mirror and there was an accident happening, there were cars flying all over the road and I then got caught in another traffic jam, and I only had one tape the car, which is a group called The Stooges who were completely (??73:32), one Stooges on one side and another album on the other side called Raw Power, which is the wildest thing you’ve ever heard. So by the time I’d had five hours in the car listening to the Stooges and I arrived in Granada, I was completely wild. And Tony came up to me in the green room and, in front of everybody, very loudly, said, “Oh Jon, come on, give us a kiss, you know you want to.” And I went “Oh. Tony. I couldn’t possibly do that – I’m trying to decide between you or your dad.” And that was kind of the end of our friendship, because I was so fucking pissed off with it. Fuck off. You know? And that was (??74:09) the end of our friendship really. I mean, he was always in touch with me by remote control about what was going on at the Haç, and I did a book about the Hacienda and the last days of Factory, but we never retained our closeness really. Because also I thought Tony was getting decadent and I always thought that Tony was very much… was very impressionable actually, and quite naïve in some ways. And Tony would always be coloured by the people that he was associating with. So probably when I first met him he was associating with kind of all those hippy Didsbury types but by the late 80s he was associating with bloody Shaun Ryder and the Happy Mondays who I just thought were poisonous drug trolls, and I hated them. I hate heroin and I can’t stand cocaine and I just thought the whole thing was ghastly. And Tony was very irresponsible about drugs, he promoted the Happy Mondays as a drug band, and you have to be really careful about all that stuff. And so when the Hacienda was all going tits up I sort of basically turned around and said, “I told you so,” which didn’t go very well. And of course Tony, as I now realise, was taking cocaine at that time, and I just regard that as a fantastically stupid thing to do, and one of the contributors to his health problems, because of course Rob Gretton took a lot of cocaine and he had a major health breakdown in the mid-’80s. And of course Martin Hannett got very involved with heroin and died… he got off heroin and then hit the booze and he died in 1990, so suddenly all my friends from my early days in Granada were dead, you know, Martin died, in 1991 I spent a lot of time with Martin in the summer of (?)– I was always over at his house – Martin always liked drugs, he’d been the chemist and he was just… he always had the best drugs. Then Rob died in 1999. I gave a funeral oration in a church in Wythenshawe, it was awful, absolutely awful, I was terrified, and then Tony died and I didn’t go to his funeral, I jut couldn’t bear it. I’d had enough. And I didn’t want to see all those people and I didn’t want to… I was too… when Tony died I was furious at him, I was so angry with him, which is obviously one of the phases of grief, and in that state I could not go to the funeral because I would have got into arguments so I didn’t go. And I don’t regret it, I just thought about him, and I’ve thought about him since, and you know, Tony was really great but he was a very problematic character and in some ways he was the architect of his own downfall, because of the reasons that I said which is that, in a way, he was never at rest with himself and if you are going to survive you need to be, on some fundamental level, at rest with yourself you need to find your centre, and Tony was just… couldn’t do it.

JJ: What do you think he got from working at Granada?

Well, it gave him a platform. It made him a star. It plugged him into the life of the north west, only managed to knock Liverpool, that was another stupid side of Tony, he was always horrible about Liverpool, which is such a stupid thing to do. And there was that whole kind of tribal thing, I never understood it, because I’m very fond of both Manchester and Liverpool, and I have family connections in Liverpool. You know, my great grandmother… my grandmother… I’ve only just found this out, actually. My paternal grandmother, who died long before I was born, this has all come out because of me applying for an Irish passport, was a member of the Crane family who ran the music shops. And my father was brought up in New Brighton from the age of about 10, so you know, I’m very fond of Liverpool, and I’m very fond of Manchester as well so I never got all of that tribal bullshit, and Tony course was very irresponsible about that. But no, he was a.. and of course this Factory he and Rob and Martin and Peter Saville and Alan Erasmus, it wasn’t just Tony, Tony was the PR man. Alan was the guy that ran around and found the clubs and really did a lot of the grunt work. Rob was the guy who understood music and managed the principal band. Saville designed it, so it was a team, it wasn’t just Tony. And Tony was a kind of conceptualiser and the planner and PR and running around and saying ‘darling’ and everything and you know, putting the sort of icing on the cake. So that was him in factory and the whole North West/Manchester booster thing didn’t really come in until quite a lot later, which is what he is sort of remembered for now, and I’m equivocal about that, to be honest.

JJ: I suppose for Granada, they got something from his music persona.

Not a lot. He was a star. He was a Granada star before he did the music thing. I don’t necessarily think they did at all actually, I don’t think they knew what to do with Tony. And again, it goes back to what I’m saying is that TV executives don’t understand pop music, they don’t like it. It’s not what they’re about. I mean, the famous stories of when the Sex Pistols came to play, came to do (??79:50), which Tony arranged, was a real stroke of genius on his part. I mean Tony was very talented in that respect, and you can only be that for a short while, by the way, really on the ball… you’ve got about three years of being able to do that, because after then you just can’t do it because it’s too tiring. I had the same on the music press; I was really on the ball for about three years and then it just fades because it’s too tiring to be that on the ball. And Tony was really on the ball, so got the Sex Pistols, first British television appearance, you know, endlessly – Granada must have made so much money from that, same Leslie and The Beatles, it’s exactly the same deal. You know, he got the first live performances of generation-founding acts. Obviously The Beatles is a gazillion times bigger than the Sex Pistols, but the principle is still there. Anyway, so they’re all there, and with them is a woman called Jordan who worked in the sex shop with Malcolm McClaren, and she’s got an arm band with a Swastika on, and she’s cavorting around the stage, and Sidney Bernstein tunes in – do you remember when you used to be able to tune into studios! – and he tunes in and he sees this (s/local Ryan Madchen, though the internet tells me the woman was Siouxsie Sioux 81:08) wearing a Swastika, and of course there’s a series of very serious phone calls. And that didn’t do Tony any good. And then there was the thing with Iggy Pop cavorting around the stage and saying ‘fuck’. It’s a wonderful piece of footage, but he’s wearing a horse’s tail and saying ‘fuck’ and doing all that, and Mike Scott sees it. And Tony was always in trouble, like me, but in a different way. You know, they just didn’t get it. I don’t think that they saw his music involvement as an asset at all. Because in fact it’s only in retrospect with Tony that that’s all been put together. And in fact, the last time I saw Tony was when we filmed him for the Joy Division documentary, and he was obviously very ill. And I did the interview with him and he was very sweet at the end and he said, “Jon, that was a very professional interview,” which I took as high praise, and that was it. That was the last time I saw him. So there is a whole lot of death in that story. And for me, as I said, my close friends in the early days of Granada were people in Factory and they’re now all dead, which is ridiculous. So there’s that whole side to it as well, and you think, “Well, why?” And I’m afraid probably drugs were involved, and you know, that whole rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. You know, I just thank God I never went there. I never did Class A’s very well or very much.

SK: Did you get a sense that drugs were being used elsewhere in Granada?

I never… well, because I was very discreet about my own drug use, which was at that time almost entirely marijuana, and then for a period I didn’t even do that, so… and for me my social life was very much involved with the Factory mob, so drugs were not an issue because it was sort of the music industry and drugs are all over the music industry, so that’s that, so it wasn’t even thought about really. And obviously I do remember having to be very careful when you’re driving around Manchester late at night that you didn’t have anything on you, because I was always being stopped. This is another facet of Manchester at the time – if you’re out late at night in a non-standard car you’d be stopped, and stopped at least once a week, maybe twice a week, driving around at night, any time after 10 o’clock; it’s almost like a police state as far as I was concerned, you know, and of course smoking dope you get paranoid anyway. And Tony was caught a couple of times flinging joint ends out of the car, you know. No… I presumed speed or coke might have been used but I never really saw it because I was always very discreet about my drug use and I didn’t talk about it with other people, so I don’t know. I’m sure (Ed someone? 83:59) took drugs. Ed was always somebody I wanted to be friends with, but he never wanted to be friends with me, so that was that really.

JJ: He’s living in Paris, isn’t he? He’s an artist.

He’s a funny guy. Ed was always a funny guy.

SK: Is he is Paris now?


JJ: He wrote an article about how he had lived in Paris for 10 years, and in the article itself he talked about (Heysel?). aAnd I just thought… it was just apropos of nothing, it was just stuck in there, and I thought, “Why are you sticking that in?” I meant to show it to you.

Well, because Ed’s a bit of a headbanger. And also… I don’t know… funnily enough, although in many ways we must have been on the same side of things, I never connected with Ed, never, ever.

JJ: That’s really good. I’ll tell you just one other thing, because… for you, Margi Clarke seems to be really important. I don’t really know how Granada really used her, and then what happened. And she was an interesting female presenter at a time when there wasn’t a lot of female presenters.

Well, like I said my initial experience of Margi was with Carol Ann, so they were a unit, so I suddenly had these two – I had just joined Granada – I had these two really strong women.

JJ: So was Carol Ann Duffy a researcher?

No, she was writing Margi’s scripts.

JJ: Okay, so she was…

And I remember one night we were driving out to Kirkby for some reason, me and Carol Ann and Margi, we had just met each other, we were checking each other out, and suddenly this is dreadful smell in the car, and Margi had farted, and I said to her, “Margi, is that you or the industrial estate?” and everybody collapsed laughing. That’s when I was in. And Carol Ann was a hoot because she was quite protective of Margi and she was very wary of me, and then of course I got to know her and Adrian, I got on like a house on fire with Adrian, he was so kind and so nice, and of course I’d seen… this was a dream come true for me, because the first gig I went to when I was 15 was (Liverpool Scene? 86:38). So it was a thrill to me to meet Adrian and be in that house in Mount Street with all these mad people, and Adrian had all… a mixture of sort of gay punks, people like me and Margi and Carol Ann and then the previous generation, and it was wonderful meeting point. And one weekend, Adrian was away and Carol Ann got drunk, and we ended up in bed together, and of course nothing happened, for obvious reasons, and then she went round telling everybody I’d shagged her! And I was really, really pleased because I got all the credit and I didn’t have to do anything! It was all completely mad. I just remember that, it was just Bohemianism-a-go-go. I remember taking blueys – which are disgusting, (??87:32) blueys was cheap speed was cheap speed and getting really drunk and ending up at the bed at the top of the house, on the top floor, I saw it recently, when I went back recently, because Adrian’s last partner, I can’t remember… oh God, what’s her name – Catherine – we looked around, and I was like, “Oh my God, you know, it’s such a wonderful house. So I was up in the top room trying to sleep off this whole concoction with a blinding headache and I had to twist myself in the bed because Adrian’s first wife Joyce had pissed the bed the night before, so I was kind of sleeping like that. And in the middle of the night had to get downstairs with a raging hangover to go down to the loo, right down to the bottom of the house. And I got down to the bottom floor where the loo was and the huge life-size blow-up of Doris Speed. So I was confronted by that three in the morning, you know, wagging her finger at me as it were. And so Margi was obviously my key into Liverpool and then I met her brother Frank Clarke who later wrote Letter to Brezhnev and another – what was the one about the boxer? She was in something about the female boxer, which was a good film. And Margi had the most amazing turnaround, which I’m never going to forget her saying about somebody, “Oh, he’s got the complexion of boiled shite.” And I just… I adored her, I really, really adored her. And she and I were like partners in crime, hence we were always in trouble, because obviously it’s my job to discipline her, which I conspicuously failed to do, because it is so much fun being with Margo. But also Margi is… she’s not a careerist and she has a self-destruct capacity, and she had an opportunity for Coronation Street – as Tyrone’s mum if you remember – which she blew… I think she was… it might have been cocaine, I can’t remember, I think she got caught with coke, and so she never quite made it at Granada, and again, they didn’t… 10 years before, they didn’t know what to do with her. Again, it goes back to what I was saying about the sclerotic quality of Granada by that stage; if you didn’t fit the grooves, you didn’t really go there. And so Margi really must have faded quite quickly. Because I remember after (??90:01), I don’t remember her doing (??90:03) because she was off What’s On, and I don’t remember much more.

JJ: See, I don’t remember it at all.

SK: I came up to Granada for an interview in July ’78 and found myself in Steve Morrison’s office, who I had met before, and while he had just done a pilot, and so the pilot was playing out, Steve was saying, “Sit here, because I want to watch this, tell me what you think about it.” And at the end of it I said, “I think she’s really good, quite an interesting person. I think she would be really good,” and Steve was saying, “I don’t know, I’m not really sure really,” and I think in a way I think that’s probably why Margi never really found her niche. I mean, Steve hired her but he never knew quite what to do with her.

This is what I was saying earlier about Steve liking interesting people, having good instincts in that area, but then now knowing what to do with them because the institution couldn’t really deal with them any more. Which is such a shame in retrospect, but it’s also the life and times of Granada and that particular time in Granada, which is very much the end of the old era really, I regarded as. I thought that the whole thing was slightly… by the time I left I thought, “The whole thing is a bit creaky now, this particular way of doing it.” and there was attraction of TV-AM, TV-AM, again, was a new way of doing it, but of course the new way of doing it was far worse than the old way! TV-AM was awful, and I left… my final job in TV-AM was working with Eve Pollard, who is a complete moron. I remember one day, I’d just got my mortgage through, and I had a massive tantrum because I couldn’t stand her any more, and I smashed my phone, smashed my desk, ran into her and called her a fucking cunt, and I didn’t even get sacked – but I knew after I’d done that I just… that was it, I really couldn’t carry on. And that was my last job – I’ve been freelance ever since, sort of June 1984.

Jacki Turner


This is a blog from Jacki

Up to 1965 I’d been working as a secretary in an engineering company in Blackburn. I nearly married a colleague but then realised in a panic that I’d done nothing with my life and was not ready to settle down so I took myself off to America and worked as a secretary to a dermatologist on Long Island, New York for a year. As I returned home for Christmas in 1965 I made the decision that unless I found a more interesting job in the UK then I would return to America. I took a shopping trip to Manchester and happened to pass the Granada Television Studios on Quay Street. I thought to myself that it would be a very interesting place to work.

Within a few weeks I’d written to Granada to see if there was a position as a secretary and was invited to attend an interview. Andrew Quinn was the Personnel Manager in those days before rising to dizzy heights in Management. My previous employer in the US, Dr Lightstone had written a wonderful reference for me, almost too glowing, almost embarrassing, but after a shorthand typing test by the dreaded Mrs Dickson from the typing pool I was offered a job in the pool as a shorthand typist with the possibility of becoming a secretary as and when a position became available. Andrew did say “if I was good enough then one day I could train to be a PA” I made a decision that this was my career aim.

Within 6 weeks I was appointed as secretary to Barrie Heads who was Head of Outside Broadcasting and Current Affairs programmes. David Plowright, producer of World in Action was in the next door office and producer Bill Grundy was close by. It was a fascinating time working for Barrie. As an ex journalist his shorthand was faster than mine although I could type much faster than he could. The first experience I had of television production was when he took me to the home of Manny Shinwell a famous Labour politician of the 1920s The intention was to record the life experiences of famous people before they died and it was only to be transmitted after their death. The programme was called Granada Historical Records but I’m not certain whether any of this material was ever transmitted. Another person that Barrie interviewed was Alistair Cooke the famous reporter who was a friend of Barrie’s before moving to America and creating his famous radio broadcast “Letter from America”. I was working for Barrie when the Aberfan disaster struck and Barrie went down to Aberfan to coordinate ITVs coverage. He was in tears when I spoke to him on the phone. One Christmas Eve we’d finished for the day and had enjoyed a glass of wine or two in the office when we got a call from Sidney Bernstein’s office. He had a few questions outstanding about a documentary in production which he wanted answers to before the Xmas break. Both Barrie and I tried to type the memo but failed dismally and in those days it was impossible to erase the type without making a mess. We managed it eventually when we’d sobered up a bit! Another memory I have of Barrie is travelling to London with him 1st class on the train. We were in the breakfast compartment and catering staff were passing through the carriage with food and drinks. Unfortunately we were by the door and it was very cold and draughty. Barrie kept closing the nearby door behind him which the waiters kept leaving open. Unfortunately unseen by Barrie another waiter was coming through the door with a tray full of glasses of fruit juice. Without looking Barrie reached out behind him and half closed the door knocking the tray of drinks all over a poor unfortunately business man sitting across the aisle from him. They took him away to clean him up and he was away ages – all that sticky fruit juice must have been awful! Barrie was very good friends with Joyce Wooller who was in charge of Pas (amongst other much more important jobs) and she certainly had the power of yes or no as to whom she took on for training. Joyce had an amazingly posh accent and had attended Rhodean Public School so I was very aware of my Lancashire accent which I had been trying to soften ever since starting work with Granada. I’m sure Barrie put in a good word for me as she offered me PA training just 18 months after I’d joined.

Ivy Stevens was my trainer and supervisor and the first thing you concentrate on is the use of stop watches in studio and how to cue film and time VT inserts, counting backwards to the end of the insert. I had a large watch to time the overall programme and a smaller watch to time all the inserts within the programme. I learned how to type scripts for people to work to in studio and all the paperwork associated with programme making. Then I spent time in editing which was very primitive in 1968, 2” wide tape which the editor cut and stuck together, during which I had to keep track of the exact running time. My first programme, under supervision, was University Challenge with Bamber Gascoigne. The thrill of announcing 1’00” to music question and 1’00” to picture question then the ultimate thrill of Q GONG before rolling credits and counting out of programme. Peter Mullings was the director and he got carried away when the music question was played – a frustrated conductor he would wave his arms around as if conducting the Halle Orchestra. I learnt to duck if he got too carried away.

In those early days there was a Director called Dave Warwick and he covered a variety of programmes, mainly sport and light entertainment. We covered football matches in Yorkshire as well as Lancashire. We would record a match as an OB in Yorkshire then drive back to Granada to edit the highlights for transmission that evening. The trouble was that we were chauffeured back to base but I had to work on my notes and timings all through the journey so that by the time we got back to Manchester I always felt very sickly. I had to log the matches by dividing the pitch into four quarters so that a goal kick would be logged as landing in one of the numbered squares then we would look further down the notes until we found a similar event and edit out the chunk of game in between. Sometimes if it was an exciting match that had to be decided on penalties I would be so riveted by the goal kicks I’d be in danger of missing one or two!

Dave also loved his pop music and we had lots of singers and groups in studio. Again I worked with stop watches and logged each piece of music where there was vocals/instrumentals, which I then counted to. All music had to be cleared before transmission and I had to make sure I had all the information from the artistes as to composer/publisher etc.

In those early days we did a lot of local films for Scene at 6.30 / Granada Reports. One day I found myself on a steam train heading for Carnforth….and I literally mean “on” as I was sitting on the coal tender with stopwatch and notepad. I really am a fan of steam trains! A certain young cameraman by the name of George Turner was hanging off the front of the engine, only secured by his leather belt, apparently to get action shots of the wheels and steam. What a “b” idiot I thought, never imagining that one day I would marry that “b” idiot!

Another early programme I did was What the Papers Say and we had a wide cross section of journalists who would write the script having selected various articles from current newspapers. We also had at least 3 artistes who read the cuttings which had been mounted on captions. Most weeks it went well but one week we had a very inexperienced director who never seemed to get the correct caption on screen to match the voice overs on the script. Normally this programme never went into editing but on that occasion it was the only way the programme could be transmitted.

Occasionally I worked on Cinema presented by Michael Parkinson. He was quite a character but very likeable. My favourite trip by far was to go with a Granada documentary crew to Pinewood Studios where they were shooting The Slipper and the Rose-a modern version of Cinderella. There were many well known stars in the film such as Margot Fonteyn, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, the very handsome Richard Chamberlain of Dr Kildare fame and my favourite Kenneth Moore. They were all dressed in Elizabethan costumes complete with wigs. It was a really hot day in summer and Kenneth kept taking off his wig and just dropping it; luckily a makeup artiste followed him everywhere and kept retrieving it. I was just dressed in jeans and tee shirt but he suddenly noticed me and said “darling you look ever so hot” and I replied that I couldn’t possibly be as hot as he was in costume and wig.

Another early programme I worked on was All our Yesterdays presented by Brian Inglis. It described by pictures and archive film what happened in Britain and the World 25 years previously. By the time I worked on it we were in the middle of the WW2. I was thrilled to be told that we were going to interview Barnes Wallace the inventor of the famous bouncing bomb. We filmed him at his desk in Weybridge and there was a model of his Swing Wing aircraft that was still in the design stage. What a privilege to meet such a legend. We then incorporated the interview into a programme all about the dam busters. The archive footage in this series was memorable. Sometimes I had to have 2 small stop watches + my large programme watch as we cut between various clips of film.

The first drama that everyone had to cut their teeth on was Coronation Street and I first worked on this iconic programme in 1969. In those days we recorded two black and white episodes a week. This meant that any outside film/VT was recorded on a Monday then everyone rehearsed Tuesday and Wednesday morning in a large rehearsal room that had all the sets taped on the floor with necessary props/furniture. On Wednesday afternoon it was the Tech Run which all crew attended along with the Prducer. My job at the Tech Run was to time each scene with 15″ timings so that cuts could be made if necessary. On the Thursday we went into studio with the first episode. First we staggered through the episode sorting out shots/sound/lighting and practising dropping in the film or VT inserts (my job) Film only had a 5″ roll up which was fairly easy to gauge with whichever artiste was speaking just before the insert. However when we had to drop in a VT insert this was on a 15″ roll and could be very dodgy with some of the older artistes. Bill Roache was best at it as he never forgot his lines. Bill was also very good at speeding up or slowing down a scene if we gave the floor manager a note over studio talkback. Quite often we’d have a noisy scene in the Rovers then we’d Q & Cut to the next scene, possibly next door in Tatlocks and everyone in the Rovers would have to be absolutely quiet. After the first run we had a dress rehearsal. Besides checking the timings, calling shots, repo’ing cameras and booms and keeping an eye on the dialogue I also had to take director’s notes. Between Dress Rehearsal and Recording we all trouped into a committee room where I had to follow the director round to all the individual artistes reading out his notes. If there was a problem with the timing of the ep then the producer would make changes which I had then to pass on to the artistes & crew. This was a nerve-racking time for everyone; almost like a live TX. I remember seeing Vi Carson (Ena) absolutely shaking with nerves. There was no editing in those days, we recorded part one, stopped tape then recorded part two. If anything went wrong we had to start again at the beginning of either part. I had to do 15″ timings on my script throughout the episode so that I could see at any time whether the programme was running over or under. Two minutes before the end of programme, according to my timings, I had to pre fade the music so that the music ended naturally. We had a huge roller operated by a stagehand carrying the credits – this had many settings running at different speeds and in those last 2 minutes to end of programme I had to make the decision as to which roller speed would be required to end credits at the same time as the music. On the Friday we went through everything again with the second episode.

I worked on Coronation Street for at least a year, during which time we went into colour. The first time we saw the sets in colour they looked far too clean and bright so overnight a gang of set painters had to grubby down each set.

I’ve lots of memories of Corrie over the years- whenever you had a gap between finishing one production and starting the next you did a block or two on Corrie. Here are just a few:

Jean Alexander who played Hilda Ogden was brilliant with her continuity. She could hang different items of clothing on her washing line with different coloured pegs and still repeat the actions to correctly match her dialogue.

It was a big secret as to whether Raquel would marry Curly Watts and six weeks before transmission we secretly recorded the wedding ceremony. Brian Mills was the director, we had a lady playing the registrar and a couple of trusted extras to be witnesses. I put on a formal grey suit and played the part of the assistant registrar (with notebook and stopwatch hidden on my lap). When we’d finished we all travelled back in a minibus and Sarah Lancashire rang her mum to tell her she’d “got married” then we drank fizzy wine from paper cups to celebrate.

I worked quite a lot with a lovely director called Nicholas Ferguson and whenever we recorded a wedding on location he would wear a carnation in his lapel and I’d wear the hat I got married in and with a bit of luck there was something fizzy when we’d finished

I was lucky enough to go to Amsterdam when Roy got together with Hayley. That was a lovely shoot as I’d never been there before and we filmed on a houseboat among the lovely canals. One or two of the crew couldn’t resist the wacky backy but at least stayed away from the prostitutes (I think!).

We travelled up to the Lake District to scatter Alma’s ashes. Unfortunately there was quite a strong wind in the middle of the lake and although we recorded most of the scenes we had to postpone the scattering of ashes as everyone was covered in white dust – thank goodness they weren’t real human ashes!

I worked with director Brian Mills on a special Coronation Street for Xmas sale as a video rather than transmission on mainstream TV. It was filmed in Las Vegas, USA but because of their strong unions very few of us were given visas but we managed to convince them that Continuity was essential from England- we only took about 10 Crew, the remainder had to be employed in the US. John Friend Newman was our 1st Assistant Director but his 2nd assistant was a rotund American lady who we christened “The Rottweiller”. One expression she used that I still remember and use occasionally was “Talent on the Move” meaning the artistes were on their way to Set. It was mainly about Jack & Vera Duckworth renewing their wedding vows in the little white chapel and the girls from the Salon turning up on holiday. We did a spoof with the girls based on Thelma and Louise driving down the strip. We had a mustang on a low loader and went up and down the strip for hours. Vera (Liz Dawn) was already struggling with her breathing and she had quite a lot of running to do up and down stairs in the hotel. I volunteered to be her stand-in until we were sure of the shot so that she only had to do it once. We spent a day in the suite on the roof of the Rio Hotel reserved for the high rollers (gamblers), complete with butler and swimming pool. This was on the understanding that if a high roller flew into town we’d have to get out of there. We also had quite a few night shoots in the casino as Vera wrecked Jack’s chances of winning any money, of course. It was incredibly tiring, made worse by me sleeping by the pool instead of in bed. I wangled a few days off after that shoot and managed to see my friend Bluey in San Clemente, California.

My first chance to travel abroad was on a programme called Christians presented by Bamber Gascoigne. I worked on the first of what turned out to be quite a number of documentaries devoted to various religions around the world. This programme was about medieval christianity and we filmed in France, Spain and Italy. We filmed people on pilgrimage to Chartres Cathedral, an amazing medieval building. Then we flew to Verges in Spain to film a re-enactment of Christ dragging his cross to the crucifixion. After that we went to Rome for the Easter Papal blessing and I felt ever so lucky to be with the crew on the balcony pillars surrounding St Peters Square witnessing such an iconic ceremony. We filmed pilgrims as they visited lots of different churches, sometimes on their knees. After Rome we travelled up into the mountains and visited monks in their monasteries’ (sampling their homemade hooch) and wonderful medieval towns like Assisi & Sienna the black death town. We had a smashing crew, George was the cameraman (but we were married to other people at that time) Alan Bale was our sound recordist and it was directed by Michael Houldey who we’ve remained friends with since then. It was at the time of the FA Cup and Michael Houldey was a keen supporter of Fulham who were in the final. So we really tarted our hire car up with “Fulham for the Cup” slogans and on the day of the final the boys found a TV shop in Assisi and persuaded the owner to turn the aerial round towards Switzerland to pick up the signal and they all sat in the shop window viewing the match. Sadly Fulham were the underdogs and lost the match so we missed out on big celebrations but it was good fun. I was responsible for quite a large float and took mainly US Travellers cheques which I then had to change into different currencies as we changed countries. When we got to Italy I went into a bank in Rome and in those days there were masses of lire to the dollar. The guy behind the counter worked out the exchange rate then I took my slip to the cashier and was handed masses of notes. I thought I’d better check that I’d been given the correct number of Lire so I checked and checked and checked again but it just didn’t balance. I spoke again to the cashier and he went through the notes again and threw a couple of large denomination notes in my direction. I felt sick, I’d been short changed by about £30 which in those days was a lot of money.   A salutary lesson! Another member of the crew was electrician Bob Webley – a cheerful cockney! One day he had to light a very dark crypt. There were lots of tapestries hanging on the walls and we just noticed in time that a lamp was too close and they were in danger of catching fire.

I loved period drama and in the early 70s Family At War written by John Finch was my first drama series. We would shoot most of each episode in studio and then go to various locations to shoot outdoor sequences and reconstructed events. My most memorable Ep. was filming in Llandudno – David, one of the characters, was shipwrecked at sea (2nd WW). There was an explosion (seen from shore) when his ship exploded and then a lot of sequences of him and his mates in lifeboats. The “explosion” was a bit of a damp squid – we had a special fx guy called Spud Taylor (if I remember correctly he had the odd finger missing!) He’d set up this explosion out at sea and we had a couple of cameras lined up on the prom waiting for nightfall – needless to say quite a lot of people had gathered for this event. Spud and the 1st AD were on walkie talkies and when we heard Action all we saw was a tiny flash of light on the horizon then heard Spud’s voice over talkback saying excitedly “Did you get it? Did you see it?” We were all so embarrassed as this was the limit of his explosives and the public grumbled and drifted away. I think we had to use newsreel footage of a ship being torpedoed in the end. After that we spent 3 days and nights filming all the lifeboat sequences. We stayed at the Grand in Llandudno and climbed down the steps from the pier into various boats. When the tide was in we didn’t have too many steps to climb but some nights it wasn’t easy climbing up slippery wet steps with script and shooting bag. We obviously had to make sure we shot the lifeboat without any land in sight and had a motorised boat pushing us round all day as the tide would very quickly turn us in the wrong direction. I’d recently been on a boat trip round the Greek Islands and knew that I didn’t really suffer from seasickness but the sound guy next to me had a really rough time. He would shout “sound rolling” then heave up over the side. I always remember climbing the pier steps back up to the hotel for dinner and then being faced with greasy fish and chips. Quite a few of the extras in the lifeboats were ill but we didn’t care about them because they had to look the worse for wear having been shipwrecked for days. Props department thought they were being clever and made up some “dead bodies” to float around in the water. They can’t have counted them “in” and “out” as the lifeboat turned out further down the coast to rescue these lifeless dummies!

The second John Finch period drama I worked on in 1973-4 was called Sam, a story about a family living up in Barrow and the hardships they faced around the turn of the century. We made quite a few trips up to that part of the world. One I remember vividly was working with director Bill Gilmour and we had an actor carrying a suitcase across a field. It was very very windy and we had to fill the case with bricks otherwise it was stuck out at right angles to the actor. This was our first setup and Bill had his master shooting script with him. He opened his folder and the wind whipped every page out of the folder and blew them seaward.

He took it very well!

Granada produced quite a few one off plays under the banner of life in a Village Hall. I worked on one which was about the Hall being used as a Polling Station. Ron Moody was the returning officer and Liz Dawn had a small cameo role as a confused woman trying to vote. (This was before she joined Corrie).

I was part of a production team which helped to create a series called Albion Market. There was a special set built at the back of Granada on the banks of the Irwell (now converted to the V&A hotel). It had a smashing cast and everyone enjoyed working on it but sadly it coincided with the start of East Enders which really killed it stone dead.

Another afternoon drama that most people enjoyed working on was Crown Court. This was because it was rehearsed for 3 or 4 days in London and then recorded in studio in Manchester. This meant that we had a lot of really good artistes playing cameo roles who were available to rehearse in London and then only had to be in Manchester for a couple of days. Ordinary members of the public could apply to be on the jury and we had to rehearse both a guilty and not guilty ending. They jury would go to a committee room to come to a decision. On odd occasions when things had gone wrong there wasn’t enough time for this within our studio recording hours so the jury ended up in the corridor outside the court set and it was a matter of “hands up”! Director Peter Plummer was superb on this programme as he planned exactly where each shot relative to each camera would be taken – there was a grid of the studio set and he had it mapped out to a tee. We used to run the rehearsal all the way through without stopping which was unheard of by any other director.

In 1982 I said yes to a Disappearing World documentary in Ghana. It was an all female crew because we were telling the story of a matriarchal society of Asante women living in Kumasi in northern Ghana. They ran the local market and were all powerful. We were going for six weeks and when we landed in Accra we had to go through customs, not just for our equipment but also all our personal luggage. We’d been warned about shortages in the country so we took lots of boxes of wine but when the customs men opened the trunks all they could see were boxes of tampax – 7 ladies for 6 weeks = lots of boxes of tampax. The wine was successfully smuggled in! At the airport we noticed that the large clock in the main foyer said 26.45 – this should have warned us of the current state of the country!

That first night we were booked into a hotel in Accra but when we got there we found it all pretty grim, no running water, just buckets of cold water. No security, no glass in the windows and we felt very vulnerable on the ground floor. Eventually we found a couple of rooms 3 floors up with a couple of big beds in each room and we all camped together for safety. We were due to fly up to Kumasi the following day but although we had air tickets we found out when we arrived the previous day that our flight had been cancelled as Ghana Airways didn’t cover this route any more. So we hired a couple of large minibus’ and spent the whole day driving on unmade roads full of potholes. We were spending the next 6 weeks in quite a nice villa rented from a Swiss company which came with a man who shopped for our food & cooked it. He also did our washing but things got a bit tricky because we were nearly all wearing M&S knickers. We gave up trying to sort these out and just grabbed a few every wash day. The villa had a swimming pool which took 3 days to fill up but was great at the end of a dusty day until we spotted vultures perched on the side pooing into the pool. At least half the filming was spent in the huge market which the woman ran. We boiled the water that we took with us every day but very quickly learnt not to need the toilet as the one and only toilet on the whole market was an oil drum at the top of a tower that very quickly filled to overflowing. The women really wouldn’t tolerate a man in their company and Caroline our camera assistant was gay and dressed very manly with short dark curly hair. The woman were always feeling her chest to make sure she was a woman. George had warned me that we were guaranteed to have a lesbian on the crew and he was right but Caroline turned out to be my best pal. The crew were a mixed bunch; Dianne Tammes was our camerawoman but I didn’t rate her very much. She was very selfish, putting herself before the rest of her crew. We realised what she was up to when as soon as we arrived at the villa she picked the best bedroom for herself. Another Dianne our sound recordist was very much up in the clouds and in love with Africa. I sometimes had to check she was turning over on her Nagra because she’d be away with the fairies. Our researcher was Jane and she was brilliant, not to mention Claudia Milne our producer/director. I had many roles beginning with waking everyone up in a morning and organising our man’s shopping. I had the float in Cedis and US dollars. Jane found a contact who changed money for us at a very good rate. I very soon adapted to a nursing role as Julia the assistant sound recordist collapsed in dreadful pain and we took her to the local hospital. It turned out she had an eptopic pregnancy and that the baby was growing in her fallopian tube. (She didn’t even know she was pregnant as they’d been trying for a baby for a few years without success). The hospital was awful, blood on the sheets of the bed they put her in and no glass in the windows. She begged us not to leave her so we took it in turns to stay with her until we could make arrangements to get her back to Accra where there would be a decent hospital (we hoped). Jane lived up to expectations

and arranged with a French off shore oil rig to take her down to Accra by helicopter. As I was least needed on the shoot I agreed to go with her. I’d only been in a helicopter once before and this was with friends over San Francisco harbour just a 20 minutes flight. This was over an hour, Julia and I in the back and two good looking Frenchmen in the front! We’d already made contact with the UK Embassy in Accra and they’d organised for Julia to be operated on in a police hospital and I would stay with the governor in the British Embassy until we could get her on a flight to England. The hospital was much better than in Kumasi but still very basic but the ambassadors’ wife helped me buy all sorts of things that Julia needed. I stayed at the Embassy 3 days during which time I tried to get a flight home for Julia. We had Ghanian Airways tickets but they wouldn’t take her so I got her on a flight with British Caledonian and arranged for an English nurse to travel with her. I had a company Amex card which was a life saver. BCal needed permission from the UK for her to fly and communications were so bad that they didn’t have the necessary permissions even an hour before we were due to leave. The BCal supervisor made a decision and said if she could walk to the plane rather than by wheelchair then he’d allow her to fly. She was so determined to get home she hung on to me and the nurse as we walked her across the tarmac and up onto the plane. Apparently they had to give her oxygen on the flight but she made it home safely and husband was waiting for her + ambulance at the other end. I do hope she managed to conceive again. After that it was back by bus (no French helicopter for yours truly) and nurse Harding took up more PA duties although not for long as Claudia was struck down with malaria. In those days doctors weren’t as clued up re maleria and they found out later that different pills were needed for different areas of the world. Claudia and Jane had gone out earlier than the rest of the crew and were given different pills from the rest of us. Jane apparently went down with it on her return home. Unfortunately our adventure still wasn’t over because we had to get home before Xmas. Our Ghanian Airways tickets to London were useless as they went on strike a week before we were due to leave. Again our Amex card bought us tickets home with British Caledonian. The only hiccup was that BCal couldn’t say when they would land in Kumasi because of trouble with the strikers. When we’d finished the shoot we packed up all the gear, took it to the airport and took it in turns to look after it in case a flight came in. We finally heard that a BCal plane was on its way so we all charged up to the airport. No checking in!!! The plane landed, engines kept running, we dashed out onto the tarmac wheeling our cases and lots of silver boxes. A man opened the hold and we loaded our gear into it. We then ran up the plane steps and as the last person went through the door it was closed and the plane started to taxi off. We heard later that the striking Ghanian workers were attempting to let the tyres down on the plane. We hopped over the border into Nigeria to refuel etc. then partied all the way back to England as the plane was full of workers from the oil fields going home for Xmas.

In the early 80s Granada planned to shoot Jewel in the Crown, much of it on location in India. Prior to this they decided to make a film based on the book Staying On about life of the English Raj and how they headed for the hills in the heat of the summer. This would give our production staff an idea of the problems to be encountered when filming Jewel. So we were the guinea pigs! Irene Shubick was the producer and Silvio Narizano was the director. We had a formidable lst assistant, Les Davies. Our two main actors were Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. They hadn’t worked together since Brief Encounters. We knew Trevor was going to be slightly problematic when he got very drunk on the plane – he was upstairs on a Jumbo and lst class passengers were coming downstairs to get away from him – unfortunately he followed them up and down. He and Celia were very keen on the Indian Gin but once we started filming they kept their drinking down to a bottle a night between them which meant they could then handle their words the following day. We flew to Delhi then drove up to Simla in the Himalayas which was to be our base for the next six weeks. It was March when we arrived and the hotel hadn’t had any guests since the previous autumn. The beds weren’t just cold they were also damp. We got dressed in our anoraks to go to bed. Lars Macfarlane our Production Manager managed to get hold of some hot water bottles and after 3 damp nights I finally had a bottle in my bed – when I jumped into bed guess what? The bottle had leaked and my bed was colder and wetter than ever. I then had to sleep in the spare bed in my room dressed again in my outdoor gear. The hotel had at least 4 floors with a quadrangle in the middle which was open to the stars. We had to be careful as monkeys would be swinging about and they were nasty. Also its electrics left a lot to be desired. I saw a man in a room full of wires and whenever the electric went off he’d pull a few wires out and join them to another few wires. Our electricians wouldn’t go near it. My bathroom was huge with a big claw cast iron bath made by Baxendales of Manchester. How lovely I thought that they’d put a big candle on the side of the bath – I soon found out it was for when the lights went out! I was in my room one night when yet again it went dark, I heard one of the electricians in the room next to me knock something over as he rushed to the door, flung it open and shouted in his loudest voice “f…..g India” .I had a lovely red-headed assistant called Vivien Battersby and she was the centre of attention amongst the natives. One day we filmed in a Maharaja’s house on the top of a mountain. As I struggled with my bag of scripts across the front lawn a small Indian guy came racing over to help me. I didn’t know whether to tip him or not but in the end just thanked him gracefully…perhaps as well I did as he was the Maharaja. The caste system was so strict that our porters who were a very low caste weren’t even allowed to walk on the lawn. Every day we had lunch on location which was delivered by the hotel and set out in heated silver tureens. We felt guilty because dozens of pairs of eyes were peering at us through the bushes as we peeped under the tureens to see what delights there were to eat. When we employed Indian locals as extras we were obliged to feed them and they absolutely stuffed themselves in case they weren’t booked again. Some of them joined the food queue again in the hope no-one had noticed. I found it quite difficult continuity wise as many of them looked the same and my poloroid camera worked overtime making sure the right person was in the right place. Almost all the crew suffered from Delhi Belly – the trick was to stick with the hot spicy food and not to go near salads or cold food. One night at the hotel our props boys organised the kitchens to cook hotpot – it was wonderful and as they slopped it onto our plates we were asked “mashed or roast” imitating Irma who was Granada’s canteen assistant at the time. Early in the shoot Irene “sacked” Silvio as they had differences of opinion but Les Davies said if Silvio goes then so would he, then a few others of us said if Les was going then we would go also. Needless to say that whatever the problem was everyone learned to work together. I had a few early starts because they wanted to shoot Celia in a car being driven along mountain roads and the light was much better in the mornings. So yours truly was wigged up and spent quite a while being driven up and down the mountains. The last scene of the play is Celia in her bedroom with the dead Tusker (Trevor H) in bed. Her last speech was how he’d left her alone in this land “amid the alien corn” It was very moving. When we’d finished a few of us returned to Delhi to tidy the loose ends – I’d no idea where George was as he’d been somewhere in the far east shooting End of Empire. Imagine how ecstatic I was to receive a call from him to say he’d got Tom Gill, WIA’s Production Manager to amend his ticket home to take him via Delhi for a couple of days. I went to the airport to wait for him and we had two glorious days in a 5 star hotel in Delhi. We’d both earned it!

George had worked on a WIA programme about the Birmingham 6 who had been imprisoned for bombing a pub in Birmingham and killing a lot of people. Because of the programmes’ investigations they were eventually freed on appeal although one of the six had already died in prison. Granada in 1989/90 decided to produce a drama documentary outlining the investigation and it starred John Hurt and Martin Shaw. It was a very interesting documentary to work on. We filmed the six men on a train playing cards which is how they got explosive residue on their hands, apparently from the playing cards. We then went to Dublin to a very old prison where we filmed the inhumanities the men suffered. Although John Hurt is a very good actor he was not very nice to work with because at that time he was living with a Continuity girl which meant I had to justify every continuity request I made to him. It took us two days to shoot a very long scene between John Hurt & two IRA men. I was determined to make a good job of it and kept very detailed notes of camera positions and eyelines. Halfway through the second day it paid off as I was the only one who knew exactly where to put the camera to get the correct eyeline. I gave John a hard look but his face was expressionless. Martin Shaw on the other hand was delightful to work with and was especially nice to me to make up for John’s rudeness.

I was very fortunate to work for over a year with Sir Lawrence Olivier (instructed to call him Larry). Larry was married to actress Joan Plowright who was the sister of our Managing Director David Plowright. Apparently he had expressed a desire to produce a few plays or films for television and was given a team to work with and a very competent producer, Derek Granger, to help in many different ways. His first play was directed by Michael Apted and starred Helen Mirran who was very glamorous in those days. We were in studio recording Harold Pinter’s The Collection when who should walk into the control room but Pinter and the recent love of his life Lady Antonia Fraser. After that we recorded Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring RJ Wagner and his then wife Natalie Wood, Carrie Fisher later of Star Wars fame and Larry playing Big Daddy. We rehearsed all the plays in London for at least 10 days and it was fascinating listening to Larry talking about his difficult marriage to Vivian Leigh. He usually arrived at the Oval rehearsal rooms by taxi but one day his taxi hadn’t turned up so he came by tube. He caused consternation by telling underground staff that he didn’t have a ticket because he’d put it into the machine and it had “gobbled it up”! Another play we did was Come Back Little Sheba, starring Joanne Woodward. She was lovely to work with but one day I found her busily sewing in the corner of the rehearsal room. When I asked her what she was sewing she replied that it was “a nightshirt for Paul” – I was thrilled to touch Paul Newman’s nightshirt! Another play we did was Saturday Sunday Monday – with Joan Plowright & Edward Woodward. These plays were all studio based but Larry did a film called

Hindle Wakes but my friend Milly Preece was PA on this.

In the mid 80s Sherlock Holmes was a brilliant period drama series to work on. Jeremy Bret was Sherlock and we rehearsed each one hour episode at Granada’s rehearsal rooms at The Oval in London. We rehearsed for two weeks before returning to Manchester to start shooting all on film. Jeremy was meticulous about every line of dialogue and how it affected his solving of the case. He planned every move which made my work of continuity much easier. My favourite episode I worked on was “Man with the twisted lip” – filmed in Kings Lynn where we had to remove TV aerials and cover all the yellow lines with dusty soil. Back in Manchester we turned the V&A warehouse at the back of Granada into an opium den.

In 1989 I worked with a documentary team fronted by Ray Gosling called Forgotten Front – this recalled life 50 years earlier at the beginning of the 2nd World War. It was fascinating incorporating the footage from those days and Ray brought it all to life as he met and interviewed people from the north. There was one memorable shoot where we went up to Barrow and he explained how people grew their own vegetables and reared animals – the fun we all had with Ray and his piglet!

In 1992 I was asked to work on an important project called the UP Series. This was started in 1964 when the World in Action team interviewed a cross section of children at 7 years old. This revolved around the Jesuit saying “show me the boy at seven and I will show you the man”. 7 years later the decision was made to call on these children again and see how they had progressed both morally and physically. Michael Apted had been the WIA researcher on the first 7UP and has directed all the remaining programmes. So it became 14UP and 21UP and it was very successful. I joined at 28UP and was lucky enough to visit Australia as one of the “kids” had settled out there and had a family. Exec Producer Mike Scott made a decision that I could join the crew and in those days we flew Business Class out of Manchester filling almost all the upper deck of a Jumbo. We landed in Melbourne in October and it was like England in the spring with sheep in the fields etc. Mike Apted was horrified as it didn’t look a bit like the Australia we were trying to portray. Our participants had toured the outback in an old mini bus when they first got married and so we decided to recreate their trip. They still had the mini bus so they set off into the wild blue yonder. I used my Granada Amex card and hired a small plane to take us up to join them. It made a smashing sequence especially when Mike put pans pipe music over it. It’s still going strong and the last programme was 56UP but as with lots of other documentaries they now use a minimum crew so my services are no longer needed. However as our production manager was pregnant and unable to fly, I was asked to cover for her on the two shoots to Spain and Portugal. As George and I keep in touch with some of the participants I like to help the shoot on a voluntary basis just to keep the feeling of family and not introduce any strangers to the shoot.

I was always keen to work on music and dance programmes, especially ballet so I was thrilled to be assigned to “A lot of Happiness” which was a new ballet choreographed by Kenneth McMillan and directed by Jack Gold. I was part of a film crew who spent a week in London filming Kenneth creating this new ballet. He had brought over a couple of his favourite dancers from Europe and I was fascinated to watch as he rehearsed with them. He would give them at least five or six sequences which they would then repeat from memory. This was the first time I’d seen a dance notator; she had a musical score with blank lines below the notes where she created various figures in the steps the dancers were learning. This would then form a copyright of Kenneth’s new ballet. When the ballet was complete we took it to Manchester where the artistes performed the completed ballet in studio. Jack Gold then edited the film and studio versions together to show the completed product which won an Emmy award later in the year and I received a thank you note from David Plowright for my contribution to the production. I enjoyed it so much I would have done it for nothing. One thing that amused me was that as soon as Kenneth got to Manchester he wanted to visit the Coronation Street set and had his photo taken with some of the older cast.

After working with Jack Gold on the ballet programme it followed that I stayed with him for a drama called L’Elegance which was one of the All For Love series. Geraldine McEwan took the main lead which was about her imaginary love affair with a very handsome man she’d seen in a magazine called L’Elegance. We filmed part of it in England and then went to the wine region of France to film the romantic sequences. Our handsome man was a model who was famous for modelling suits by Dormieux – he was certainly handsome but had never acted before but all he had to done was look ravishing which he found very easy. On some occasions when Geraldine was getting changed or in makeup I would stand in for her so that lighting and camera could set up their shots (we were about the same size) but the crew teased me when I had to get up close with Mr Handsome! We filmed down in the champagne cellars and I was very nervous in case any of the crew decided to pocket a bottle, thankfully this didn’t happen and we all got a bit light headed at the end of the day when champagne was had by all. I had a lovely assistant working with me during this shoot, she was called Sally Jolley. She had hands full of diamond rings which she’d inherited from her late mother but couldn’t afford to insure them…so she wore them. We didn’t realise until we’d started the shoot how insecure Jack was working with a new team. He tested us all in different ways. My test came when I noticed props not being where I’d noted them on my script – it was all very puzzling and slightly embarrassing because you always blame yourself for being careless. However I started taking extra notes of where everything was and eventually had to make an announcement that whoever was moving the props would they please not do so before checking with me. He came to me in a quiet moment and confessed. Thankfully I’d passed his test and we got on famously after that.

Another All for Love I worked on was shot mainly in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. The story was that a pair of lovers met regularly in a very large Victorian hotel bathroom and had hanky panky! This meant that there was a fair bit of nakedness for our two main artistes. They were well aware of this before we started shooting but unfortunately the lady became very annoyed with our sound recordist who would fit a radio mic on her blouse and then pat her breasts on the pretence of checking it was working. She was dreading the nude scene in the bathroom because of the presence of this sound guy so it was decided that he and his record machine should be placed outside the bathroom door with his boom operator on a long lead inside the bathroom. When he complained loudly to a lovely makeup artiste called Glenda Wood she retorted just as loudly that he wasn’t allowed in the bathroom because he was a dirty old man. I had to tell this guy off for getting too touchy feely with my assistant (despite the fact he had a wife and two attractive daughters!)

Another memorable All for Love was shot mainly in the Ritz Hotel in London. Deborah Kerr and Claire Bloom took the two main leads. The Director whom I worked with quite a lot was June Howson and she stayed at the Ritz during the filming whilst the rest of us were in the London White House Hotel as was usual in those days. Claire Bloom had to be filmed driving a convertible Mercedes sports car round the streets of London but when the car arrived it had a manual gearbox and she could only drive an automatic car so they put a wig on me and I very happily drove this icon. (I later bought a 1965 Mercedes sports car and with George’s vital help spent all my overtime money restoring it to its former glory). It was very obvious that Claire tried to upstage Deborah whenever she could but Deborah had been around far too long for it to worry her. As Continuity she made my work very easy. We would sort out all her props and moves relative to her dialogue and by the time we went for a take she had everything worked out which allowed her to concentrate on her performance. A lot of actors could benefit from her example.

Scully was a 6 part series about a Liverpool schoolboy called Scully who was obsessed by Liverpool Football Club and its star Kenny Dalglish. We filmed most of it around Manchester in the middle of winter and one night I was asked to travel with Kenny in his car to make sure he knew how to get to location. We stopped for petrol which was attendant served, he recognised Kenny and then looked at the “bird” with him. As it was a night shoot I was wearing a huge anorak and woolly hat – not very glamorous! We filmed at Liverpool’s ground during the week, firstly inside the dressing room and then the team leaving down the tunnel and touching the famous Cop sign. I made a continuity error, very innocently I plea, because as they raced onto the pitch they were carrying their practice balls. When we picked them on the match day they were carrying different coloured match balls. I’d checked that they came down the tunnel in the same order as we’d shot previously but never realised they’d be carrying differently coloured balls. This sequence formed part of the opening titles so I had to watch this error go out at the beginning of each episode. On the brighter side, I had an amusing time in the dressing room as the players went through the motions of putting on their boots as if for a match. Unfortunately or fortunately they weren’t wearing a box under their shorts and as they lifted their feet to put on their boots their “jewels” were on show. Cut shouted the Director Les Chatfield. Within each episode Scully had images of Kenny in different situations and one day we dressed him up as a fairy godmother. Kenny was such a good sport and went along with everything we threw at him.

In 1986/87 I started a project that would tie me up for a year – it was 13 episodes of three Len Deighton novels, Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match. Len had originally planned to call the 3rd book Paris Match which made sense thinking of the famous French magazine, but I suspect Granada executives persuaded him to call it London Match which would make it much easier and cheaper to shoot. It was still the period of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall was still dividing Berlin. The books were about the fight between English and Russian spies. The 13 episodes were divided between two teams of Director, 1st Asst Director, Designer, Lighting Camera, Sound, Continuity, Makeup, Costume & props. I had the joy of working with Director Ken Greive. We worked on 8 episodes and the second crew headed by director Patrick Lau shot the other five episodes. Continuity was very tricky. We would go to one location and shoot all the scenes set in that location over all our 12 episodes. This was especially difficult in the MI6 offices as every episode contained these office scenes. We had two trips to Berlin where a lot of the action took place, one in winter and the other in summer. Whenever we filmed near the Wall East German soldiers would appear over the wall and take photos of everything we did. Very unnerving! We did one scene where a spy was exchanged on one of the bridges between east and west – it all felt very real. We also filmed on a barge sailing down the river which at some points divided east and west and it was awful seeing faces at windows on the east knowing they were trapped and couldn’t leave to see relatives in the west. On our day off a group of us girls on the crew took an organised bus tour to the east. We crossed check-point Charlie passing no-mans land where so many people had died and visited some amazing monuments. Unter Den Linden is a beautiful avenue lined with lime trees leading to the Brandenberg Gate. Communist depression was everywhere and old Trebant cars chugged around. One night our Production Managers Craig McNeil and Lars Macfarlane organised a meal in an East Berlin restaurant which was very famous before the war and very cheap. Needless to say we were very anxious to return to the west before midnight and our vehicle was examined underneath with mirrors to make sure no-one was trying to escape. I really liked West Berlin but the Wall was haunting… we travelled out to a lake that they used like a beach, very pretty, but suddenly you couldn’t go any further because this huge wall crossed the road. Ian Holm played the lead English spy – he’s got really “come to bed eyes!” We are the same height and I was often asked to stand in for him lighting-wise whilst he was in makeup or studying his script. We also had a six week trip to Mexico and arrived in Mexico City only a few weeks after their major earthquake – we had some fascinating locations in the city and then travelled out to the pyramids built by the Aztecs which was perfect for a cast and crew photograph. We then travelled on to Acapulco to film lots of jungle scenes. It was a bit dangerous in the jungle and we had to have armed guards protecting us from bandits. We were staying at a very smart hotel where rich Americans were honeymooning or taking a holiday. Every evening we would return from the jungle dirty and sweaty and head for the pool like a swarm of beetles, goodness knows what everyone thought we were up to.

In the 90s Granada had a new form of OB set-up for drama, possibly called mobile LMVR or lightweight LMVR. I was assigned to director Dick Everitt to work on a play using this kind of shooting/record equipment. The play wasn’t earth shattering in content especially as the action was centered in and around a chicken processing plant. We shot most of the action around the Manchester area but then when we relocated to inside the factory we had to go to Keighley in Yorkshire where we spent 4 days in a factory that processed 20 thousand chickens a day. They were for the Kosher market meaning they were stunned then hung up for the blood to drain out of them. We were surrounded by chickens in various stages of processing. When their insides had been removed one woman spent the whole of her day putting her hand inside the chickens to check it was clear of innards. We used chickens feet as markers on the floor! Nobody except tough electricians could face the food on the butty wagon. In defence there were 6 ministry people there at all times checking the cleanliness etc. We did get to some romantic places!!

If I had to think back on my all time favourite prgrammes it would be a pre Christmas trip to Lapland. Every year when I see youngsters making the trip to see Father Christmas reminds me of a weeks’ trip to Finish Lapland with Jeremy Beadle to shoot a special You’ve Been Framed. It was a magical week, 8 crew + Jeremy had a trip of a life time. We rode on husky dog sleighs; skidoo’d across frozen lakes; rode on sleighs behind reindeer and finally met Father Christmas. I sat on his very large knee like a small child and his long beard was very real. One day we visited a large teppee type tent with a hole in the roof. Inside was a very large pot bubbling away with the smoke going up through the roof. Inside the pot was a fresh salmon soup, massive chunks of salmon and vegetables. A memorable meal! It was very very cold but they dressed us each day in thickly padded ski outfits and very warm boots. Sadly it was dark by 2pm so we were out each day at dawn until we lost the light. Jeremy was happy as long as he was the centre of attention but he kept us entertained on the long dark evenings. I was amused when the first thing he asked me to do was purchase some makeup for him for the shoot – and it had to be Clinique.

I took voluntary redundancy/early retirement at the age of 50 in 1991. The writing was on the wall that things were on the change in ITV. This was proved when in 1992 almost ¾ of script supervisors were made redundant – they only kept on the girls who would act up as Production Managers etc. Vicky Standeven was head of the department at that time and was asked to prepare a list of people she would like to keep and people to let go. It was rather ironic that when the axe fell it also fell on her. She wasn’t my favourite person but I definitely felt some sympathy with her at what had happened. Obviously there were still programmes to be made and work for all these girls but they had to join the freelance market as I had done earlier. At least you could pick and choose if your financial state allowed and didn’t have to work with Directors you couldn’t stand! Sadly the Union was very weak by this time and I was told to negotiate my own rate as the Union couldn’t help me – at this point I resigned. Freelance people are treated very poorly these days – on Coronation Street I’ve been on the same rate for 10 years, not having received even a cost of living rise and was then asked to take a drop of £11 per day to put our rate in line with Emmerdale. For quite a few months I refused to work on the show but then decided to take the odd contract to suit myself not Coros. This is only because I love the cast and especially love the crew. Its’ like reuniting with my family whenever I return.

Everyone who had worked at GTV in the 60s, 70s & 80s always said we had the best of times – it was a very caring Company to work for. You worked hard but played hard. One of the early PAs, Brenda Sultan was given a position in Personnel to help staff with personal problems. This was a brilliant appointment as no-one could have been more caring than Brenda. I don’t think women had the same opportunities in those days that they had later. I applied for a Production Manager’s job and reached the shortlist stage (but I have to admit to losing out to a better guy). By the 90s women were given more chances, in fact sometimes there are too many women on a production…dare I say!

Chris Kelly

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly and Judith Jones, 19 May 2017.

Let’s start. Chris, at the beginning. Where were you before Granada Television and how did you come to join Granada Television?

I was with Anglia Television in Norwich and I had gone there straight from… not quite straight and leaving Cambridge, but I taught French for a couple of terms at a very bizarre establishment in Sussex. And joined Anglia, got a job as an announcer initially, did that for about three months, moved over to the newsroom and then became kind of an anchor of the evening magazine. Then one day I got a call from Michael Apted, who had been a mate at university, and then at Granada of course, and he said, “Michael Parkinson is leaving and we need somebody to replace him, so why don’t you apply for an interview?” which I did. I went to Golden Square with a little film I’d done. I can’t remember what it was about, I think it was about a greyhound track or something, and I remember (Barry Head? 1:54) said, “We would have interviewed the greyhound.” But anyway, I got the job and that was it. That was the start.

This will be what year?

I’m not very good at years, Steve, but I had been at Anglia about… I came down from university in 1962. I taught for two terms, so that make it 1963, and then I spent a couple of years there… 1965-66, I should think.

So you joined Granada. What was the first programme they put you on? Did they send you into local telly?

Yes, I mean, it was all very rapid. I could not have seemed very grown up after Anglia, which was a delightful but sleepy little station, you know, which was quite keen on farming and horse brasses, and that sort of thing. And I was struck by the fact that it seemed more adult. I mean, people had been in the Army, you know? And they were experienced. A lot came from the Yorkshire Post – David Plowright and Barry Heads, along with Parkinson – and I’d just been a telly hack, really. And within about a week I was doing… I was obviously presenting Scene at 6:30 as it was then called, and within about a week or a fortnight, literally, I was producing a programme called Granada in the North, which went out at 10, 10:30 at night. GIN for short, which turned out to be a rather prescient nickname, because there was a long time in the pub between 6:30 at night and 10:30! And the principal presenter of this was Bill Grundy. And Bill, on his day, was the finest broadcaster in the country, I think. We subsequently presented World in Action together for a season in vision, actually.

But there was one terrible night when the programme was done in a small remote studio, so the director was sitting some doors away in another room, so to change the shot, the camera would kind of judder up robotically and then pan and do whatever you wanted it to eventually. And one night he’s sitting there and he sits in the chair and he says, “So now I’m going to tell you a secret,” Very slurred. And before we knew what the secret was, he disappeared out of the shot completely, and the camera panned around frantically, very slowly, and finally a hand appeared on top of the desk, and he hauled himself into position again, and got fired for about the fourth time. But of course, they always rehired Bill because he was really, you know, he was a brilliant broadcaster. But he was fond of a drink, as they say. Mind you, everybody was – it was an alcoholic culture. It was the same in journalism, wasn’t it, Fleet Street was full of drunks, and yes, he just drank and that was part of the game, really. But it was exciting because it was very… I mean, there’s such a thing as Granada Man, (Peter Eckersley? 5:26) wrote this wonderful Guide to Granada Man (and woman), although there was no brackets in those days. And it was pugnacious, and it was left leaning, of course. It was very confident. I mean, if somebody said to you, “What do you see yourself doing in two years?” they wanted you to say, “I want your job.” I didn’t want their job actually, I was very happy doing the job I was doing. So it was very exciting for me, and there was a talented bunch of people around even among the researchers on Scene at 6:30. People like (Mark Chivers? 6:02), who went on to be a distinguished director, of course. Or rather, a sort of… he ran a film company, apart from anything else. (Barry Cookcroft? 6:15), who is a very talented journalist, again from Yorkshire. I remember the night of the Aberfan disaster. I was presenting the programme, and Barry had written this incredibly moving script, you know, it was quite difficult to get through it, actually. And all sorts of all sorts of very talented people were there. (Arthur Hopcroft? 6:42), brilliant sports journalist and – well, more than that – playwright… so, yes. So it was buzzing. There’s a very interesting quote in a book I’ve read, is it called Granada’s golden Years or something? It’s a sort of collection of interviews with various people.

First generation.

Was it? Right, yes, that’s right. And (Peter Wildblood? 7:06), writes in that he thought they got the name wrong; he thought it should have been called Camelot. So, yes.

Going back to the Bill Grundy… as producer of that programme, were there not repercussions?

Yes, he got fired. But then he was regularly fired!

By you as producer…

Not by me!

No, were there any repercussions on you?

No, none at all. I mean, this was the other great thing about Granada was a) they had enormous faith in young people. I mean, I remember once, I had read about a Picasso exhibition in Paris, 16 rooms, and he walked into one of them and allegedly said, “I didn’t paint a single canvas in this room.” Mind you, Picasso was known to be a bit naughty and sometimes he had painted then and he said he hadn’t. And then I read another story about (Cologne Cathedral? 8:00) where a couple of artists had been hired to refurbish a very ancient fading wall painting. And so they covered the site with hessian, and in a few weeks later they emerged. And it turned out they were conmen, and they painted the thing, not just restored it! So I went to (Barry Ellison? 8:21 ) and I said, “How about we do a thing about art fakery? And I told him the story and he said, “Yes, let’s do it.” I said, “Well, who’s going to direct it?” He said, “You. You do it.” I’d never directed in my life! It was extraordinary though, the faith they had in you. And also, they were incredibly supportive. I men, I had, as it turned out, a fairly disastrous episode when John Birt was my researcher for a heady six weeks, and I ran a show called X Plus 10 which I’d sort of dreamed up, which was a major guest of the week – one week it was Edward Heath – and 10 bright young people, among them Paul McCartney’s brother Mike McGear, Roger McGough, and Anna Ford, in her first television gig. And this week, between us, John Birt and I had devised a happening, because that was the great word at the time. And what was going to happen was that a woman, played by (Annette Robertson? 9:29) had got a message at home saying, “We want you to come and appear on Granada’s whatever it was, X Plus 10, and talk about life on the breadline,” you know, for a young mother, unmarried to her bloke. And the bloke was to be played by Warren Clarke, who subsequently became a great mate. And John had worked out what we should do was to warn nobody on the set, not even Brian Truman, the presenter, or the 10 people, and he would burst through the fire door half way through the show, because the scenario was he’d gone home and seen the note, she’d gone, left the baby, and he was supposed to be very cross. So what happened was he was through the fire in the middle, a cameraman left his camera to hit him, pandemonium broke loose, and finally Brian managed to get it under control, but it was chaos – and the following morning, five newspapers had the story, all very angry about it, and one of them turned up to take a picture of the baby! And I was hauled up to the sixth floor and I thought, “This is it. It’s back to Norwich now, mate.” And Denis Forman simply said, “They want your head, and they’re not going to get it.” So that was pretty impressive, really. Wouldn’t happen now.


You know, faith in the young producer has gone completely. I mean, I executive produced a little drama, mini-series, last year, a Trollope series, and I got Julian Fellowes to write. And the whole thing was cast before anybody had come on board, you know? Somebody in the boardroom decided they wanted this, that and the other, and Harvey Weinstein chipped in some money, so of course they had a big say, but the power for producers has completely gone. They’re not trusted, and… I don’t know whether you can see a difference in drama, I think you probably can, frankly.

So you’re working on Scene at 6:30 for a while.


Presenting mainly, some producing.

Both. Yes, both at the same time really.

And who else would be presenting?

Brian, (George Reid? 12:04), who I think became I think became a speaker of the Scottish Parliament, actually. He was very into politics even then, and he would sort of tell people in bars when he’d had a couple of drinks that when he was the boss, they could be foreign secretary or whatever. I’m not sure it never worked out for anybody! Mike Scott, who very sadly got early onset Alzheimer’s, didn’t he, in his 50s, I think. Dreadful. And me. I think that was about it, really.

And people like Tony Wilson was little later, wasn’t he?

Tony Wilson came later and I didn’t work with him on Scene. He did a sort of chat show, I think.

And Bob Greaves?

Bob Greaves, yes. Yes. I think he was around. He was certainly around but I can’t remember if he researched or presented at that stage.

I lived on Merseyside, and I always remember seeing you and Mike Scott on Scene at 6:30, you were seminal figures on this programme.

I don’t know about seminal!

It was watched by everyone. I’ll tell you what, can you tell us a little bit about Mike Scott? Because very few people have talked about Mike.

He’d been in the Army and Denis Forman liked him very much, partly on that account, I think. Again, he seemed quite mature, and he did a programme called Granada 100 I think, didn’t he? And he knew his politics, and he… he was good. He was a good, committed broadcaster. Beyond that I can’t really tell you. I think he was quite ambitious.

Okay, so apart from working on local programmes…

Oh, also – sorry – he was also quite vain. Because he was very good looking, our Mike, and he knew it. And Bob Greaves used to talk about driving home with him and Mike would stop at a fish and chip shop, just to be seen, basically! Yes.

So you’re doing various programmes and locals like Scene at 6:30.

But also I was moving into… as I say, I did Zoo Time in succession.

Tell us about Zoo Time.

Well as I say, I think most of the money had gone by the time I got there. So we used to go to Chester Zoo a lot, which I loved, and I used to hold alarming things like pythons and… it was highly enjoyable. It wasn’t very adventurous and it didn’t… it was nothing like today’s animal coverage, you know, but yes, there was Zoo Time, and then Clapper Board started quite early, id 200-odd editions of.

What was Clapperboard? Tell us about that.

Clapperboard was a movie programme that went out… it became a bit of a moveable feast, but it started at about 4:30 in the afternoon. And it was nominally a children’s programme, although, as you know, g took the cinema seriously, and so did we. And I remember doing an hour’s interview with Anthony Quinn, which was horribly sort of children’s stuff, and Jacques Tati, and people like this, wonderful people. And so it got moved about a hell of a lot, but the most satisfying thing about it was it had a large audience for its slot, and a lot of them were adults. And I’ve been told by three or four people who eventually became good film directors, that that kind of was the spark that… we were interested in not so much about being smart arse about reviewing films, which anybody can do to be honest with you – oh, and Billy Wilder, I met, and (??16:23). Anyway, go on… but how the things were done, and I very often found that talking to the people behind the scenes was more rewarding than talking to the actors, because actors are always nice to you for the time you’re with them. But designers and plasterers and chippies and directors… it was hugely enjoyable for me because I’ve always loved cinema, and still do. And what else? Sixth Form Challenge I did, which was the summer filler for University Challenge.

Along the same lines?

Exactly the same lines, only they were sixth formers from schools. That was highly enjoyable. Peter Mullins I think was the director on that. Maybe Eric did some of those, Eric Harrison, too actually. Possibly. Various odds and sods.

And they would be in the children’s department, those programmes?

Yes, they were all in the children’s department, yes.

And then you worked on World in Action.

Yes, I worked on World in Action for years. I was the sort of principal commentator sort of thing… well, for one season, Bill and I did the links live in the studio, which was great – although it can’t have been that great because they dropped it! And I didn’t get a credit to begin with. They were like this. They didn’t like giving you credits unless you were sort of the brains behind the show, or the producer or director or whatever. And I finally thought, “This is not really very fair.” I’m a freelance, and freelancers live or die by people knowing their work. So I wrote to David Bolton, I think, who was the exec at the time, and said, “Not having a credit is like an acrobat having one leg; it doesn’t really work.” And so they luckily saw it my way. I did it for at least 10 years, I think. I lived in Cambridge at the time and I drove up from Cambridge pretty well every Monday and back again. And the M62 wasn’t built in those days. I remember one November when I was driving a fairly clapped out Volvo, the windscreen shattered as I was coming over the top. And it was bloody cold! In those days we wore these silly voile shirts – very trendy but not very practical. So when I got to Granada, I practically had to be chipped out of the seat it was so cold! But that was great, because although my role was tangential, you might say, there were big things we were talking about, And World in Action had an enormous influence in those days. I remember doing a story about (Polson? 19:48) the crooked councillor, or architect, one of the two, in Newcastle, and I remember them saying, the researchers said they went through the details 16 times to get it right. Took months and months; something that would never happen now, of course. And it got Polson his mare (T Dansbeth, was it? 19:54), he was the councillor. Got them both kicked out. So… and I think governments quaked in their boots at World in Action – it was strong. It was very powerful. And that kind of influence has died, and I think that’s to the detriment of all of us, frankly. Because investigative journalism is expensive and we’re not prepared to spend the money on it any more.

 Did you actually generate any World in Action programmes of your own?

No. no, I didn’t. I was just the voice.

Did you ever want to do that?

Current affairs wasn’t my bag really. I mean, I was a quick editor of scripts so I could very often see that stuff was either repetitious, or not very clear, or clumsy. And they always responded to that. So that was quite a useful role. But no, that was it.

JJ: When I went on to what you went on to do, there was a lot of drama, there was a lot o involvement in drama. And I wondered if that was something that you did at Granada, or if you didn’t, why did you not take a drama route at Granada.

I’m not quite sure what the answer to that is. I don’t think it had occurred to me. I mean, I felt… oddly enough, when I came to it, it was Central I think, I felt ready for it because I had done a lot of acting at Cambridge. Mike Apted and produced a couple of things. I mean, it was a kind of golden age when I was up there because you had Richard Ayre and Trevor Nunn, and Michael Apted and Stephen Frears, and John Cleese and David Frost, and Ian McCullen and Derek Jacobi – I could go on, you know? So I had done quite a lot of that. And Granada I suppose, I was a bit carried away with what they gave me, and I did it as well as I could. And I had written all the time; even when I was at Granada I was writing plays, trying to. I wrote a couple of things for a satirical programme that Nick Elliot produced called Psst! With John Birt as producer. I remember the sort of suggestions book for Psst! which went out late at night, and somebody had written in the book, “How about an item about walking backwards from Macclesfield?” A stupid, absurd idea. So I wrote a few things for that. And I’ve written a few novels, so it all started then, really. So first thing in the morning or whenever I could, I was scribbling away. So no, I didn’t come at it through Granada. I suppose I sort of wish I had, except that… you know, part of me likes showing off and part of me hates showing off. And so I suppose presenting, I got that out of my system really. Well, not entirely!

Did you come into contact very much with the Bernsteins?

Well, I used to see them around a lot because that was the other great thing about g was they ate in the canteen along with us peasants. And so it was important, that, because you’d see them – and you know, honestly they could fire us if they felt like it – but it felt like Equity in a way. Cecil, I got to know better than Sidney, Sidney was very distant, impressive, great man I think. You know, you’ll have heard all about the Bacon painting in reception, the large screaming pope. I know how he felt sometimes. Cecil was always much more of a sort of down to earth… I don’t mean to be insulting, but more the sort of wheeler-dealer figure, you know? And I think he quite liked what I did and I got on very well with him. Sidney, I hardly dealt to apart from one dinner party, a rather terrifying dinner party. He used to invite a sort of half a dozen of us to get an impression of what we were like I suppose, and that was slightly daunting.

In what way?

Well, I was very inexperienced at the time and this sort of thing, and he asked us one by one who was our favourite film director. Now, the answer you were supposed to give was Alfred Hitchcock of course, because he produced two or three of Hitchcock’s movies. I, slightly unwisely, said I thought Alfred Hitchcock was overrated! A chilly silence descended on the room. So yes, he was slightly forbidding but we always felt that he was… well, he was Granada. His kind of socialist, cultured, mature approach, and his work in the war and so on, made him not quite a God figure, but certainly hugely respected by all of us.

And of course the other great figure was Denis Forman.

Dennis, yes. He was a rather strange character. He came down… I remember Peter Eckersley once said that he’d gone up, it was time to renew his contract so he went up to the sixth floor, and when he got there Forman was playing the piano – because he was a great Mozart authority, as you know, he wrote about it – and he just went on playing and said to Peter, “Help yourself to a drink,” so he did. And he went on playing, and Peter final got up and wandered over to the piano to find that on the music stand was his contract! This is variations on Peter Eckersley’s contract! He was very eccentric. I remember when I did Clapperboard – or maybe it was Sixth Form Challenge – he said, “I think you should wear your tie slightly off-centre.” “And your face,” he said – and I thought, “Hello, it’s the only face I’ve got.” – he said, “Maybe we could sort of slim it.” I could see the surgeon’s knife, glinting in the background! And then he said a very strange thing. About the jacket, he talked about, and said, “I may not know very much about fashion, but I do know something about the cut of a shoulder,” he said. And you know, 40 years later I still don’t know what the hell he was walking about! And then he came down and took charge of local programmes for about three months, I think it was, and we came into our first meeting. And there used to be a big American chat show called The Huntley Brinkley Show on at the time, and he’d had tapes of this sent over so we could all watch and presumably be inspired by it. It had no relevance whatever, of course. And he split us up into teams, and it was a bit of a shambles to be honest with you. I mean, by the end of three months the thing was lying there in ruins! We didn’t know where we were going. There was all sorts of direction. So he wasn’t a great producer, but he was… and he used to be in the pub too. He was the (power in the land? 27:55), and he was… told awesome tales about the way that his artificial leg would chafe and he would bleed and he’d never make a fuss about it. I think Scott had met him during the war actually, I’m not sure. Because Denis was at Montecasino, and… he was a remarkable man. But you didn’t get the feeling he knew an enormous amount about television. But he did know about the cut of his shoulder, evidently, which is essential. (Chuckles)

Was he supportive?

Yes, he was the one who, when I had this terrible, you know, thought I was going to be fired, he said, “No, you’re not. They’re not going to get what they want.” So that was immensely supportive.

And David Plowright.

David was a very… sort of… he had a lovely sort of sardonic humour. I remember when, I think it was the equivalent of comic relief day or something, and I was producing… everything in it was ridiculous. So I sent Brian Truman to a scrap yard to do the Alternative Motor Show, things like this. You know, it had its moments. And the next morning David Plowright, who I think had enjoyed it very much, said, “Not much to laugh at last night…” Erm… they were.. you felt they were on your side, you know? And they were experienced, and… they weren’t assertive, but you felt very much that you wanted to please them.

When you joined Granada, Yorkshire Television was still part of the…


How did that work?

I don’t know. As far as I was concerned… by going out and doing reports in Yorkshire. I remember interviewing Laurence Olivier at the Sheffield Playhouse. One story with Les Woodhead directing, which was a guy who had made a model of Leeds Town Hall out of matchsticks – this was a pretty intellectual stuff we were dealing with, you understand! – and I went to Scarborough and did films… and yes, we just seemed to have a wider brief.

It’s a huge area.

Yes, a huge area. Yes. I don’t know whether Yorkshire felt hard done by us, as everyone thinks of it as being Granadaland, you know? Sidney wanted it to be called Granadaland, didn’t he? He wanted passports at the front here, and… maybe a different language. So yes, it felt broader.

Was there an office there?

I don’t think there was an office there, no, there was in London of course, so in Golden Square there was a office run by a man called (Dennis Pitts? 31:10), he was a charmer of the old school. Dennis used to have to get people in for interview, and they would be inserted into the programme. I think he dragged them off the street half the time! It was all very exciting, but… and that was another thing, I mean there was the London element. You were bigger than just Manchester and Liverpool. Wider horizons.

And how would that show itself?

Well, by stories set in these places and by the feeling that, you know, here’s a man in London who’s talking to somebody else a long way away from, 200 miles away from, Manchester. And different perspectives.

And the celebratory… I mean a lot of people… how do you view Granada now? Do you see Granada as a company that was outstanding and worth working for? Were there problems?

Well, the first part of your question, I regard it as a city on the hill. I mean, it was unique. I mean, it was just… adventurous, progressive, creative, brave – everything you wanted it to be. And you know, you had The Beatles in one studio and Laurence Olivier playing Lear in another. I believe the first – according to the book – the first drama series they made was a Jacobean tragedy. So as well as the streets, it had a foot in both intellectual camps. And famously, Sidney had portraits of PT Barnum in his offices, to remind you that the business was show fundamentally, but it was much more than that. It was intellectually curious, and… what other company can you compare it with? Thames? I don’t think so. It was a powerhouse. And there aren’t any powerhouses now.

And it was northern.

It was northern, yes – but it felt a bit more than northern. It felt universal in a way. As I say, it reached out beyond the north. You know, going to Gibraltar to cover the closing of the frontier.

They sent you there, did they?

Yes, I produced the stuff there, as I say, with James Cameron.

Tell me about that.

Well, as I say James… James could sober up enough to write in half an hour what you’d been thinking all week. So he began his piece – I think it was for the Evening Standard, or whichever paper he worked for the time – by saying, “An international incident over Gibraltar is rather like an international incident over the Edgeway Road.” And I (laughs) I took him up to the top of the rock where all the apes are, and we were all very hung over, to tell you the truth. I was so hung over that I sat on the floor of a lift, and when he got to the top he said, “My brave boy.” And then, having done a few reports on that, Barry had sort of telexed me, or whatever you did in those days, and said, “Stay. Do some more.” So we went to Tangiers to do some stuff there. This is what I mean about big, adventurous and trusting.

This was all done with Cameron?

This was all done with Cameron, yes. On a good day! (Chuckles) Yes.

So Cameron had to get a little drunk?

Well, yes, he was… yes, he did like a drink. But it didn’t matter because he was, as I say, when he went into his work he was the best. And he always had this wonderful sense of humour. He was just wonderful to be around. I remember he won journalist of the decade on What the Papers Say and I rang him to congratulate him, and he said he thought they had got it all wrong and he was really (decayed? 35:56) journalist of the year. You know, looking back they were great days, they were wonderful days, and you never expect to see their like again, honestly. I mean, I did lots of other stuff that I found very fulfilling and satisfying, but never feeling you were part of a really committed, strong, important team.

I’m not sure what year you finished with Granada.

I was there about five years permanently, and then I decided it was time to go on to pastures new, really. But I did a thing called Police File which I used to drive up for once a week. I think I blotted my copybook rather, because the police guy, who was a bit of an old hack, used to bring in this raw material, and one was about a sandwich that had been stolen, so I had a bit of fun with it, and I don’t think that went down very well. And I was doing Clapperboard after I left, and I was asked to do various other things, like I did the last of the Cinema shows.

Cinema was presumably Clapperbard for adults.

Yes, although as I say, Clapperboard also turned out to be for adults. But Cinema took a different approach; Cinema took the kind of Barry Norman approach, which is reviewing stuff, whereas we were much more interested in digging at the how’s and the who’s, in a way.

Were there any problems?

Honestly, I can’t say that there were. I mean, it was full of opportunity, it was up to you to take them. Yes.

Were there trade union difficulties?

I was never aware of them there. I was very aware of them when I went to Thames and did Wish You Were Here, because you had a rather ridiculous situation whereby… I mean, (PA? 38:33), bless them, I’m very happy for them, but they makes what they call 16 T in a weekend, which was 16 times the basic (??38:44). The camera man, if we went beyond something like 2,000 miles, had to fly first class – and not to be too cruel about it, but these guys were not exactly the cream of Hollywood! They were mostly guys who were a little bit over the hill. So I mean, good for them, but the producer had to sit in the back of the bus with all the other workers. So I was never aware of that union problem at Granada, no. Not at all.

Granada was – I think you mentioned this before – very unashamedly left wing.

Oh, yes.

Did this seem to stem from the Bernsteins?

Yes, I’m sure it did, yes. I think they were all… I think David Plowright was of the left, and Barry (??39:33), and Michael Parkinson, I imagine. Arthur Hopcraft. Yes, that was the prevailing wind.

JJ: I just have a very basic question about the nuts and bolts of putting together the Clapperboard programme. So it was a weekly programme…

A weekly programme.

JJ: Was that Manchester based, or was there a lot of filming in London?

Chiefly Manchester based, but set visits, so we went to Pinewood quite a lot and various other places. We did a spin-off series called Clapperboard North West, in which we went to the places where (??40:13) very, very early movies, then on the Pennines, westerns they were. Very short of course! So what would happen is that Graham Murray, who was the presiding genius really, would pick the material, whatever we were going to deal with that week, and I would then go to London and write the script from notes that they’d prepared, or (??40:42) what was what and who was what. And then we’d record them in Granada, yes.

JJ: So Graham Murray was the producer.

He was the producer, yes. And (Muriel Young? 40:55) was the exec. She was head of children’s programmes.

JJ: And so people were quite happy to come in and do your programme.

Yes, they were big time. Gregory Peck, Robert Altman, directors like that, Jacques Tati – Jacques Tati was a wonderful guy. He was primarily interesting because he wasn’t very interested in his movies really – he had done that. He was more interested in the camera man’s nose, or somebody he had seen on the bus, or… and he told me the wonderful story about… I said to him, “They have just released Mr. Hulot’s Holiday in Paris. Did you do a big publicity campaign?” He said, “No, I’ll tell you what I did. I personally stood at the door of the cinema with red tickets in one hand and blue in the other, and I handed red tickets to the people who wanted to sit in the circle and blue to those who wanted to sit in the stalls. And just before the film began, I said, “There’s been a terrible mistake, ladies and gentlemen, the people with the blue tickets should be sitting [in the circle].” And the headlines the next morning were, “Shambles in Champs-Élysées cinema.” He was just delightful. He was wry and modest, and curious, you know, curious about everything.

JJ: It must have been great to get that insight. The impression I get now is that film promotion is very much managed and controlled.

Very much so, and that’s part of the reason why the show didn’t carry on, I think. Because clips became… they were charging silly money for a show, which was their audience tomorrow. It was so short-sighted. But yes, incredible, Richard Attenborough and… anybody, really. American stars, and as I say, designers like Ken Adam, who’d done the Bonds, anybody we wanted, and they were pleased to do it. And I think they were pleased to do it because it took it seriously, really, although we didn’t wear it, we wore it fairly lightly, and it was… they wanted to know about things.

JJ: Stars with star quality.

Yes. Yes.

You had Fred Astaire.

Fred Astaire, yes. I walked into a room in the Savoy for the first chat with him, and in that room there was Cyd Charisse, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Donald O’Connor from Singin’ in the Rain, Johnny Weissmuller, the first Tarzan, and you thought you’d died and gone to heaven, you know? I remember I was talking to Fred Astaire, and a guy from Time Out came along, and he was wearing a kind of bib – the fashion was to wear a kind of bibby overall thing, for guys like him – and a photographer came along to take a picture of us, and pushed this guy out his way, whereupon he went to the other side of the room. And after the guy had taken the picture, Fred Astaire said, “Excuse me a moment,” and walked all the way across the room and brought the guy back to the group. And I thought that was uncommonly kind of him. I had a further trip, that was to Hollywood. I worked for the BBC World Service for eight years, writing and presenting a current affairs show, and we went to Hollywood, and I met Billy Wilder there, and Rock Hudson, and I had lunch with Walter Matthau.

Tell us about Walter Matthau.

Well, I had lunch in the universal commissary with him and a guy who’d written the Marx Brothers movie with… George something. And Katharine Hepburn was in there.

You’re not namedropping, then.

(Laughs) It was like a sweet shop! And suddenly this big bloke walked in with a guy next to him who looked like a, you know, very much shorter, and this was John Wayne, and every head in the place… even though they were big stars in there, they all turned to see The Duke. Anyway, Walter Matthau, he’s got this wonderful sort of bloodhound face that makes even the most mundane remarks sound funny. And I said, “Where did you first meet Tony Curtis,” and he said, “Well, it was in a Jewish delicatessen, he was eating what he always eats in Jewish delicatessens – fried shrimp and chocolate (frap? 46:05).” Now, that’s not funny but for him, somehow it was. So that was a treat, that was wonderful. So, yes… good people, interesting people. Privilege.

Richard Burton? Did you ever…?

No, I didn’t interview Richard Burton. No, I didn’t.

JJ: Was there anything else you wanted to add?

No, not really. I went on to do a lot of things, and…

Did you see the change coming in television?

No, I think we thought that was the way it would always be, didn’t we? No. maybe I wasn’t very far-seeing.

JJ: I suppose staff would see the changes in terms of budgets or meetings or people…

But they may have come a bit later, and they would have seen changes, no doubt.

Because when I left in 1988 it was because I could see the changes.

Yes, I’m sure it was very evident by then.

They were offering redundancy.

JJ: I think that’s how I went as well.

Well of course, the proliferation of companies came about which changed everything. You know, it was no longer a licence to print money, was it, which was Sidney’s famous line. You know, I think that was… it’s a terrible old cliché, but I think we had the best of it, frankly.

Brian Lapping

Interviewed by Geoff More, 1 November 2018.

So before we get onto the Granada time, can you tell us a bit about your background?

Well, I was born in 1937. So during the war we were shipped out of London and went to various places in the country to live and got rather well educated, and eventually went up to Cambridge.

And at Cambridge, what did you read?


History. During that time at Cambridge did you become aware of what you would like to do as a…

I was planning to become a lawyer. I was quite serious about becoming a lawyer when a chap called André Schiffrin decided to devote an issue of Cambridge Opinion, a local undergraduate journal, to the press, and he asked me to write the article about the Daily Mirror. Until then, I had never read the Daily Mirror in my life. So for an entire month, every day, I read the Daily Mirror from cover to cover meticulously and I wrote my piece. Quite soon after I’d written my piece I received a letter from the editor of the Mirror, whose name I’m afraid escapes me… Jack Nener, that was his name, yes, saying will I go and see him. So, of course, I got a train up and went to see him and, actually, I remember the arrival. I went to the office and went to the front desk and showed this letter I’d had from him, and the woman at the front desk said, “Go up to the office of the deputy editor.” I was very put down. So I went to the office of the deputy editor, and a girl outside said, “What was the price of your train from Cambridge?” So I showed her. I had a cheap day return, two and thrippence, and somebody behind her, must have been the deputy editor, said, “Put in first class return.” And then she said, “What was the price of your taxi from the station?” So I said, “I didn’t get a taxi. I got a bus,” and the chap behind shouted out, “Put in taxis from the station and here, and from here onward everywhere!” And then she said, “Where are you staying?” I said, “I’m not staying. I’ve got a cheap day return,” and the chap behind said, “Find out the cost of an overnight at the Dorchester and put that in,” and then she took me along, gave me £50, and then I went up and saw the editor, Jack Nener, and then he took me up to see… I think it was the editor-in-chief. Oh dear, I’ve forgotten his name. Anyway, the boss. So that was my first job. I got a job at the Daily Mirror. And then I moved from the Mirror to the Guardian, and from the Guardian to the Financial Times, and then from the Financial Times to New Society, and it was when I was working on New Society, a weekly magazine, I was writing leaders in New Society, and one day one of the assistants on the magazine said to me, “You had a phone call asking who wrote this week’s leader.” And I glanced at it and said, “I did, why?” And she said, “Well, somebody’s asked.” And then I had a letter, it was addressed to me, “Dear Mr Mapping.” It was not the L, it was an M. “We’ve read an article you wrote last week and would be interested to me meet you. Would you be prepared to come to Manchester to meet us?” Signed Denis Forman. And when I got there, he told me that his wife, Helen Forman, his first wife, had read the article in New Society, shown it to him, and that was why he’d asked me to come and meet him to talk about joining Granada.

Just going back to the journalism, were you a journalist or a reporter? What was your job?

Oh, yes. On the Guardian I went to India and Pakistan and various places in Africa, and I can actually show you a big article in there I wrote when I was on one of my trips to Africa. That was my main thing on the Guardian and that was why I came to be hired by the FT, and on the FT I wrote all sorts of… I was major centre page writer of columns, and then I was deputy editor at New Society, and that’s when I got hired to work for Granada.

So it’s really Denis Forman’s wife…

Helen, yes. His first wife.

His first wife, spotted something and said to Denis, “You should talk to this man.” So you went up to Manchester to meet Denis Forman.

I met Denis Forman, I met David Plowright, I met Mike Scott, and possibly one or two other people. I was, sort of, shipped round the building and introduced to everybody, and then I was offered a job.

What was that job offered to you?

Well, it was not explicit, but Denis certainly asked me how much I got paid at New Society and I lied, I told him I got paid more than I really did, and he immediately offered me more than I’d lied about. So it was a bit tempting. So he offered me a job saying, “Come up and we’ll start you in work and we’ll have interesting work for you.” That was all.

So it wasn’t specifically to work on World in Action?

Not at all. No, World in Action wasn’t mentioned, and I’m ashamed to admit at that stage in my life, I’d never watched World in Action.

So you moved up to Manchester, did you?

Yes, I moved up to Manchester, not the whole time. I still had my parental home in London. Actually, my wife… and possibly we only had one daughter. Maybe we didn’t… I think probably we did have one daughter by then, still lived in London. So I used to go up to Manchester for however many days a week it was.

So what did you do at Granada? What were the first jobs you had there?

Well, first of all I was put onto local programmes for a few weeks and sort of learned about things, and then I was given What the Papers Say to run, and I remember my first week on What the Papers Say because something odd happened. I’d come up with an idea, which I put to Jeremy Wallington, who was then the executive producer of World in Action, and the idea was to go to Lincoln. Lincoln was the seat of a Labour MP, Dick Taverne, and he was being challenged by a whole group of extreme left wingers in the Party, who looked as though they were going to succeed in throwing him out, and I said to Jeremy Wallington, “Why don’t we go and make a programme in Lincoln about the extreme left taking over the Party?” and he sent me to Lincoln with John Birt. John Birt was an actual producer on World in Action and I was just the young twit who didn’t know much about making programmes. He was there to help. And so we went and we interviewed various people in Lincoln Labour Party and, while we were in the middle of making the programme, I remember something happened. We were going to be doing an interview and I needed something from my hotel room in order to do the interview. So I nipped back to my hotel bedroom and while I was there the phone rang and I picked it up and it was Sidney Bernstein and he said, “Brian, I understand you’re taking over What the Papers Say. I’d like to tell you exactly how that programme runs and, for about 10 minutes, he lectured me on that. Of course, I had to rush back for this interview, there was a chap waiting for the interview, because I couldn’t tell the boss, Sidney Bernstein, to fuck off, could I? So I had to listen to him politely about how I was supposed to run What the Papers Say while he lectured me. And then, of course, eventually he said, “Fine,” and then I was able to go and complete the interview.

So were you a researcher?

No, I was never exactly a researcher. I was an about to be senior producer.

Did you produce What the Papers Say?

Well, I did, yes. I took over What the Papers Say. I ran that for some time.

So in what year did you join Granada?

  1. I put, “1970?” in my notes.

Oh, okay. So moving on to World in Action, how long was it before… I remember being at a meeting in, I think it was three Upper James Street, in the mid-70s, where you faced the staff of World in Action. It was meet the boss, sort of thing. Do you remember that meeting?

More than one.

More than one. Perhaps I wasn’t there more than once. Anyway, I digress. Tell me how you came to be on World in Action.

I don’t think it was anything to do with me. It was simply I was told by Denis or David Plowright or whoever, “Will you take over World in Action?” Hah! It’s come back to me. I had a telephone call. I was doing something, somewhere, I can’t remember where, but for Granada. I had a telephone call and it was David Plowright who said, “Are you willing to take on World in Action? You’ll be executive producer and the…” What was the other title? Not series producer, “You’ll be executive…”


“The editor will be Ray Fitzwalter. You’ll be happy with that?” And I said, “Sure.” So maybe I was doing What the Papers Say then, I can’t remember, but certainly I remember the call from David Plowright, and that’s somewhat surprising, the initiation of my job on World in Action.

And you were based in London for World in Action?

No, both London and Manchester. I was on the train to and fro between them constantly.

Well, this would be the sort of time I was… throughout the 70s, so I remember some of the things you’ll remember, and one of them was I was quite in awe of my colleagues. I thought they were a fearsome group of men, mainly men, who had knew how the job was done and perhaps didn’t take too kindly to outsiders. Does that ring a bell with you? Is that your experience?

I never suffered any such resistance as being an outsider. Absolutely not. I had a very luxurious and easy time there.

What did you make of them?

I thought that they were a bright enough group. I remember quite a few of them, and they were very nice to me, and I rather enjoyed working with them, but I was always interested in other things. One of the things I remember doing quite early on when I was on World in Action was saying to Denis Forman, “Why don’t we make a series about the end of the British Empire?” and he said, “Sure,” and I now realise that the sum of money he allowed me to make that series was just sensational! If I remember rightly we made 14 programmes, maybe three about India. I’m 90% certain we made one about Iran. 100% certain we made one about Egypt, several about all the other countries around the Empire and, of course, each one involved sending a team to that place and digging up various archives, and it went out on Channel 4. Actually very near one of the first big series on Channel 4. But I was still responsible for World in Action while we were doing that.

How long were you on World in Action?

I don’t think I know the answer to that question. I would say, probably, about three years, maybe four.

Yes, yes, yes. In terms of the World in Action programmes, had you seen World in Action before you came to work on it?

Well, once I was asked to work on it, of course…

Because then you saw it.

I did a little bit of quick studying, and Jeremy Wallington helped me a lot in getting prepared for it, but I, myself, thought that, for example, Ray understood World in Action much better than I did, and I was rather surprised that they were so tolerant of my rather more theoretical and abstract approach. But they were very tolerant of it.

Well, what did you make of the programmes themselves? Did you think it was a job to be done in terms of refocusing the direction of World in Action? Do you think the programmes needed… I suppose the philosophy needed changing or refreshing?

Do you know I didn’t really think analytically like that at all. What I thought was, “Can we make my sort of programmes,” and I can’t remember. But the first programme made when I took over as executive producer of World in Action, was some abstract little programme, absolute third rate rubbish, and I’m surprised they let me make it, and I can’t remember who I hired, who of the team actually worked on it, but it wasn’t in the proper World in Action tradition at all. Ray was much more fundamental to the real World in Action tradition, and there were several people I particularly enjoyed working with, John Sheppard, and various other people. They went for good, straight, simple stories. I tended to go for rather more abstract analytical stuff. Nevertheless, they let me keep on at it.

Yes. What did you like and dislike about working on World in Action?

Well, I didn’t think all the members of the team were analytical in the way I like being analytical about current affairs. They liked to tell pretty simple stories, and I wasn’t all that enthused about that, but particularly Ray had a magnificent instinct for digging out wicked stuff and I couldn’t but approve of, and I gave a lot of backing and help to Ray. He bullied the other members of the team to actually do the dirty work on some of that. I very much enjoyed working with Ray. That was terrific. Some of the others I did enjoy working with, some less. It wasn’t exactly my personality, World In Action.

No. No. What was the structure? Was Ray your boss?

No. No. I was Ray’s boss.

You were Ray’s boss. He was editor. That’s right. I forgot what the title was, the man who ran World in Action.

That’s right. Yes.

But I was around in the 70s myself working on some of those with Ray and Mike Ryan, Mike Beckham and so on.

Yes, all those were familiar chaps. Yes.

Yes. Those team meetings… I was young and they used to terrify me some of these…

When I was on the Guardian, my job was largely writing about Commonwealth affairs. I went to the subcontinent and to Africa. I wrote quite a lot of stories about the conflicts Britain was having with the rebels there and the measures that were leading, in effect, quite a number of them moving to independence, so that was a big interest for me. I did move on from the Guardian to the FT and from the FT two New Society, but those imperial stories were big in my mind. Quite early on, when I was at Granada, I said to Denis Forman, who was very relaxed and nice about ambitions and things you want to do, “Why don’t we try to make it serious about the end of the British empire?” And seeing that I was able to demonstrate to him I really knew quite a lot about it, he readily said yes. What I then did not realise was how huge an undertaking that was and how huge and complicated each of the subjects were, because of course, one wanted to get people both out there and back in London who had taken part in the conflict of the arguments. Actually, now that I remember it, bloody hell, I’d forgotten this, before I started working even at the Guardian, I worked for a Fabian Society Journal called Venture. Venture was left-wing Labour Party sort of thing. But quite a number of quite senior people from Commonwealth countries wrote to Venture and I remember them coming to see me in Dartmouth Street just by Westminster. That was why I got so enthusiastic about this theme. So a, my background on Venture, b, having written about this extensively, being able to travel to these countries when I was at the Guardian, enabled me to say to Denis Forman, “I really do know a thing or two about these people in these themes, and not only have I been to countries, I’ve met many of the top leaders.” That was how I came to sell that to him.

He responded favourably?

As far as I can recall. I don’t remember the detail of it. What I do remember is at some point when we’re making it thinking, “Bloody hell, I’m being allowed to spend an absolute bloody fortune on this.” Other programmes, and I was knowledgeable about the costs of making World in Action programmes and so on, never had budgets as large as we got for making End of Empire.

Tell us how many programmes and what length they were in the series.

Well, the series was 14 programmes, and most of them were one programme, one country, except India. We did three on India. Everything else was one programme per country. By and large, had a different team for each programme, so it was quite a big project.

What was the slot? It was on ITV, Yes?

It definitely went out on ITV. I don’t think there was any slot. I think they created the slots especially for it, and they gave it a degree of promotion, which for ITV was amazing, because it was dead serious, boring stuff. Independent television was supposed to be lively and fun.

Indeed. You mentioned Denis Forman. You weren’t aware that he went to the same college at Cambridge.

Not at all, no.

Could you just tell us that story again?

Well, I worked for Denis for years, and Denis was very nice and kind and helpful. As a matter of fact, Anne, my wife and I went to see Denis in a nursing home about two days before he died. As always, his memory was completely unimpaired. He had lots and lots of detailed recollections of people I’d worked with, things we’d done together in Granada and so forth. He was lovely and friendly and lively. Then after he died, of course I read his obits and read more about him and discovered for the first time, to my complete amazement, that he had been at Pembroke College, Cambridge the same as I had. For all those years that I’d, A, worked for him and B, been a friend and colleague, he had never told me he went to Pembroke.

Of course the reason he never told me he went to Pembroke was because he was a failure at Pembroke. He failed to get his degree, was apparently disastrous. So he just never spoke about it.

That’s a fascinating story. Can I move onto another? The Hypotheticals series? Can you tell us a bit about that and how that came about?

Well for me, it was a complete accident. Anne, my wife, was invited to take part in some event I didn’t know what the hell it was, and she told me about it. It was in Brighton and there was another chap there, , Denis Forman who was my boss at Granada. She said she’d spoken to him and they both said, “This is a technique that might make television programmes.” Anne said to me, “Why don’t you work it up and see if you can turn it into television programmes?” In those days, she worked for the Economist. I mentioned it to Denis Forman, and then Denis Forman said to me, “There’s a hypothetical, or two or three hypotheticals, taking place in India shortly. Why don’t you come to that and then you can see how it works and see if you can turn it into television programmes?” So I went, and of course Anne went with me. That was how I wrote it up and proposed it as a type of television programme to be made by Granada.

Yes. I remember. It ran for a few years, did it? Can’t remember.

I would say it ran for probably about 12 years.

Did it really? That was channel four, wasn’t it? Hypotheticals?

Sorry, I can’t remember. I don’t think so. I think it would be easy to…

I can’t remember. Yes, I think you’re right. It was.

I’m sure it was BBC2, because it was BBC2 who closed it down. It was the controller of BBC2 who I went and argued with who told me it was an out of dated formula by them, and so that they weren’t continuing with it.

I see. A mate of mine, (Adam Coughlin? 21:44), worked on that.


Yes. Would you say it was an idea of its time? Perhaps a hard one to sell these days.

I imagine that that is the case. It was a format that simply came from America. Fred Friendly who adapted it from the Harvard Law School teaching method, Fred Friendly being a journalist and academic. I remember that we hired two or three of the presenters that he had had worked with. (Arthur Miller? 22:21) and (Benno Schmidt? 22:21), and damn, I can’t remember the name of the third of them. For the first two or three, we used the American presenters who had originally been doing it in America, and then we brought in some British presenters as well. By the end, we had British presenters for it. It seemed to be, to me, a thoroughly successful format. But by the end, BBC2 decided it was out of date.

Did Denis Forman twist your arm to do World in Action?

I don’t think twist my arm is right. No. My impression is that quite early on, he told me that the possibility that I might take World in Action was on the agenda. I had friendly conversations with him and with David Plowright and with Mike Scott about how it would run and so forth. I was rather surprised when they gave me the job of whatever it’s called.

Yes. One of my colleagues said, “I think Brian Lapping was more of a scholar than a journalist.”

Yes, I think that’s possibly right.

Probably how some of them perceived, yes. Okay. On your exit from Granada, how did that come about?

Oh, well, it was perfect example. Channel 4 was about to be started, and somebody, I’m afraid I can’t remember who, said to me, “Rather than work for a company like Granada, why don’t you set up your own company and then you can sell to either the BBC or Channel 4? Because there’s a totally new market opening for making programmes?” And come to think of it, yes, by then Anne had started her company, (Brooke? 24:15) Productions, and they were making something, A Week in Politics, I think. I came in at the start of Channel 4. But actually, the first thing I did was for BBC.

Sorry, what was the first job outside of Granada for the BBC? What programme was that?

Can’t remember. Sorry.

That’s all right. What was your last Granada production that you worked on before you left? I’m going out of sequence now.

Yes. I can’t remember my last.

What was your last job with Granada? Was it Hypotheticals?

No, Hypotheticals was just something that from time to time I concentrated on. I think that, I’m very sorry, I don’t think I had a specific job right at the end. I remember going to meetings of the board with Denis and Plowright and Scott and various others talking about planning things. I remember toing and froing between London and Manchester. I do remember having some dealings with Sidney, and Cecil, and Alex. and I remember, this is outrageous, I don’t know why I should even tell you this, but when I went up to Manchester and I was sometimes partly running World in Action, but partly I wanted to do things with my own, I used to go up to the top floor where Alex was not there, so I used to take his office. I remember one occasion, I was sitting in his office working and Alex showed up, so of course I said, “I’m off. Sorry.” And he was so polite and courteous and charming. He said, “No, no, no, you stay here.” I said, “This is your office. You can’t leave me here.” Anyway, but it was very easy, charming, relaxed place.

One of the questions is what did you make of the grand days of Granada and the Bernsteins, and Denis Forman and Plowright?

Well, I did get to know Sidney moderately well. Sidney was extraordinary. Very incisive and intrusive and fascinating to talk to. Cecil I didn’t know scarcely at all. But I had quite a number of conversations with Sidney, and I always came away thinking, “That’s really a clever man.” Very ambitious and so forth, but I was definitely very impressed with Sidney. Mike Scott was much more relaxed and nice and easy, but not in the same brain league at all. But the one I most enjoyed, of course, was Denis. Denis was smashing.

Just give us your opinion of Denis Forman. You’ve talked a little bit there about Sidney. Do you remember Denis Forman?

I remember so many things about Denis, particularly Denis chairing those meetings about what programmes we should make and what effort should be put in and who should do what. Denis was, in my view, completely brilliant. He was absolutely on top of the company, prepared to work all hours of day and night. I just thought he was wonderful and he applied his might tremendously creatively to my projects, but he applied his might equally painstakingly to other projects and he would simply come in, think, read. He was just very hard working, very relaxed, lovely man, absolutely smashing. I think possibly he’s the cleverest and lightest person I’ve ever worked with.

Good. Now some general questions because looking back, talking about programmes in the 70s and 80s, early 80s for you, a golden period for Granada as well as current affairs and on the drama front, they were having smash hits. I remember that feeling as well. But, looking back on your Granada years, how did you feel about Granada as a company and how did you rate it? Did you feel that you were at the right place at the right time? What were your feelings?

I occasionally came down to, it was called LWT? Yes. Because Ann worked at LWT and I was amazed at how inferior LWT was to Granada as an organisation. We had some close friends, particularly David Elstein working in Thames. And again, I got to know Thames quite well and it was no question that there was a commitment by Denis and by Sidney to doing outrageously ambitious things. Here was independent television trying to enlarge audiences for popular programmes, and Sidney allowed Denis to spend fortunes on much, much more ambitious programmes that were never going to win those large audiences because Sidney agreed with Denis this is just really interesting. And what was that superb series that they made in India?

Jewel in the Crown?

Precisely. They spent a fortune on that and it was silly because Denis, I remember talking – not me talking, Denis talking – enthusiastically about Jewel in the Crown. It was just he was fascinated by India. Had he been born in India?

Not sure.

But he had links to India. To be around in what was supposed to be a commercial organisation when the supreme boss, Sidney, allowed the effective boss, it was then I think managing director, Denis, to spend vast sums on something that wasn’t central to what independent television was supposed to be about. And, was somewhat critically viewed by people at LWT and Thames, “God, Granada spends too much money on those boring programmes.” They didn’t really like it, but they had to transmit them because I supposed Denis or Sidney or somebody twisted arms. It was just a treat of a place to be. It was a place that was in conflict with its proper role. Its proper role was just to make money. Sidney didn’t give all his mind to making money, he gave quite a lot of his mind. He had to make enough money of course, but he gave most of his mind, I think, certainly from some of my conversations with him, to make this programme as good as it can possibly be, and it was inspiring.

It did seem to me that Granada was the Jewel in the crown of the ITV network. Would you say?

Yes. Absolutely.

Good. We’re on to number 11 now. When Channel 4 started in ‘82 I think it was, Channel 4, you saw an opportunity to forge a new direction in your career and you became an independent. And to this day you’re still an independent in the industry making programmes. How does it feel, is it better, is life better out on your own rather than within a large broadcaster?

Well since Granada was the large broadcaster I was in, and since particularly under Denis and Sidney it was such a relaxed and lovely place and I was so encouraged to make things that in my view were not part of the ITV pattern but just what I wanted to make and Denis wanted me to make. No. It wasn’t better being outside. There was a degree of independence, there was a degree of opportunity. And so, when Channel 4 came into existence and people said to me, “Why don’t you set up as an independent?” I did. It’s worked, I’ve had a lot of fun and have managed to carry on making programmes. To my amazement I’m now 81 and we’re still making programmes so it’s pretty freakish. But if you said to me was it better being an independent than working for Granada? No. It’s 50/50. It couldn’t be better than working for Granada. It was for somebody like me the most wonderful place in the world to work.

You worked a lot with Norma Percy over the years. You worked in Granada with Norma didn’t you? And since as an independent? How important has she been in your career?

Absolutely crucial. It’s quite freakish. John Mackintosh MP, Labour MP, great enthusiasm for the creation of select committees, very significant figure. At the time of a general election, I can’t think which one, 1970 something, had his ability to pay staff cut because when there’s an election you cease to be an MP. And so, he said to me, “I’ve got this bright American woman who maybe could come and work for you.” She came and helped me with Inside British Politics. Now I can’t remember what Inside British Politics was but we certainly had debates which we ran in which John Mackintosh took part. I have a memory of John Mackintosh slanging off Michael Foot and John Mackintosh slanging off Enoch Powell in one of those debates which was very much Norma’s creation. Norma has one capacity which is just unbelievably freakish, and it happens every bloody time. She is so determined to get the key interviews, and to prepare unbelievably meticulously for those key interviews. And this same thing happens, I remember it happening with, I think it was Iran and the West. We hadn’t got Jimmy Carter, the American President, and we had delivered the programmes, we finished, Norma of course kept trying and she came into my office and said, “I’ve just had a message, Jimmy Carter’s in England next week. I’m going to sit next to him at dinner, I’m going to make him give us an interview.” I said, “Norma, we’ve run out of money to deliver the programme.” She said, “I’m going to do it just the same.” She doesn’t pay any attention to me. Of course, she got Jimmy Carter and so we had to get the programmes back from the BBC and the other broadcasters. And I remember my head of production, (name? 35:24), saying to me, “Brian, we’re going to go bankrupt if you insist on reediting the programmes after we’ve delivered them.” But of course, if Norma gets me Jimmy Carter what can I do? And Norma always does that, she persists and persists and persists in trying to get the key interviewees, irrespective of anything else that’s going on. She persists and persists. Let me just tell you another story about Norma. This was The Death of Yugoslavia and we had tried and tried and tried and we got practically everybody. We had not got Milošević, Milošević who was the president of Serbia. She eventually got Milošević, and of course we sent a crew down and she was there with the crew. I didn’t go. And the following happened. They had a little room set up next to Milošević’s office and the presidential palace, and cameras were set up, everything was ready. The president’s secretary came in a said, “President Milošević has asked me to give you this letter which you must sign.” And it said, “We hereby undertake that this interview will be broadcast in full.” So of course Norma signed it and we got the interview. When she came back to London I thought, “Fuck me. What do I do about this?” I went in to see the controller at BBC2. I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten who it was. I said, “Look Norma has signed this letter to Milošević saying that we’re going to broadcast the interview in full, and of course always we cut interviews. We will intercut him with Tuđman or however else from the… presidents of the other states. And he said, “Brian, you’re in luck. We have just started broadcasting from midnight til 6:00 AM. We can broadcast this in full at 3:00 AM.” And that’s what we did. Well, Norma is like that, she is absolutely obsessive about getting what has to be got, be it the precise question, the detailed information, or most significantly of all the interviewee. Basically the only thing I’m any good at writing and putting in the odd comma. But she contributes the determination to get the key figures, and that’s what actually is this most significant thing about the success of our series.

That’s what I remember of her, in the Golden Square I remember her coming across and I just thought she was about the most hardworking person I’d ever met inside of Granada.

That is one of the little problems that I have with her, she rings me at 11:00 at night and says, “Will you do this before tomorrow morning?” And of course I have to get it downloaded and do it and take it into the office the next morning. And she still does that.

I suppose this is the final question, is the last one as follows. I would like your thoughts on the current scene for current affairs and politics. We live in troubled times I think is fair to say, and social media plays a part in that. Things are quite divisive internationally and nationally and so on, in lots of ways. For you as a documentary maker, is it harder to make programmes in this climate now?

Well it is, yes, now. But that is because the budgets we get are lower than they used to be.

Yes. You were talking about how different it is making programmes now as an independent, you mentioned budgets. Perhaps you could pick that up again?

The sum that we get from the BBC is less than it was. We, of course, continue to be able to get lots from lots and lots of broadcasters around the world because they have shown our programmes. But, they nearly all pay us less than they used to so that the budget for making our current Europe series is less per programme than we have been accustomed to having. And the budget for our Cuba series that we’re working on is less than we’re accustomed to having per programme for such a series. So it’s getting harder, and of course we notice that the traditional broadcasters are being displaced by people doing stuff online, and young people never watching television anymore, not traditional television. And so, I’m feeling I’m jolly glad I’m ageing and getting out of it at about the right time.

Do you intend to retire at some point?

I will retire as soon as there’s no demand for me to carry on doing stuff. I tremendously enjoy being asked to do things and finding that I can still do them. At the age of 81 the fact that my colleagues in Brook Lapping find my rewriting of a script, my writing of a draught letter to President Sarkozy or whoever, helps them, cheers me up. It’s quite nice going into the office and finding people value you, so of course I want to carry on going in. But, I suspect be it next week or next month or next year, they’re going to find, “Oh that’s old fart’s past it” and I’ll have to stop.

Okay. Flabbergasted. I think that Sidney Bernstein was not an ordinary businessman in any sense of the word. I mean, there he was, he won the contract to be the ITV head of programmes, head of production, head of a company for the north west, but actually he didn’t apply his mind to the narrow question of making a profit from just making programmes in the north west, or even the north west and doing a small contribution to the ITV national output. What he seems to me to have set out to do was, what I find fascinating, what I find intriguing, what I find ambitious. He was the prime inspiration… of course, that he employed Denis Forman, and that Denis was able to do the actual work of creativity on all those things, was decisive. But, of course, Denis couldn’t have done it without Sidney’s backing. You’ve got to have the boss behind you, and I just think Sidney was sensational.

Chris Kerr

Chris Kerr, Granadaland notes, blog

Joining Granada was for me a question of being in the right place at the right time. I had started life as a trainee vision mixer at Thames tv followed by a three years as a researcher on the children’s programme Magpie. I had wanted to try life outside telly for a time and had taken what I planned to be a short break working in the arts. But here I was, seven years later in 1980, running the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool having pretty much given up the idea of ever getting back into telly. Then I had a call from a Liverpool solicitor, Sir Harry Livermore whom I knew quite well; as a former Lord Mayor he had a finger in most of the arts pies in Liverpool. He had had a letter from Sidney Bernstein about Granada’s plans for a new studio in Liverpool; they were looking for someone to manage it. Harry said that as I was probably the only person in Liverpool who had worked in telly perhaps I’d better go for it. As it happened I had recently had some contact with Chris Pye who was then running the tiny Liverpool newsroom; Granada had a new series coming up called Camera (produced by a young chap called Steve Morrison) and wanted to mount an exhibition to coincide with it; would the Bluecoat be interested in hiring out the gallery? I quoted what I thought was a rather steep price and was a bit disappointed when Chris accepted it without question. So the show came and, on the opening night, a lot of GTV grandees including Sir Denis Forman who listened politely while I told him about our plans for a new cinema at the arts centre.

I duly wrote to Andrew Quinn asking to be considered for the manager’s job but it all went a bit quiet for some time because of the strike; there was even a small picket outside the Bluecoat. But, early in 1981, I had a call asking me to go and meet AQ and Rolf Mitson the head of Personnel – it was before the days of HR although Rolf was pretty good at the jargon.   I sat in his office for quite a long time while he told me that the manager’s job had gone but that there might be other openings – he was a bit vague. After some time the door opened and David Plowright strode in. “Have you said yes?” he asked. “What’s taking you so long?”   I said I still hadn’t been told what the job, if any, was. In a few typically terse words DP filled me in on the position, said that a bright young fellow from the Liverpool Daily Post called Highet had got the top job but would need an assistant. Why didn’t I meet him and see if he thought I was any good?

So I rang David Highet and we met at the Grande Bouffe, a restaurant I knew well (my wife had run it for a year or so and I’d occasionally waited tables there). I asked David how I would know him. “I’ll be the one with the winning smile” he said.   He was right. Anyway we got on pretty well and I duly started work a few weeks later at offices in Exchange Flags while the new studio was being built across the way.

David has already given you a brilliant account of those early days in Liverpool; they were the greatest fun and I have happy memories of meeting the inspirational Mike Short and the likes of Roger Blyth, Shelley Rohde and Nick Turnbull. Nick produced a late evening cabaret-style show called After All That This; he gave her first break to the young Kate Robbins who happened to be the cousin of Ian Harris one of our security chaps; they were both part of the extended McCartney family. I remember a sketch which involved a spoof weather report in which the forecaster said we could look forward to a warm front at which point a well-made young woman in an exiguous bikini walked past the map. There was a bit of harrumphing from upstairs and the sketch was pulled. Thirty-five years on it looks fairly innocuous if unsubtle but Nick liked to push the boundaries a bit.

As David Highet has said, we had a number of visits from the top brass in those days; DF, DP, Mike Scott, Joyce Wooller, Jules Burns, Steve Morrison et al and there was a sense among the more astute management that Liverpool was a prize worth having; friendly managers tipped us off that we should be prepared to fight to preserve our independence – something David managed superbly by increasing the number and variety of shows we made, a strategy which led in due course to the momentous expansion at Albert Dock.

After a few months I was invited, in terms that didn’t invite a refusal, to take responsibility for the Granada Foundation. Kathy Arundale has given a concise summary of the Foundation’s history and work. It had been run up to then by Leslie Diamond the General Manager but he was retiring and, given my background in the arts, DF thought I could probably cope. It wasn’t hard work; we met about three times a year and I would get a lift to Manchester in the chauffeur-driven Rolls of Phill (sic) Jacobs, a Liverpudlian business friend of Sidney Bernstein. We tended to give our grants in a fairly subjective way – there wasn’t much in the way of a formal policy. I was asked to draw up a paper with some suggestions on policy guidelines. I can’t remember what it said but it was probably full of worthy sub-Arts Council ideas for residencies and fellowships. Sir Bill Mather the urbane chairman wasn’t much in favour: “I think it’s probably quite good thing for artists to do a bit of starving in garrets” he said. Both Kathy and Irene Langford have had their goes at writing a policy but I think one of the virtues of the Foundation remains its unwillingness to be restricted by rules. Other members of the Council were Lady Helen Forman, who had been DF’s boss at the BFI after the war. She was formidable but utterly delightful and her no-nonsense manner disguised a clever and sensitive woman with a deep appreciation of the arts and culture. A young Bob Scott was also making his creative presence felt. And then there was Tom Laughton, brother of the actor Charles. Their parents had run the two biggest hotels in Scarborough and, when the time came for Tom to retire, he invited us to meet at his big house on the cliffs. Sidney came too and I think was helicoptered on to Tom’s lawn. We had a fantastic lunch at which we all drank a good deal from Tom’s excellent cellar. I sat back happily and listened to SLB and Tom reminiscing about Hollywood before the war and telling stories about Alfred (Hitchcock), Elsa (Lanchester), Charlie (Chaplin)and other big Hollywood names. Like many really great men, Sidney was extremely approachable – “Mr Kerr, please don’t call me sir,” – and made you realise what charisma really is.

Alex Bernstein, himself a great art connoisseur and buyer, asked me to take responsibility for the superb art collection, of which Kathy Arundale has spoken. I was also allowed to buy if I saw something that fitted and it was a privilege to be able to put together a collection of work by Liverpool artists such as Adrian Henri, Maurice Cockrill, Clement MacAleer, Stephen Farthing and others for the Exchange Flags studio. Quite a lot of these “disappeared” in the move to Albert Dock which I guess means that other people liked them too. About 1982 Robin Vousden who was the assistant director at the Whitworth persuaded Alex to let them do an exhibition of work from the Collection and we had a lot of fun arranging that. I was also involved in the move of the Epstein Jacob and the Angel statue from the basement of Liverpool Cathedral to a new home in the School of Architecture. It was a bit heart in mouth as they lifted it onto a lowloader – no one quite knew how much it weighed or how fragile it was. Later Alex sold or gave it to the Tate and for a time it was in the Tate Liverpool foyer; now it’s nice to see it safe at Millbank. Given the great value of the collection I was always impressed by how laid-back Alex was about the pictures. He felt it was important that they should be on general view and if, as they did, they got damaged, well we just had them repaired. Alex was a private person and rather reserved but, as I got to know him better over the years, discovered that he had a fine and dry sense of humour and decided views, not just on art. Once I’d got over the fact of who he was I think we got on pretty well; he was certainly excellent company.

After about a year at the Liverpool studio I was sent for to Manchester. Jules Burns was moving up a level and needed someone to take over running the researchers and journalists department. Effectively this meant making certain that all the 100 or so researchers had a programme to work on and that producers had enough of them to run their programmes. It wasn’t always easy as some producers were very picky about the people they’d take and there was often an element of arm-twisting in arranging these forced marriages. The upside was that I got to meet some of the greatest of Granada’s producers, memorably Leslie Woodhead – and Brian Lapping who was always happy to talk fascinatingly and at length about his new series (End of Empire, Hypotheticals etc) so that I could understand the calibre of person he was looking for.

I was allowed to sit in on the meetings where Jules Burns briefed Mrs Wooller and Mike Scott about the state of programmes, their budgets, staff and so on. Fascinating to see the instinctive way in which decisions (almost always the right ones) were made. Mike had only fairly recently been made Programme Controller – it was before my time but I got the sense that some people were quite surprised that he got the job. I thought he was superb. He’d come all the way through Granada and there wasn’t much he didn’t know about television. And the great thing about Granada was that it was rather feared by all the other companies us because it was a bit maverick – in fact I think our bosses went out of their way to be so.   And Mike really enjoyed winding up the other controllers; he was in a position of some strength because of the quality and quantity of our programmes. Mrs Wooller was another of those people who said little but whose opinions were carefully measured and absolutely invaluable. She and Mike were old friends and she rightly thought very highly of Jules so it was a very happy team. I liked her very much indeed.

Another part of the job was recruiting new researchers and journalists and this meant, once we had a run a series of preliminary interviews – usually with Mike Short or Rod Caird – setting up a final board on which would sit the likes of David Boulton, Michael Cox, Ray Fitzwalter and Stuart Prebble. The interviews were run in a way which the new HR regime would never contemplate. There was very little structure and we let the interview take its own course. Some of the best moments came when Ray would, in his mild way, lead the interviewee down an increasingly tortuous series of hypothetical backstreets and then ask, quite gently, “So what would you do then?”

The system obviously worked as we were able to hire some really top-class people. Some got away. Peter Mandelson came for interview (twice I think) for a job on World in Action but was sad to find it would mean leaving London to live in Manchester. Same for David Aaronovitch; I think they both went to work for John Birt at LWT.

Being on the 6th floor meant that I saw quite bit of the last great team to run Granada: Plowright, Forman, Scott, Alex Bernstein. And, sometimes, their rather well-known guests. I was sitting in my office one afternoon when David Plowright came in. “Just want to look out of your window” he said and he ushered in his brother in law Laurence Olivier and the director Christopher Morahan who were rehearsing for King Lear, to point out something on my side of the building – I can’t remember what: maybe the burned out ruins of the Jewel warehouse or the building that was becoming David’s latest wheeze, the V&A hotel.

The top Granada management had real style and, I think, were generally very well-regarded by the staff. When we won the franchise in 1987 – and I remember Andrew Quinn telling us how worried they were that they wouldn’t because of the bonkers bidding system which Thatcher had introduced – they sent every member of staff – to their home address – a bottle of champagne in a box with the message Normal Service Will Be Resumed. This was absolutely typical of their understanding and appreciation of the staff. And when the annual report came out you could see that, although top management was well paid, (and David Plowright had a free house) there was nothing like the light years gap between their salaries and ours. We were all on the same pay-scale; they were just a bit further up it and the gap seemed absolutely appropriate. All that changed of course a few years later.

Like everyone who was there at the time I remember the appalling shock of David Plowright’s resignation – well and truly shafted by the Group Board. Copies of John Cleese’s fax to Gerry Robinson were freely distributed and I still have mine, along with my Barnum.

In 1986 Granada had decided to move its Liverpool operation to the Albert Dock to coincide with the Electronic Newsgathering revolution. Mike Short, Sue Woodward, the News Editor, and I spent many weeks interviewing potential staff. I got a call one afternoon from Rod Caird who was screen-testing possible presenters for a political programme; would I come down and be an interviewee?   It sounded like fun so down I went and was miked up to be interviewed by the barrister Helena Kennedy. We had a very relaxed conversation about something to do with the arts, she was delightful, and it all went rather well. Then Rod murmured in my ear “We’re going for another take and this time I want you to be as awkward as you can. I want to see how she reacts under pressure.” So we went again and I gave her rather short, rather grumpy answers and was generally unhelpful. I thought she did really well. But she didn’t get the job; I never had a chance to apologise and I’ve always felt guilty about that, although she did go on to have a starry career with the BBC. A few days after that, as we were having a break between interviews, Shorty asked me if Sue had told me about their good idea. This was that I should apply for a job as arts reporter on the new Granada Reports team. Quite a dream! I wondered whether the session with Helen Kennedy had given him the idea. Anyway I did a pretty awful studio screen test and a rather better location report and, in April 1986, I joined the team – back in production after thirteen years!

I was regarded, at least to start with, by some of the team as a management mole. But I had got to know Tony Wilson in his capacity as Father of the Chapel and we had always got on well. As a novice reporter I used to go out with him on stories and he would give me valuable tips about talking to camera, keeping the sentences short and so on. He was unfailingly kind and helpful and I think it helped people to see that I wasn’t a stooge.   He was, as everyone knows, a legend – endlessly stimulating, full of good ideas, always questioning, never hidebound. If it doesn’t sound creepy it was a real privilege to be in the same newsroom; we all learned from Tony. Years later he presented a religious discussion series which I was producing and he was the producer’s delight: did his homework, read the research and asked excellent questions.

The first presenters of the new Granada Reports were Tony and a burly Irishman called Tom McGurk. As well as the 6 o’clock show we ran a number of bulletins during the day which were read by the evening presenters or senior reporters like Mark Gorton. When Tom left he was replaced by Richard Madeley who had, I think, been fronting the Manchester end of the show. Like many of the team who still lived in Manchester, Richard had to flog down the M62 every day and often arrived pretty close to the last minute – bad for the nerves of the news editor. One morning, with five minutes to go before the first bulletin, he hadn’t arrived; Shorty pointed at me. “You’d better do it” he said. And so, with a few minutes’ notice, I plugged myself in to talkback, put on an earpiece and away we went. Fortunately it was only a few minutes long and, with the help of the brilliant team in the box: Ian White directing and Bernie Hammond as PA, we finished more or less on time.

So for the next few years I alternated between news reading, occasional presenting with the Bobs, Greaves and Smithies, and reporting, mostly on arts stories – we were able to give a lot of good coverage to the opening on the Tate, across the dock from us, in 1988. Since I spoke some French Shorty also sent me to Brussels a few times to cover the trial of the young Liverpool FC supporters who’d been arrested after the disaster at the Heysel stadium. That was a great experience particularly as I met up again with Harry Livermore who had come out of retirement to defend the boys and who made rather a name for himself for his cheerily outspoken interviews.

When you’ve worked alongside the likes of Tony Wilson and Bob Greaves – and indeed Mark Gorton – it doesn’t take long to realise whether you’ve got it as an on-screener and, after five years or so I asked David Boulton who was then running Factuals if I could move towards production. He gave me a job working on an arts festival under Stuart Prebble and he in turn next allowed me to develop some contacts I’d made at Ashworth Special Hospital (what used to be called a criminal lunatic asylum); with Julian Farino as director we made They Call Us Nutters, an extended insight into life inside – it was the first time a tv crew had ever been allowed to make a documentary there. It was Julian’s first film as a director and mine as a producer.

Stuart later gave me the job of producing religious programmes with the much-loved Canon Frank Wright, and a bit later I ended my time back at Albert Dock as Deputy Editor of Granada News, a kind of glorified studio manager but also able to keep producing. But I could see that things were changing and since I frankly didn’t care for Charles Allen or his style I thought the time had come to jump. The excellent and much-missed David Fraser who had joined Granada shortly after me was now general manager and gave me a generous package and a freelance contract for a couple of years.   He died terribly young not long afterwards. Many of my good friends had moved on – and many more were soon to be axed by Mr Allen. I always think that I was lucky to have joined Granada for the last of the really great days and to get out just before it all went wrong.




Claire Lewis

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly, 1 November 2017.

Let’s start at the beginning, Claire. How did you come to join Granada Television?

I was a newspaper reporter on the Rotherham Advertiser, believe it or not, in Yorkshire where I lived at the time. South Yorkshire. I had changed my career – I was reluctantly a primary school teacher – and then got an attachment to BBC Radio Sheffield in the ‘70s when Sheffield was the most progressive local authority around, and the council leader was David Blunkett, they did attachments, secondments, for teachers to teach them to become radio producers. I went to the BBC, I realised that I’d always wanted to be… I’d actually always wanted to be a director, film maker. I realised, I changed my career, I got into newspapers, and after about 18 months of working on the Rotherham Advertiser, which was probably the worst newspaper in the world at the time, I decided to move to try and get into broadcasting. I applied for a number of jobs in TV and didn’t get them, and finally there was a researcher’s job advertised in the press. I applied for it, for Granada TV. I got an interview, I got offered the job – which was life changing – and a week later they ran up and they said did I want to be a researcher or did I want to be a journalist. And I said, “Well, I’d like to be a journalist,” partly because the pay was better. They said, “Well, you’ll have to come and do another board.” So I came to Granada to do second board, and it was the day of the Woolworth’s fire. In May 1979. And there was nobody around. And I did my board for being a journalist and it was all a great crisis because Rod Kedd, who was running the news, couldn’t find anybody to go and cover the Woolworth’s fire, and eventually he had to send Patti Caldwell – this was right in the middle of my interview, and I remember really well. So then they offered me a job as a journalist and they said which one did I want. I went, “What? What?” It was completely crazy. I went from being a nonentity newspaper reporter on the Rotherham Advertiser to being a journalist on Granada Reports overnight. And it set me on the course of the path I’m now on.

What about the interview process? Was there anything that cropped up from that interview process?

Yes. I mean, the first interview I did for a researcher… I was a bit older than a lot of people they were interviewing at the time because I was changing careers. I had got two young children at home and I was a teacher, and I was a fanatical television watcher – I watched everything. I watched drama, I watched documentaries. So when I came to do my board, the interview process, Steve Morrison was interviewing me along with two or three other people, I was completely different I think from everybody else they’d talked to. I had a lot of views about what I was watching. I watched the Street and I knew what was going on in all the programmes. And it was a fun interview. It really was. I knew it had gone well. Steve and I got on straight away and we had a laugh, and I think it was clearly I was probably a bit different, and older than some of the other people to interview, and that’s… I found it a very engaging process, actually. I enjoyed the interview so I really wasn’t like any other board Id ever done. Because I’d done rather mundane things and sort of staid interviews, and this was completely different. Completely different. The journalistic board was a bit different because it was a bit tougher. But again, I quite enjoyed it. I had nothing to lose, you see. Absolutely nothing to lose. So you just go in there, you throw ideas around, you come out and you think you’ve not got a chance, which is the best way of doing an interview.

Okay. So you joined Granada Television.

I did. I joined the week of the 1979 General Election. My first job was working on the election programme when Maggie Thatcher, got in. So it was a momentous week, that week. July 1979. Extraordinary. To be interviewed on the day of the Woolworth’s fire in Manchester, and then to join Granada the week of July ‘79 of the general election, which was a Thursday, and Maggie Thatcher got in, was again, historic.

So what programmes did you… you came as a journalist?

I came as a journalist on Granada Reports. Off-screen journalist. And I’d only been at Granada six or eight weeks doing my basic filmmaking training, going out on stories, working with a film crew. I’d done a lot of radio, so I’d done a lot of radio reporting, so that wasn’t an issue. So I knew how to do that. But I had never had any journalistic training apart from on newspapers, which was good, but then I was learning about filmmaking from all the cameramen I went out with. But two things were very important in those days. Firstly, they were making Brideshead Revisited at the time and there was a big strike. And what happened was, was that all the fancy cameramen, the most wonderful cameramen who were working on Brideshead, were laid off and they all got put on news. So I spent the first six weeks of my career working with cameramen, making films, who were there because they had to work and they didn’t really want to do it. But they’d been laid off because of this strike on Brideshead Revisited. Learning by trade with some of the best cameramen I’ve ever worked with. And it was absolutely wonderful. It was fun, it was exciting, they taught me everything I knew, and they went and did shots that no other cameraman would have done. You know, the old bog standard news cameramen would have just stood and complained, whereas this lot were amazing. And then, after a very short time, there was the big strike in ITV. I had only been there about eight weeks when the ACTT called a strike. I was in the NUJ, so we didn’t work. So we then had three months off, which was again extraordinary. I moved cities, I moved away from Rotherham where I was living, I came to Manchester, six weeks of intense work and then suddenly nothing. This great big hole, which was a great big strike.

Presumably you were paid?

The NUJ were paid, yes, then, which was quite difficult. The ACT were all on strike and they didn’t get paid, but I was paid all the way through that and wasn’t working. I mean, it was extraordinary.

So when the strike ends, which I think was after six or seven weeks, you came back onto Granada Reports?

I did. I came back onto Granada reports as a off-screen journalist, which I loved. I was immediately sent to Liverpool, to the Liverpool office in Exchange Flags to do a stint there, which was interesting and different, and then very soon, at Christmas, I was summoned to the head of local programmes, who said, “Right, we want you to go off straight away and work on our local politics programme.” Which was Reports Politics. And I started Reports Politics in January 1980, working with Gordon Burns and your good self, and the legendary David Kemp, and it was very, very interesting. It was unlike doing news, I hadn’t worked on anything long form before, so we were making documentaries, and it was right… my first ever job as a researcher – and I had to swap from being a researcher to a journalist, I had swapped contracts, because they offered me this job – they wanted me to do it, so they said, “We want you to go on Reports Politics, but you will have to go on a researcher contract, therefore you’ll have to join the ACTT and you’ll have to give up your NUJ.” So I did. I kept being a member of the NUJ but joined the ACTT as a researcher, working on long form half-hour documentaries. And my first job, my very first job, was to go to North Wales and make a film about the burning of the Welsh cottages, of the English, who had cottages in Wales. It was a revelation. It was a revelation. I remember driving down to Wales in the dark, because it was January, following the leads, following the story. It was a really interesting story, because of course the Welsh were really, really concerned and very upset about it. And they were indeed burning English people’s cottages. So I remember getting to Bangor about early evening in January. It was pitch black and I walked into this bar, pub bar, because I was trying to find somewhere to stay or a hotel or something, and I walked in, and everybody was speaking Welsh, and as I walked in the entire pub went silent. The entire pub. As I walked up to the bar and started talking to them in English. The landlord, or whoever was behind the bar, spoke to me in Welsh, replied. I have never felt so foreign anywhere in my life as I did in that pub that night in Wales, and it was a really interesting experience because it kind of set me up for making the film, and I realised how serious it was and how strongly the Welsh felt about their language. Anyway, I don’t remember much more. I remember working with David Kemp. We had a tradition on Reports Politics is that after we’d done the show we would go all go out for a meal, the whole team, which was a really fabulous team, it was great working together, and we would all go out to this very swish Chinese restaurant in Manchester, which was probably the finest Chinese restaurant in the country, and we would all go out and have a wonderful slap-up meal paid for by our exec producer. And we did that every week. And again, I’d never encountered anything like it. And it was really fun, and we would take our guests from the programme with us, so we would have a very good discussion, I met a lot of people, and there was Gordon, and there was David Kemp, and it was very political, with a small p, but also political with a big P. So it was a fantastic experience.

Okay. Next step from Reports Politics?

I went back to Granada Reports as an on-screen reporter. Yes, that’s right. I went back as an onscreen reporter, which was also fun. I had to do a screen test, and they wanted more women on screen at the time, there were a lot of male reporters who weren’t that good. So there were three of us. We got selected, we did screen tests, and started reporting. And I did that for about a year on Granada Reports, or maybe not quite a year, I don’t remember. But it was quite stressful. I found live television easy and fun, but I found reporting pieces to camera an absolute nightmare. Absolute nightmare. People who act a lot, and I’d acted a lot as a young person, are not very good reporters, and they realise that. The worst presenters are the people who are actors. People who are good on screen are people who are exactly the same on screen as they are off screen, and don’t change. And I found on onscreen reporting quite difficult. I found having to worry about will look like very difficult, get up at 6am and wash your hair and makeup on, it was all quite tricky. And in the end there were three of us on screen, and the head of local programmes summoned me in one day and said, “By the way, we don’t want you on screen any more,” which was kind of a bit sad but actually a great relief. And I remember I had one famous occasion I was doing an important piece on cervical cancer, in the early days before anyone talked about it, and I was doing it with Julie Goodyear – Bet Lynch on Coronation Street – and we did a whole item about how important it was for women to realise what was going on. And I was quite fashion conscious, and I wore a pair of green corduroy dungarees and some knee length boots to do this piece. Tan leather knee length boots. And I did my piece to camera outside the Christie hospital, along with Julie Goodyear, who was absolutely hilarious. Anyway, I did my piece to camera, did my piece, it went out on Granada Reports, and then immediately after the show I got a call from head of local programmes, Steve Morrison. He said, “I liked your piece, but don’t ever wear anything like that again on Granada Reports if you’re presenting.” And I went, “Sorry?” He said, “The kind of women who we want to get the message of cervical cancer to are not going to be wearing knee length boots and green corduroy dungarees. I want my reporters to look smart, and for people to realise that they’re one of them rather than looking trendy.” And it was interesting because he was actually completely right. He was completely right. And it was an object lesson for me about how, when you work at Granada, the audience comes first. It’s not about what you want to do and what you want to wear on screen, it is about how do you get your message across. And I think, for me, it was a fundamental lesson in the difference between working for ITV and working for the BBC. ITV training teaches you from day one to put the audience first. What’s the audience going to think about this? Who is your audience? Why are you doing it? And that’s really interesting.

Do you think that’s because Granada was northern?

Partly, but I also think it’s was because Granada was set up because ITV, Granada, it was a commercial station. They were set up to make money. You can’t make money if you don’t appeal to your audience, and you have to put your audience first. So I don’t think it was particularly a northern thing. I think it stood out more because I was a southerner, and some of us were middle-class trendy southerners who had been brought up to work in the north. I think maybe people were more conscious of it because of obvious class differences in the north, but I also do think it’s an ITV thing. I mean, one of the things you realised when you worked in ITV in the north is that everybody who worked in TV were just normal people who happened to be working in TV. They weren’t media luvvies. They were just nice normal ordinary people. Whereas people were working in media in the south right from day one were all media luvvies. I really do believe that. And that was why it is such a wonderful thing to work in TV in the north, not in the south.

What happened next?

I became news editor. I did a stint on an education programme, again with Gordon Burns, called Chalkface, which was a documentary series. So I swapped backwards and forwards from news to other programmes for three or four years. I then became news editor of Granada in 1981, which was great, working with Stuart Prebble, ran the news for a year. Then, when I then got pregnant and had a baby, and realised that news wasn’t really compatible with having a young baby; it was very difficult and I couldn’t be on call all the time, and it was very demanding, so I decided to ask if I could go into documentaries, which is what I really wanted to do. I mean, my whole reason for going to Granada in the first place is because I wanted to work in World in Action. As a newspaper reporter, I wanted to work on World in Action and I wanted to change the world. I wanted to use filmmaking as a means of changing the world, and I should have said that in the beginning, but that’s what it was. It was only when I got to Granada, because I already had two children, that I realised that the way in which they ran World in Action, it was not possible to be a mum and have children and work in World in Action – it was completely impossible. The way that they worked, the rotas, the shifts, meant that you could not hear a mother and work on that programme at the same time. Only one person had ever done it when I was there, and in subsequent years, who had ever managed to work on World in Action and had children.

Is that a criticism of Granada generally? Could they had been been better?

They could have been better, of course they could – but it was how it was at the time. There was no awareness at the time of the fact that there were crèches, the fact that we had kids. You know, if you had a kid, that was up to you. You could go off and have a kid, but you sort it out yourself, you know? And that was the ethos. You had childcare and you didn’t bring your kid problems to work. And that was just the way it was. I think it was tough, very tough, and difficult, but nobody really complained because they didn’t know any different. There was no other examples. The BBC were just beginning to realise about women working and having children, but in ITV there was never any kind of concession to women having children, having kids, and that kind of working.

And in a more general way, Granada and women… were they sympathetic at all, or was it always difficult for women?

I don’t think it was difficult for women at all. I no found any problems, apart from the fact that when you went off on maternity leave and you came back you had to look after your own children and it your own business. I know there was never anything other than lots of opportunities for women at Granada, always. Always. I didn’t find any kind of prejudice. There were no places that women couldn’t go. It was entirely done on merit. It was entirely whether you’re any good at what you were doing, and obviously if your face fitted, but that applied to both men and women. It wasn’t just women thing, you know, people wouldn’t get on and some people wouldn’t understand why. And that happened to both men and women. So I don’t think there was a particularly… in fact there was a pro-women culture when I joined.

So you eventually got onto World in Action?

No. I wanted to go, I realised I couldn’t. I couldn’t possibly be away from home for weeks on end when you have two children of school age, they were only eight and 10, or nine and 11, there was no I could do that. So I went on to the news, had another baby and became a researcher in documentaries. I had realised that’s what I wanted to do, and the first series I made was a series with Ray Gosling – wonderful presenter, Ray Gosling – called Human Jigsaw, with Sandy Ross – legendary figure, Sandy Ross – that was really fascinating. So that began my real initiation into making documentaries, and that’s what I stayed doing. With a few diversions which I’ll tell you about. So I did Human Jigsaw. As a teacher, I watched Seven Up. I did a certificate of education and I trained to be a primary school teacher, and part of that was watching Seven Up. When I got to Granada, I realised that Granada made Seven Up. And it was interesting because I was beavering away doing Human Jigsaw in 1982-3, and I’d worked briefly for Steve Morrison on his first drama, the Orwell drama The Road to 1984, because I desperately wanted to do drama. And because I was working in local programmes, everything I was doing was in local programmes, I was working with Steve on a number of programmes and he got me in as a researcher and as a researcher to work with him on his George Orwell drama, which was directed by David Weatley. Again, absolutely amazing experience. We shot it in in a old hospital in Trafford Park. My responsibility was getting all the animals for The Road to 1984, for the script was written but my job… Steve Morrison and David Wheatley, who were running the film, would feed off each other’s fantasies. And one day Steve said to me, “We want to use real pigs in the scenes for Animal Farm.” And I went, “Okay.” And we want we want real pigs, and we want the real pigs to be performing and doing all the things. There was a long silence and I sort of said, “You do realise that 1984 was fictional, don’t you?” And they both looked at each other and said, “We want to find real animals.” So I was dispatched to find real pigs who could perform. I have to say, probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had in my TV career, because pigs don’t perform. They’re really, really… they’re intelligent but they’re not very good performers. So I went and befriended the pig keeper at Tatton Park Farm where they had a lot of pigs. And he was called Ted Heath, believe it or not. And Ted Heath and I got on. And I said, “Look, this is my brief. My bosses, who are completely mad, want to use real animals in the Animal Farm sequences. How am I going to do this?” And he said, “Okay…” So we had a few plans and we got some pigs and he started training up one particular pig called Christine to have a paintbrush in her mouth for the sequence where they had the commandments written on the wall of the garage doors on Animal Farm. You know, the commandments. One, two, three, four. What they wanted was to film the sequence where they had a pig with a brush, and it looked like the pig was painting. Then there was another sequence of all the pigs coming in to the house to eat their food and sit up at the table. All of which was… I mean, nobody realised what a complete fantasy that was anyway. So that was my job. Anyway, Ted got this pigs quite well trained, and we did a few practices and we realised that we could do certain things with them. Christine was wonderful. She would actually pick the brush up and she would stand with the brush, and just had to go up a ladder; she had to go two or three steps so that she looked as if she was painting. So come the day of the shoot, big film shoot, crew of 500, James Fox, actors, trailers, hospitality, the whole thing; my first experience of a proper feature film shoot. We were doing the animal sequences. Okay. So we start and was all going swimmingly. And then it came to the scene where Christine had to appear. Right. No Christine. Didn’t appear. Nothing. We were waiting around. “Claire, where’s the pigs?” I said, “I’m sorry. I’ll go and find out.” So I ran and said to Ted Heath, “What’s going on?” He said, “I can’t get Christine out of her pen. I can’t get her out.” I said, “What do you mean?” “She won’t come out.” “What do you mean, she won’t come out? We’ve got to film this scene. I got a 500-person film crew here. What are we going to do?” “I can’t get her out,” says Ted. So we tried our hardest and couldn’t get Christine out at all. She would not come out of her pen. She’d never done it before and we didn’t know what the problem was, but she wouldn’t come out. So then we had one more scene to do, Christine was supposed to lead all the pigs into the house to get up to the table, and she wouldn’t. So I said to Ted, “What are we going to do? This is a really expensive film shoot. We’ve got film stars here. What are we going to do to shoot the house scene?” He went, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We will use a bunch of pigs we haven’t even worked with before, and we won’t use Christine. We’ll try this.” I went, “What?” he said, “It’s okay.” So we went and put food on all the plates in the house. Nobody knew that we hadn’t used these pigs before. And so we started to shoot the scene. So we herded the pigs, and the one that he hadn’t used before went into the house – and you can see this, because we actually shot it for the actual scene – these pigs went all the way around the table, it was a circular table, and each one got up onto the table and started to eat out of these bowls. It was unbelievable. We just stood there with our mouths open thinking, “We’re okay, we’re fine, this is working.” And we shot the whole scene and everyone thought it was wonderful. Nobody knew that we hadn’t worked with those pigs before, they were a completely different set of pigs, and that Christine wouldn’t come out of her pen. So we had to go back the following week to shoot Christine because she did know what she was doing. I said, “Ted, why wouldn’t she come out of her barn?” And he said, “Because she was in season and she had to walk past the male pig,” and she wouldn’t do it. She wouldn’t go near him. And she wouldn’t come out. He could smell her, and she could smell him. And so sex reared its ugly head! And then, of course, I had to do an interview for the papers when the film came out. And I told them the story about Christine, and one of the reporters said, “Well, what’s happened to Christine now?” and I said, “Sadly, she’s pork pies.”

Poor Christine.

So that was before, and then I got an inkling, I got a whiff of the next Seven Up film. I said to Steve Morrison, “Look, if this comes up, I’d really like to do it. I’m a teacher. I know about these films.” And I think because I had a very good relationship and I’d worked a lot with Steve right from day one, I’d done a lot of work for him, and particularly on The Road to 1984, working with Steve Morrison was a really interesting experience. Because he expected… he expected the best. He expected perfection. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. And working for people like that means that you give of your best. If what you’re expected to do is so high powered and so good, and so ambitious, then you work towards that, and you can see it much more often than you think. So working for him, you know, he used to ring me up at 1am sometimes, wen we were doing The Road to 1984, about the pigs and about this, because it was his first feature, it was my first feature, and it was really important to everybody that it was good. So I think he was quite sympathetic to me doing Seven Up, and because I’d asked for him, so it suddenly came up and there I was… we’re going to do 28 Up. And there’s a very interesting story about 28 Up. Somebody else did a little tiny bit of research and handed me a piece of paper saying, “These are the people, they’re all missing, there are no programme notes.” Nobody had been in touch with them between 21 and 28. Nobody could find the files. And that was me. Steve Morrison said, “Right, off you go, you can go off and do 28.” But there was history to this. Because Mike Scott, who was then programme controller, thought that 28 Up would be boring, and they weren’t going to do it. They had decided apparently – and this is an apocryphal tale – they had decided that people are boring at 28 and there was no point doing it. And the only reason it got done was because Jeremy Wallington, who was then at Granada, series exec producer, had left and gone freelance and had set up his own company. And Jeremy Wallington said, “Well, if you don’t do it, I will. If you don’t want to do 28 Up, I will do it.” And at that point they realised they couldn’t allow that to happen. So they reluctantly, Mike Scott believing that 28 Up was going to be boring because nothing happened to people when they were 28, that was how I got the gig. And so of course, I then set off on this momentous, world-changing, life-changing experience of working on Seven Up with absolute gusto and great delight because it’s exactly what I wanted to do. It was perfect for me at the time. Except it was tough, because there were no programme notes. I had to find people, right from the beginning. All the girls had got married and changed their names. Neil was completely missing, Symon was completely missing. No addresses, absolutely no record of where they were. And I had to start… there were a few old phone numbers of some of the people in some old programme file somewhere, I think probably the contracts department had a few contact details for some of them, but that was it. And I had to start from the beginning.

And you managed to track them all down?

I learned how to find a missing person, yes. I tracked them all down. I got to the point where I had to go through the electoral roll in Southall to find one of them. Luckily he’s got a very unusual surname so it was quite easy to do that once I realised. Finding Neil, who was completely missing, took three months. Nobody had seen him. His parents hadn’t seen him, his brother hadn’t seen him. Nobody knew where he was. Absolutely nobody. So I literally had to try and do what the police do when you’re looking for a missing person. And I did. And it’s a very interesting experience in that when you’re looking for a missing person, the way you find them is somebody always tells you something they shouldn’t. And that’s the key to it. Eventually somebody will tell you something that they shouldn’t tell you. Give you a piece of information that you shouldn’t really have. And that’s how you find them. And I finally found him, after three months of tracking him and tracking phone calls, the blind alleys, I found him in North Wales. And I found him because somebody told me, two people told me things they shouldn’t have told me. Key people. And I found him in a caravan in North Wales. Finally. And I drove there, knocked on the caravan door in the middle of this field. He opened the door and I said, “Hi, I’m Claire, I’m from Granada.” He went, “Oh, hello. Come in.” And he told me many years later, many years later, that he thought I was the cleaner come to clean his caravan, which is why he let me in. So working on that was amazing. I met Michael, I got on with Michael straight away.

Michael Apted?

Michael Apted, yes. I met Michael obviously very early on, but he had to meet me and make sure that we got on, and that was the right person. We did that. He was on a couple of days in London away from Hollywood, he was based working in Hollywood permanently, living in America. So I did the whole of the research for 28 Up on my own, set everything up, found everybody, and he just came over for the shoot. And there are several funny stories about 28 Up which I will tell you if you want to hear them, because they are legendary.

Before you do, explain what Seven Up is.

Seven Up was a World in Action special made in 1963, and it was commissioned by the then editor of World in Action, Tim Hewat. Tim Hewat had been brought to Granada by Sidney Bernstein and Denis Forman as the very first editor of World in Action. He was an Australian and he was editing the Daily Express, which was at the time a very, very popular, quite incisive newspaper. What Granada was set up in the early sixties, Sidney Bernstein and Denis Forman wanted to do something different with current affairs. They wanted a new immediate, popular current affairs programme that wasn’t didn’t reek of social class and posh people, and Panorama and those things. So they poached Tim Hewat, they got him over from the Daily Express, and he started and created World in Action, which was absolutely phenomenal. There was nothing like it in television at the time; it was ground-breaking and so popular. They did programmes on topics from all over the world, as well as UK topics, in a completely different way. Very appealing, very accessible, very populist. Tim Hewat did that for a couple of years, I think. And I don’t know what happened, but he got bored, wanted to go back to Australia, but he had one burning idea that he desperately wanted to do, which was born out of the fact that he was an Australian and he was appalled by the rigidity of social class. And I spoke to him on the phone several times when I was doing the book for 35 Up. And he told me about why he felt so strongly and why he felt that he needed to make a film about social class for World in Action. It turned out that it was his swansong. He commissioned Seven Up. Seven Up was created by a number of people who happened to be working at Granada over the time. And it was directed by Paul Almond, who was a drama director, who was in between jobs. The two researchers were people who’d just joined Granada. One was Michael Apted, fresh from university, and the other was Gordon McDougall. They were the two researchers. It was shot by a news cameraman who had never shot anything like this before, one of the Samuelsons, David Samuelson, who was a news cameraman. And Tim Hewat said, “I want to make a film about social class in Britain.” He wanted also to take on board what he believed was the kind of Jesuit maxim, “Give me a child until he is seven and I’ll show you the man.” In other words, he wanted to know what the seven-year-olds of 1963 were going to be doing in the year 2000, which is what the film was about. And it was to look at social class, pure and simple. Opportunity and social class in Britain. And it was England, it wasn’t Britain. It was only England. So the brief to the two researchers was they had six weeks to find the kids. Six weeks only. They had to turn this programme around in six weeks, a special World in Action. So they did that. They found the kids, Michael found half, Gordon found the other half. Meanwhile, Tim Hewat decides to go back to Australia and be a sheep farmer in Victoria. And he went. So he left in the middle of the production process and went back to Australia, leaving Seven Up adrift, without an exec producer, without a producer. They were all beavering away. So Derek Granger came in and oversaw Seven Up for Tim, and Tim had gone. And that’s how it all came about. So this motley crew of people who happened to be in Granada at the time, just gelled and made the most extraordinary film. Seven Up was groundbreaking. Again. It’s the first time… there were no adults at all in Seven Up, just children talking. First time that had ever been done. Nobody had ever done that before. Just kids talking. Their lives, their hopes and dreams. Wonderful film, beautifully directed, because it was directed by drama director, not a documentary or a news director. So there were shots in it that would never have happened had it been directed by some, you know, not good, but ordinary sort of documentary film maker, and I don’t mean that pejoratively, but having a drama director in it made all the difference to the way it looked – and it looked amazing. And that’s how it came about.

And then there was the successive 14 Up.

There was. So basically, the story about 14 Up, which is called 7 Plus Seven, Michael Apted, very quickly after Seven Up, wanted to be a drama director. His career progressed very fast. He did the Street, he then left, went freelance, came back, did some wonderful Jack Rosenthal dramas, and he was in the canteen and this – I know this is true, because he told me – he was in the canteen one day at Granada, doing a drama, and Denis Forman came up to him and said, “How are your seven-year-olds doing?” And Michael said, “Sorry?” he said, “Isn’t it time we went back and visited those children?” And that’s how it happened. So that’s how 7 Plus Seven and the whole… it was never intended to be a series. Seven Up was a one-off special.

Oh, really?

Yes. It was never intended to be a series. And it was only because Denis Forman came and said, “Shouldn’t we be going and having a look at your seven-year-olds?” And in the original commentary for World in Action, for Seven Up, there’s a line, “What will today’s seven-year-olds be doing in the year 2000?” What will the shop steward and the company director… what are they thinking. So there was always a thought that they might go back in the year 2000, but it was never intended. It was a one off. And then they commissioned 7 Plus Seven and the rest is history. And that’s when Michael took ownership of the whole project.

Right. And you’re now the producer?

I’m the producer, yes.

And Michael is executive producer?

No, he’s the director. He produce-directs, and I produce. But we actually do it together.

So you’ve done it since 28.

I have, yes.

Which is how many now?

I’ve done five, and we’re about to embark on the sixth.

I won’t go into the sociology of it all… you said there were some funny stories.

I suppose 28 Up had the funniest stories. They were the ones where – I mean, there’s constant funny stories – but you have to remember, that when we made 28 Up there were no mobile phones. And I found Neil, who was a missing person, in this field in Wales. The problem with Neil was he kept moving – he was homeless. So he would move, and he would never stay in one place more than three or four days. And I could not keep track of him. I couldn’t keep track of him. He then moved up to the Highlands of Scotland, and I had to try somehow and find a way of tracking him. There were no phones. He wouldn’t use the phone anyway, and I had to arrange for this Hollywood film director to come over and film him with a big film crew, with George Turner and everybody, all of us. And I couldn’t find him. So eventually I worked out a system where I realised that the only thing… he had to collect his giro, Social Security, money every week. And the only place he could do that was in post offices in the Highlands. So what I did was I befriended all the people who ran the local post offices, and they would pin notes for me on their notice board for Neil. And I said, “If Neil comes in, you have to tell him this, you have to get him to read the notice board, and you have to tell him this.” It was the only way. So I had to fix two days filming in the Highlands, three days’ filming. So we fixe the shoot, we went to him, we flew to Inverness with a film crew and Michael, and we were all waiting around. We fixed a time and a place, and I didn’t know whether Neil had got any of my messages. I had no alternative but to try. So we were all there waiting at the appointed time, the appointed place, and I had absolutely no idea whether Neil was going to turn up or not. And absolutely bless him, we waited about half an hour, and Michael – who is not the most famous person on the planet – was about to have a bit of a nervous breakdown, and bless him he turns up. Have you got one of the many, many hundreds of messages that I had plastered all over the walls of the post offices, and he said, “You left me a lot of messages!” I said, “Yes, I did, actually.” So we did that, and then the worst experience was, one of the people in 28 Up, Symon, had basically… he changed his life a lot between seven and 28. I’d met him and I found him, he was also missing, but I found him. And we had arranged that we would film in Chessington Zoo for a whole day with Michael. It was all arranged, I’ll get a mini bus, I’ll pick you all up. He’d already have five children between 21 and 28. He’d got no children at 21 and five children by 28. So it was a good, interesting story. I turn up at 8am on a Saturday to film, nobody there in his flat. Nobody there at all. No reply No response. Knock on the door. Nothing. I had a film crew waiting at Chessington Zoo with Michael Hollywood, film director, and no way of communicating. Okay. I wait for about half an hour, three quarters of an hour, outside the flat. Nothing. Knock on the door again. Nothing. Knock on the door again. Nothing. Okay. After about an hour I saw the curtains twitch in the flat. I thought, “They’re in there!” So I went and knocked on the door and opened the letterbox and said, “Hi – are you in there? What’s the problem? Do you want to have a chat?” You know, “Why don’t we just talk about this?” Anyway, so reluctantly he let me in. They were hiding behind the sofa because he didn’t want to do the film.

They being he and…

The family.

The whole family?

The whole family. Not so much him, the whole family were hiding behind the sofa. And he was very sweet, and he came in and said, “Look, we really don’t want to do this. My wife and children don’t want to do this.” So I said, “Okay, let’s just sit down and talk about it.” And so we chatted, and I said, “Look, why don’t you just do it?” Just you do a little bit. Don’t do much. Just come and do it. We’ll go to Chessington Zoo, we’ll take the kids for a day out, and once you get there the kids can run around and have fun and you can just do a bit of an interview and nothing more. How about that? So after about a couple of hours, he said, Okay.” So we all piled into the minibus and drove to Chessington Zoo, by which time we were three and a half hours late for the shoot. Right? And Michael and the crew, with whom we couldn’t communicate because they had no phones, didn’t know what’s going on. We’ve talked about this recently, Michael and I, about this exact event, because he didn’t remember, and I do. I actually saw my career disappearing. I literally… when they didn’t answer the door I thought, “This is it. I’ll never work again. It’s my fault. I’ve done something wrong. No career.” As I walked into Chessington Zoo – and they were all there, the film crew, waiting for us – Michael was absolutely furious and boiling, and I said to him, “Don’t say a word. Not a word.” I said, “Smile and be nice.” Right? Smile and be nice and don’t say a word. He just went… he was (??49:01). And we carried on and we managed to get what we wanted.

Very good. Has anyone pulled out?

Yes. Two or three people. Some of them pull out if something particularly goes bad or wrong in their lives at a time when my making a film, some of them will leave and then they’ll come back again seven years later if things have changed. There’s only one person who has pulled out permanently after 21 who has never done another one. But people respond differently; if their life circumstances are really bad, they don’t particularly want to go on the telly and don’t talk about it.

Sure. Sure. So you’re now at…

They’re going to be 63 in 2019. They’re coming up to 62 now.

And you’ll start filming that next year.

Possibly, yes.

Let’s go back to Granada.

Oh, really? Okay.

Do you want to talk a bit more about Seven Up?

No, no – it’s up to you. You’re the one asking the questions.

Yes. Let’s talk a little bit about the ethos of Granada Television. Granada Television as a company. I’m thinking in terms of its northernness, its politics.

They were very important. Its politics were very important. Its northernness was very important. It was completely different from anywhere else. And it was a combination of people who were left-wing socialists and in showbusiness. So if you wore a gold lamé suit to your interview you were likely to get a job, and if you were left wing you were likely to get a job, but if you were in the middle and you were boring, you wouldn’t. That was the kind of ethos at the time. It was a combination of ideas, and exciting people, and interesting people, and left-wing people, actually, at the time.

Unashamedly left wing?

Unashamedly left wing mostly, yes. Mostly. And that was because of Sidney Bernstein, really. And it stemmed from Sidney, who I actually knew as an 18-year-old, believe it or not.


Yes! I knew Sidney Bernstein way, way, way before my career at Granada. His daughter, his stepdaughter, and I were at school together. So she and I became very good friends. And I became a friend of the family. So I knew Sidney when he was setting up Granada. He was an incredibly scary man. Very, very… and the first time I met anybody who I found deeply intimidating. I mean, he was fiendishly intelligent and very intimidating. For a teenager. But I knew him, and there was one famous occasion where I went around to their house and they were all having dinner. Because he was a multimillionaire and he already had the most fabulous proper paintings on his wall that I’ve ever seen in my whole life. You suddenly realised you were looking at something that was a Modigliani, and it was a real Modigliani. It wasn’t just fake. We actually had this dinner, I can’t remember what year it was, it must have been early ‘60s, I suppose, and he said, “Oh, by the way, Granada’s going into the motorway café business. I want each of you to tell me what you would want to eat if you stopped at a motorway café.” I thought, “Oh, no, he’s going to ask me.” So he went around the table and he asked all the guests what they would want to eat at a motorway café, and we all had to say what we thought we would like to eat. And then, of course, my career took a different turn, I completely forgot about it. Ended up at Granada, meeting up with Sidney only once, when he was still there in the late ‘70s. He used to occasionally walk around the corridors. Very, very occasionally. I met him once after that, and that was it. But I think he was responsible for the ethos. Him and Denis were really responsible. And Plowright, to an extent. They were responsible for the ambience, the feeling, the drive.

And did you come into contact with Denis and David Plowright?

I did with David Plowright, yes. Not with Denis. With David Plowright I did quite a lot. Because of being news editor, and because of Seven Up, I came in touch with him quite a lot, yes. And he was, again, absolutely extraordinary and a real inspiration.

How do you think Granada contributed to an image of the north west?

Well, that’s… well, because of the Street. Because of the Street. I knew and watched the Street long before I knew that it came from Granada, or cared. I watched it as a young mum at home, part-time teacher, and that was my image of the north. So in a way… is it fair? Possibly. Is it fair? Yes and no. In the early days, I think some of it was very representative, but it was a fictionalised, romanticised version of what working class life was like. I do think that image was very important; the way that people were portrayed in the Street. Because that was how anybody who didn’t come from the north saw the north. So yes, Granada had a really, really important shaping of the perception of northerners via the Street. I think in terms of politics and World in Action, we did alternative things. We gave a completely different view of what was going on to the world. Well, to the UK, because the world didn’t see it. But it was great being part of journalism that didn’t come out of London. And that was the best thing about it.

Was it a good company to work for?

Yes, absolutely. It was the best. It was the best. At the time I joined, I was very lucky. They were making wonderful, wonderful dramas that no one else was making – Jewel in the Crown, Brideshead – fantastic programmes. World in Action. Everything they did, wonderful. Tony Wilson, wonderful pop programmes. It was absolutely an amazing place to work. The ideas, you could go with ideas, people would take them seriously, and there was a real hunger for doing stuff differently. When I first went there. And it was the best place to work. By far. I couldn’t believe I got there, and the fact that I got there is just extraordinary.

And when did you leave?

I left in 1986. I left to go to the BBC because I wanted to direct, and I couldn’t get a director’s ticket. Because of the ACTT rules, I couldn’t get a director’s ticket unless I did a board and got a director’s job. I wanted to direct. I didn’t have the opportunity. I went to the BBC, and I was headhunted to the BBC to go and join a programme called Open Air, which was being made by the BBC. I got my director’s ticket straight away. I walked in… because I had been directing news. As a reporter you direct all your own… I’d been directing for three years, so I knew how to make films, and I knew how to make half-hour films, because I’d been working on Reports Politics and all the other things. But I couldn’t get a ticket. And I wasn’t perceived as being a director, I was perceived as being a reporter-producer. And that was the only problem in those days, is you got completely classified into boxes. You were either this or that, and you couldn’t cross from one to the other. So I went to the BBC as an assistant producer where I immediately started directing and got my director’s ticket. So I went to the BBC and then ended up working, directing on Brass Tacks, which was also very exciting because that was journalism out of London, a lot of freedom. I was with an extraordinary cohort of people. Steve Hewlett, myself, Diane Nelms, a whole bunch of us worked on Brass Tacks, making great stories. And then I came back to Granada after a bit at the Beeb, for the next Seven Up. For 35. And I set up the Russian series, and I set up the American series. So I exec-ed, and I picked the Russian director, Sergei Miroshnichenko, I set up and ran the first Russian Seven Up, and the American one.

Are they still going?

The Russian ones are, yes. The American one, they didn’t make 28 Up. They made 21 Up, but it never got a screening except on PBS. It’s a terrible shame. I mean, it’s a real tragedy. Nobody wanted it. ITV wouldn’t recommission it. nobody was interested. 28 Up never got made. And the stories of those seven-year-old Americans are absolutely extraordinary. They are. It’s such a terrible waste. They’re missing out massively. I mean, some of them are in prison, some of the Chicago Project kids. It’s a real testimony of how American TV doesn’t care about documentary, and nobody was willing to put up the money to do it. It’s terrible.

Did you want to talk a bit more about Seven Up. I don’t want to get into the sociology of it.

What, like, why has it worked?

Yes. Why has it worked. As a TV programme.

It’s worked because as time has progressed, we have progressed to a celebrity culture society. And the most wonderful thing about Seven Up is that it’s not about celebrities. It’s about us – ordinary normal people. And the more we become a celebrity-based culture, the more appealing Seven Up becomes. Because absolutely nobody gives anybody ordinary the time of day, to spend time talking to them about how their lives and their hopes and their dreams and what’s happened to them. So what started out as a look at social class in Britain has now become, and evolved into, an extraordinary history of the development of a person over the years, in an in depth and in a very personal way, of anybody who could be us. The attraction of Seven Up is that everybody can find something in one of our contributors that they agree with and identify with. And so it’s about the. It’s a film about them. It’s about what’s happened to them, it’s about what they care about, and it’s that’s why it works. And that’s why people love it. Because it’s not about celebrities, it’s about people who could be you or me.

I think the interesting thing to remember about Seven Up is that all our contributors were put into it by their parents when they were seven. None of them signed up to it willingly. I don’t think a single one of them, bar maybe one, would actually take part in it today, would have agreed to do it, as an adult. And so one of the reasons that it’s an achievement, both in television terms and in social history terms, is because we’ve managed to keep the same people on board and the continuity, at a time when the landscape of television changed in the period we’ve been making it. For example, when we did 35 Up, there was no Big Brother, there was no popular reality TV – it didn’t exist. All of a sudden, when we came to make 42 Up and 49 Up, the landscape in TV had completely changed. Big Brother changed everything. Reality TV changed everything. And all of a sudden, our normal contributors, normal people, suddenly panicked. “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to be in this. We’re not in reality TV. We’re not interested in this.” So we had a really big issue to solve, which is how do we carry on making Seven Up but don’t turn it into a reality TV show where people felt exploited. And they did. And that’s constantly been the issue – it’s how do we preserve the integrity of Seven Up from the beginning – in other words, Tim Hewat’s original integrity of World in Action. How do we preserve that, and keep that going over the years, and not have it become a piece of reality TV. And in fact, when people say, they actually say, a lot of reviewers and television people say, “Oh, of course, Seven Up is the fist reality TV programme.” Well, it isn’t really. Because actually the interviews are edited and very specific, so it’s not reality TV – but because it’s about ordinary people, somehow only ordinary people appear in reality TV programmes. You can’t make programmes about ordinary people that aren’t reality TV. And I think that’s pretty scandalous. And Seven Up doesn’t do that. So I think that’s important.

Do they get paid?

Yes, they get paid. They get paid a small amount, not huge. They get paid enough to have a nice holiday. In other words, they get paid for the horrible six months that most of them hate, in and around the production and TX period. And they hate it. Most of them absolutely hate it. They find it disruptive and deeply intrusive, and the fact that we’ve managed to hold onto them is because Michael and I – and the team – have made it our job to do that. And we have the same team, same crew, same cameraman, same soundman, Michael and I, and it’s like being in a family. And it sounds a cliché, but it’s not. I can go seven years without seeing my people, and it’s just like I was there yesterday. And we’d pick up from where we left off, just like a member of the family – and that’s what it’s like.

And you form close relationships.

Very close relationships. With all of them. All of them. It is like family.

How many of them altogether?

There were 20 at Seven Up, they dropped six, so at 14 at 7 Plus Seven, and we had 13 out of the 14 in the last one we made, still.

That’s pretty good.

Pretty good. And of course, we’ve lost one. Lynn died two years ago.

Trevor Hyett

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly and Judith Jones, 9 March 2017.

Let’s talk first about how you came to join Granada.

Okay. Basically, I knew Gus MacDonald socially. And I was working for the TV Times and persuaded the features editor – I was doing the billings for the London region, you know, ‘7:00: Crossroads’ kind of thing, and I persuaded the features editor that it’s important to have a feature on World in Action because they were about to launch their torture season, which doesn’t sound very sexy but it was a very important series of programmes. Torture around the world in all kinds of different cultures. And I said, “I know Gus, I’m sure I can persuade him to do an interview, so he said, “Okay, he’s a new boss of an important programme, go and do it. So I did the interview and it went well, it was a two-page spread in the TV Times at the beginning of 1974. And Gus had known me through left wing and folk music circles anyway, and I performed at a number of gigs that he’d been at. And even though he knew that my politics was different from his on the left-wing spectrum, he knew I was no sectarian. And thought, “Okay, he’s a journalist, he’s a show off, let’s test drive him as a reporter.” Because he’d just taken over local programmes, having made a success of World in Action, and having made his mark there he persuaded Plowright, and presumably Forman as well, that he should take on the local programmes. So I went up there, did a screen test, and John Slater, who was then running local programmes for Gus, said, “You look like you’re going to buy the street rather than save the street,” it was about (saving? 2:32). So my test report was from Salford, on demolition, down… I can’t remember the name of the road now. And I was there with a pinstripe suit and relatively long hair… Slater said, “You look like you’re trying to buy the street, rather than save it.” Anyway, I got the job, Chris Pine rubberstamped it, and that’s how I got in there. Prior to that, I’d worked for the Morning Star, and prior to that I was… when I was 21 I was editor of the Young Communists paper, a monthly broadsheet kind of thing, and I’d taken – and I’m very proud of this – I’d taken the circulation from 9,000 a month to 25,000 at peak. So that’s where I cut my journalistic teeth. And then I went to the Morning Star and worked on the sports desk, did that two or three years, and then I went off touring Europe playing music, and then had got a proper job – kids, that kind of thing. You can’t be a young man forever. And that’s how I got to work at the TV Times, that’s how I got into the feature on World in Action, that’s how I got to meet Gus, who then said, “And (phone? 3:45) these fucking carpet baggers from the south,” trying to build a career on the back of working at Granada. So he put around all these myths. Well, not myths, but he overblew my credentials. I was born in Wigan, but he said, “His grandfather was the Labour mayor of Wigan.” Well, it was my great grandfather who I think was the first Labour mayor of Wigan. So to him, that was all-important that the people who are rooted in the area, or at least who weren’t southern carpetbaggers. And so Tony was already there then, Bob was there, Bob Greaves, Gordon Burns was there, and that’s about it I think for the on-screen people, then I joined, and shortly after, in terms of on-screen stuff, Anna Ford joined, and that was kind of us at the time. And that was my route through. So I joined Granada when I was 30 years old as a reporter, I was quickly made into a presenter. I think they just wanted a variety of faces. And they switched from being a single presenter to being two handers. And so that got me in there. So I would present it most often with Tony.

This was Granada Reports?

Sorry, Granada Reports, yes. Sorry. With Tony, and with Bob quite a lot as well, only very occasionally with Gordon, and I presented later with the woman who became my girlfriend, who was Anna Ford. She and I presented it. And the mail we got was… just teasing, yes, kind of, “Good night, darling,” people writing phony scripts for us. “Hello, darling, what’s on the show tonight?” Just silly bloody stuff. But it was very lively and… this is relevant. In 2003 I was approached by Chris Evans, the DJ, who used to watch Granada Reports from Warrington, which is where he grew up. And when I first met him I was executive producer of a programme called Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook, and Ready, Steady Cook, and he wanted to come on Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook with his radio mates. And he said, “Fuck me, it’s Trevor Hyett!” And he turned round to his mates – this is when Granada Reports was rock and roll television – and I thought, “Oh, okay…” we’d clearly made our mark. That’s how we liked to think of ourselves, but you never know to what extent you’re deluding yourself. A little while after that he recruited me to edit a show with Terry Wogan, and that was my last farewell. But anyway, that’s the impact of Granada Reports on people. Even now, people stop me in the street and make a reference to Granada Reports. In London. That’s the waves it created. So I joined then, and had a whole load of experiences. My first ever studio interview was a prerecord with a pop star from the 50s called Johnnie Ray, and he was widely believed to be deaf, and that’s why he sang so loud. But I suspect that’s a bit of rubbish, you know, maybe a seed of truth, but otherwise just a bot of PR. But that’s when I really learnt about interviewing, because he wouldn’t speak to me in advance, even when we sat down and got levels in the studio, in Studio 6 – was it Studio 6 or Studio 2?

JJ: Two.

Two, yes. He barely made eye contact, certainly didn’t say a word. So we came up from black, the lights came up, and he perked up, he sat upright in the chair, big grin, and said, “Hi Trevor, great to be here!” And then he just spoke until he saw the floor manager winding me down, you know, was just aware of me there, and then he stopped. I didn’t get to ask a question on the very first opening. “With me today is Johnnie Ray. Hey Me Ray, how is it?” That was it, he just went. But he allowed me to wind up on cue with the… so I learned an awful lot about how to deport oneself in an interview. And it gave me a lot to think about. Because I was bloody rubbish. I could do a report, I could do something vaguely journalistic, but that kind of feature thing, I didn’t have a grasp of how one should think about it or how one should approach it. But during my time… I mean, I have to say, my four years – 1974-1978 – with Granada Reports are still the best years of my working life. There are many highlights. One was a half-hour interview with Mohammed Ali in 1975. He was promoting a book, an autobiography, and I had to go down to ITN in Well Street so do it, at three o’clock, because we had to get out by five so they could prepare for the six o’clock news. And we did it down the line, So somewhere, I’d like to think, there’s a two-inch tape of me with Muhammad Ali, and he was great. He was so nice, so humble, no Big-time Charlie about him. Huge man, physically imposing, a generous interviewee. He respected the fact that I had to ask questions, he didn’t at any time suggest that the questions were too familiar or too obvious or whatever. And before we went on air he asked about the north of England. He said, “Yes, I’ve heard about the north o England.” He mentioned Liverpool, The Beatles of course, and he was just a good bloke to be with. I mean, it was a real highlight of my life to sit there for half an hour. But at the end of it – as I say, it was recorded in Well Street, it was recorded down the line in Manchester – and I got him to sign my book. And the cameras were still rolling. And it was in – was it in tele cine? Whatever it was – and at the end of the interview, I asked him to sign his book to me and my son Michael, because I knew Michael just loved him. And I got back to Manchester that evening, and (Alan? 10:20) said, “Why didn’t you get him to sign it to me?” I said, “I didn’t think you liked boxing,” He said, “It’s not boxing, it’s Mohammed Ali! Which of course was absolutely true to how… I never really liked boxing, but Muhammad Ali, you couldn’t help but admire the man. Anyway, so by contrast, other highlights were… I managed to persuade Lonnie Donegan to come on the show, and furthermore I managed to persuade him to finish off the show doing a duet with me. So we were both there, playing guitar and singing, “Puttin’ on the Style, both of us fighting to get the highest harmony, because I had quite a high voice as well. But that was quite great. I’ve sung on air with Lonnie Donegan! Beat that you bastards! And another great historic moment was in 1977, when Tony had just finished and finished interviewing George Harrison and I was about to interview Ted Heath. Ted Heath then long… I mean, this is now three years since he lost those two elections in 1974, and this was his first book I think, the one about music. And they’re in the same room, so I say, “Oh, Mr Heath – maybe you’d like to meet George Harrison.” Blank. He didn’t… I might as well have mentioned Charlie Cairoli! I said, “George Harrison used to be in The Beatles.” He said, “Oh, yes, I remember.” So I said, “George, come on over and meet Mr Heath.” “Hello, Mr Heath, pleased to meet you.” I said, “George wrote a song actually that mentions you; it’s the chorus of the opening song on the LP Revolver. Tax man Mr Wilson, tax man Mr Heath.” And George gave me a mock kind of scowl, he thought is was quite funny as well, as his attitude to life has changed radically since the making of Revolver. He was the bread head of the group. But of course at that time he was far more spiritual and less materialistic. But that was quite a good moment, was introducing the ex-Beatle to the ex-prime minister. And that’s the glory of it. And I still remember as a kid in Blackpool, used to walk around the foot on the promenade, looking all these names who were appearing at the North Pier, the South Pier, the Central Pier, the Winter Gardens, the palace, the Tower – these are people I’d heard of on the radio, and they’re in Blackpool! I wonder if I’ll see any of them.” So I was always starstruck as a kid, and then to meet all these people was overwhelming. How was this kid from a council estate in Blackpool get to mix with Muhammad Ali and sing with Lonnie Donegan and introduce a Beatle to a prime minister. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. But I loved… apart from the camaraderie of the team at Granada, those highlights are there still. You can probably tell from the way I’m speaking about it, but they really thrilled me, that I should be enjoying all of that. I (??13:14) four minutes out… oh, I must tell you the other story. Do you remember the that the columns of pennies in pubs for the Royal National Institute for the Blind? Well, Granada always had – well, Granada Reports certainly – always took part in the knocking down the pennies, on whatever appointed day it was. So again, I think this might have been late 1974, possibly 1975, but around that mid-70s period, I went there with Anna Ford, Bob Greaves, I think Jane Cousins as well, the four of us went round there, and we end up in this pub in Salford. And after we’d done all the stuff, pushed over the pile of pennies and had a beer and all that, the landlady came up to me and said, “Oh, Trevor, I’m so pleased to meet you. Our Graham would be thrilled that you’ve come to my pub.” I said, “I’m terribly sorry, I don’t know…” and then I twigged I’d been introduced to her as Mrs Nash, who is Graham Nash’s mum, who was then living out in Laurel Canyon out in Hollywood. She was like, “Oh, I’ll tell Graham you’ve been here, he’ll be over the moon.” I said, “I don’t think Graham and I know each other.” And she said, “Oh, he’ll be thrilled.” And then she told me about her trip to go and see him, which was a month earlier, saying, “Oh, yes, Bobby was there, Dylan…” reeling off all these bloody names! Joni was there of course, I think they were still together at that point, Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell… and mentioned all these kind of group of acoustic-ish superstars of that time, and there we were in the middle of Salford, in this boozer, pushing down a pile of pennies, and Mrs Nash is talking to me as if I was a celebrity, and she’s been mixing with these superstars of, well just music generally, in the Northern Hemisphere anyway. So things like that would happen. And the opportunity to have experienced these kind of things is something that still thrills me to this day, 40 years on.

Because one of the other presenters we’ve not mentioned is Patti Caldwell.

Well, Patti… yes, I did… I as very much one of Patti’s defenders, because there was a lot of snobbery surrounding Patti, and there was a view that she was promoted to on to be a reporter, the onscreen person, because she’d had sex with all the right people. Now, she was an enthusiastic person sexually, this is absolutely true, and I think I’m the only person I know that didn’t have sex with her. And there was a lot of snobbery about her, and also because of the way they perceived her Blackburn accent as indicating something not too bright. So I became a great defender, even though I neither liked nor disliked her at that point, but there were those who resented her being part of the team and being part of the onscreen team. I won’t mention names, just because I’m not sure it’s appropriate, unless you wink at me. I’ll tell you after. But I presented the show with her a couple of times and she’s certainly very enthusiastic and very, very keen to do well. She’s very ambitious. And she did make a good mark… she left Granada to go and work at Nationwide, and Roger Bolton really rated how good she was as an on-screen person, and in the mix. But she would get hate mail, more when she was doing You and Yours on Radio 4. A lot of Radio 4 listeners thought that someone who spoke like her shouldn’t be on Radio 4, and she got actual hate mail, in the same way as Moira Stewart used to get hate mail. There was once a party here and we ended up talking about various sorts of snobbery or discrimination, and Patti and she were comparing notes, how Moira got all kinds of racially nasty comments and letters, and Patti for having that Blackburn accent on Radio 4. So I see Patti a lot, post-Nationwide and post-You and Yours. In fact, I got her on a programme I used to do for Carlton television as a reporter, because she was hard pressed for work. So I maintained a friendship with her, and she was a good person, and she was far cleverer than people imagined or thought, or their prejudices prevented them from seeing it. And that shocked me a bit, that anybody who would be employed by Granada would think like that. It’s not typical, it wasn’t commonplace, that the fact that it happened at all really bothered me, so I became her ally. But she was good. She worked hard. And that was the thing – everybody had a work ethic. There weren’t any lazy so-and-so’s there at all, there were no idle bastards. No, I think she was good. But traduced in, I think, a wicked way. Saying no more about that. Other highlights for me, again this is me namedropping, but it’s part of what made it even more special for me was one of my favourite moments in the universe, in my entire life, is when I just nipped out from rehearsing for Granada Reports to get the car from the car park to put it by the front entrance, because Anna and I were going to push off to the lakes for the weekend I always parked the car there, you know, 10 to 6 or something, and ran back, and as I was running back into the studio, this voice came from behind going, “You can’t park there, Trevor!” I look around, it was Denis Law! Denis Law called me Trevor. Denis Law called me Trevor. I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe it. And you could tell. And the fact that I became matey with George Best, and when I was working at Thames Television in the 80s George came down, and he was a guest on the programme I was doing, an afternoon show called Good Afternoon Plus. And just greeting me like a long-lost friend. Because I would see him at Slack Alice’s quite a lot as well. So if we had special guests, I would take them down there and hope that George be there because everyone wants to meet and see George Best in his club. And anyway, so that’s my name-dropping, but in terms of the people I worked with… I mean, Bob Greaves was wonderful. I used to sit and marvel as how he could do that job with such a naturalness and a relaxedness, and that he knew enough about so much to conduct any kind of interview with any kind of person for local news. Tony, of course, was just at such a… Tony Wilson was just a gigantic polymath. A he had endless curiosity, I mean he was one of those curious people I ever encountered. He was thoughtful, he was clever, he was intellectual, but the same time he liked to get down and dirty; he liked his rock and roll and he liked playing football, even though he was rubbish. He was in Jesus College B team at Cambridge, and I have friends who knew him there. “Oh, Fat Willy? How’s he doing?” Which is very unkind, because Tony… he loved Manchester United, as you know, and he loved Salford. Well, there’s lots to say about Tony. Gordon was the consummate professional, very straight; the rest of us were almost mavericks. But Gus hired us to be that, and Slater encouraged us. Jim Walker was ambivalent about that approach but nonetheless went along with it. Chris Pine liked that approach, and Gus certainly did – he wanted us to have a real personality, not so be straight down the line, here is the news. He wanted us to reflect the area but also to kind of make an impact on the area from and of ourselves. And that was an important part of the ethos that I embraced and really enjoyed.

That was an ethos of Granada.

The thing I liked about Granada generally was its non-metropolitan attitude and that’s what I think gave us distinctiveness was the fact that Sidney started off in the very beginning, “We will not be London-based, we will never be London-based.” I had a little office in Golden Square but essentially Granada was Manchester, much to a lot of people in Liverpool’s disgruntlement. But again, that was addressed eventually. But its that non-metropolitan attitude, and also it had a broader view of the world. It wasn’t a confined straightjacket view, which is a clear contrast… going from a newsroom at Granada to a newsroom at Thames was huge. I’ll talk about that in a minute. But it couldn’t have been more different. We were encouraged to kind of go look for… I remember Andrew Cockburn and Richard Belfield dug up this scandal at Birkenhead Market where the inspector on behalf of the council would take backhanders to get more favourable slots for the stallholders. So it was like their mini… it was almost like an audition for World in Action! So we would do those kinds of things, but equally we’d do items like ‘the meanest butty in the north west’ with the smallest amount of filling in the sandwich, which is something of course that Bob shined at, because he could do it. He was such a good man of the people out there. We did very briefly a Granada Reports weather, which was our own, and there was a bloke called Bernard Clark – remember Bernard, he went off to set up an independent company for Channel 4 eventually – but he was a good presenter as well, a good reporter, but h was tasked with doing the weather, with Slater’s collusion. The first time he came on, “Here’s Granadaland!” I thought, “Hmm, okay, Granadaland,” and it was the outline you would imagine, and Bernard said, “Well, actually there’s no other word for it – tomorrow’s weather is going to be boring.” And slapped on a stick-on doodah saying BORING. And that was the weather report! It was absurd. But the fact that that kind of thing was thought about, you know, it could be iconoclastic, and send ourselves up, if you like, or send up the genre to some extent, whilst at the same time we could be serious as all hell when it was necessary – and it frequently was. So I liked the iconoclasm.

David Jones.

David. David was brilliant. He was a financial journalist who again, Gus hired him. I think he was a financial journalist on the Observer I think before he came to Granada. And big, he looked like a policeman. And he was at Manchester University at the same time as Anna Ford, when Anna was the first ever female president of the union. And David was a bad lad. Just riotous behaviour – drinking too much, you know. If you remember him, he was a big six foot six very big bloke with a very sonorous deep Liverpool accent, and Anna had to admonish him, and said, “I’m not frightened of anybody now that I’ve sorted him out.” And David took it in good grace. They would tease each other about it subsequently in the newsroom at Granada Reports. But David was very good; he wasn’t good about pieces to camera, he would stutter and stumble, but it was a great going out with a film crew, and he did all kinds of series like pubs in the North West, which was ideal casting, in a way, and they were always great and funny and witty and insightful films, really good, but David wasn’t one of nature’s naturals in the studio unless he was being interviewed, but he did great film reports, and his voice overs were good, but it didn’t work in the studio for whatever reason. I think because he stumbled a lot. But he was again, a brilliant man, and again died too young. Everybody dies too young, but… he died what, in 1998? I mean, no age. I went to his funeral along with Polly Bide, actually. Polly and I went along from London to near where he was living just outside Bolton, and met Suki, his widow, and four kids. Chris Pine actually did… soon after David joined Granada Reports, which I think might have been early 75 but it might have been late 74, Chris Pine brought him in and gave him a serious telling off. He said, “Why don’t you mix socially with the others? You never go down to the Film Exchange with everybody else.” And he explained – I think he only had three kids then, but the fourth was expected – he said, “I’ve got to go home, I’ve got kids.” But that was a funny old side to the whole process, because it was a very tight knight group of people, and we would go to the Film Exchange a lot and various other pubs around that we would go to, The Grapes, of course and one as well as in Salford. But David was very clever and a very warm-hearted man. I liked him. Like everybody else at Granada, me included, there was a lot of bed-hopping. It was a very sexy place, to my mind, there was a lot going on. And again I shouldn’t reveal nothing about anything because it’s not of interest other than in a prurient way. But I’ll tell you after. But it was very sexy. I mean, it seemed like he couldn’t move for testosterone and oestrogen! It was phenomenal. I’m sure you experienced it yourself, witnessed it, and… I’m not trying to put words in your mouth either, but that was great. And I remember when I first arrived, you know, went to make up, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The women in makeup I thought were absolutely fabulous. All in one room! How much better can it get, you know? I’m in touch with a lot of them as well, from those days, just because it was sexy. It really was sexy. And I’m sure there was a lot of– this goes back to the Patti thing as well – I think there’s a lot of fairly easy sexism, misogyny, around the place as well. It was very… “Oh, a woman… a reporter.. right…” It was still those days, and Granada was I guess in some respects perhaps quite macho, or maybe that’s just the first floor because of all the World in Action people over the corridor. That was very macho, very macho. You talk to Sue Woodford about that, (Lady Hollick? 28:52), I mean, she has worked really hard. Speak to Claudia Milne, she’ll tell you about that. I mean, she… terrible. You know, for all these supposedly people who wanted to liberate the entire world, they couldn’t even liberate their bloody colleagues. I mean, they were terrible. They couldn’t even liberate their own bloody minds. But that was the nature of the times as well. I would like to think that we were a bit better than that, but you can’t have everything I suppose. Round about that time, around spring 75, I think Plowright had made it clear that his days as programme controller were numbered, he was (??29:41) as it were. There were all kinds of rumours, especially between Gus, Donald, Jeremy Wallington, Mike Scott was kind of a back runner… but there was a lot of gossip, a lot of fun and a lot of nonsense going around that, so I decided to make some t-shirts emblazoned with the logo ‘I want to be programme controller’, and I got 10 made and distributed them through the internal post in disguised handwriting to selected recipients, including Gus, Jeremy Wallington, Mike Scott, Denis Forman, David Plowright. I can’t remember who the others were. But what was interesting is I never ever confessed. This is the first time I’ve actually confessed to doing it! But there were two people who did say, “Oh, yes, it was me,” you know, claiming credit for this wheeze, which tickled me, and I’m very proud of myself for not saying, “By the way, you’re a fucking liar, I know exactly who did it – I can tell you where I got them made.” And again, that was something that I couldn’t imagine happening at Thames, but I think was characteristic of the place. And the other thing I knew about Sidney – and I can’t offer proof of this, I tell it as a story – was when I was editing Challenge, the young communist paper, the treasurer of the Communist Party from whom I got my wages every week, including £1 in shilling coins to feed the gas meter, mentioned apropos nothing that I can remember, said, “Did you know Sidney Bernstein still gives money to the Communist Party because of their record in the anti-fascist struggle in the 30s?” And you know, the party’s role in that, the Battle of Cable Street and all that kind of stuff. Now, she had no reason to tell me that, you know, I was 21 or 22 at the time, I was editing a young Communist paper, how obscure can you get? And she gives me this piece of information. I think there was still pride in the Communist Party that they had played a role, whether for good or ill is up to others, but there was a great pride in the fact that certain kinds of people had attached themselves to the party, and… I’ll leave that with you. I mean, I don’t know if you can even publish that or if it’s a good idea to publish it, but I mention it because it’s an interesting bit of trivia, albeit anecdotal. But I have no reason to believe that she… why would she make it up? I had one fall-out when I was at Granada Reports, and that as with Steve Morrison. Even though we got on very well socially – I liked his partner, Gail, very much – and in fact Steve and I joined on the same day, but our paths took different trajectories. But I was very heavily involved in 1977 with Rock Against Racism, and I was putting on concerts in the Free Trade Hall with the likes of (Ewan McCall and Peggy Sieger? 32:53), but equally Mike Harding, John Cooper Clarke, who I had been performing with for some while before he became the punk poet, and all kinds of people like that. And Steve said, “You shouldn’t be associated with all this.” I said, “Well, I know what you’re saying…” He said, “Well, it might prejudice your ability to interview someone,” and he mentioned the bloke with a double-barrelled name from Blackburn who was the National Front bloke, John Kingsley Read. And I said, “Well, to be honest it seems odd to have somebody from Granada with Sidney Bernstein as its head, who was involved as he was in liberating concentration camps and Christ knows what, should be worried about me protesting against discrimination on the basis of race.” So that’s… I think, you know, you can’t be neutral about that, you can’t be neutral about rape. You can’t be neutral about baby battering. And that’s how we left it. But I was disappointed that Steve said to me, “Well, it might prejudice your impact if you interview the likes of Kingsley Read.” I said, “Well, that’s secondary to me, I’m afraid – I’m far happier putting on that concert.” And also I think it’s good for Granada to be associated with it.” Albeit I’m doing it unofficially, clearly I wouldn’t invite Granada, nor would I do anything that would embarrass Granada, other than just be part of the event. But that was the only real altercation I had with anybody. I got told off by Gus once for being too sympathetic to Chilean refugees arriving in Liverpool in the summer of 1974, so it was quite soon after the coup, less than a year after the coup. He wrote me a note saying, “(??34:36), more like fuck-a-rama.” And that was Gus telling me, okay, just rein it in. Okay, comrade. And he told me on the day I joined – obviously we’d agreed before, but the actual day I turned up at Granada – he showed me round, took me round, and his last words to me before going into his office was, “By the way, Comrade. Leave the Communist Party.” Well the fact I’d left some years earlier because I’d taken issue with the whole invasion of Czechoslovakia – in fact I led a delegation of young communists to Moscow to ask them to take their tanks out of Prague… history tells you the result of that visit – but I only mention that because I wasn’t some old Stalinist who just kind of just followed the party line. But I’d left. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of saying, “I’ve already done that, I left ages ago.” I mean the impact of my having been involved with that kind of politics was felt more a wee bit later, when Anna Ford, with whom I lived for a while – sorry to keep mentioning her but this story is important – I was recruited by Desmond Wilcox at the BBC to be one of the team of presenters on the revived Man Alive programme which was a kind of current affairs-ish but human interest as well, and it turned out that Anna had been blacklisted because she lived with me, a known communist. But Desmond Wilcox, to his credit, said, “Screw that, I’m going to have her, she’s great.” Do you know Paul Lashmar? He’s a good journalist. He did a big story on it in the 80s and it was splashed in the Observer about how there was… this had happened and Anna had been blacklisted because of her association with me, and Desmond Wilcox had done the honourable thing and recruited her anyway, and just threw two fingers at the department that vets people. And of course, you know, Anna’s always been Anna, but was perfectly good at a job, you know, she was a good… she had a good work ethic and she knew how to conduct herself, and she knew how to… her view was, I think like a lot of us, was that yes, my politics are known. Everyone’s got politics. Everyone’s got preferences. Everybody’s got prejudices. The trick is how even-handed can you be? And that’s the real test. Can you be even-handed? Will you be conspicuously even-handed? And Anna was good at that. That’s what she did. That’s what we all tried to do. None of us thought this was a vehicle to promote one particular view over any other. Typical bloody liberal I suppose, just being that…

Do you think Granada employed a lot of people who were very obviously on the left?

I think there was a time when that did happen. I think the view was, what I understood from Gus, was what he wanted was keen, curious, challenging people – not conformist, not conventional kind of people. But we did have…. I mean, World in Action had a couple of prominent Conservatives amongst their staff, one of whom was married to a Conservative MP on the Wirral. And we had a Conservative-leaning presenter, Ruth Elliott, amongst our team. But yes ,I think Granada Reports at the time I joined was very left-leaning. But I like to think, and I hope to hell, that we were fair, we were fair-minded, we weren’t prejudiced and weren’t using it as some kind of propaganda platform. That would have been… I could never have accepted that in myself, and I think if I saw anybody else I’d be offended, actually. I think any kind of prejudice or misuse of position is not to be tolerated. But I think Gus wanted people who challenged pretty much everything, all assumptions, and that’s how he founded his journalism, I think. I left Granada.. largely because I thought it was time. And I think I’d done all that I thought I could do. I’m flattered to remember that many people high up encouraged me to stay, but I thought the time had come to go. And I went on the road with Mike Harding – I was his roadie, I was his tour manager. So I did that for three months, exhausting but fun. And then of course I had to come down to earth and get a job again, and I decided that I really should come back to London because my kids were here in London. So I thought I’d see what I could get at Thames. And I went to Thames, and I got a two week job, depping for somebody who was on holiday skiing in January 79. I was paid 50 per cent more as a researcher on the news desk at Thames that I got as a presenter at Granada, go Granada were quite parsimonious, but I was happy to pay that kind of money – that was more than I’d ever… as Bill Thompson said, I don’t know if you remember Bill Thompson, but he was another of Gus’s mates from Glasgow, he said, “Working in television is great! You don’t have to worry about the price of a pint!” That was his criteria for measuring the joy of working in television! But Thames threw money everywhere. And it just so happened they were relaunching their local news programme, and they brought in Peter Pagnamenta, who was big cheese at the BBC, he had very successfully run Panorama, and they recruited him from ITN, and it was very much set on an ITN model, they had Andrew Wotsisname, the big tall bloke, he used to be an ITN newscaster.

I know who you mean.

It’ll come to us later, when you’re on the train. And that was great, and I did well. And I always attribute this to breathing in the same air as World in Action. Because on the first day I was there as this researcher – depping for somebody, who I later married – I say… it was the very end of January, January 29th or 30th, and I wrote to Peter, just… yes. Basically I got all the front pages of the tabloids, not the broadsheets, on the first day of publication in January, which probably would have been the second. And the Sun in particular had lots of lurid headlines, and the Mail – a thousand-odd people would die every day, during what the unions called the Dirty Jobs Strike but the tabloids called the Winter of Discontent. So I assembled all these headlines, and then I checked off every single one. No old people died, no blah-blah-blah-blah. I just said, “That’s the assertion. That’s the prophecy. There’s the fact. None of it came true, yet the impact is still there.” And Andrew, the presenter, said, “We need more stuff like this. Fantastic.” Later that week – again, I attribute this to breathing in the air of the World in Action people – there was a scurrilous tale in one of the tabloids – actually several of the tabloids – talking about an electrician who worked for Camden Council, who got £600 in overtime, which in 1979 was a lot of money. I mean, it’s a lot of money now, but in 1979 it was a humungous amount of money. And in the story, there are all kinds of bits of information, and I thought, “I think I know his shop steward,” who was an old Communist Party mate of mine. I phoned him up, and said, “Is there any chance so-and-so might come and be interviewed on Thames at Six?” So he said, “Yes, sure – who’s going to do it?” and I said, “It’ll be Andrew whatever his name is.” He said, “sure, we could organise that.” Now, they thought this was the most brilliant piece of journalism in the history of the universe. And of course, when you broke it down he was on call all weekend, either having to be at a location or be available to go there instantly, and so he was paid for basically 72 hours, and that accrued to the £600. And once you got the story down it kind of made sense, unless you didn’t like trade unions and people being paid overtime for being available. So that got me a job as a reporter, that and one or two other bits and pieces, and then I became a reporter on Thames at Six. I then became a presenter on the ITV’s network afternoon show, which I enjoyed for a while, but… you know, it was… the culture of Thames Television was so, so different. First of all it was a very boozy culture, not that Granada was a paragon of sobriety, but it was just good-natured. I found it good fun to be in the Grapes or the Old School, those places, the Film Exchange, it was just… it was good-natured banter, it was energetic, it was lively, it was fun, it was conversation. It was… flirting. But at Thames, it was serious drinking. I know a lot of serious drinking happened at Granada, but this was booze for its own sake rather than a by-product of the culture, you know, the atmosphere and the personalities of the people. It was horrible. Absolutely horrible. And people sneaking out to get drinks before the pubs closed at two, or every was I was And they were mean, they were mean spirited. There was no, you know.. I suddenly realized that for all Granada’s faults, the generosity of spirit that pervaded the place was far, far greater than I encountered anywhere else actually, and certainly at Thames it was so, so different, and far more macho. All we were saying about the sexism that was prevalent in Quay Street, it was liberal heaven compared to certainly the newsroom at Thames Television. It was hideous, I hated it. Really loathed and detested it. What I haven’t told you about are some of the other programmes I worked on at Granada. In the 80s I went back… while I was on the road with Mike Harding, I was contacted by Muriel Young, who was the head of children’s and related stuff. She was responsible for the Bay City Rollers, if you remember. And she… I sang on a few of the programmes called Songbook, and in fact somebody dug out a few years ago, the footage of me singing on this programme to these kids, with very sweet little voice, none of my kind of bluesy, boozy singing style, but me being nice to the kids! And I really enjoyed that. With a woman called Kathy jones, do you remember Cathy? Very little woman who was on Coronation Street, sang in quite an operatic way, you would recognise her face I’m sure. So I did that, I did On The Market, which I thought was a really good show, for a daytime show it did important stuff – items on food, food additives, good and bad foods, (bowdlerized? 46:36) foods, healthy foods, the effects the food industry, the effects of supermarket layouts – for a good, popular programme, it dealt with things really, really well I think, and the production team was first-class, and my co-presenter was Susan Brookes, who was real fun to work with. I liked Susan, she was great. I enjoyed working with her. I hope she enjoyed working with me. I really enjoyed that and only stopped working on it because one of my favourite programmes asked me to go join them as a reporter, which was Union World, and I was a big supporter of Gus, and very proud of the fact that I knew the man who introduced two very important programme to the Channel 4 schedule for the off – one was Union World, a programme about trade unions, the other was Right to Reply, both of which were great programmes. And he would get me to deputize for him on Right to Reply as a presenter when he was away. So you know, again, Gus was very loyal… to his old mates from Glasgow that had nothing to do with television, he was immensely loyal to them. He was loyal to me throughout. He would always give me a piece of his mind, but he was for me a straight down the line bloke. He was very, very good and very honest, and very truthful and very direct. There was no ambiguity about what he had to say.

Tell us about Union World.

Union World I thought was… I was never optimistic it would survive for long because I couldn’t see people turning on the telly at six o’clock on a Saturday evening to watch it, especially as the sports report was on elsewhere. And it did a Friday slot first of all, was it eight?

No, it was Friday at… it started off as a local Granada programme at 10.30.

That’s right – it’s when Peter Allen did it, wasn’t it?

No, it was presented by Gus and Anna.

That’s right – I’d forgotten that. But I knew it as a Channel 4 programme, as I was in London when it was run on Granada, so I couldn’t see them. But a) I thought it was really important, the timing was great in terms of what was happening industrially, notwithstanding the Dirty Jobs dispute that had been a couple of years earlier. A lot was in the melting pot with Mrs Thatcher’s view of the world generally, the trade unions and labour relations, and industry actually, industry in particular, and I think… it raised an awful lot of very important points, examined an awful lot of good stuff, but actually was damned by having such small audiences, that was the problem. And it wasn’t for want of trying – I mean, Gus was a real champion, David Kemp ran the show in his own unique way, but it had a great staff, you know, he team, as you know, was bloody good, it was a fantastic team, and it was still good when I was part of it, even though the original pioneers had mostly moved on to other things. It was still a good and important programme, ad a lot of good and important things were said. (Eric Bryce? 49:53) set up a few debates with the big trade union leaders like Bill Morris, Rodney Bickerstaff, folk like that. There was also… one of the ex-Communist Party ultra-right wingers of the ECU or whatever it was called on those days.

(??50:08) Chappel?

No, it wasn’t… I interviewed him for another programme, but that’s another story I’ll tell you about in a minute. But we could have good discussions that were about… and also the programme was regarded… the test of any programme is will the people on whom it focuses take part? Do they think it’s worthy of their time, effort and attention? And they certainly did. I remember I presented a whole show – it was my idea – about the new realism. Remember the new realism was something that was being discussed on the left, but in the trade union movement as well, should we accept what’s happening because that’s the new realism, or should we resist it with all our might to the very last? A discussion which is still being had in a way, in a not unrelated form. So I think it was really important that it was (damned? 51:02) by the fact that a) the commissioner at Channel 4 wasn’t really interested, she didn’t like it. I don’t know how hard David Bolton fought for it after the novelty had worn off, but I think it was a real shame, a real loss. Because I think with the right slot, it could have had a really good impact and a lasting impact. But the slot was miscast for the programme, completely miscast, and you know, it should have had a Newsnight kind of slot really, and that was a real shame because I think it was a really important effort, and it was taken very seriously by everybody I knew who had worked on it. It’s a sad loss. I know it’s been gone for years now, decades, but it’s a real sad loss, and I was really proud to work on it. There were some shows I worked on where I didn’t necessarily let it be known I was doing particularly, unless somebody asked, but I was very proud to work on that. And of course I was working on it during the miners’ strike, because I had a close relationship with Arthur Scargill… it didn’t get me ay particular insights, but it meant I could get some good quotes. Because my first wife was his partner. So Arthur was having this relationship with my ex-wife while he was still married to Anne, and that’s one of the reasons they split. You needn’t use that of course, but just that gave me a certain ‘in’ as well… so it was interesting, I remember David Kemp saying the July of ’84 – or was it September, I can’t remember which it was now – “It looks like the miners are going to win this,” and at the time I was nothing like so confident, I have to say. I also remember doing a great interview with Mick McGahey during Mayfest up in Glasgow, which is a Scottish TUC sponsored cultural event. And I interviewed Dick Gaughan, a folk singer who you may have heard… all this bloody Communists, they were all Communists basically. It was a good time in terms of the contact I had, and sometimes at the TUC, Gus would hang on to what I was doing, because he knew I knew all the bloody trade union leaders, which was a twist, because ordinarily, Gus was the most connected person I ever knew, and made sure that he was the most connected person, but not in this one instance. So that was quite fun. But Union world, I mourn the loss of that. I mourn the loss of World in Action as well, I mean, Christ, )they wouldn’t do a show like that now? 53:54), bloody hell! And also it kept Panorama on their toes, that was the good thing. And there was a time, I don’t know if you remember, but Gus always told me this, that there was a deal done between ITV and BBC that at eight o’clock on a Monday they would both show current affairs against each other, partly as an act of self-preservation, they thought one wouldn’t put a popular show against… well, you can see how it worked. But he said there was that collusion. He said by and large it was a good thing; you couldn’t defend it in principle, but in reality it was a good thing. And you know, again, the idea of anybody even thinking like that now is, you know, fantasy.

Any other shows you worked on?

At Granada? I did one or two other bits and pieces for Marjorie Giles, I did some stuff for Brian Morris, I did some interviews for him, but essentially I mainly worked on World in Action – sorry, Granada Reports, I wish I had worked on World in Action – when I was there from 1974-1978, doing odd bits and pieces, as I say, for Marjorie Giles and Brian Morris. I did lots of voiceovers.

Did you never want to work on World in Action?

I’d have loved to have done, but I didn’t regard myself, and in fact still looking back, I don’t regard myself as having the necessarily journalistic skills. I was okay as a popular journalist, and I could deal with serious things, but I wasn’t a digger. Essentially investigative journalism for the most part. But on the other hand it was sometimes a logistical triumph. There was a dear friend who was on World in Action and Disappearing World and lot of other things as well called John Shepherd, who used to stage events at a journalists’ club in Paddington, called The Frontline Club. In fact, a lot of World in Action people and people like me gathered there regularly on a monthly basis. And one day, let’s say 2006, 2007, John got together the bulk of the team that was responsible for covering the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Grosvenor Square in 1967. And of course, we all know it but when you see it laid out starkly before you by the producers the directors, the camera operators, sound recordists, given that each camera had a 10-minute mag, and having to change the magazines every 10 minutes, someone had to go rushing to Humphrey’s, the laboratories, to develop the film, in Soho, some was taken by train up to Humphreys just down the road from Quay Street, and the logistics, it was fantastic. And the footage they got was phenomenal. If you look at that World in Action now remarkable. They had crew on a bus going down from… well, actually university students, going down to Grosvenor Square, they had lots of crews around London, as well as several, I think it was three, crews in the square itself, right in amongst the police, and all the confrontations that were happening, I mean, it was phenomenal stuff. And you think of the logistics alone, forget the journalism, forget the expertise of the people operating the cameras, the sound and everything else, just the logistics – phenomenal. And yet, I think only Granada say, “Bugger it, I don’t know if we can do it or not, but let’s do it.” And the legend has it – and it was reasserted again that evening – that the post-commercial break bit of the programme was being edited as the first part was going out, and it was finally delivered to tele-cine during the commercial break. Now, that could be an exaggeration but nonetheless is indicative of how… you know, the tales of – was it three edit suites going? – all through the night to get it on air, just the fact they did these things. The fact that they embraced the possibility of doing it was what was so wonderful about being associated with this place. And I still… I hope I don’t bore people, but I still bang on every now and again should the subject should turn that way over a beer or around the table or whatever, about just how impressed I’ve always been by these people who I later met and worked amongst. Again, that little boy is still there in wonder at the experience, which is unique to Granada I have to say, regardless of any pitfalls that may be in its makeup, I certainly didn’t have that anywhere else, even though I had a nice time working in other places. They were nice times, rather than thrilling times, rather than aspiring times. Yes. On my dying day I will probably have fantasy dreams about the days I worked at Granada. And the friendships that were made, that was the other thing. I mean, I don’t think I see anybody, except by accident, from Thames, whereas I’m in touch with everybody I knew at Granada I think. And if I’m not in touch with them I know how to get in touch with them –there’s a real security in that. I draw great solace from that. I know where all these wonderful people are, and it thrills me to the bloody marrow. And I find it very exciting. And one of the reasons we gather at the Frontline Club is because Mike Beckham said, “We can’t just keep meeting at funerals! Why don’t we meet for the sheer joy of knowing each other?” And so that’s what happens there, and that’s another indication really of the Granada culture is that folk bonded in a way like I’d never experienced anywhere else, and that speaks volumes because of course the older I get, the more important that becomes. When you’re a kid you take whatever happens. “Yeah, that’s happening today, fantastic! What’s happening tomorrow?” But actually, looking back, with a greater sophistication and hopefully greater sense, all that becomes really… you know, you see its true worth, and it’s… yes, it’s bigger and better than anything. I mentioned to you about money, haven’t I? And a parsimonious company. I didn’t mind that, because I could never imagine earning that money anyway, so I wasn’t fussed. I mentioned sexism. I didn’t find it worse than anywhere else, in the real world as it were, I didn’t find it exaggerated in Quay Street. I didn’t encounter any bullying, but I could name bullies – I won’t – I could name people who had a bullying aspect to their character. I just stayed clear of them or ignored them, I was… I had very few sills but that was one of them, just to sidestep, body-swerve those kind of folk who had no interest in me. And of course there were ideas thieves as well, and there were several of them – I mentioned one person who was good at that already. I’m not going to specify who. I remember one idea – actually I will tell you this one. I was doing sport for Granada Reports and notionally, Derek Brandon, who was the editor of Kick Off, was my head. I never referred to him. If he called me I’d speak to him but I’d never… I thought, “Fuck it, this is… I’m working for Granada Reports, not…” and (had? 61:51) jumped to Kick Off, and I sensed that was a political decision made anyway, so I wasn’t going to pay any attention to him. But he got wind that I was developing a wee aspect for my Friday afternoon quarter of an hour sports slot on clichés in sport – sick as a parrot, you know – and no one had done that kind of thing at that time. We all knew these clichés of course, and I was putting them all together. How should I do this, should I do it graphically, or should I…? And I was mulling this over, and he nicked the idea! And he told me after they pre-recorded the programme, “Oh, by the way I’ve used your sick as a parrot idea.” I was such a good-hearted person that I didn’t go, “You thieving bastard!” which I should have done, I thought, “Okay, that’s what happened, it’s a good idea, it got out there, that’s good.” You know Silly old sausage. But there was a lot of that around. On the other hand, there was somebody who knew I was doing quite a lot of work on the Wigan casino, remember all that? And they wanted to do a This England on it, and the researcher, who had worked on the newsdesk and knew I was getting this stuff together, came up to me with appropriate humility and made a good case saying, “Look, Norman would really like to do a This England on Wigan Casino.”

Norman Swallow?

Norman Swallow, yes. Sorry. “Would you mind letting me have your research?” I said, “As long as you give me a credit, yes.” And so I happily handed that over, because I thought, well, to be any way involved with This England and Norman Swallow, why wouldn’t you be? So I was very happy about that, and again, proud. So much of what I experienced at g made me feel proud, and I’m still proud of it today. And as I say, I didn’t have that feeling engendered anywhere else I worked, apart from After Dark, I was proud on working on After Dark. Do you remember that programme? It was a late-night Channel 4 programme, it was billed as being open-ended but in fact the transmitters closed down at three in the morning, so Channel 4 slightly misled everybody there. But I was proud to have worked on that, but Granada otherwise is the place that gives me the biggest and strongest and deepest feelings of satisfaction and pride, and that will remain the case. The importance of the social life, I vaguely mentioned that. I think it was crucial actually. But I got the sense that it was… I was trying to say earlier, that it was a joyous coming together of people who liked being together – that was the sense I got. But also it was very democratic, it was like the canteen. You could equally be there with the soap superstars of the day, queuing to get your fish and chips at lunchtime or your bacon butty in the morning, and all the Coronation Street people would be there. And when Laurence Olivier was kind of curating those dramas in the late ‘70s, a lot of those big names would be in the canteen. One or two would have their lunch taken to them in the dressing rooms, but a lot of them would just come to the canteen like anybody else – and that was fantastic. At Thames that didn’t happen; there was an executives canteen, and then there was the plebs. Again, that tells you everything you needed to know, you know? The other thing I enjoyed about Granada was when… we’d shortly been recruited, Gus had recruited us, and soon after, so let’s say I joined May 20, 1974, before the summer break, we went to the car park, those big rooms in the car park where alcohol was allowed to be served, and we had this evening meal with Plowright. It might have been a bit later in 1974 because I was doing sport, and I did say… I was invited to… “Trevor, have you got anything to say? You’re a Wigan lad.” So I do find it astonishing that Granada, which in every other respect is so much a product, representative, typifies the area, the north west, yet you don’t do rugby league! How can you not do rugby league on a local programme? And Plowright basically said, “Actually you’re right.” So then I started getting rugby league on the show, and we got all the big names, and we got a lot of mail, people saying, “Thank goodness you’re doing rugby league at last.” It was almost the sporting equivalent hat Liverpool had for Manchester, dominating Granada. The rugby league people said, “Thank God you recognised that there’s more to sport than football.” So that was my blow for freedom. But Plowright was very magnanimous about it. Gus, of course, didn’t give a monkey’s. If it wasn’t Rangers he wasn’t interested! But the fact that that could happen. It would never have happened at Thames. We never once had a meeting with the programme controller at Thames. Other people obviously did but I certainly didn’t, as a rough-arse kid on the back benches, kind of thing. Didn’t happen.

What about industrial relations and trade unions at Granada?

I was in the NUJ, I’d been in the NUJ for a long time, since I was 21 when I was editor of that paper I mentioned earlier. The ACTT of course were the union with the muscle, and I always found actually… Gus would take the mickey out of us because every now and again we’d hold a bit of a picket or come out in solidarity with an ITV strike somewhere, and Tony Wilson and I would be standing on the steps of the main entrance there, probably not even with a banner, but maybe just saying like, I can’t remember what we would have said, but… and we did once join in at… was it a national NUJ? I can’t remember, there was some action which was for a pay rise, and we got it. But I wasn’t at the sharp end of any of that stuff, I wasn’t involved with the ACTT, and I don’t really have many memories of it particularly, apart from… the only person I remember really in my sphere was Richard Belfield, I think he was involved somehow or another. All the heavyweights, you know, the kind of studio camera operators and the camera operators, I knew better than to mess with them at all. “Oh, okay, Freemasons, are they? Fantastic.” Erm… just… I would be way out of my depth, way out of my league, I’d have been eaten up and spat out before I even knew it. So I can’t really tell you a great deal. I was very happy with how things were, I didn’t feel exploited. I knew people were being paid a lot more elsewhere, as I described in terms of Thames, as a presenter there, I became a presenter at Thames within about four months of me joining them, and I was getting three times what I was getting at Granada. But to me it was all funny money, but I felt that actually Granada was such a good company, what they do is so good, none of us are starving, it didn’t bother me. Maybe I’m peculiar, but that was my thinking, I just thought I was lucky to be doing that for a living, dead lucky. I couldn’t believe that some of the times. And of course like everybody – I don’t know about everybody, but certainly many – I thought, “One day they’ll find me out and that’ll be it.” So I never got myself in debt, I didn’t think it was going to last forever, which meant in the end, because I was frugal, I wasn’t a spendthrift, it meant, yes, I had a long life in telly, but it means I got this house. I mean, I wasn’t into fast cars, I wasn’t a fashion victim, as you can see, you know… I spent all my money that I spent on books and music, that was all I did. Other things didn’t interest me particularly. Sorry, that was a side step. You were asking about unions, weren’t you? I saved Andy Harries.

I saved his job. He was my researcher, and his first job after leaving the promotions department where he worked with Liddiment, was with me as a researcher n a little slot called Help, which was nicked from a Thames television slot. A social action slot. And Andy was my researcher. And he was kind of… again, there was some snobbery, funnily enough by the same male I’m thinking of in regards to Patti, as being just a pretty boy and nothing else. And he was a, you know, a beautiful young man. And he worked with me and I was a bit doubtful, but I thought, “Okay, give the lad a fair crack of the whip.” Anyway, he was told that his contract would not be renewed, and he was absolutely in bits about it. And I always kept a few stories in the bottom drawer of my desk, and I said, “Look, I’ve got a couple of cracking stories here, why don’t you just run with them and make them your own and see what you can do?” Anyway, they were great. One was about drug misuse in St Helens, and the other one I can’t remember. They were two cracking reports, absolutely fabulous, and his contract was renewed. And the rest is history. So it’s all my fault! That was the other thing, was being able to make a difference. I mean, the viewers, the people you bump into on the street, would talk to you as if they knew you, and that’s fine, that’s part of the job, but it… until you actually experience it you can’t quite register how much it does mean to some people, and also how much it means to… and not to treat with disdain the idea that people want to say hello to you because you’re on the telly. Don’t be disdainful of that, don’t be disrespectful of it. And it was good to be as good as you can be, you know, in a kind way, and be sensitive to people, and just be nice.

JJ: You said at Granada that was a specific kind of culture. I don’t know whether that was because it was in the north, because of its geographical location, because of the way people were treated, they were allowed the freedom to go off and do what they wanted…

I think to work for Granada you had to buy into the non-metropolitan attitude, and that was a source of great pride as well actually. It wasn’t just a northern thing about ‘soft southerners’ or anything clichéd of that sort, it was, we are a distinct culture actually, and Sidney knew that, even though he himself, you know, took the Granada… basically he wanted the franchise, he’d had a similar chain called Granada before he took over the franchise in the north. I think it was very specific, yes. I know I never encountered anything like it elsewhere. Was it characteristic of the region? It had to be in part. It couldn’t not be. And the fact a lot of their dramas were… you know, the fact they had people like Athur Hopcraft working for them, you know, the playwrights they had working for them. People overlook Granada – well, we don’t – but if you talk to people generally they overlook the impact Granada Television has on television drama, which was bloody huge. And Sidney’s refusal… Coronation Street is a serial drama, it’s not a soap opera. That’s what other people do. Crossroads might be a soap opera, Coronation Street is a drama series, or a serial drama, or something of that kind – and I think that embodied… you know, that couldn’t come from anywhere else, nor could they have done… this is of the region, and this seemed to resonate throughout the country. I’d love to know if there were regional variations of viewership of Coronation Street, whether the south east liked it as much as the north east, and so on. What the identification was. Region by region. Because to me it was completely real. Like all of us, we knew the characters, we certainly knew the locations, and we knew the experiences – we’d grown up with them. I can’t speak for anybody down here because I didn’t grow up down here, but… I think the answer to your question is yes, it was something to do with the invisible spirit, but nonetheless a very definitely spirit.

JJ: It’s interesting, that regional mix, as you say, against something like World in Action which had a global international… they did look out, they weren’t looking in all the time.

Yes, definitely very outward-looking, but with a perspective that wasn’t shaped by the southern bubble, what they call now the Whitehall/Westminster bubble. Yes, it had a different take. Manchester, of course, historically, also had a different view of the world from London, and…

JJ: Somebody said to us it was like the TV version of the Manchester Guardian.

Yes, insofar as it was quite open, you know, which goes back to what we were talking about ages ago with the… there’s a real tolerance of different, and even competing, views which I think was taken as normal, and as grist for the every day mill, whereas what I encountered at Thames was there was a right way of thinking and a wrong way of thinking, which I didn’t encounter anything (boldly? 76:42) at Granada, it was kind of more, “That’s interesting,” not, “That’s a load of old shit.” I couldn’t be more precise.

JJ: When did you leave?

I left initially on September 1, 1978, I was on the road with Mike Harding from September 3, so I left on the Friday, on the Sunday I was off on the road with Mike Harding. And I came back, as it were, well, Marion called me and asked me if I would present On The Market with Susan, because I think Lindsay Charlton was (dedicated to do that? 77:27) but then whether or not he was going to do something else, so Rod I think said, “I know, try Trevor.” And so I was then still presenting Afternoon Plus, but I then jacked that in at the end of that season, which was the summer of ’84. So I think the spring of ’84 I think I was going backwards and forwards, and I did that for two or three series, then I went into World in Action.

Union World.

Sorry, yes. Wishful thinking, sorry! Union World. So for about three years in the middle ‘80s.

Luise Fitzwalter

Interviewed by Stephen Kelly and Judith Jones, 3 May 2017.

How did you come to join Granada Television? What was the process of interviewing?

Well, we moved moved to Manchester because my then husband Deepak Nandy became the deputy chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which had just been set up. And as a result of him taking on this equal opportunities role, I lost my job in London. So the deal was, have a baby, and so my eldest daughter was born and two years later my next daughter. And so I was desperate to go back to work, and at the time the EOC was getting big companies, especially in the north, saying, “What are you doing about married women returners?” and so on the off chance I wrote Granada and said, “How about me? I’m a married woman returner.” And I got a letter from Chris Carr saying come in for a chat. And I don’t know what happened, and I never found out from Chris, but I arrive for this chat, having great difficulty getting a babysitter for half an hour, and there was a full board with Mike Scott in the chair and one of those long tables that Granada has, I think it was downstairs. And I just looked at this board and thought, “This is completely crazy, I’m not prepared for this. I haven’t done any research, I just literally came in for a chat.” So they asked me a couple of the usual kind of questions that, you know how aggressive it used to be, and so I stood up I said, “Look, gentlemen…” – of course it was gentlemen, there ere no ladies there – I said, “Look, I’m terribly sorry but I think there’s been a misunderstanding here. I came in just to chat, to discuss the possibility of working for you, and I don’t want to waste your time, we’re all busy people,” and I stood up to go. And of course they loved that, absolutely loved it. And I was terribly used to dealing with people with huge egos, because I’d worked in the Commons as my first job. So they said, “Oh, my dear, we’re terribly sorry there’s been this misunderstanding,” glaring at Chris, and then they said, “Have you got any questions?” So I said, “Well, since you’re all here, I’d love to ask you what’s the programme you’re most proud of?” Of course an hour later, when they stopped talking, they invited me back for a second interview. And the second interview, I was prepared for. And I remember the first question was, “What would you really burn to put on World in Action?” And I was only a viewer at that time and didn’t know much about it. I said, and it was the time of the Falklands, and I said, “Well, you know, an uncontroversial little number called ‘Who needs the free press when the government wants war?’” and we carried on from there. So the thing they liked about me of course was that I’d had commons experience and I knew everybody in the House, in both Houses, extremely well. And therefore when I was put on news, I could pick up the phone and say to ministers on their private line, you know, “Can you come talk on Granada Reports?” which was exactly what they wanted.

What year was this?

It was 1983. And I stayed 10 years before I was sacked.

Okay, so you joined in 1983. And how did your career evolve from there?

I made a big pitch at my interview about children’s programmes, because inevitably I was a mother and I sat and watched this ghastly stuff. And I didn’t realise that Steve Leahy was just about to revamp the children’s department. And I was promised that I could work in children’s, but it didn’t happen, of course they put me on local news. And so, as a researcher I did local news, I did children’s and I did hypotheticals. And then my dad died in 1984, so a year after I joined. And suddenly that had a really cathartic affect on me because I thought, “Where am I going, what am I doing? Life is short.” And so I went for a producership and got it, and then they put me on Granada Reports without any training whatsoever, and I didn’t even know what those white sheets were for. I used to do them as a researcher, but I didn’t realise that without them, the camera people didn’t know what was happening. And it was all before the electronics. And there was one ghastly Granada Reports when all that was in view was camera one chasing camera two round the studio. And Bob Greaves came up the gantry, shook me, and I said, “I don’t know how to do this!” Day one! I was put in this box, I had a brilliant PA who ran it for me, she wasn’t here today, “I don’t know how to do it.” And that that point (Rob Gaird? 6:02) actually got somebody to sit in with me for a week. That’s called ‘training’. I did various local programmes, then I went on to Union World, and then I went on to What the Papers Say and What the Papers Say was the first time I worked for Ray. Because the World in Action corridor, Ray was one end and the What the Papers Say office was at the other end. And What the Papers Say, technically came under David Bolton, but I didn’t actually work for Ray, but Ray was there, and very helpful, as he was with Union World, because a lot of the footage we used was World in Action footage. So. And then after that I became editor of regional news, and was there during Hillsborough which was something I’d like to talk about. And I did The TV Village, which is another mega, Thatcher Final Days. We created something called Open House for North West Parliament, which was a brilliant idea where we used the House of Commons set that Granada had and we invited local MPs from the north west, and the retired deputy speaker who lived in the north west, and they debated issues like education, health etc. They absolutely loved it and they brought their constituents, their activists, to the backbenchers. So the atmosphere was totally electric, and they really loved it because they did it all in the parliamentary language. We did it, typical Granada, because the MPs would not allow the House to be filmed. The actual House. And this was one of the reasons why they got it through, because the northwest MPs had found it such fun that they couldn’t see the problem of having it in Parliament, you know. And nowadays we can’t believe that we weren’t allowed to watch those debates. But this was a hugely successful thing, and every MP took part.

And that used the set?

It used the set.

Was it First Among Equals?

Yes, it was, The First Among Equals. I remember when it was being built, I was only a producer then and I went to Plowright. And I said, “This is all wrong because you have nothing below the gangway, and there’s so much of importance below the gangway. You have the rebels…” – this was before the SNP took over and all that – “And you have the Lib Dems.” And it had been like that for 30 years. The big revolution was in the last election when you had the SNP coming in and taking over masses and masses of space. But I said, “You’ve really got to have a bit of below the gangway, otherwise you’ll never be able to do anything with it.” And Plowright backed me up, and they did, they added a bit, which was good, because we couldn’t have done that programme because the Lib Dems wouldn’t have sat anywhere else! And Cyril Smith had to have a specially reinforced bench. So one of the things I’m proud about, and I thank Granada for, is that my whole career at Granada, especially as producer and editor, was about innovation and that was a key Granada thing. You could come up with a bright idea like open house, like the TV village, which is where we took all the new technology up to Waddington in Lancashire, and from all over the world, and then filmed the local’s reaction to it. You know, like satellite, cable, porn channel… children’s television, local television, and it was not only a hugely successful series, but it was mind-blowing, because you saw high-definition for the first time, you know, etc. And so when you had a bright idea, you were backed to the hilt, especially by people like Plowright, who always wanted a bit of mischief, you know, and the next thing that was going to blow everybody’s mind. And certainly, he loved the idea of something like open house for the northwest parliament. I mean, it was classic Granada territory. And again, with Hillsborough, you know, we opened Liverpool to the world. And we had CNN, Japanese television, ITN, BBC – everybody was there because they didn’t have anything else in the northwest. And we did a programme on the Sunday after Hillsborough from the cathedral, the Roman Catholic cathedral, and then we did another one two weeks later from the Church of England cathedral. And it was… again, you know, we were allowed to do… well, I remember standing there and somebody said, “Hold this end,” and the thing went bang! And this was all because, you know, Granada just let you do it. And there was no kind of health and safety or risk assessments or whatever. It was the same when ENG came in – electronic newsgathering. I mean, Tony had me up a lamppost outside, as a researcher, up a lamppost, outside the Midland, holding this satellite thing! I don’t know how he managed to get away with it. But anyway, this was a live link from literally 100 yards down the road from the newsroom, in order to show we could do it. We got a memo from Forman, as we managed to shoot somebody from the knees downwards or something, and he was complaining that wasn’t the way we should treat people. He had no idea how difficult it all was at that point. But it was fun. Really good fun.

Do you want to talk about the Hillsborough programme?

Yes. I mean, what happened to me with Hillsborough was that we…no mobile phones. We had these zapper things, can you remember, they buzzed to tell you to ring somebody. And it so happened that I kept them my children have their first professional haircut at Kendall’s that afternoon and I turned my zapper off. And as we came back to the car park at Granada, I noticed that the car park was full, and people were banging on the windows of the newsroom, and somebody came running out and said, “There’s been this terrible tragedy.” And I went in with the kids and I couldn’t find our nanny, who was off for the weekend. And at about one o’clock in the morning, I managed to find a neighbour, or my secretary did, and my children were asleep under the desks by then. They were eight and 10, I think. And we taxi’s them round to this neighbour, and the next morning I went to Liverpool and we did this programme. It was it was really heart-warming because I had sent teams to Liverpool, and I’d got a producer who was already in Sheffield because he was watching the match, and what happened was that because we were Granada Reports, they would talk to us, but they wouldn’t talk to anybody else. And you know, they were spitting about the press, and everybody came in to Liverpool for this service, to make the service… even tea ladies came back, you know, so we had (hot butties? 14:37) and everything. We had people who’d actually lost relatives on staff. And it was terribly emotional, and it was very, very good. And ITV – this is why ITV were so awful – ITV, and Steve Morrison could not persuade them to lose more than two slots for advertising, and so we had to come out of our own broadcast 15 minutes early, and do a sort of… we had to go to a priest to say something outside while the world took our feed! It was so irritating. I mean, this is where the commercial world and common sense just don’t enter into it. Because they could have run all those afterwards. I mean, there were millions of viewers from all over the world. It was just ridiculous. All that week – I wrote a huge report for Plowright on what happened – and all that week, because of the Sun and everything else, nobody else got interviews, and we got them all. And we promised that we wouldn’t film inside the churches, and we didn’t. We promised that if people broke down we would cut it, and we did, and we got enormous warmth and support. And our reporters of course, people like (Jenny Clark? 16:06) were in tune, you know, and very, very able to talk to the people who had lost people. And it was very obvious that Liverpool particularly felt that we’d come to their city and that we worked in that city. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that with Manchester, but I certainly felt it with Liverpool. And they used this material when they were doing a franchise application because it showed we were local to our our area.

Let’s just continue with your career, to where your career ends at Granada.

Huh. Right, well… I suppose I’m still very angry about it. What happened to Ray particularly. I think two people suffered the most from the whole debacle when Jerry came in, Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen, and one was Plowright and one was Ray, because both of them were absolutely seeped in Granada and therefore were targets, obviously. Plowright went first, and then (Alastair March? 17:29). And we were all shown a PowerPoint thing which showed that the board was divided. And actually that’s absolute rubbish, because up until then the whole ethos of Granada had been robust debate. And fighting your corner, and no hard feelings. You know, you were meant to, from the moment you entered the place, you were meant to fight your corner. And yet I digress, but you know, I’ve been in cutting rooms where I’ve said, you know, “That is absolute rubbish,” in much stronger terms than that. On one occasion I remember David Hart picking me up on Union Row and physically carrying me out over his shoulder and depositing me at the end of the corridor and locking the door, and I was banging on the door as the producer saying, you know, let me in. This kind of thing disappeared overnight. You had to be one of them or you were out. And Alastair said exactly the same thing, and so much happened with the board. Alastair was a company secretary, and when they were discussing how they were going to slash this, slash that and slash t’other, he said, “I don’t think that’s going to work, because we have a pool of talent here which is superb, and what you’re suggesting is getting rid of them and buying in, and it’s counterproductive. We are as good as our talent.” And for that he was sacked. So anyway, they sacked the board, and then they summoned us all – I think you’ll remember this – to three meetings in different studios.

I’d already gone.

You’d already gone, had you? And it was utterly horrendous. That morning they had sent round notes, they had got hold of different people in departments and they had sent around… they had earmarked who they were going to sack, and there was a lot of point scoring going on, and the people who helped to do it – it was just like the Third Reich – the people who helped to do it also got an envelope and got sacked. In many cases. One man had a heart attack and had to be sent off in an ambulance, people were shaking – I mean, they were literally shaking – and I remember going in to the studio where we were being briefed and we already knew that Ray was going to be sacked. And I said to Ray, “You must keep quiet.” I then stood up and yelled at Liddiment, and said, “What has happened to Granada?” I was so angry, I was… you know. I committed suttee actually, I think that’s what I did. But I said, “What has happened to Granada? Until now it has been our duty as senior people in Granada to challenge constructively, and now suddenly anybody who challenges is regarded as a traitor. What are you doing?” And he yelled back at me, “Your job is to incentivise people. This is a disgrace.” And I said, “Look, people are dropping cameras on the floor in the studio because they are shaking so much. We had to stop recording What the Papers Say the other day because the crew were too upset to go on. What are you doing to this company?” We had this terrible row, and then of course I was out too. So basically what they did was they sacked the board, then they sacked anybody who wasn’t going to take the oath of allegiance, or they had earmarked for sacking like Ray, then they sacked anybody who disagreed, and then they sacked a lot of people who shouldn’t have been sacked and they had to bring a lot of them back in again. And it was a destruction of a huge pool of talent. And about three years later, Gerry Robinson did a programme with the BBC where he said, “Look, you see the thing is, I really do think that the BBC is so wonderful because it had staff rather than buys in.” Ha! So having destroyed Granada, he then was a convert. But by that time, of course, it was history.

JJ: Was there (??21:56) put forward their rationale, economic or…?

Well, apparently Charles Allen, when he gave this presentation to the board, said, “What you do,” and this is what they used to do on Granada’s… and this is hearsay, I heard this story – on the (teams up and down the motorway? 22:25) – “What you do is you squeeze the client, as it were, until the pips squeak. And if, when they start complaining that their slice of bread is three times smaller than (??22:38 ), then you make it slightly larger again.” And basically yes, they took the model of Channel 4, and said, “We’ll buy in, it’s much cheaper.” What they didn’t realise was… or what they refused to recognise, although so many people told them, was that you’ve got this pool of talent in the north who were all then going to go south, which they did, until they came back again. And one of the things that Plowright and Ray did was set up this conference, this television from the nations and regions conference, which was responsible in the end for getting the BBC to bring a huge amount of its stuff back up to Salford, which is what they’d always hoped would happen. But basically the sheer nastiness of it all, that’s what I’m angry about. When Ray left, nobody – nobody, apart from people quite low down the food chain – came to say goodbye. We walked out with our BAFTAs under our arm and a sheaf of notes, not one of his executive colleagues came to say goodbye. You know, they’re just ashamed of themselves, and they couldn’t look him in the eye. I then organised a sacked person’s party at (??23:54) which had no furniture. We had 100 there from all over the world who flew in, and Ray met them… Ray made a speech and said, “Some of you are still employed, and we’ve taken a note of this.” Haha. But it was just so nasty, and people were settling old scores, and people were watching their backs… and the rot had set in as soon as Plowright was sacked – there was no reason to sack Plowright. Granada Television was doing very well, it was Granada board that wasn’t. And he stood up to Gerry and they faced it off… it’s all in Ray’s book. And it… but then from then on you could see that the visions, you know, and who was going to win and who wasn’t. Ray came in one day on a Sunday and he saw all these coats and things there. He realised that there was some big meeting going on and then he asked Diane, and Diane said, “You’d better talk to David Liddiment,” and then that was it. We were all sacked. And why?


And we… I mean, Forman, got very upset that Alistair had been sacked, because he had been such a good public servant. And he was also equally upset that Ray was sacked. And he persuaded Gerry and Charles – r maybe it was David Liddiment – to release some money so we could set up (??25:35), which is what we did. But it was the sheer nastiness of it that still sticks in my throat. It was exactly counter to the original culture, which was very in your face, very much so, very tough – but respectful. And that went, and that was horrible. And I think it took them a long time to get it back. Oh, I mean, I came in, I was doing four big major series for Channel 4, and I came in and they had moved the World in Action people out of our corridor, and we didn’t even have… Nick Hayes… it was an ethically cleaned corridor. Nick Hayes, Ray and me, and our secretary, and Joanna, Ray’s secretary, were the only ones left – and we didn’t even have a photocopier. And we were doing four series. I was doing four series, Nick was doing things, Ray was just sitting there, having had his team removed. I mean, it was just unbelievable. Nobody sort of said, “Look, we’re going to do this,” and they were moved to something like the fifth floor, and we were left on the first, or second, wherever it was. Second, I think. And it was just symbolic of the way the whole thing was carried out. It was disgusting.

Do you want to talk about…

JJ: What, being a woman? Well, I don’t know whether you found any challenges as being a woman, a married woman with children, coming into a… not well known for being female-friendly environment.

The worst person was a female news editor. I came in as a married woman returner, and I had been doing various degrees at Bradford, I did an MA and a PhD. And then I came to Granada. They were poisonous. Utterly poisonous. I mean, she was, with her coterie of people. And they would send me off on assignments and there was nobody there, or they sent me to talk to Peter O’Toole and asked me to ask three questions which meant he threw something at me, which was fun because, you know, that’s good telly, but… I mean, basically they were really, really nasty. And I was absolutely saved by Judy Finnegan, who stood up to them and said, “I’m not having this.” You know, if there was an assignment in Barrow at six, they’d send me – or tried to – knowing that I had to get back because my childcare was limited. And Judy just said, “No. Absolutely no.” And Judy was the star, and they couldn’t do anything about it. So I just stood behind her going, “Thank you very much.” And she and Richard were absolutely lovely to me, and they were… Richard was fairly new, and we all sat at one end of the newsroom, and they were fantastic. They taught me a lot and they protected me a lot. And the sort of things like daft things. It’s all so petty. But they really tried to make me give up, and I don’t know why. I presume it’s the bully thing; I was new, they presumed that I didn’t know anything, I would ring a minister and say, “Can you do 10 minutes for us, we’ll come to the Midland while you’re here in Manchester,” and then they would send somebody else to do the interview, and of course the minister was saying, “Where’s Luise?” because we were friend, y, I had worked in the Commons library and I had done stuff for all of them. And it’s that kind of place, the Commons, you know, the staff and the members know each other extremely well. And I was actually the only person in the newsroom when the news came through that those policemen jumped into the sea after a dog, and one by one had been swept away. I think six policemen lost their life in Blackpool. And the reason I was the only person in the newsroom is they’d all gone out to have a drink and they left me, been there five weeks, in charge – because I was not one of them, and so you know, it was fine. I ended up finding Rod Caird and saying, you know, I have to tell you that there’s this big story comes through, and he said, “Well where is everybody?” And I said, “They’re in the pub.” And that’s where they were. But it was a culture, on the first floor, of bullying which wasn’t there in any other place, and it was horrible. But as a woman, I think actually I never suffered promotion-wise. But there weren’t many women – in fact there weren’t any women – Granada was a fiefdom. There were these very, very egocentric people, with Ray being the huge exception, who ran big departments, executive producers. They had massive egos – or most of them, Ray again being the exception – and they were all men. But the mould-breaker I think was Diane Nelmes, because she had this massive success on This Morning and promoted by Rod and David Liddiment. Rightly so. And once she’d done that, I think they realised how competent an executive producer could be who was a woman. And I mean it was superb and broke the mould. But I mean, yes, there was a lot of sexism. But it was really more that it was macho rather than… and of course the other thing was… one of the things you said on your email, there was a culture around drinking in the Old School. And if you weren’t part of that, which I couldn’t and didn’t want to be, that was… you didn’t network. You know, so you didn’t know any of these people. What was great was the canteen, because Forman would come down frequently and join any table and just chat to people. Ray was always in the canteen because he likes puddings, and he always had his lunch in the canteen. It was a magical place to be, I mean, you could be in the queue next to Laurence Olivier in a wig, you know, and Joan Plowright, and all sorts of people. And so the canteen worked very well. And Charles Allen scrapped the canteen and had to put it back. Because that’s where you bumped into people without an appointment and you could just say, “Oh, by the way, I wonder if I could have a word about X, Y or Z.” It was just a very relaxed way of meeting people. But the Old School was different, and I actually didn’t like that culture at all, and I think it led to people who shouldn’t be getting promoted and things like that. That’s why… I was an outsider on that, so obviously I feel like that. But I don’t think for me being a woman was a problem in getting promoted. I was lucky, I was on the cusp of even changing, I think. And once I’d run news successfully, as the editor of new, obviously you prove yourself and then you move on. But I never became an executive, because I didn’t want to.

Do you want to talk at this stage about Ray?

I’ll try. I’d just like to say one more thing, actually. The great thing about Granada, as I said, was the great can-do attitude, and (??34:12) had this phrase, “Let’s do some mischief.” And (??34:17) so that that was hugely exciting and creative. But the biggest thing about Granada was the pool of talent. And you never got trained, but what you did was you worked with the best, the best in the world. So when you went out on Granada Reports, sometimes you went with George Jesse Turner, you know, people… because the camera pools were… and not just the cameras, the editors, the sound recordists, the designers, the make up artists, you could use them whatever you were working on. And when we did Thatcher: The Final Days, they all came out of the woodwork and begged to be on it because they could see this was going to be another biggie, you know? And that is, for me, the thing I miss. I have never worked with such talent. Well, I suppose working in the House of Commons, to a certain extent I did but that is the thing I miss, because it was it was amazing. Of course it applied to actors as well. You know, actors and presenters are top-notch people, and it was a very good time to be there, in that sense. And it’s such a shame that it was disbanded. I am, you know, Coronation Street, World in Action, news, masses of brilliant, brilliant things right across the board, drama of international distinction. And all the people who worked on it were available to you, to teach you what was going on. It was just an amazing time.

JJ: You’ve talked about that ethos and you’ve talked about the change when Charles Allen came along. Did you get a sense of it changing before that, or did it kind of come as a shock? Partly perhaps because of things changing in television outside of Granada, or…?

Well, I think it was all changing, all the way through my time. I was there for a decade and during that decade a lot of things happened, not just in television but outside. For example, the first What the Papers Say awards I ever went to was filmed as a sort of gentlemen’s party with lots of smoke and lots of drink and they just had a camera on it and they thought that was television. And by the time I was doing it, we had a set and the whole culture had changed. Nobody drank. It was fizzy water. I mean, there was drink, and nobody smoked. So, you know, there was a totally different culture. Another thing that of course changed everything was the electronics, both of the way that you could shoot but also the way you could communicate. So you had an intranet, and no longer these people coming back drunk after lunch and pulling out stuff from your typewriter, which you couldn’t replace in time, whereas, you know, once you’re on a computer it’s a different ballgame. All sorts of things were changing. I remember the fuss when they started bringing in full costing, so that you couldn’t just put things below the line, you had to account for everything. And some of the producers that I worked with as an editor were very resistant to this. “Well, I know I can make