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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.