I was a journalist, and I’d been a provincial journalist on the Sussex Daily News and Evening Argus in Brighton. I’d come out of the war, and I’d come out of the Navy where I was a lieutenant, and I had worked very, very briefly for them for about six or nine months before I was… before I joined up. And of course, all companies then had to take back returning warriors –and so I went back, and had a very good time as a provincial journalist doing almost everything. But I began reviewing a lot. Brighton was a great centre for the opening of plays going to the West End, it was a chief stomping ground for opening big theatrical plays, and everybody was there. Everybody appeared there – John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and so on – and what happened was that I was picked up by the Financial Times, and I learnt later that it was through a recommendation by Laurence Olivier to the then managing director of the FT, who was a man called Lord Garrett Moore, who ultimately became the Earl of Drogheda. And Olivier had told him that I was apparently writing rather good notices, and I was headhunted and seen in Brighton by a nice man from the FT’s advertising department, and eventually passed as being fit and correct – haha – for their very elevated paper. So I joined as the very first drama and film critic of the Financial Times and it was an experiment, because Garrett Moore was very, very anxious that it should turn towards the arts, and they hadn’t had any arts coverage before, and I ultimately recruited the music critic Andrew Porter. And then we recruited another critic, a ballet critic, Clement Crisp, who is still writing there to this day, and we started the famous FT arts page between us. And that’s when I was read by Sidney Bernstein, and I was invited to Granada. I had a personal invitation! The telephone went one night and it was Sidney on the telephone. “Have you ever thought of coming into television? We could offer you a job.” It was as simple and as lovely as that. And that’s how I joined Granada.
But what was really interesting was that I was endlessly interviewed, absolutely endlessly. I was interviewed not only by Sidney, but by Denis Forman, the managing director, by Victor Peers, the finance director, and then somebody else, and by the time I’d had seven interviews I was getting a bit worried. So I called Sidney and I said, “Excuse me, but I’m being interviewed a great deal and nothing seems to be happening.” He says, “Ah. Ah. That’s our policy. I just want to see to everybody else really likes you.” And I thought, “What a wonderful way of recruiting a company!” which was very true of Granada.
It was! I had three interviews.
I was very close to Sidney in the end and as I say, I was always admiring but I thought you can’t really recruit a company better than making it a company of friends, which of course it was in a very profound sense. I worked for another television company – London Weekend Television, which was perfectly all right – and I worked on two occasions for the BBC, but nothing quite came up to the actual atmosphere of working at Granada, which was extraordinary.
So what year are we talking about?
We’re talking about 1958. 1958. And I think I had… I’d gone up to Granada in 1957. I can’t remember when they went on the air, but I went to watch a programme being made, which, I think, was the very first programme Granada aired, which was called Tribute to the BBC and it was directed by Claude Whatham. It was shot within the Manchester BBC studios and offices, and I think that was the very first programme they put out – a typical Granada wheeze, a tribute to the BBC, and almost saying, “We’re going to be as good as you.”