Stewart Darby Transcript
Interviewer: Stephen Kelly
Interviewee: Stewart Darby
[Start of Recording]
SK: This is an interview with Stewart Darby, Stewart is S-T-E-W-A-R-T and Darby is spelt D-A-R-B-Y. And it’s the 16 December  and it’s Stephen (with a ‘ph’) Kelly doing the interview. OK, Stewart when and how did you come to join Granada Television?
SD: Well, just before that let me tell you that I left school at 15 and in those days you left on a Friday and you started work on the Monday which I did and I’d got a job as a messenger boy on the News Chronicle, which was a National newspaper, based in those days in Derby Street of Cheetham Hill [Manchester]. The Daily Mail eventually bought it. But I started there at 15 as a messenger boy, taking coffee, brewing tea for the reporters and what-have-you. My brother, I followed in his footsteps. He was in photography at the News Chron., 6 years older than me but I followed in his footsteps. So after about 6 months I got the chance to go in the darkroom to be taught how to be a printer, a photographic printer. I did 5 years apprenticeship, night school for 4 years. The News Chron. folded in 1960 and I went to finish my apprenticeship at the Daily Mail where I stayed about 3 years. I then got a job on the Stockport Express as a photographer when an old pal of mine said, ‘There’s a job going, Stew, it’s yours if you want it” because you go from Locals to Nationals, you don’t go the opposite way in general. And I’d had, you know, quite a lot of time as a National of printing for the News Chron. and the Mail. Anyway, I went there for 12 month. Do you remember a photographer called Ray Green, who was a big, stout lad?
SD: Well he was the photographer then when I first went. He tipped me brother off saying, “There’s a job going, tell your Stew to write in”, which I did. I wrote in, got an interview and there’s a guy called Vic Adeley who I was at the Mail with who got the job. Anyway about 3 month later I got a telegram (it was telegrams in those days!) saying, “Are you still interested in the job?” There was three in those days, printers. One guy kept coming in at 11 having had too much to drink. Anyway, I got his job. So in those days, then, we were called Photographic Technicians. This meant that you weren’t just a printer, you could be called upon to operate – you know, to take pictures – and I’d had this 12 month, 14 month at the Stockport Express but to cut a long story short, I got the job and the other guys were a bit older and it was me that was, you know I was 24, I wasn’t 24! I was 24 in the May, keen, photography, blah blah blah. And so often Ray Green left, a guy came in called Frank Pocklington who wanted to be a camera man. Finished up doing all the Whicker’s Worlds for Yorkshire TV. He was the sort of Design Photographer and I was being called upon daily to go down to photograph the group in Scene at 6:30 or whatever it might be, which obviously you’ve seen some of the pictures. But I was doing that regular. Or there’d be a job – “Stew, you go and do so-and-so and so-and-so” – so I was gaining experience all the time. Eventually because Frank Pocklington was photographing Sidney’s paintings on the wall and preferred that, I was the Press guy if you like. I’d had 9 years’ experience before I got to Granada, you know, in that way. Anyway one day, I’m doing more and more for the Press Office, I get a call from Norman Frisby – “We are going to see Barry Head.” Barry Head, you know Barry Head, Head of old Granada and stuff and we went up and they offered me the job permanently. That would be about the June of ’66 , roughly. So they offered me the job, Norman and Barry, and I said, “Well, 3 month trial – what happens if I don’t make it?!” He said, “Well, you’ll go back in the darkroom!”
SK: So you were actually working in the darkroom as a Photographic Technician. Right, so when did you actually start that job with Granada?
SD: March 1965.
SK: So you left Stockport Express March ’65  to become a Photographic Technician at Granada?
SD: Yeah. So, that was about June ’66 . And never looked back of course! And went on to do, well, just everything! Frank left. I soon discovered, which is quite funny really, that I became not only the Press Office Photographer but the Design Photographer, the News Photographer, the Everything Photographer because, with Frank leaving, Peter Ash, Head of Design, said “Stew, while we interview you do some design work for us”. “Yeah, absolutely.” And I was running round everywhere for 12 years on me own. As I say, I soon discovered I was expected to do everything or brought it on meself in a way. Design pictures, News, World in Actions. I went on many snatch jobs years ago or with the crew or what-have-you, you know. Like we went to Puck Fair in Ireland with George for 3 days. Puck Fair is a male goat that they had on a platform 20 feet in the air. This is at Killorglin.
SK: They have a male…?
SD: A goat.
SK: A goat?!
SD: And it used to eat and feed there, 3 days and 3 nights and the pubs were open all day and all night and we did that and we went on to do, well, an IRA interview, a pine forest we sneaked through and oh, the…anyway, pictures of that. But…[where am I up to?]
SK: You’d started as a proper photographer.
SD: Well, that would be about June ’66  when they made me into the Press Office Photographer but, as I say, before I knew it I was doing record covers for Johnnie Hamp. I was doing brochures. Me and Peter Plumber went to all different Granada companies. Novello, wasn’t it? Our publishing Novello music.
SK: Oh, Novello music, of course! Yes.
SD: St. Albans, Motorway Sandwich Cafes, Service Stations, the Bingo Halls, we went everywhere to produce this and I’m now shooting what they call a 5×4 Camera. 5×4 Quart film, which is that big, in slides, with uprights, to get uprights level and I mean I’m a Press Photographer, if you see what I mean! But you learned to cope and I’d used them before. But we’d produced this brochure that everybody was extremely pleased with it, it went all round the Group and what-have-you. So consequently that was my learning of, not learning but realising that I just covered everything! Which I thoroughly enjoyed – don’t get me wrong – and then through the years, more and more, we were doing fantastic shows with great actors, you know. I mean I am going back then to Country Matters, Sam, Family at War, these great…This is 51 episodes! 51! My Godfathers! John Finch was involved with and lots of others.
SK: So, just to get it clear. What your role was would be taking photographs that could be used in the TV Times and…
SD: For Press and Publicity generally. So when I photographed Coronation Street – in those days they were only a fortnight in front – those we would try and get in the Daily Mirror, the Sun, the News of the World, the TV Times, whatever it might be. Press and publicity to promote the show basically. But, as I say, there were a lot of spin-offs from that. So I would go on a shoot maybe one day, on a Street location. In those days we shot the Street outside on a Monday. There was a technical run on the Wednesday. First episode was done Thursday afternoon and the second one was done Friday. But I’m going back to when before the Street was built it was a cardboard cut-out in Studio 2 and 6. The front of the houses was like they are now, you know, sets kind of thing. So it was mainly Press and Publicity but the spin-offs on that were crackers! You know there were so many different things as I say. You know, one thing I discovered very early on was to make friends with everyone. And I tell you why. The lights would go down on Coronation Street, the set, and I needed that picture and the early days was a set dress, 28 minutes, bang bang bang, one camera. As one scene finished, cameras moved to another set – are you with me? – to start that off, and so on. And it was 28 minutes and that was it.
SK: What do you mean by 28 minutes?
SD: That’s what it was, the timing, with the commercials. And then they might say, “we need to quicken it up a bit”, “we need to slow that”, “We just need a few other guys”, you know. So often when the light went from that set and I hadn’t had a chance to do what I wanted, I’d be on to the camera guys – “Get the lights on for me!” – so friendly with everybody. Sparks, Floor Managers…most Floor Managers were excellent, there were one or two who were a bit tricky but anyway. But everybody, sound, “get the lights on for Stew” and then I’d go, “Thanks very much!” because I’d got me picture! Because stills are so different. Stills you have to hopefully show in one go what that’s about, if you see what I mean. And later on I used to just get an idea with the Press Officer who was doing the Street, what we were going to base it on, what was the shot of the week kind of thing and I would go and line that up to hopefully show in one go what that episode was about! Which can be quite tricky sometimes. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. I mean the Street, God, they became personal friends of mine, you know, over 27 years. I did their weddings, their christenings, their parties, played golf with Bill Roach, Johnny Briggs, all of them became very good friends. Bill Tarmey, great friend, well they all did!
SK: Tell me about some of the Street characters. What were they like about having their photograph taken? Like, say Violet Carson?
SD: In Coronation Street?
SK: Coronation Street.
SD: Oh, Vi was lovely! Oh God! She was a very good actress, Vi. I will tell you a couple of stories. There’s a couple of pictures, I don’t know if you remember it, but she’s like that grinning at me at the camera on one of the pictures from the exhibition. Now Vi was, you know, her character was the total opposite and I knew them all as well as they knew themselves! So I could say, like Minnie Caldwell, God, what was she, not Martha…
SK: Annie Walker?
SD: No, that’s another story I’ll tell you more. Margot Bryant, she was called, in real life.
SK: Who did she play?
SD: She played Ena’s friend.
SK: Minnie Caldwell?
SD: Minnie. This is one example of Minnie. The train crash, the train came off the viaduct many many years ago. Alan Rothwell who played Ken Barlow’s brother, is getting her out and I said to Margot, “Margot, your pal’s under the, I need a tear”, and she could cry like that, streaming. But Margot, she could be difficult! She could be tricky, Margot! She could, depending on her mood. I’d worked out a system. If I knew I was going to photograph her I’d meet her in reception and she used to come in with all these awful hats that she’d bought. They were terrible and I used to meet her at the Commissioner’s desk and I’d say, “Hello, Margot, how are you?” “I’m fine, dear boy” and what-have-you and I’d walk her down the steps and I’d say, “That’s a lovely hat. Is that a new one? Just bought it? I need to do a little picture of you after”. I used to call it the three-card trick to be honest because it was professional kind of, I was being genuine but for my own. Now, you take Doris. Doris was lovely! Doris Speed. But she was deaf in one ear! And Fred Feast, who played the barman, and she did have a superiority complex, Doris, very much so. She did think that she was better than the others! But in a scene she’d go – and her nose would go up in the air – and she’d talk to Fred, the barman, and he’d have to come round the other side so that she could hear what he was saying! If he was on the wrong ear…he’d say, “I need to be on the other side”. And then, well, to finish with Pat. Actress through and through. Absolute through and through. Genuine.
SK: This is Pat Pheonix?
SD: Yeah. Sorry.
SK: Who played Elsie Tanner.
SD: Genuine, showbiz star from arriving in a taxi to arriving at night. A star and we all made her that way, I think, but there is one story I can tell you with Pat. I’d photographed her wedding to Alan Browning, this is. Forgot what year that was. She was doing a play and she was going to wear the wedding dress as part of one of the scenes and the Daily Star had just – it had not been going long – and they wanted an exclusive and they’d heard about Pat and the wedding dress and what-have-you and we’d arranged the photo call and of course the obvious is the Rovers Bar with a drink in a long, you know. Well, she arrived in a taxi at Make-up. Went down and she’s in tears. “What’s up?” “Me taxi was late, I’m not in the mood, I don’t want to do this picture, Stew! I don’t want to do it!” I said, “Calm down, I’ll get you a cup of coffee”. This was again the three-card trick really, if you see what I mean. So I’d got her a coffee and said, “Calm down, just have a rest and take your time and I’ll come back and see you in 10 minutes.” So I did and she’s finished in Make-up and I took her to her dressing room and I said, “We’ll go on the Street lot and we’ll do, you know.” “OK.” So I said, “I’ll be down in 10 minutes”, went down and she’s got this dress on and she did look nice and I went, “Oh, Pat, you’re absolutely stunning! You look absolutely marvellous! Are you OK? Come on” and I linked her and I took her to the Rovers Bar!!! Well, I did the pictures with a drink in the Rovers but she didn’t want to know. So I was kind of crafty in a way but you had to do that otherwise you’d lose out. You’d never get a picture in your life, you know! But that’s the one thing I missed when I left is the cast from the Street, I would say. And the crew, you know, really which was fantastic.
SD: But to move on to other programmes. It went through the years and we eventually found that we’d got Sir Laurence on board via, of course, his brother-in-law David Plowright. I think that was about ’68  but I might be wrong on that but he did Olivier plays and my God, did we get the stars! There’s nobody else. It was, without doubt, the finest TV Company in the world at that stage ’cause we had Mobil Oil backing us all the way on all these fantastic shows. I don’t think anybody else could have pulled Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Donald Pleasence, do you know what I mean? Just fantastic! Joanne Woodward. And it was fantastic to work on. It was hard work and there was no messing about, you had to be on the ball. There was no, “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t get that, can I have another go?” And in those days of course there was no motor drives, single frame. I used to shoot black and white, single frame and I’d shoot in colour in ’69 . That was transparency. Now transparencies you write, you’d ruin half the stock.
SK: These were the small slides? Transparencies.
SK: Yeah. Were they produced as slides?
SD: Slides. The colour transparencies, yeah, slides. So TV Times would use the colour, you know, papers that used colour would use, but otherwise you got one go basically. And, touch wood, it sort of worked out. But there is so many like that, the Olivier plays, that I loved it! Absolutely! You know, almost weekends got in the way sometimes! You know, really, and I have a fantastic wife and 3 daughters but I just loved it! And I was on call, no two ways about it, 24 hours a day. I used to go to work in the morning, shirt and tie, suit, smart because often the phone would go at five to six – David Plowright – “Stew, got some visiting the Penthouse, can you whip up and do a quick pic?” “Absolutely.” And produce them before they went. You know what I mean? So I loved being on call. I was a Granada man 150%! Absolutely!
SD: But then I was also fortunate. I got not all round the world but I went to India, for Staying On which was Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. I have a feeling that could have been their first get-together since the famous film, Gone with the Wind? Was it Gone with the Wind? Not Gone with the Wind, what was the famous…?
SK: Brief Encounter.
SD: Brief Encounter. That was a funny story because I went for about 10 days and that was brand new to Granada, of course, and we were staying in a place called Shimla, which is in the Himalayas, about 10,000 feet up and I don’t think they’d been checked over much! They were trying to feed us raw chicken and the guys were asking for egg and chips and stuff! But I’d gone for about 10 days and Celia Johnson had slipped in the bathroom and got a black eye and I’m there to photograph them with the view of the Himalayas and, well there were pictures in the exhibition. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, what do I do here?!’ And Leslie Diamond came out for a few days. You remember Leslie, of course? Anyway, I kept checking, “How’s your eye?” “Oh, I can see it!” In the end I think I had 2 days before I’m going back and ‘I’ve just gotta do something!’ and I actually turned her away from camera so her black eye was on the wrong side of me and the pictures were lovely, you know, pulled in the Himalayas and they had a dog there and fantastic. And funny story, when we got back Leslie Diamond, who was at the side of me while I was lining these pictures up, doing pictures, when I got back he said, “I don’t understand this! I was at the side of you with the same camera, yours are 30 x 40 on the wall and I can’t get mine to 10 x 8!” And I said, “That’s why I’m the photographer and you are the General Manager!” you see what I mean! But that was, again, fantastic! I mean I’d played snooker with Trevor Howard in, because we were staying, there wasn’t room at the hotel and we stayed at a Prince’s Holiday Home. Funnily enough, a couple, Mrs Hall, she was called, from Crosby. She’d actually stayed on after the Raj. Oh when I think back! What a name to be friendly with, you know, fantastic! There was a little story there [am I boring you?].
SK: No, no, this is terrific!
SD: Like you do, you take your litre of Scotch in and I’d suspected it was being stolen while I was out on location so I started taping it up and putting a mark on the bottle, on the tape! And one night I thought, ‘I’m sure it is going down!’ and I mentioned it to a couple of the guys, “No, she wouldn’t do that!” Anyway, it was Bells that I’d got. One night there was a meeting, a conference in the house and whatever I heard was, you know, between the 4 walls. And eventually somebody said, “Have you got any whisky?” and I said, “Well, I’ve got some, I’ll bring it down.” In the meantime Mrs Hall said, “I’ve got some” and it came down and it was Bells! There’s no two ways about it, it was Bells Whisky! She’d been sieving it off, I think, really! But, yeah, funny story!
SK: When you went out taking photographs would you take a couple of cameras with you?
SD: I carried three because I shot black and white, which was the main in those days, and so I had different lenses on although I did used to swap lenses – quickly. So I might have a telephoto on and a wide. For colour I might have a standard because you might only get one go or it might be bang, bang, black and white, and one in colour, OK, I’ve got time, I’ll swap a lens.
SK: What cameras did you use?
SD: Nikons generally. But later on I got Hasselblads because I did a lot of front covers for mags and they wanted that extra quality of, you know, of the mags. But they were wonderful days when I think back. I say it was always my intention to get on with everybody. We did a thing in the Lake District called, Ken Russell directed.
SK: Is this the, Delius, no?
SD: About the poets.
SK: Oh, the Wordsworth. Coleridge Taylor.
SD: What was it called?
SK: It was the one about Samuel Coleridge Taylor.
SD: This is Wordsworth?
SD: Clouds of Glory. And David Warner and Felicity Kendal. And Ken Russell he used to be a stills-man in these early days and so he knew…he introduced himself to all of us, at least Les Davies did. He used to be a stills-man and he said “Anything you’re not getting, tell me.” Oh, this is fantastic! And he did a couple of times say, “Have you got that?” I said, “I could just do with that little…” “Right, OK, stills!” Which was fantastic! But one day I arrive and there’s David Hemmings in the middle of a river, fishing. This is the scene. So as a Pro-photographer, soundwise I wouldn’t always bother the camera man, I’d see the sound guy – “If I’m over there you’re going to hear me?” “No, that’s fine, Stew.” Or we’ll do a test. “Can you hear me? No, that’s great. OK.” Or I’ll wait till they swap camera positions, which they did, and I shouted, “David, Stewart Darby. I’m the stills photographer.” “Hello, Stewart, I’ll see you in the minute.” And then he gave me a bollocking! Well, not really. “Don’t speak to my artists while I’m working with them” and he wasn’t working with them. They were swapping positions. Anyway. Long story, it was nothing. Came out, talked, we became great friends. He was a talented magician, David Hemmings, and my Dad was so we swapped tricks and one thing and another. Conjuring tricks. And we finished up playing pool together in an evening so we’d be on location and he’d be in all his gear, his wigs and everything and we found the pub had opened early, within 5 minutes of the location. I’ve forgotten what it was called. So he’d say, “Stew, get the engine going!” So he’d say, “OK, that’s it wrapped! See you at half eight in the morning!” And he’d be running to my car with all his gear and Make-up and Wardrobe were saying, “We need your gear! We need your wig!” “Ohh, it’ll be alright, I’ll look after it!” And we’d get in the car and we’d go to the pub and we’d have 30 games of pool at £1 a corner, you know, and we’d have a few pints, you know but we were even matched so nobody lost an awful lot of money! But again that was, again, getting on with people. Friendship. Knowing that I had to photograph David Hemmings the next day and if he liked me and I got on with him I’m doing twice as well here, aren’t I? And I did that with many artists, many people. Not conned them, just used me love because the times it could have backfired on me. Just by being bolshie, the wrong attitude. Pat, I think, once had ago. Apart from that she was supposed to be leaving the Street to go and live in America. TV Times wanted a picture of her packing her suitcase, asked me to do it for a cover, explained it to her. “I’m not doing it!” she said. “I am not doing it!” I said, “OK, I understand, Pat.” You know, it was just a suitcase, just putting a few clothes in. “If Petula Clark was asked to do this she’d want paying!” kind of thing. So I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll just have to phone up and say you wouldn’t do it.” “Well, will it take long?!” “Honestly, I’ve got it all sorted.” Clothes in the suitcase! So, the times I think if I’d said, “Oh stuff it, I don’t want to do this!” I’d have lost many pictures really, you know. (Right, where are we up to?)
SK: Well, how many of you worked in the darkroom?
SD: How many worked in the darkroom?
SK: Well, in that little office that you had which was…
SD: On the second floor?
SK: On the second floor by Graphics, wasn’t it?
SD: Right. In the very beginning, the guy that opened it, Frank Hardy, then Vic, then me. I went out and then in the end we had 7 Printers and 2 Photographers because I got an Assistant in the end, David Burrows, who unfortunately died at a young age, and then Neil Marland who when I left, well he was my Number Two for about 5 years I would say. So at its busiest you had 7 Printers churning out runs of 50, runs of black and whites and transparencies and 2 Photographers. Because then of course we started to get even busier with Brideshead and Jewel in the Crown. Again, completely fantastic programmes with names and I mean will you ever get another Brideshead or Jewel in the Crown?! You never will! Ever! And these were with talented people. God! I can remember now very early days with 2 trainee-directors – Mike Apted, Mike Yule – trainees in the canteen, you know, early days, and those were the days when Sidney would come in (shirt sleeves), Denis Forman, sit with anybody for their lunch. Fantastic!
SD: Let me give you, while it’s on my mind, a few Sidney stories, can I? This is fairly early days and Jack Smith (do you remember Jack Smith?) had come across a very rare stamp and I was going to photograph him with this stamp with a glass, you know the sort of thing. The stamp die would be bigger than the stamp sort of thing. So I get in the lift, it must have been at the second floor because I used to have my bag in there and stuff, with, in those days, a Mamiya camera which was a twin lens. So it had a twin lens, one was for viewing, the other was for taking, with a flash on. And the door opens, the lift door, and I get in and there’s Sidney, Cecil, Alex, down to Denis, Julian Amyes – the top six. Joyce Wooller also. Sidney said to me, “Who are you going to photograph?” I said, “I’m going to photograph Jack Smith, Sir, with a rare stamp.” “Oh, and what’s that camera for?” And I explained that this is for viewing, that’s for taking. “And what do you need the flash for?” And he’s having, you know, a little nibble! I got out the fifth floor, it seemed like forever, and he’s challenging me. Anyway, I think I’ve answered everything and as I get out Norman gets in, Norman Frisby, my boss and I saw Norman later and I said, “What was that all about?! Sidney was asking me about the camera, what I was doing, what was that for, what was that for?” He said, “Well, he looked at me and winked! He said, ‘I’ve just been taking a bit out of your man!'”
The other lovely story with Sidney, with Sir. I’d got a phone call from Norman Frisby. “Sidney wants to see you in London tomorrow in Golden Square. “What’s that about?” “No idea.” So I go to Golden Square and I go in and see Miss Hazelwood, Sidney’s secretary, sit in the reception and eventually I get shown into his office, leather chairs, and sit there and there’s another couple of guys and he said, “Thank you, gentlemen, for coming.” He said, “Stewart, I want you to know you’ve volunteered to do my daughter’s wedding!” What! Jane, she was called. I had met her. I said, “Oh, OK Sir.” And the other guy was, I think, sound and lighting. Gave me a date. Jesus. This is a hide into nothing, this! Long story short, the day comes along. Nick Plowright’s going to film it. It’s outside of Brighton somewhere he lived so I’d gone to the house, I’d made contact and it was gonna be horse and cart to the Registrars and then back to a marquee in the grounds. Well, I’m there early doors like you do and it’s the one day I didn’t eat me breakfast. I had 2 or 3 cups of coffee! Not that I ever show nerves. I’d never shown I could ever do anything, no, no. It might be in there but I’ve always been a confident person. So, OK I do the pictures outside, the horse and cart and the carriage and I’ve now got to beat the carriage to the Registrars, which I did, and there they arrive, bang, bang, bang, do the wedding and I’ve now got to beat them back, which I did, we go in the gardens – fortunately a nice day – and one word was said to me, “Everything that moves, photograph it!” Really. I went around doing groups and then Sidney saying, “You’ve got enough of me now” and I thought, ‘God, I just need more of him’ but you wouldn’t go and say, “I really do need you here, please, Sir” so I went through his daughter, saying, “I need your Dad on this picture” so everything went smooth and I shot a dozen rolls of film I think and, as I say, everything went extremely smooth and well. I drove back that night, drove to the labs the next morning and said, “Whatever you do, make sure the dev’s fresh! Everything! Because if these go up the wall you won’t get the blame, it will be, ‘Did you hear Stew Darby made a mess of Sidney’s daughter’s wedding?!'” 25 years up the swanny, if you see what I mean! Anyway, everything was perfect which produced a dozen albums and I got a lovely letter from Sidney saying, ‘You made the day in the Bernstein’s family’ etc etc so you couldn’t ask for more than that really.
And the other nice story with Sidney. Graeme Kay and I went to London. Sidney had been honoured with an Oscar, a plaque, whatever it was, it was a face I think, for services to Television if I’m not mistaken. That would have been in the eighties I would say. Richard Attenborough presented him with this on stage and he came off stage and he gave it to me and he said, “Look after that for me.”!! I slept with it under me pillow I think!! You know, just ohh! I mean that was being trustworthy I think. I got on extremely well with David Plowright and Sir Denis Forman who, I think, in general thought quite a bit about me though that sounds boastful. I used to get Denis’ pictures done for him. He would involve me somehow. I’ll try and find that letter if you want to read it in a bit. Great times!
SD: I started to get a bit…what’s the word?
SD: Disillusioned, in the late eighties I would say, knowing that I’d really had the best out of this, really. But without going too much into detail I’d got a new boss who, to me was inexperienced and yeah, I wasn’t that keen on to be honest. But funnily enough I went to cover Sir Laurence’s funeral and we flew down there. I was put in charge of the Photographers and Film Crews to make sure they worked and what-have-you and there were just loads of photographers and crew and I went round just saying, “Guys, I’d normally be with you here, I’ll make sure you get everything.” And as all the guests arrived I said, “Please, don’t be going up to the cars with a 20mm, 28mm, it’s…please, I’ll make…”, you know. Anyway, the guests arrived. John Mills and the Plowrights and what-have-you and I made sure everybody worked. In fact the Chief Inspector thanked me for, you know, organising my sort of little part, you know. And then we went back to the house and David said, “Have you got a camera?” I said, “I’ve got one.” “Lady Plowright would like some doing”, you know, kind of thing. Lady, yeah, in other words Sir Laurence’s…
SK: Lady Olivier.
SD: Lady Olivier, I should have said. But, (let me think, where are we up to? How are we doing?)
SK: I think we’ve covered most of it to be honest.
SD: Truthfully I don’t think I ever had a failure. That sounds very boastful. I’ve never ever come back without anything and I would never have left a location if I didn’t think I’d got it in the can, within reason. Successes? Well, compliments. Successes? You know, it’s only when you look back over that period of time do I know how lucky I was to have gone through that period of great names. I mean, you know it sounds very, I helped Julie Goodyear become a star ’cause I photographed her from being an Extra and she’d say, “Stew, I’ve got a new pair of hotpants!” and I used to photograph her, get her out to the Press. Like Liz Dawn was an Extra. And I feel, you know, I was sort of part of that. I helped with what-have-you but the artists, the up-and-coming, Charlie Dance from Jewel. I used to go in the morning on location and I taught Charlie Dance and Tim Piggott-Smith barbershop harmony so we’re singing, [singing]“The old songs, the old songs…”, you know, in barbershop and that started because I was a great pal of Roy Jackson. Do you remember Roy?
SK: I do.
SD: Alan Claydon, Production Manager. Howard Arundel who was a Prompter. Anyway, we all used to sing. In fact, I got Jeremy Brett involved a few times. On Baker Street once, I used to always go up and go, [singing]“Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!”, you know what I mean, with the guys. And we got Jeremy involved, we stopped the show once! Me, Roy and Jeremy Brett singing, [singing]“You’ll never know how much I love you”, you know, dah dee dah dah, anyway…or was it that or was it…oh no, [singing]“I love you as I’ve never loved before…”, in harmonies. Oh!! And everybody’s clapping, the film crew’s stopped and were clapping and singing and, so anyway, as I say, Roy and Alan, we got together and we discovered that we could sing some barbershop and in those days the Stables Theatre Club used to have a residence cast of Maureen Lipmann and others, One Foot in the Grave guy, John Finch and the crew used to put shows on at the Stables and you know, artists, Pete Morran would be doing magic and we sang barbershop and all the Coronation Street people used to come and watch us! We’d put it on about 3 nights so, you know, so I started singing with that. In fact we entered the British Barbershop Competition on radio which Charlie Chester used to do and we came 11th in the country out of 12, you know! Yeah, that was fantastic!
SD: So, oh I was telling you about coming back on the plane after Lord Olivier’s funeral and I’m on the plane coming back with David Highet who became my big boss. Nice man, David. And he said to me, “Have you ever thought about leaving? You know, becoming redundant. Taking the deal?” And I said, “Well, I haven’t really.” and he put ideas in me mind and I just wondered at the time – this is well before I left – I just wondered at the time if he was trying to tip me off that things were gradually going to change, going downhill etc. In the end I decided to take the shilling. As I say, it had changed. This is October ’91  when I left and I’d been on holiday in the August so I came back, went to do a show called El Cid in Spain, came back and made me mind up. As you can imagine, over the years I’d made a lot of contact with colleagues, with TV Times, with magazines, with all of them and I put a feeler out saying, “What do you think?” and they all said, “Oh, if you go for an interview we’ll give you work”. So I left on the Friday, I think, had me first job on the Monday and I had 14 very good years as a freelance. I mean I’d done my stints at 8 hours or more, up mountains in pouring rain and although I did do some telly, it’s true, I got involved more with the magazines so I was working for the Sunday mag, the News of the World, the TV mags, the women’s mages – Take a Break, Bella, Chat, Women’s Own – and they pay very good money, you know. So, as I say, I had 14 years of that roughly which was excellent. Can’t complain at all. Obviously you wind down. They, picturing it as retire, picture it as change, they bring their own people in. You know the story, don’t you?
SD: But I can’t complain and I’m still in contact with quite a few of them. They’re retired now, of course, but I can only thank them for the work over the years, you know, really. (Just let me have a peep here.)
SK: I think you’ve covered most areas, you know.
SD: I’ll tell you what I never found. I never found or heard of any bullying. I never heard that one at all. Never. It could well have happened but…Granada as a Company – I’ve said that, it was fantastic. I loved Granada. Benefits – Yes, I earned a reasonable wage I would say. That was compared with newspaper photographers. Expenses were good. You know, I used to entertain artists, you know, buy them a sandwich, a pint in the old school, wherever I was, knowing damn well that…you know I’d be with Johnnie Finch, say, “need some pics this afternoon, John”. “What are you having?” “I’ll have a large…”, you know, that sort of thing. You got that. And it was good. Ex’s really in those days, I would say. Shares – We got for nothing, didn’t we? Company – I thought was fantastic. I really did. Going back there, you mention Mike Scott. I mean Mike Scott and the rest of them I photographed at Scene at 6:30, on the News, you know in those days Brian Armstrong, Scotty, Gay Byrne.
SK: Bill Grundy?
SK: Bill Grundy.
SD: Bill Grundy, who of course did What the Papers Say and the rest of it, you know, and Peter Wheeler, Peter Eckersley. Are these ringing bells?
SK: They are indeed! I think you did a very nice photograph of Anna Ford?
SD: Anna Ford, yeah! With Bob Greaves, she worked with.
SK: And Tony Wilson?
SD: Tony! Many, many times! Photographed Tony with interviewing L’Wren!
SK: Ah, that’s a wonderful photograph!
SD: Well you’ll notice, when you see it again, she’s got a ladder in her stocking one side and I asked her to swap legs so that, you know, you won’t see it! Oh, God, that was a…
SK: How did she respond to that?!
SK: Did she swap legs?
SD: Yes, she changed, well, ladder was showing in her, I don’t know if I’ve got it here.
SK: Don’t worry. I remember the photograph vividly!
SD: You remember it, yeah?
SK: Because she’s looking well away! She’s not in the least bit interested!
SD: I know! Yeah. But I only, you know, that was shot very quickly. There was no real time to line anything up. That’s why I say you generally had to be on the boil because if you missed it, you didn’t get another go so often. Really. Canteen – Brilliant in the old days, wasn’t it, really. The old school, The Stables – Fantastic. Used to go in, finish work and have a pint or two with friends. I thought it was very important it was in Manchester as the base. You must know the story about how they got there. Trade Unions – They were very good in the early days, my Godfather’s! I remember going on strike! Were you there, then? ’79 .
SK: ’79. Yeah, because they locked me up.
SD: And we went back for about 39%, didn’t we?!
SK: Yes. Huge increase!!
SD: Can you believe that’s possible?! Gees! The legacy of the Company – Fantastic. What you guys are doing now is brilliant because it’s going to be there, isn’t it, for the future. I mean I often see on here people saying, “God, that’s me Dad!” Because the daughter works there or the son. I really cannot think of anybody, not many, that would really have any squabbles with Granada and I worked, as I said, across the board. I loved Leslie Woodhead’s shows. Ohh! You could get your teeth into them! Red Guard, I can see the picture now! Just brilliant! Do you know what I mean? Because Leslie, what talent was Leslie, my God! But I must have done almost all his shows within reason and I never ever went to any that I couldn’t get something out of, you know, a good picture. A nice picture! No, I loved them.
SK: That’s great!
SD: I did!
SK: Shall we call that a day?
SD: Yeah, how do you think we’ve done? Alright?
SK: That’s fantastic! It’s really really good!
SD: Yeah, there could well be other odds and sods.
SK: I don’t want to tire you too much.
SD: I’m sorry?
SK: I don’t want to tire you too much!
SD: No, no!
SK: Thank you very much for that, Stew, it was really really good.
SD: Not at all!
[End of Recording]
[Start of Recording]
SK: This is Track 2, Stewart Darby.
SD: Kenneth Haigh, a well-known actor really, in the earlier days. A bit up himself, a bit kind of living it too much but we did a thing called The Prussian Officer and I had to do a picture for TV Times with his bat man, Warren Clarke, dusting him off and he gave me 2 minutes and walked off. And he had Make-up in tears, Wardrobe throwing chairs up the set and in the end he said I was catching his eye-line with me camera. What photographers never do is catch an actor’s eye-line. They stand off camera. They don’t, do you know what I mean?
SK: I know what you’re saying.
SD: Some distance away so you don’t, but he complained about the noise of the camera going off, had me thrown out of the studio. Not thrown, asked to leave. So I got very little. In the end he didn’t work for Granada for years. Many many years later we were filming in Llandudno, the end of the pier is the Grand Hotel, a play called, about a murder on the golf course. It’s not a bad story so don’t knock it. Again, Warren Clarke, again Kenneth Haigh etc. And I’m there, Gordon Fleming’s directing and I walked in, got me cameras and Phil Smith is sound, Harry Brooks on the boon and I do one frame and Harry says, “Oh, sorry, Stew!” And Gordon says, “Eh, you don’t have room for him and he’s got nothing to do with this show!”, you know, that sort of thing. Anyway, Roy Jackson said, “Come on, Gordon, he’s got a job to do!” That night we were in the Imperial where we stayed, Gordon’s come in the bar as I’m there, “Hey, Stew, got plenty of stuff today, lad? Two large scotch’s, please.” So he was just a bugger but we finish up in The King’s Head, which is on the tram station in Llandudno, you know that?
SK: Yeah, yeah.
SD: We are all in there, have a few beers and I decide to tell Kenneth Haigh what he’d done 10 years later. Really. I said (I don’t know where I got the courage from) “Can I tell you this story?” And I told him what a swine and he couldn’t apologise enough! That he’d got himself uptight in those days, you know. I think that is one of the very few times when I really, I didn’t have a big…I just said, “You were a bugger, mate, I’m telling you!” So there’s another!
[End of recording]
[Transcribed by V. Whymant, January 2016]