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 Live – whereunder 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.