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.