Alastair Mutch reflects on his Granada years

I think, overall, I was born at the right time. I think I was extremely lucky. Apart from the first few years of bombs, we had a long era of peace.
I ended up at Granada, which was a fabulous place to work. Then three or four years with Ray (Fitzwalter) and Luise (Nandy) (at Ray Fitzwalter Associates), which was also great. It was a time when the pension was much better than it is now, as a final salary pension. I couldn’t have been born at better time or be luckier, really.

And as I say, I’ve tended to drift, but there had been other occasions where I’ve been offered work which would have gone pear shaped. Bill Dickson, for example, said to me, “If you want to go anywhere, laddy, you’ll have to work at one of the operating companies, theatres or wherever.” And I said, “Well, I’m not going off to another part of the world.” I said, “My wife’s got a job teaching. My girls are in good schools. I’m not going to cause any upheaval. I refuse to go.” Then they sent one of the accountants from upstairs, a chap called Jim Whitaker, a very, very good accountant; much better than me, that’s for sure. And of course, they then sold the company. He was cut off. He lost his Granada contact.

Any individuals that we should remember with fondness from the Granada years?

Well, I suppose if you talk about liking, I mean Fred Boud was a great character. He was a charming man, very kind, thoughtful. And Leslie Diamond I mentioned was absolutely fascinating. Denis Forman was a true giant of television. He could be a bit acerbic at times. One of my early meetings was when they were undertaking a programme called World Tonight, which was a sort of follow on from World in Action. The idea was that it would have three locations, New York, London, Tokyo, or wherever, and look at the same story from different international perspectives. I was involved in the initial costing of it. One day I knocked on Forman’s door. His secretary wasn’t sitting outside so I knocked on the door went in, and he was dictating. I said, “Do you mind if I interrupt for a moment?” And he said, “You already have!” I mean, latterly we became really quite good mates. Because Bill Dickson had been his financial advisor and tax man, and when Bill died, at the funeral, Denis said “Would I take over?” So I became quite close to him and his family over the years until 2013, when he died. Then his wife died later the same year.

Perhaps what is not generally known is that when Plowright was going through the mill, and of course sacked, Denis Forman was Group Deputy Chairman. And I think Plowright felt he could’ve done more to save him.And whether he couldn’t or didn’t want to, I don’t know, but at any rate, Plowright had a very, very bitter taste in his mouth; wouldn’t talk to Forman at all. So having been very close over all those years, it all became very sad at the end. So I don’t think they were really ever reconciled.

Plowright was an impressive man to work with, but in some ways, very naive. He always used to say that Ray Fitzwalter was his conscience, keep him on the straight and narrow. But I remember after Steve had that great success with My Left Foot, Plowright thought the future was feature films. And they called me in to do some costings, and they were proposing to start one a month. I mean both of them are sitting there saying, “Yes, we can do this.” I said, “You cannot do this. It is utterly impossible.” “No, no, no, we can do it.” I said, “You cannot do it.” They said, “All right then, one every three months.” I said, “You can’t do one every three months. Just look the teams you’ve got to get together and the work has to be done; utterly impossible.” Anyway, that scheme died.

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