Alastair Mutch’s memories of Sidney Bernstein

I had my first meeting with Sidney Bernstein at that point. I was working in, in the outer office, two secretaries and me. Must have been the end of the long hot afternoon. I lent back and stretched. Sidney walked in right on cue. “Did I wake you up?”

He was God, really. And he had an influence in every sphere of every company he ran. But even more terrifying was his secretary, Miss Hazelwood. If she came on the phone, you were going, “What is it now?” I liked Sidney. But I have to say it was quite similar when you think of the latter period with Robinson and Allen, where the hatchet flew in all directions. It flew quite a bit when I was there. The Sales Manager went, my Chief Accountant went, the Chief Engineer went the General Manager (before Fred Boud) went, and Fred Boud was later side-tracked down to films. There were others that I can’t remember.

I would think it was Sidney. I was not privy to what was going on in the background, but I would think it was Sidney. So the office manager also went, Dennis Pook. Nearly every departmental head was changed. So it was an interesting time.

Once Fred Boud went, a chap called Leslie Diamond came in. Leslie was a great guy. Didn’t do a lot of work, I have to say. You walked into his office. “Oh, sit down. Sit down.” And you would sit down and we start talking about his life, which could fill a book. Comfortably. For example, he’d worked in radio before, and he’d been in Cyprus, and he read out the state of emergency announcement on Cypriot radio. I won’t say he knew Archbishop Makarios, but he certainly knew his brother because his brother, obviously also Makarios, conducted his wedding to a very young girl. He’d only been out a few times, chaperoned by two ladies at all times. And they stayed together until he died. He’d been in the war. He’d been shot down. He had been captured by the Germans. He’d escaped on one of these marches at the end of the war. He set up the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria. He was manager there. It was owned a third Granada, a third Northern Nigerian government, and a third EMI.

And another interesting insight into Sidney’s technique. Leslie was obviously new to Granada, and he was asked to do a report. And he said, “Yes, certainly, Mr Sidney. When for?” He said, “Tomorrow morning.” He said, “But you know, it’s afternoon now.” So he worked all night, got a secretary, and produced this report, saw Sidney in the morning, Sidney picked it up, tore it in half, and threw it in the bin. Didn’t even look at it. Now I can only assume it was testing him under quite extreme pressure, having been up all night and producing this report, and seeing it go in the bin.

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