What I did find is that all the individuals I met might be divided into people who would encourage young people and others who’s kind of rough them up or resent them a bit. There were very few of the latter. I only met people who I thought were trying to help me. And the kind of example of that is that in promos you’d always be trying to get machinery but you hadn’t booked it, not because you were incompetent, but because things moved on and you hadn’t quite got round to it. People would help you. They’d say “yeah we can do that for you.”
As for whether it was paternalistic, I have heard people say that. But I kind of think you need to have a mentor or somebody that’s looking out for you or trying to guide your career. I didn’t get any sense of that. I’ve always felt a bit of an outsider. And maybe I was unusual. I didn’t really ever fit in snugly.
Were they encouraging to people to develop their own ideas? I talked to a lot of people about the BBC, and they say programmes at the BBC get made in spite of them, whereas Granada was just the very opposite.
I think the advantage that Granada had, and we’re going back to the early days here, is that it was a big beast in the jungle. We were one of the big five in a federation of fifteen. We had a big chunk of the schedule. So if we wanted to make a programme we had our share and we just commissioned ourselves to do it. At the commissioning level, not at my level. So programmes got made. And probably didn’t need a lot of people to convince to do that. All my ideas were through the local department. I never had any network ideas because I was usually assigned to an existing network programme. So I didn’t feel I was encouraged in that sense. But later on as a freelancer they were all over you. There was an awkward time when you’d get a three month contract or six month contract and if you were going to have an idea that you felt had to be made, you wouldn’t necessarily share it with Granada, it just didn’t work like that. So some of my best stuff never got near Granada. And I think they began to address that later on after my time with trying to incentivise people and say, you know, you will get a bit of a percentage.
You talked a bit about The Stables or the Old School as it then became. Is that were ideas were fermented?
I think it was a very rich place to be. I suppose it always helped to have a drink in your hand but I rarely went up through this strata, I wasn’t hanging around with executive producers at this time. I would be hanging around with my mates, people I was working with, some people I was playing football, because a bit of the family side was that we had a football team and a cricket team and we ran competitions with other ITV companies. But no, I think the example of make the This England where you’re just sitting having a drink with your mate and then it pops into your head, yes, but that also happened at lunchtime during allegedly working hours. So I think it was a force for the good.
Occasionally, I would go and break the ice with somebody I didn’t know, and I could think of one particular example, and that was a producer called Peter Eckersley, who was a drama producer. And I just wanted to go and talk drama because I wondered what it was about. And he was most generous, and we just sat there and talked about it, talked about the programmes they were making, and it was just a lovely time. But I didn’t make a habit of going round tapping people on the shoulder. It happened more organically I think.
And you mentioned the canteen?
The canteen was fantastic. Irma lives long in our memories. She came round with a tea urn actually, right round the building. Irma in the canteen – “CHIPS OR MASH!?” But very soon, she’d know whether you were a chips man or a mash man so you’d get it if your plate went forward. Very irritating if you felt like mash. But Irma was a legend. All of them actually. Pretty good fun. Not grumpy. And that was a great feature. There weren’t very many grumpy people at Granada. Only later on.