I saw an advert in the Guardian, as I’m sure lots of people did. They had a page of media and creative jobs on a Monday and it was for a promotions scriptwriter, whatever that was, I’d no idea. I’d been looking for jobs and I wanted a real gold-standard company to work for. I’d looked at all the journalist training schemes like Thomson and Reuters. This came along, and I thought, “Let’s look at it”. And it was Granada. I remembered the Granada ident, which is ‘From The North’. It was kind of muscular. It was a big thing in my life. Even though I was living near Chichester on the south coast, I knew what Granada was: a big part of the ITV federation.
Had you been at university then?
Yes, no. well… If you wind the clock back I’d actually applied to Granada when I was 17 and I’d asked, “How do I become a director at Granada?” And the personnel officer, a guy called Bob Connell, he wrote back and he said, “My advice is you go through the camera department and you work your way up from assistant to cameraman to DOP, and maybe you’ll be a director one day.” Which was odd advice in a way, because I didn’t meet many people at Granada in my time who’d ever come through the camera department, there are one or two. Maybe he was thinking of the big feature film directors like Stanley Kubrick, Nick Roeg; they certainly worked with cameras.
Anyway, that was well before university. I was taking a lot of cine film on my own and that was something I obviously brought to my interview. But I did go to university. I did French and Education which was fairly useless, and made films on the side. After university I joined the Observer as a researcher, which was mainly cutting stuff out to create an archive of useful stuff that journalists were going to lean on, and to be on the end of the phone for people who wanted to know how to spell ‘SWAPO’ and what it stood for. I was also a researcher for Chris Brasher’s Breath of Fresh Air series in The Observer.
What year did you see the advert?
1978. I’d done a few other things. I’d worked as a printing management trainee, but got sacked from that for fraternising with the printers. I knew I always wanted to do something in television or film, so when this opportunity at Granada came up, I thought, yes, go for it. Actually, I didn’t stand much of a chance because I think hundreds of people would have gone for it. But I threw my hat in the ring, got on the train and made the perilous journey north, and turned up at Granada.
It was the first time I’d ever had a team of people interviewing me. A board. I can’t remember who was on it. People like Steve Morrison, Joe Rigby, head of programme planning, who would be my immediate boss, and a few other grandees. I can’t remember who they were. It was all going as it did, I didn’t know if it was going well or terribly badly. Then they asked at the end, “Have you got any questions?” And I’d done my research. I’d bought the ITV Yearbook 1979, in other words, a year ahead, just published. So I knew they made various local programmes like This Is Your Right and Aap Kaa Hak. And I said, “What on earth is Aap Kaa Hak?” And that started a great discussion in the room. They more or less fell about laughing and started having a go at each other right across from me. I just kind of leaned back and enjoyed the spectacle. Then I thought, “I’ve got a train to catch.”
Anyway, the interview was over and I just hadn’t a clue how it had gone. The next think I knew was a few weeks later when my dad rang me up saying there was a letter for me and it was marked ‘Manchester’, and did I want him to open it. So I said yes. He did, and it was offering me the job, promotions scriptwriter. And I remember my dad saying, “I throw my hat up into the air!” He was so thrilled – I think even more thrilled than me. So that’s how it all began.