Ann Lewis recalls about the challenges she faced when she tried to change her role

So you were a secretary but you obviously had ambitions to be more than that. I wondered if you even applied for other jobs?

I did, I did. In my efforts to get out of the secretarial role, I applied, there was a job came up as a studio camera operator. I think at that time the policy was they interviewed all internal candidates so I applied and they asked me what my husband thought. ‘What did your husband think about you being a camera operator?’ I said ‘Let’s suspend this interview. You go and interview him first and if he agrees, you can interview me’ Losers. Anyway I didn’t get the job. I wasn’t surprised about that but also in that interview they asked me about physical strength. They said these cameras are quite big, do you think you could manage a camera in the studio?’ I looked at them and I went… There was a guy in Studio Two who was a camera operator and I tell you he must have been six stone wet through. I said I could take, whatever his name was, and his camera and sling him across Studio Two. I said ‘You should see me in Tesco’s with a wonky trolley full of food, I’m a genius and they’re not hydraulically operated’. Anyway that wasn’t to be. And then I had a couple of attempts at researcher’s boards and they just couldn’t see through the fact that I was a secretary and that was it.

And do you think it was the job that you were doing or the fact that you were a woman or…?

I think the one with the camera operator was very definitely about… But it was the seventies, the early seventies and these ideas were prevalent everywhere. The idea of even saying ‘What does your husband think about it?’ It’s laughable now but in those days I was quite bolshie really which is probably why it led me to make the response I did in the interview. But I mean to be honest I wouldn’t have done anything different now really. I thought it would be best to let them know who I am. If they don’t want me like this then they don’t want me. I wouldn’t fit in anyway. But some of it, some of it was to do with, I suppose it was to do with the demarcation lines in terms of my job. Everybody knew that I didn’t operate like a secretary, well I did that as well, but they also knew, because they’d seen and one of my stories ended up as a bloody World In Action because it was me that drove that. I knew that this guy had something and I researched it, I checked things out and took it to the next level. So they knew I had nous and stuff but I don’t think they knew, they trusted my raw, if they thought I had any raw talent they thought perhaps it had been too raw. Hadn’t been to university, hadn’t come up through any of that, those channels and also I was just a working class kid.

Did you feel, did you get any help from the union, because presumably you were in the union?

I was the shop steward.

So what union were you in?

NATKE – the kine and theatre and entertainment union. But, no, not really because they weren’t really ready to take things on like that, certainly NATKE. ACTT had a bit more ‘oomph’ but I wasn’t eligible for one of their union cards. I didn’t even take it to them to be honest. There was no legislation in them days anyway. You just thought ‘Here we are, I recognize this – this is what is’. So I just used to fight my way through it the best I could.

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