Anna Ford describes how she came to join Granada

I taught for the Open University in social science as staff tutor for a time, but by this time my marriage was coming to an end, and I wanted to get a divorce. So we decided the first one to get a job out of Belfast would leave. And so I left with a suitcase of things, did my divorce in Manchester for £16, it didn’t cost a lot. And rang up Gus Macdonald at Granada Television saying, “Hello. Six years ago…”

I’d met Gus, because, oddly enough, although I didn’t accept the job in ’68, they invented a programme, which  wasn’t on air for long, called Octopus. And it was a very peculiar programme with happenings. It was the first Granada programme I was on. ….But during that time, I met Gus. So I rang up six years later and said, “Do you remember you offered me a job? Do you think it’s still available? Because I’ve been in Belfast and I’m just organising my divorce, and I haven’t got a job, I might go back to the Open University.” And he said, “You’re a bit old now.” I said, “I’m not all that old!” So he said, “Well, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll give you a three-month contract on World in Action.” I thought, “Fine.” As a researcher. So having no experience in television, or of researching, I ended up, in 1974, at a desk in the World in Action office, sitting next to lovely Polly Bide, who became a lifelong friend, and Jane Cousins, and various other wonderful people, and starting to research programmes for World in Action. And about two or three weeks later, Jeremy Fox came into the room and said, “Oh, the IBA have been on to us, because we don’t have enough women on screen.” He said, “You, you and you, go and make a film. And we might employ you on Granada Reports.” Well, that was Polly, Jane and I. And we were sent out to make films. Well, I knew nothing about television cameras, and I knew nothing about television. I was making it up as I went along. And Polly said, “I don’t want to be on screen.” She’d worked for The Economist Intelligence Unit. Jane Cousins had written a book. I’d been doing other things. And anyway, we were sent out, and I was lucky enough to be given this wonderful cameraman called Mike Popley. He was fabulous. And he said, “What have they asked you to do?” And I said, “They’ve asked me to go to Rochdale and find out why, when this woman died recently in a row of houses, the neighbours didn’t discover that she’d died for six months.” And he said, “There’s a story there somewhere.” So I thought, “Well, maybe she was very unpopular, and they just didn’t like her and hoped she gone away or something.” So Popley said, “Get in the car. We’re going to Rochdale.” So then got the car, went to Rochdale. And he said, “What’s the guts of this story? Write it down, no longer than 30 seconds.” So I wrote it down on a piece of paper. And he said, “Learn it by heart, go back up the street, stop when I tell you to. And then when I give you a shout, walk towards me telling the story. But remember to count three before you set off. Otherwise, the man who is doing the sound won’t be able to get his scissors in.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. But anyway, I walked down the street telling the story, and then he said, “Fine. The next thing you do is you turn and you knock on the door to talk to the neighbour.” So I knocked on the door and interviewed the neighbour. Topped and tailed the story. Took it back, put it in the lab, wrote a script, dubbed it, all totally new. And that was it. That, by the way, is all the training I ever got, ever, to be on television. It was Mike Popley. Anyway, so then Jeremy Fox came in and said, “Right, you’re going to be on Granada Reports next Monday.” And I said, “What am I going to be doing?” And he said, “You’re going to be in the studio.” And I said, “Right…” And he said, “Probably get yourself some clothes.” I didn’t know what to wear. “Nothing that strobes.” So then I went to talk to Bob Greaves and Bob said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be in the studio, I’ll look after you. It’ll be absolutely fine, dear, don’t bother doing all of that, it’ll be fine.” So, within a few weeks of arriving back, I was in the studio on Granada Reports.

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