Anthea Boulton on leaving Granada – and the good friends she made there

It was Margaret Morris who commissioned me to write another drama, an adaptation of ‘Into the Whirlwind’ by Eugenia Ginsberg, which told the grim, real-life story of a wife and mother who suffered brutal imprisonment in Stalin’s Russia. However, by the time the script was written, and paid for, Margaret had left Granada. Peter Eckersley, who took over her job, wrote me a kind note saying it was a terrific script but it didn’t fit Granada’s plan, and I should send it to the BBC. By that time, though, slots for one off, ninety-minute dramas were fast disappearing. In any case I had other things on my mind. David and I were now married, and by 1970 we had a baby on the way. But that play came back to haunt me. When giving birth I needed to be sedated. As the anaesthetist stuck the needle into my arm, I saw the faces of white-coated torturers bending near and laughing as I tried to fight them off, yelling “you brute, you brute!”. A scene out of my own play!

With several other women I put an urgent case to Denis Forman that Granada should run a crèche, but we had no success. On this matter our otherwise liberal, progressive boss was immoveable. I was left with the choice of leaving Granada or organising a nanny. So, I gave up my permanent job but continued to freelance for GTV during the seventies, working as north west researcher on Bamber Gascoigne’s series The Christians and writing reports for the Granada Foundation.  However, by then we had two young children, so I looked for opportunities closer to home. BBC Radio Blackburn, later BBC Radio Lancashire, was just nine miles up the road and there I found myself free to suggest ideas, then research, write and present them – leaving a kindly secretary holding the baby!  

Those were exciting days at Granada. Quay Street was home to a critical mass of talent which helped energise the company, the city of Manchester, and the whole of ITV.  It was economics, as usual, that ended the dream.  The Thatcher media revolution meant big players such as Sky entered the broadcasting field, creating a situation in which economies of scale counted more than cultural and regional values. London became, once more, the centre of life where broadcasting was concerned 

I left Granada but stayed in touch with former colleagues, especially as David’s career continued, editing World in Action and writing and producing drama documentaries. Many of the friends I made back in the sixties are no longer with us. David and I still see Leslie and Yvonne Woodhead, and we’ve had great holidays with Claudia Milne and Mike Whittaker, and with Ray and Luise Fitzwalter before Ray’s tragic death. We visited Denis Forman just before he died, sharing memories and our passion for Mozart. Elegant as ever, he suggested we share a glass of champagne with him. We drank a toast to the glories of Granada past. I didn’t mention the crèche. 

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