Arthur Taylor on how he came to join Granada

I was teaching. I was lecturing in further education colleges. I did have a slight connection with Granada in the very, very early days. When I was doing my post-graduate certificate of education, they called it, in Manchester, done my degree in London, came to Manchester to do this postgrad thing and I got an occasional job as an extra on Granada dramas of one sort or another. Now, the only thing I can remember, I did several of them, you know, you were part of a crowd and doing this and doing that, the one thing I can remember is that I was on Coronation Street. Coronation Street is such a well-documented thing these days by historians, I’m sure somebody can track this down. But it was a scene in Weatherfield’s first Italian restaurant. It’s a very small restaurant. So I’m sitting with my girlfriend, and in comes Elsie Tanner with somebody, Pat Phoenix, and sits down at the table next to me and tries spaghetti for the very first time, puts her head up and says, “Eee, it’s like eating tripe through a veil!” Now, that could only have been Tony Warren! Coronation Street is full of lines like that. That must have been 1961, very early days. Well, I didn’t think anything of it, it was just about making money. So I went away, I was working in a college in Portsmouth and living in Gosport, on the other side of the water. And I was very friendly at that stage with Mike Beckham, who subsequently became a famous World in Action director. He was in his early days at Granada. And the reason we were friendly was that both girlfriends at the time were friends because they were both doing French at Manchester University, so Mike and Joan used to come down to Portsmouth. And we had quite a good laugh there, we had a flat in the Georgian terrace. We could see the whole of the Solent, with the liners going back and forth, I had a dinghy in Portsmouth harbour which I used to sail. We used to go to pubs. I had a big thing going with the Labour Party, I was the chairman of the party. So Mike used to come down, and he said to me, “You should come and join Granada.” And then I must have had a kind of seven-year itch or eight-year itch, and I had a kind of epiphany. I suddenly realised that I was getting older and older, and delivering the same lectures, and the students were always the same age. There are always young. There were always being replaced by younger ones. And I thought, “This is what I really want to do for the next umpteen years?” So finally I said to Mike, “Okay, what do I do?” He said, “Well, I can’t get you a job but I can put in a word and get you an interview and see how you go along.” And so he did. I got an interview with Mike Scott in Golden Square in London, which was fine. He was a very nice guy.
Somebody, years later, told me that what you needed to be a producer was to bullshit with confidence, and I think I must have done that. So he then said, “Come up to Manchester and we’ll have another interview and we’ll give you a screen test.” Well, I wasn’t interested in screen tests; I didn’t want to be on the other side of the camera, but I went along and met some very interesting people. Mike was there, there was a guy called Peter Stevens who had been a theatre manager in Nottingham with John Neville, made a big name for himself, had been headhunted to Granada to create The Stables, had done that, and – as Peter said to me – his great triumph was not The Stables, but actually getting a bar in The Stables, because Granada up to that stage had been a dry company. So Stephen was there, Mike was there, Joyce Wooller was there, and we chatted and we had interviews and this, that and the other, they sent me down to the studio and I did a piece to camera, met Eddie Shah, would you believe – Eddie Shah was the floor manager – and I did a silly piece about Playboy, suggesting that all American youth must be very surprised when they first saw their girlfriend naked, because they didn’t have a staple in her navel – that’s a very old joke. So they said, “Fine,” and I got the job, on a three-month contract, as a researcher, on a third of the salary that I was getting as a lecturer. I mean, you couldn’t do that these days! And I sometimes look back and think, “How did I do it?” But in those days, I knew that I could go back into teaching, and I pathetically believed that I could do anything, and somehow I would give this a go.

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