It was the first gay rights civil march in London, to Hyde Park on a Saturday. We had two crews out, one followed a group of gay rights people from Liverpool and I went down to London and filmed the equivalent London group of people who were marching to Hyde Park. So it was filmed on a Saturday and it was big rally in Hyde Park; bands, speeches. It finished about eight o’clock so we got the last train back and got back to Manchester at midnight on Saturday.
Of course it was all on film in those days, you didn’t have the luxury of today of video editing and so on. So the two producers, we got our heads together and the other producer agreed he would work through ‘til seven o’clock on Sunday night and would prepare a rough cut, assembly of material. I would come in at seven or eight o’clock on Sunday night and work through the night until Monday to get the programme out on Monday. So I came in on the Sunday night at half past seven and not a frame had been cut.The producer told me “It’s impossible, it can’t be done.” I said, “Have you told Ray Fitzwalter the editor about this?” He said, “Yes I said I would get a studio programme ready just in case.”
We didn’t actually have a standby programme; the idea was you always had a standby programme which was timeless. It could be anything; conversations with a trade unionist was one of our standard ones, conversations with an old aged pensioner. They were timeless, you could slip them in anywhere, but we didn’t have one. Ray said, “What do you think?” I said, “I’ll have a go and if we can’t make it you’ve just got to get somebody ready to come into the studio.” So I worked through the night and it began to take shape.
You had to time it back from transmission in those days. Transmission was eight, and if dubbed the film, it probably took an hour which took it back to seven.
Then you had to neg cut it and match it up and get the film which took another three hours so you were back to four o’clock in the afternoon. You had to be finished basically by four o’clock. Ray came into the cutting room at three o’clock, he hadn’t seen a frame yet. He said, “I must see this film.”
I said, “You can’t see it, at this stage now it will take forty minutes to show it to you which will take us up to twenty to four. So that leaves twenty minutes for your comments.” He said “Oh my god.” So I pushed him out of the room and we worked on. It came to a point, at five o’clock, we were losing the battle. I said to Roland (Coburn, the film editor), “I think we’ve lost this one, we’re not going to get there.”
We had cut about twenty-three minutes of the film which was meant to run at twenty-eight with commercials. It did actually go out, we did make it but what happened was we called it a draw at twenty-three minutes. What we did then, the Tom Robinson band was the main band on stage with their famous hit ‘We are family’ a big gay rights number. So the last three and a half minutes of the programme was the band playing ‘We are family’.
So that was the worst programme I ever made in terms of tension, sweat and certainly not the best by a long way, but interesting.