Did you enjoy it?
Did I enjoy what?
Working on Coronation Street?
Oh, yeah, I really loved it. It was great having that amount of… it was like having a toy box and you just… yeah, we took risks, but… inevitably, with any job you do, I discovered, you have to stick your head above the parapet. And any advice I give to people is that you can only expect 50% to like you, and 50% will hate you if you ever do a job like that. And you’ve got to be fairly undaunted about that. And that’s the way it goes. You’ve got to be fairly fearless. And you know that you’re only going to be there for a time. But I think, if I say so myself, I understood the parameters of that job and I understood the history and the traditions and I’d been brought up – I’d watched the damn show for years with my granny in the olden days. She loved Stan and Hilda. But I wasn’t scared to give it a kick up the bum. And I realised the reasons you had to give it a kick up the bum.
When I was there I remember huge complaints about anything you did. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted because every so often there was… I always remember this time I brought in the Battersbys and they were seen as horrible and vulgar. There were tons of complaints. … And Cadbury’s, who were the sponsors of it, were raising concern. And I said, “What do you want me to do? I’m either going to do the job, or you can sack me. We’ll find out soon enough if it’s working or not working.”
And even to this day it’s a very harsh position to be in, that. I notice the latest ones, whatever he’s called, they’ve said “sacked!”… Of course, I made the very wise move of sacking myself and that’s what it was quoted as in the paper – “the axe man axes himself!” I got out while the going was good, as well. I think as a producer of Coronation Street, in all seriousness, or EastEnders, I think you’ve really only got two or three years max before you get tired and before the job becomes very, very demanding.
We went in, made a lot of high impact stuff, but by that time, Ann McManus and Maureen Chadwick who were working on the show had come up with Bad Girls. Nick Elliot, who was the Head of Drama at ITV Commissioning had said, “What are you going to be doing next?” I got offered the job of Head of Drama at BBC Scotland. I remember Nick saying, “Don’t go to the BBC, whatever you do!” Anyway, we touted Bad Girls and I left in 1998, I think after 18 months. But it was a great rollercoaster and I loved working with Peter Whalley and John Stevenson, you know, real masters. Those were the people you could remember and they could tell stories. And to watch them synthesise stories and create them out of… and to see ideas. When it worked, it was the pantheon of the gods. But you have to remember that sometimes it could be shuffling old men coming in from the public library.
And your period was a successful period for the show, wasn’t it, in terms of numbers and-?
The ratings went up, yeah. And the next year, Christmas was “poor EastEnders, it’s on the way down”. You always remember this.