Chris Kerr on joining Granada

Joining Granada was for me a question of being in the right place at the right time. I had started life as a trainee vision mixer at Thames tv followed by a three years as a researcher on the children’s programme Magpie. I had wanted to try life outside telly for a time and had taken what I planned to be a short break working in the arts. But here I was, seven years later in 1980, running the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool having pretty much given up the idea of ever getting back into telly. Then I had a call from a Liverpool solicitor, Sir Harry Livermore whom I knew quite well; as a former Lord Mayor he had a finger in most of the arts pies in Liverpool. He had had a letter from Sidney Bernstein about Granada’s plans for a new studio in Liverpool; they were looking for someone to manage it. Harry said that as I was probably the only person in Liverpool who had worked in telly perhaps I’d better go for it. As it happened I had recently had some contact with Chris Pye who was then running the tiny Liverpool newsroom; Granada had a new series coming up called Camera (produced by a young chap called Steve Morrison) and wanted to mount an exhibition to coincide with it; would the Bluecoat be interested in hiring out the gallery? I quoted what I thought was a rather steep price and was a bit disappointed when Chris accepted it without question. So the show came and, on the opening night, a lot of GTV grandees including Sir Denis Forman who listened politely while I told him about our plans for a new cinema at the arts centre.

I duly wrote to Andrew Quinn asking to be considered for the manager’s job but it all went a bit quiet for some time because of the strike; there was even a small picket outside the Bluecoat. But, early in 1981, I had a call asking me to go and meet AQ and Rolf Mitson the head of Personnel – it was before the days of HR although Rolf was pretty good at the jargon. I sat in his office for quite a long time while he told me that the manager’s job had gone but that there might be other openings – he was a bit vague. After some time the door opened and David Plowright strode in. “Have you said yes?” he asked. “What’s taking you so long?” I said I still hadn’t been told what the job, if any, was. In a few typically terse words DP filled me in on the position, said that a bright young fellow from the Liverpool Daily Post called Highet had got the top job but would need an assistant. Why didn’t I meet him and see if he thought I was any good?

So I rang David Highet and we met at the Grande Bouffe, a restaurant I knew well (my wife had run it for a year or so and I’d occasionally waited tables there). I asked David how I would know him. “I’ll be the one with the winning smile” he said. He was right. Anyway we got on pretty well and I duly started work a few weeks later at offices in Exchange Flags while the new studio was being built across the way.

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