I was working in Selfridges in the co-ordinates department, just literally to earn money. And my mum was a teacher and I had a half day and I was lighting the fire for her before she got home from school, and it was the beginning of November, this time of year, and I was shoving The Guardian into the fireplace and putting a match to it and just as the flames were licking up I saw Granada Television wants researchers. So I pulled it out and answered the ad.
But by then I’d tried so many times to get jobs in various media things that I knew, because I had no experience, not to write to personnel or human resources because you never got anywhere. You would just get rejected. So my brother had been an assistant film editor briefly at Granada, so I phoned him and told him to find out for me what this show was about and who the producer was. And the producer was John Birt. So I wrote, “Dear Mr Birt, I’m sure this is the only application you’ll get from the co-ordinates department of Selfridges.” And that got me the interview. It was simply that.
And what year was that?
1968. He took it very seriously, Birt, unlike most people. He shortlisted a number of people. I was interviewed in London by Marian Nelson. Those that were shortlisted, there were about 10 or 12 of us, went up to Manchester for two days for sort of being given exercises, research tasks to perform, and interviewing. I was one of the lucky ones.
I remember that it was a board, it wasn’t just John. They really took it seriously. And I can’t remember who it was but somebody, I think it was Leslie Woodhead actually, said, “So in five years’ time, what would you like to be doing?” The sort of standard question. And I said “Working on World in Action.” Because I loved World in Action. I’d grown up with it. When it started in ’63, I remember it when it started. It was just so completely different from Panorama. And I think that is what really got me the job because they loved World in Action too!