Coming up with programme ideas

One was quite regularly writing memos to Ray Fitzwalter or David Boulton, trying to persuade them to do ideas that you’d come up with, usually for World in Action. I hadn’t been at Granada very long, I’d only really been there about a month, and I wrote a memo to David Boulton and Ray Fitzwater saying, “I’ve got this great idea for a programme: a history of the Labour movement, 12 one-hours.” And I detailed it all. And much to my surprise, got called upstairs, and a serious discussion took place about it. And I was kind of, “Wow.” I mean, it never happened, but there was a serious discussion. What I do remember from that discussion was that David Boulton said to me, “Who would you have present it?” And me saying somebody probably fairly obvious. And then David saying, “Anthony Burgess would be good doing this, wouldn’t he? He’s from Manchester, and he’s got opinions.” And you did this all the time at Granada, you were writing, coming up with ideas, and those ideas were taken on board. Very early on in my Granada career, I’d read an article about Second World War deserters, or even post Second World War, people who had deserted from the army, and were still deserted. And I said to Steve, “This would make a good programme, to go and talk to them.” He said, “Yeah, a great programme. Half an hour, local, really good.” And he gave me a budget. “Go off and make it! Put adverts in the paper.” So I put adverts in various papers, including, as Steve said to me, the Racing Post. “Put an advert in the Racing Post! That’s the kind of paper they’ll read.” And I got all these responses. So I started following them up, I remember going to see a guy who lived in the flats down the bottom of Scotland Road in Liverpool. And most of them had very genuine reasons for deserting: wives got pregnant or were having affairs, or they were missing their children. And they deserted for very genuine reasons. And it would have made a great film. But just at that very point, the strike started and it disappeared.

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