David Boulton’s memories of ‘Scene at 6.30’

I was a very poor press officer because I wasn’t any good at publicising things and being a PR man and after a fairly short while (I think about a year) Sidney summoned me and said, ‘How are you getting on?’ and I said “I hope I’m doing alright.” And he said, ‘Well, I think you are pretty useless as a press officer!’ And I thought, oh well, back to Tribune or somewhere like that! And he said, ‘I want to send you up to Manchester to work on Scene at 6.30.” Well, Scene at 6.30 was the daily news magazine programme and it was already a renowned programme with people like Mike Scott, Brian Truman, Bill Grundy, Chris Kelly as presenters and wonderfully fresh, very Northern Mancunian daily programme. I loved the idea of going up to Manchester so I accepted that with alacrity so off I went to join the team of Scene at 6.30. The only problem was that on my very first day when I arrived nobody had bothered to tell Mike Murphy, who was the Producer of Scene at 6.30, of this new recruit so I walked into the office and it was basically ‘Who are you and why are you here?’ And he wasn’t very pleased when I said, “Well, Sidney Bernstein sent me!” So it needed some sorting out!

Something was happening with the Transport General Workers’ Union and Frank Cousins and he said, ‘I want a 3-minute profile of Frank Cousins on the programme at 6.30 tonight. That was my instruction. I thought, well, how do I go about this? I’d never even seen a television script! I had a vague notion that the words that people spoke were down on the right-hand side of the page and there were all sorts of technical stuff that I didn’t understand on the left-hand side of the page so before starting the script I looked around the newsroom to see if I could find somebody that might help me put a script together and the only person who looked friendly was a very attractive girl who was sitting at her desk and I asked her if she would show me a script and she did and to cut a long story short, reader, I married her a little later – that was Anthea, my wife – and she showed me how to do my first script, she showed me where Telecine was and where to get hold of a bit of film, where Video was and how to get hold of a bit of video and I stuck together 3 minutes profile of Frank Cousins on my first day. From then on I got on very well in the Scene at 6.30 team. I think after about 6 months Mike Murphy left to move on to other things and (maybe it was a bit more than 6 months, maybe it was a year or so) and I found myself the Producer of Scene at 6.30 which I ran for maybe a year or so.   …….

It was certainly a very Northern programme both in its accents and in its, of course it was a regional programme and its mandate was to be a regional programme and to reflect and report on the region. Considerable efforts were made to take the programme outside Manchester itself. Particularly there was quite a lot of political pressure to do items in Liverpool because Liverpool always felt left out and very always second-rate compared with Manchester but inevitably because our studios were in Manchester and because it was a daily programme that meant going out, usually short distances, doing things locally that Manchester was very much the centre of the programme. And I mean it had a very irreverent northern anti-metropolitan feel about it. I think it made people feel this is a good place to be and we’ve got our own voice. That was the critical thing. It was a Voice of the North.

And no doubt, I assume, sat alongside other regional programming?

Yes, it did sit alongside other regional programming but at the beginning when I was there, there was less regional programming than developed a little bit later when we started developing regional current affairs strands, regional Arts strands and even regional light entertainment strands. I had, initially, less to do with that. I had my hands full with the Scene at 6.30. And ones’ hands really were full because with a team like Grundy and Mike Scott, Truman and so on, these were very big figures! I mean they were stars! They were stars in the Northwest and I discovered a star for myself. Alongside the Scene at 6.30 team was the News Desk, producing its little 3-minute bulletins and producing those bulletins, day after day, was Bob Greaves and Bob Greaves, I thought, was a very funny man, a very clever man, a delight in the office and I thought why isn’t this guy on television? And so I thrust Bob Greaves onto television, onto Scene at 6.30 and before very long Bob effectively took over the Scene at 6.30 as people like Brian Truman and Chris Kelly moved away to do other things. Mike Scott moved away from emphasis on presenting into becoming an Executive Producer. Bob really became the voice and the face of the North.

Comments are closed