David Highet recalls how the programme ‘Exchange Flags’ came about

We were doing news inputs. Granada Reports was edited by Rod Caird in Manchester and anchored by, I think, Bob Smithies, and Tony (Anthony) H. Wilson and Greavsey, Bob Greaves and various other very experienced folk. Roger Blyth who worked as a journalist, a freelance journalist on Merseyside for many years, fell naturally into the role of being a TV presenter. He was extremely good and was our anchor at our end but quite soon I formed the view, with my colleagues, that we were being wasted and I went to Plowright and I went to Sir Denis Forman, the chairman, and said, “We’ve got a studio, we’ve got a crew, we’ve got the enthusiasm – we’re bored! We’re bored stiff!” We do our insert into a half-hour evening programme and, as I recollect, there may have been a short lunchtime programme, we did a squirt into that; the rest of the time the lads and lasses sat around chatting or whatever. It was not good and it reinforced to me what had been said by Professor Lewis Lesley and others that really this was a bit of a sop! So fair play, Denis and David Plowright and Mike Scott said something must be done and we looked around for other opportunities and from that came an afternoon programme called Exchange Flags. Exchange Flags was one of the first chat shows, I suppose, in early 1980s and we had, Shelley Rohde presented it and Susan (I’ll get to it in the moment).

Was it Susan Brooks?

Sue Brooks. Susan Brooks did a cookery segment and there was a small studio audience and we had virtually anyone who was in town, either passing through, appearing in the local theatres, whatever, we would grab them and put them on the show so we had such diverse characters on one show as Diana Dors and Norman Tebbit, which is a bit of fun. Of course we had to have a band as well and once you get a band playing, there goes your ‘quiet enjoyment’! And the poor people who worked in Dunlop’s, just through the dividing doors of the studio going into the rest of the building, the poor people from a company called Dunlop’s – the rubber people – would bang on the doors howling in anguish but they weren’t heard because of the noise that the band was making! And I would see how long this would go on before I had a telephone call from the agent on behalf of the owners. And they would say, ‘David, you really do have to turn it down a bit!’ And I said, “Right, I’ll go down to the studio now and tell them to stop.” So I would have a cup of coffee then I would wander around the newsroom for a bit and go and have a chat to a few folk and then when I heard the music stop I would go downstairs and say to Shorty “Naughty boy!” and he’d say, ‘OK, boss, I won’t do it again!’ which of course he did the next day! So we had a love-hate relationship with our fellow tenants but we sought to get round that by using our Green Room to have very good parties and the tenants became well accustomed to hobnobbing with the likes of Norman Tebbit and others because after the show was over we would say, “Come round for drinkies. Love it!” And by in large it kept them in their box! That was part of my job. Part of what I did.


1 Comment

  • christine stafford says:

    Would anyone know how i could hunt down a copy of this show “Exchange Flags.”
    My husband was on an episode as a child in 1984 the episode was on computers…
    He was an 8 year old first year of juniors.. He has not seen this footage and i would love to hunt it down for him as a gift for his birthday in september…
    If anyone has any ideas or advice i would love to hear back from you.
    Christine Stafford.

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