David Highet remembers Mike Short’s innovative programme ‘Under Fives’ – and the challenges it presented!

Mike Short had an idea, which became the bane of my life and I think it was to do with under-11s football. Granada was to sponsor this and I was to be the Administrator of it. Why on earth I agreed I have no idea! Anyway this went ahead and was, it turned out, a considerable success but I said to Mike, “Never again! I’m not doing that kind of thing again!” But before I knew it, Mike was back in my office, puffing on a fag, beaming wildly saying, ‘I’ve got a good idea, Dave!’ “Fine.” ‘You know that room in the basement?’ “Yes.” ‘I want to turn it into a studio!’ “Fine, Michael. Are we going to tell anyone?!” ‘No! We’ll do it!’ “Fine! What exactly are we going to do down there?” ‘We’re going to set up a playgroup!’ “Are we?!” ‘Yes!’ “What will the programme be called?” ‘Under-5s.’ And so it came to pass. And eventually we did go and tell Scotty that we had an idea for a programme and he loved it. What we did in this big room in the basement was put a false wall in behind which cameras and sound and lighting was concealed and every day 20 or 30 screaming toddlers came into the bloody office! They had to go to the canteen of course to have their juice, then they had to go to the loo (which meant none of us could ever get in there), then they go into this playgroup that had been set up with proper trained playgroup leaders and a number of psychiatrists and psychologists that Mike had recruited, who hid behind the false wall, peering through eyeholes (bizarre as it sounds) observing on the behaviour and interaction of these kids! It was brilliant! Absolutely marvellous! It ran for about, I don’t know, 6 months or so and then we had to pull the plug on it because we were all getting too tired and sick of the sight of kids. But that was another Mike Short Special! That’s the man for you.

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