Coronation Street began in on December 1960, and it was going on long very, very well, and then Cecil came to me and said, “Derek, do you mind awfully coming on to Coronation Street?” And the idea was that, although it was going all right, it was rather… it was on a very small scale. The storylines needed a huge amount of souping up. I remember when I watched an episode, which Cecil Bernstein directed me to and it was a little story about Lucy Hewitt losing her purse in the mission house. And I thought, “I don’t think they’re very exciting.” So immediately I saw quite a lot of episodes and I thought, “No, we’ve got to have a very strong storylines.” And one of the things I introduced was the kind of continuing storyline over three or four episodes to give it a kind of real narrative bite. And the other thing I introduced was a quite a lot of sex. Nobody seemed to want to go to bed together. So I was the first one to put Linda and Ivan in bed together. And also I started to give Elsie Tanner a number of lovers, including I think she had a fear snogging session in telephone booth, as I remember! And when Dennis came down for breakfast he was always finding the remnants of gentlemen callers like there was their naval caps on my kitchen table and things like that. So anyway, it became much sexier and livelier. And then unfortunately, the ITV actors strike occurred – the TV strike generally, I think – and all the actors who were not specifically under contract were withdrawn and we only had the contract artists, so I was left with a tiny little nucleus of actors to play with, including just the odd families within the Street and it became an extremely a matter of great ingenuity whether you could devise storylines for them – and that was when I really went out. I was not doing it for very long; from I think April, spring of ‘61 until probably about Christmas time, I did about nine months on Corrie, but it was wonderful. I probably, apart from Brideshead, enjoyed myself more there than I ever enjoyed to my life, because running a set is the most God-like position; here you are, the master of all these lives, and story conferences are immensely amusing and fun because, as I say, you can do anything with them. We used to put everything in; remnants of Tolstoy and Dickens… I was always rather proud of the fact that we could take no themes from great drama and great novels and work them into Corrie. But it was lovely and I had a marvellous group of writers Jack (Rosenthal) Geoffrey Lancashire, a lovely lady whose name I cannot remember now, (Adele) Rose. And we were very good little team.
No, he wasn’t on in my time. And it was that it was lovely. Adele Rose was the name of the very good woman writer. And Jack was marvellous. And then Peter Eckersley! Peter Eckersley wandered in from the Guardian one day and rather shyly came into my office and said was there any chance that he’d be allowed to write for Coronation Street. I said, “Of course! Come in, welcome.” And Peter became a great Corrie writer.
Did you know him before then?
No, That was our first meeting.
And you just said yes?
If he was good enough for the Guardian, I said, “Yes, you’ll be marvellous!” And that’s how Peter began in telly.