Interviewed by Stephen Kelly, 22 November 2013.
Frank, let’s begin at the beginning. How old were you and when did you come to start at Granada? How did you get the job?
Well, what happened in those days, with National Service, an employer was only obliged to take you back for 12 months after you finished your service. This was 1952. 1954 – came out in 1955.
We were going to get married. I admit we was offered a regular soldier with a guaranteed promotion but I said, “sorry, no, I’m going to continue in Civvy Street in Accountancy”. Then, in the, it would be the December 1955, I saw a notice in the Manchester Evening News, a notice saying Granada Television were going to open television studios in Manchester, wanted Accounts Clerks. So I talked it over with Norma and me father-in-law and he said , “go for it – it’s the coming thing”. Now he was a business man in his own right so I wrote. The next thing was I got an interview about the end of January it would be, beginning March, February – don’t remember the date.
Went down on the Saturday. Had this interview with a Mr Bill Dixon and a Mr Holden (?) – can’t remember the other man – there were three of them anyway and I came out and thought that’s not promising anything.
Had a letter on the Tuesday morning going back for another interview on the Thursday. So I took the day off work, went for the interview. The same people but this time with a man, E L Jeffrey, who was Company Secretary of the Group. Fine, that’s alright. Then the next thing, I’d got an invitation to see, to go working for them starting on 9 April 1956.
I handed my notice in where I was and they offered to pay me the same rate that Granada were going to pay me to stay with them but for ten pounds a week. Anyway I said “no, I’ve accepted the job now.” And because of this 12 months still hanging over my head with them, ‘cos they never said I was going to be fired, I went to Granada and that’s what started it all.
I went in the morning. Another lad joined me, Roy Montrose, and the first week we were just sitting there doing nothing. There were five Accounts staff. Two Accountants, an Office Junior, a Secretary and a Cashier. That was it and us two. Then Tuesday of the second week, Bill Dixon came and said “oh, I want you both, you’ve both been asked to go for a little interview with Mr Pearce (Pierce). Now we didn’t know who Mr Pearce (Pierce) was at that time. Didn’t know anybody.
Well I went in first and chatted about……….he wanted to know why I liked costing and things like this and then he asked for an example.
I said, “well take a bicycle. It may cost 16 pounds to buy but I’ve always been interested, for future reference, how much the individual items are for cost.” That was the end of the interview. Roy did a similar thing. We came back and we both said “what on earth was all about?” Nothing was said at all.
Another week elapsed and then Bill Dixon came I one morning and said “you’ve both been transferred to Production Office. You will be under Jack Martin, Production Manager and you’ve got to put in a Programme Costing System”.
I thought “no, I’ve done too much”. Anyway, what happened , Bill Dixon showed us the form we had to use and there were twenty five columns that may have to be filled in on any programme from Research Rights to Royalties, Scripts, Artistes Fees, Crew Expenses – all these were Direct Charges and the next column at the side of it was Indirects – the use of the studios, the camera users – all this lot.
So what happened then we started doing the programme budgets. In the early days we went together to programme budget, so we would both be learning what we had to do properly. There were a couple of dry-run programmes we were able to get on to and we did the figures as they were being given to us over at Board meetings – in the old Granada House this was – and just gave a figure but then we had to cross the ‘T’s’ and dot the ‘I’s’ and present it to the producer the day after so he could put it to Sidney Bernstein.
Because of the way we were doing all this, Roy and I, because we were going down in the studio alone – we just got Studio2 and we had a make-shift Studio 4 then – we got known as Bulgarin and Krushchev – B and K – like the Russian leaders. They all suspected us but gradually they realised we were simply trying to do a job like they were.
The information that came was amazing. I mean, for instance, if a camera went down half way through a programme, and there were four cameras with a warm-up, the Technical Supervisor, apart from leaving the total hours of usage every morning on our desk, would leave a note – Camera 3 went down after two hours – and we’d alter our figures accordingly.
Well thing was, once we started on May 3, it was the only time no budgets were ever done for Granada programmes because everything was – well it started with a ‘Thank you’ to Granada – ‘This is Granada on the air’ -it showed one or two light type programmes that we might do – like one was – Eleanor Summerfield – can’t remember the title but it was a forerunner of Coronation Street actually – it was that sort of thing – and then a tribute to the BBC – that was Thursday night May 3. That was nothing but the following Monday we started transmissions and we were told every day after transmission, your costs will be presented to SLB by you..
Sidney Bernstein, sorry, Sidney Leonard Bernstein- everybody addressed him as SLB – and you will explain to him any discrepancies and this happened every day. 4 o’clock we’d go across to where the old Granada House was on Water Street – it was an old Gallagher cigarette warehouse – that was the first Granada House – go into him…
The studios were in Quay Street?
The studios were in Quay Street, but we’d only got Studio 2 and Studio 4. If you went in the entrance at Quay Street as it used to be – now as you got down Quay Street towards Granada site, there was a petrol station on the corner at Quay Street and Little Quay Street – that’s where the new Granada House was built, going backwards towards the railway works – and at the side of that was the entrance into the Admin and Production Office – that was all along the front.
So we’d go into Sidney and explain these things to him – if there were any discrepancies – we would tell him about them. Anyway…
Was he a bit of a stickler for figures?
Actually he was very good. We really enjoyed going to see him as if we’d a slight problem, we could mention it to him and word would get round – ‘Mr Sidney’s not happy with this, not happy with that’ it might be something and nothing, but as we went on and once they got used to us, the crews then called us ‘The Bailiffs’ – as far as I am aware, that name existed right until Granada finished. Although the Cost Clerks who eventually transferred from Production into Accounts, and there were eight at the end doing programmes, they were all Bailiffs and that was it because of the things we arranged.
For instance, a 24 hour allowance for an OB man was two pounds and two shillings – lunch, dinner, overnight and breakfast – but the crew could draw a float before they went on location – so what they were worried about was, as the majority of them were weekly paid in those days, how do we leave our wives money to keep going while we’re away and keep ourselves on location? So what I arranged was that the Cost Clerk who went out – in those days it was only Roy and I – when we went on location, we would take their wages with us on a separate sheet. They could sign for their wages there and then on site and the wives would have the float before they went off on location, and it seemed to work. No-one ever complained.
Can we just go back to the Company? The Company started on May 3, did you say?
That was on a Thursday ad that was just a one-off?
That was a one-off with, I think it was, the caption came up – the Granada caption – and then a voice over said, “from the north – this is Granada”.
Now I think it was Victor Pierce (Pearce), who was Deputy Chairman that made that statement. Nobody would ever say – all they would say was it wasn’t an actor.
And then the Company really kicked off on the Monday?
On the Monday. We did a little bit on the Friday, which was some bits of film and things like that but nothing really television-wise until we started on the Monday with all sorts of programmes.
We had, incidentally, Sidney’s authority to go into a studio right up to the Dress Rehearsal, to check our budgets against what was happening on scene and they accepted us. Once they accepted us, there was information waiting for us, all the time. it was really very, very good to work for. The secret I think was, everybody set out to please Sidney Bernstein. He, I’ll give you one incident he did, in mid ’56 it was.
He was known for going out of his office during the day. Just saying to his office, “I’m going for a walk” – even she didn’t know where he was going. Now one day he went to the Accounts Department. Now this was in the old Granada House and Accounts were on the third floor. Management offices were second floor of this building. He went into Accounts, walking around. This clerk was writing away at his desk. He saw a hand take the handle of his drawer, so the clerk picked his ruler up and he were just about to strike and Sidney’s voice said, “you don’t mind, do you? After all, it is my property.” I mean when he told me this, the clerk, he was roaring with laughter and then Sidney just walked off. And he’d do that with all different departments just to see everything was happening but we felt it was also if anybody weren’t very happy, they could always have a little word with him. I mean that it was known if you weren’t very happy with what your departmental head said, ask to see Sidney. Something would get resolved and so it went on in all that time. So what was it…..
And Denis Forman would be accompanying….
Denis Forman was….He wasn’t a………. but he was like, he was studying what Sidney did, so he chaired budget meetings, Denis Foreman, all the time, whatever the programme was, Denis chaired it but when the costs were done, it was to Sidney it went in those days. After things got run properly, it was just sent to the Producer and as long as it was within the overall estimate for, say thirteen weeks, there were no problems and what we had to remember when we were doing the costs, was a building of a set – let us take an early programme which we had – in the first week – MAKE UP YOUR MIND – David Jacobs compared. They had a hostess and cameras like…..and they brought live animals in some times. I’ll show you a photograph with a sheep and there was a gentleman, Bob Freeman, an extremely good scenic artist. he would adorn the sets with bits of nature or something like that and the contestants would come on and would have to compare “would we like that sheep or would we take the money?” And see how they would discuss it – very light hearted, but it paid off.
What would happen if the programme went over budget?
Well there were little allowances for it. We were a little generous on the way costs are done, but the main thing was, I was talking abut the set. The set was made, would be there, the basic set for the whole 13 weeks and all programmes were based on the 13 week cycle so the cost of building the set was shared out over the 13 weeks. It may be, let’s say, 10,000 pounds, so you would write eight hundred and something off every show in the indirect charges.
There was one incident where I went to see the Production Construction Department Manager and he told me “Oh, I’ve had to put this much on the cost of sets because the maintenance needed doing in the studio.” You can’t do that and we had quite a heated argument – in fact he slapped me at the end and Roy was with me and said “come on out”. But what happened was when the building had been finished, the builders had a six month agreement that they would undertake any repair jobs that came up. Seven months afterwards what’s happening and this is the first case. No-one had thought of creating a Maintenance Department.
So the day after this happened, we got in, it was, can’t remember his name now. The General Manager at the time, he came out of the film industry anyway, with George Speller who was the Construction Manager, and Roy and I and Simon Kershaw, the General Manager – he said to me “what do you think?” We need a Maintenance Department.
In the films were – the costs of maintenance are only incurred whilst the film is being shot. We’ve got at least two if not more programmes in the same studio in the week, so you cannot charge all maintenance down to one programme. It’s got to be shared out in Indirects. So we did that, so in fact George asked me to go run the Maintenance Department. I said no. I enjoyed Costing too much. The investigation I was really in to but being there with him would have restricted me purely to Construction. I mean we got on well. There’s no doubt about it. But it was little things like that but
And did you then remain in Costing?
Yeah. Well what happened, just to go back to reporting to Sidney. I felt, in the army I’d learnt to type and I felt we cannot give SLB handwritten costs because of his position, so because we were only doing probably five programmes a week – could have been 6 occasionally – we had time the day after transmission, so I could type the top sheet of, type the supporting sheets and sometimes it would be three or fur supporting sheets with everything on, and then just give it to Sidney.
So the programmes started to get more and more and then we then asked, we needed another Cost Clerk and could we have a typist to do the typing of the sheets for us. Now that happened but this is ’58 now. I don’t know if you’ve met Walter Mariner at all while you were at Granada. He became – I taught him the costing side of it – then he went floor managing and then he ended up with Joyce Wooller in Operations. He sadly died about nine years ago and we got a typist in who did the typing for us.
So this was lined up shortly afterwards when Bill Dixon wanted to start this internal audit section and I thought about it. Well I’d still have my fingers on what was happening and look around and investigate, so I said yes and as I said before, it was put by him to the Board. The Board were happy for it as somebody was on site and could in five minutes, go somewhere, but the auditors said no, it’s got to be someone not known to anyone in the Company. I must be honest, although I say it myself, people used to say you touch Frank Clarke with something, he’ll investigate you. it was a joke but I mean, nobody, although I say nobody, could find me, if somebody tried it, they were in trouble and that carried on through my life always.
But anyway, it meant that they had to get another Cost Clerk in to replace me which they did, so I then went working for, first in the General Accounts but at this time also, the new building had been completed – at Granada House you knew the allocation of the Accounts Department had to be put in. Accounts were put on the sixth floor and a mistake they made. Well what happened was when it was built, Sidney did say that he only wanted moveable partitions between sections of any department and his words were “when we finish with this building in fifty years, it can be made into a hotel” and that’s what’s happened.
So I was given the job, cos with no internal audits needed then, of planning the Accounts move to the sixth floor, which I did but the mistake that was made was that the predecessor of computers, an old Hollerith system of sorting machines, were wider than the lifts could take. They were five feet across but the lift doors only opened to four foot six. So if you ever look at the west end of Granada House, off Atherton Street, on the sixth floor, you ‘ll find the great big windows which had to be put in.
I had to come in that day when we were moving all the equipment…………… to supervise it all went in the right places in the Hollerith Machine Room and then finish off the partitioning, planning and everything else and Granada Accounts were still there until the end, in that department.
But, also just short, then we moved in and a little while later Red Arrow started. This was, this would have been ’59, may have been ’60. It would have been ’60 now, which was Granada Television Rental shops. They went Granada Rental, Red Arrow and if you’d rented a television from them, they’d give you a little rubber Red Indian with a little feather in his hat. Everyone got one. I got one as well. But they had a fire and they were in Water Street in an old pub called The Walking Donkey and they had a fire, disastrous fire. A lot of the stuff was destroyed. The found offices in Hardy Lane in Chorlton and I was asked to go over. Chief Accountant who was then Winston sent for me and said “we’d like you go there and have a look at it. I tell you now it’s a mess.” So with Bill Dixon and Jack Martin – he went as General Manager – who’d been the Production Manager I worked under, and two Accounts Clerks, we went to Hardy Lane.
We were there six months and the funny thing was that I thought – well I’ve just taken a set from Granada, let’s see what my record had. There was nothing on it just the deposit that’s it and I had paid two or three payments in that time, so I went to Dixon and he said “what do you think we should do?” Facetiously I said “let’ write to all the people and ask them when they made their last payments.” Honestly, he was aghast. He didn’t know what to say. I said “I’m sorry.” I said “I was being facetious”. I said all we can do is draw a line under it – have done with it and start from scratch.
So what we did, what had been happening incidentally, was the two Accountants in Rentals had been getting the cheques and banking them straight away, no thinking that they had to be recorded, so they altered that so no cheque went through to the bank that had been cleared on the rental cards. So got that all.
The fire? The fire was? Where exactly and when?
Well it. Can I show you on this? If you go down Quay Street to where the branch is off to Salford – Little Quay Street – you the came to the junction of Water Street, which went straight across and parallel with the canal. Now there’s all of this building which was right against a wall, coming off, I think the back of Hardiman Street at the time, can’t remember now, and then there was the pub. The Walking Donkey and then some spare ground, then Little Quay Street. We’re talking in terms of three hundred yards from what was the Granada site, that sort of thing, going more towards Salford.
You probably don’t know but the reason the pub was called The Walking Donkey was the days of cigarettes distribution from Gallagher’s, the cigarettes would come up on the barges from wherever it was or the tobacco and occasionally a horse would baulk because it was near the water – could see it – and that’s how the pub got the name. It was for the employees.
Anyway, they never really found out what caused the fire. They think it was an electrical fault, but never found out what it was.
And what year would this be roughly?
It would be ’61/’62 I should think. Yeah, it’s about then I should think.
Because there was a later fire wasn’t there? In the ’80’s – the Bonded?
Yeah, that was at the back, bonded warehouse, the old railway building that one. That was where Coronation Street set
This one was early 60’s. But when, we were there six months as I say and then we went back and Bill Dixon came back, Jack Martin stayed there then. And he said we’ve got to get their creditor payments accounts straight whatever we did.
I spent nearly two years straightening those out with odd little visits from Bill Dixon or his secretary “can Mr Dixon have a word with you?” I thought where am I going now? “Will you spend five minutes looking at this, if you’ve got the time?” Things he suspected because he used to a little walk around unbeknown to most people, and then I’d just find out what it was and report on it. But I did that for about two years and then oh, in ’62. ’58 we moved across to Granada House, the new one and then in ’62 the whole of the Costing Section was moved from Production Office, which fronted Quay Street, into the Accounts Department on the sixth floor. So from then on we came under Accounts. But there were other little things that I had to do.
We had a (?)
So, I’m thinking back to, so I would take my expenses up to the sixth floor
Yeah, to get them approved – up to the sixth floor.
The little window
Cashier’s Window opposite the lift and the Cashier would pay them..
Was there much scrutiny of those expenses?
Oh yeah. What happened after your expenses were put in, they went into the Cost Clerks, who allocated them to the programmes and the specific programme number if there was one in the series, and then they were put in folders, put into the, what we then called the Punch Room, the Hollerith Computer System and they entered them all against the programme and then, eventually, the final result would be given back to the Cost Clerk to check if there was anything. Because there were things which got through without programme numbers on them and of course they were brought to light when somebody queried them and they’d go to the Cost Clerk with say, an invoice, and someone would come up and say “this as been charged to my department and it was to this specific programme” then they’d look at it.
And alcohol? Was alcohol allowed?
No. Tell you an incident about alcohol. When I was still in Production Costing in Production, Jim Cockburn was the Host. He came as the Host of people in shows. They could have it after the show, in a room, the artistes and people – but he came one day and he said “this drinks are going down and I don’t know how it can go. I’m marking it.” Cos we suggested he mark it for us each day and tell us how much had been used.
On the bottle?
How much was used on a programme. I mean he probably had eight or ten bottles with soft, not just soft drinks but bottled beer, stuff like that.
And this was all going on in the Green Room?
Well it wasn’t the Green Room then. It was an empty office he used in the Office Block, in the new Office Block. So what we arranged was we would leave a cabinet open when we went home at night and he would lock it away for the night when he was finished. But there wasn’t that much drinking going on.
Was it….that Sidney Bernstein……rule?
No, not really. No, there wasn’t any not there wasn’t any really. It was just “I’ve come to do a job, let’s do as well as we can”. If we can keep Sidney happy, it was literally that, when we started.
I always remember when we went to go, went away filming and we’d be staying overnight, and the poor old Production Assistant, who had the float, the money, would pay for everybody’s meals and then have to go and tell the person in the restaurant, that if they could not put down any drink included in the meal, so it was just a round figure.
Because they’d not be able to get that past expenses?
No, no. Yeah, well the thing is a blind eye was turned to that and it was from like Year 1 but was, nobody went on set with a drink of any nature in their hands, water all that sort of stuff. There was one incident with one person, who was on Local Programmes and he was drinking from a bottle of gin early one afternoon. He drunk the bottle, not empty, just dropped it down the window into Atherton Street and of course it smashed. His contract was terminated – no messing, no messing. We had to get people in to check it, and clear it
Sorry. It’s dangerous yeah. And that person went. No, there was nothing really said that you must not do this, must not do that. If somebody asked about it, it wouldn’t be liked.
I mean I’ve been out and, I was covering a conference at Scarborough, a political conference, and it was really cold in the October and the Floor Manager was John Oakins at the time. I don’t know if you ever came across him, I think he’d left before you came and I went to see them, how they were going on – just in my own time. My salary wasn’t charged to any programme and he said “it’s bitterly cold here. Is there any chance we could get them a drink of something.” “Yeah, course we can. I’ll go and get it. What would you like?” So we decided what I’d get. I went back to the this outdoor and bought the bottles and as I get back, Dennis Pook, who was then Office Manager, had appeared and he saw me with John Oakins and the bottles. “What’s all this doing here – not supposed to drink on programmes?” I said “Dennis, these men have come over from Manchester at six o’clock tonight to de-rig this set in the open, in these conditions and they’ve got to go to Blackpool tomorrow for the next conference.” “Oh.” And that was it. And the lads enjoyed a drink.
One of the beauties of the expenses system?
No, not really. No, one or two tried it. We had a researcher once, in fact I had to go in the Cash Office once. Cashier had been taken ill, so I went in there and this researcher came up. Five sheets of expenses not totalled up. Gave them back to her. “Sorry you have to add it up.” “Why? The Cashier usually does that.” I said “no, the Cashier’s job is to check your figures.”
Anyway the General Manager then was Bill, yeah it was Bill Lloyd then, and he sent for me the following day. “What’s this with the expenses?” I said “there is nothing stopping me adding a figure to those expenses and pocketing it” I said. “That person should have known as I explained to her.” “You’re right.” The sheets came back totalled up and it was, I mean to me, we could trust one another but on the other hand, I had to be above any sort of under-handed work that was going on I could see it happening but as long as it didn’t go overboard on anything, nothing was said. In fact, I was sent to the Café once. I didn’t want to go and I went to see Personnel. I didn’t know at the time but it was Bill Dixon again.
They discovered vodka and angostura bitters was being very largely consumed every day. And I thought “how do I find this out?” So what I did then, I marked the bottles with little marks. I knew where they were and I kept an eye it and it only left one person. The person at that time was manageress. How she made a mess of it was she drunk too much one day and she charged the General Manager, who was then Leslie Diamond, twice for the same thing he had catered for. Well he got on to me you see. Took him the paperwork. He said “right, that’ll do.” Off she went and then we brought Martha Longhurst from the Group. She had been with the Granada company ever since she was a youngster. She was Manageress.
That lady was absolutely fantastic. In those days, by now in the late 60’s/early 70’s, we used to have a children’s party one Saturday before Christmas. All the employees could bring their child – one, two, three, whatever they had They gave the employees chance to go Christmas shopping with their wives and husbands and whatever you see. About eight of us used to be, but Miss Longhurst made sure everybody going in the Café by the Friday of that week knew that only those who were rostered to work Friday evening, would be given meals.
Her girls, that’s how she called the staff, her girls who’d be too busy preparing for the children’s party. All the tables in the Café were laid out and it wasn’t the Café that we ended up with on Quay Street, it was the back where Sidney’s dining room was, past the old Studio 8 as it became and Studio 12 and they did, they laid all the tables out. We came in on the Saturday, served all the children and when the children had gone, they cleared everything away again.
You mentioned Sidney’s dining room. What was that?
I must show you this otherwise it’ll be difficult to explain it. Tell you what this is about afterwards. The original Granada site on now this is Water Street. That was the bonded warehouse, which had a fire in, CORONATION STREET’s open set was there. This was a petrol station, which Granada owned. The Admin block was built on that stretch, along there.
This building, sorry this was a storage room at first but it became just a walkway cos all the studios came down here. This became the Café. Bottom of it, bottom of it was Sidney’s dining room or anyone’s
I remember that now. Was it not called Executive Dining Room 1?
Yes that’s it. Now when we started, that’s where the Design and Graphics were up on the top floor. Now that remained and that remained, but they were improved a lot and that was the Café.
And would Sidney use that as his own personal dining room?
If he was entertaining people, yes but he would come down and join you in the queue during the day if you wanted a meal.
He’d come in and get a tray like everybody else.
These stories are true are they? The stories I’m told or I seem to remember myself, was that Sidney and Dennis Forman as well, would come down to the canteen and would often go off in separate directions and just go and sit with anyone?
They did, they did, yeah. They wanted to be with the people because, on the other hand, we had excellent chefs but it was their way of making sure. When we, when we’d on air six months, Sidney arranged with Associated Redifusion to do all our transmissions on this particular Friday night. He threw a party for the staff and partners and that section of the Café was all we’d got in those days but we went into Studio 2. He’d laid on a pop group and other dancing, if you want. You all mixed. Anything with Sidney. Nobody could sit with a friend or someone that was useful. You had to draw lots where you sat at anything. And we were going round, Norma was in front of me, and there’s Sidney carving turkey up in his suit with the chefs. And I saw one of the Café chefs at the side. I said “what’s he doing?” He said “he came in and he said the chefs can’t cope with this lot, I’m going to help them.” He was. He was sawing turkey up. Cutting it. And when me wife got to the plate to be served, somebody, I don’t know who it was, said to me wife “you’ve already been round once” and Sidney looked up and he said “no, she hasn’t. I can remember faces.” And then, of course he saw me behind her you see. “Is that your wife?” I said “yes”. But he was, he would go anywhere, nothing was too much trouble but no favoritism.
Was he a hugely respected character?
Oh yeah, yeah. He was God really to most people there and I mean Roy and I got to know him, we’d seen him everyday. We got to know him so well. I mean one night, and this was about ’58 I think, there was a Labour Party, like the political broadcasts that are on at the seaside, and the Labour Party were at Blackpool.
We got, we used to see Sidney at four o’clock every day as I’ve said. I got a phone call from his secretary at two o’clock. “Mr Sidney has asked me to tell you he’s gone to the Labour Party Conference but he doesn’t want you to go home until he’s seen you today.” Well neither of us were on the phone at home, we’re on public transport to get home. We were thinking well our tea’s going to get cold and our wives wondering what’s happening. He came back at twenty past six, Sidney. Immediately she rang. “Mr Sidney’s just returned. Can you come straight over?”
We went in and for the first time ever he said to us “sit down boys.” And I thought “what’s happening?” “Now we’ll not bother about yesterday’s costs – we’ll take those as read. How are you liking it here?” We both obviously said “terrific for us. we’re enjoying it immensely.” “Is there any way we can improve things that we do for you?” We said “well, no because Jack Martin is helping us out on this job.” “If there’s anything you need?” So I thought this is the time, so I mentioned to him “I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but when we first started this job, we were called B and K. I said eventually we became called the Bailiffs” and information started to flow. And do you know, he smiled and then he said “well if I refer to you two to people, I always call you ‘my boys’.” Two twenty plus men, married with children – ‘cos that’s how he was but that’s how it went and then eventually he gave over to Dennis Forman, the cost of checking the programmes costs but eventually when they got into Accounts because the system was running well they decided the lesser anomalies they didn’t have to report them every day after that if the costs had gone out but of course by this time we were doing tele recordings so there was more time to work on them.
Did you ever come across tele recordings? Forerunners of videos and the rest of it? Very, very old it was and we had another system as well before that that took an awful long time of time editing.
How would you describe Granada as a company?
Excellent, excellent. The, the Property Buyer, Spud Taylor, who had incidentally worked on SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, he was Property Buyer on the film. He was on the ladder, putting some props away, fell and broke his leg. Taken to hospital. Of course Sidney was told about it. He sent him off to the Theatre Rest Home in Brighton with instructions he hadn’t to come back until he was absolutely clear. Someone else would do your job. And that’s just how it was. All the way through it was. He did that with other people you know. Send them off to the Rest Home. He had his finger on the pulse.
And the Company had its own Doctor didn’t it?
Oh yeah, we had a doctor at Salford Royal who could be rung at any time. He could come in at any time. We had two nurses. There was Sister Rowe and I can’t remember the surname of the other one but her name was Jean anyway, and we had them over the studio, well not the studio hours, one would be around for the studio if they were needed but the other one was for any other call anyway they took it in turns. As long as there were people in the building there was a nurse there. I mean it was great.
So a very paternalistic company?
Yes, yeah well that six month party was something.
Was it generous in its pay, payments?
Expenses were always generous?
Yes they were but compared to outside companies in this area and this was the thing, they were generous for salaries, I mean, I was on seven pounds ten shillings, seven pound fifty when I left and Granada paid me ten pounds
You were on seven pounds?
Seven pounds ten shillings, seven pounds fifty pence a week in Engineering.
Right, sorry. I understand.
In Engineering and when I went to Granada, I was on ten pound straight away. And then we got a pound, one pound fifty each Christmas until the unions came in and then they set a format for wages and it did give an increase to other people as well anyway.
And there was the share bonuses as well?
Oh yeah. You had to do, if you’d done twelve months you got one weeks bonus, two years was two weeks, then you waited for four weeks and you got four weeks bonus. None of that was arranged by anybody else other than with Sidney ….done. mean the six months party
You see, I don’t remember the bonus system when I was there – it must have gone. Then we had the shares- got the free shares?
Well what happened, the unions spoilt the the bonus, because someone, and I think it was the NATTKE Union, we weren’t getting as much as the London companies were. But there was always that discrepancy between the North and London over the years, but we wanted the Christmas, the London rates in Manchester, so the Group came back and said “well if you want London rates you” have to lose your bonuses” simple as that. And you know, it was a nice little bonus at Christmas. But being paid weekly, it wasn’t, that’s when, what I term ‘the rot’ set in. One or two union members had authority – got a bit too, shall we say – ‘greedy’. They were always looking to cause problems. Why I say this was the strike of ’79. This Roy, who’d worked with me on the programme costings, Roy Montrose, he became a full time Union Officer in 1974. And in the strike of ’79, he had given an instruction that we were not to go on strike but the Steward ‘made out’ in inverted commas, that he’d spoken to the General Secretary and the General Secretary said the strike was on, so what happened was Roy asked me if I’d go and visit him in the Union Offices.
Now which Union are we talking about here?
NATTKE but NATTKE weren’t in, there was nothing that ACTT could do, all the engineers, nothing they could do. They could go in but couldn’t do any work because there were no sets being done or anything. It was completely flat.
He explained the situation to me, the problem, and I said, “well alright, I’ll do it for two years and that’s all”. What in fact I found was the Union paid the Branch Secretary a percentage of what the money was that was paid to the Union like they do with all unions, but in this case the Branch Secretary, who I had already discovered was a woman, who this person had asked to do the job, wasn’t getting any money at all. And we’re talking about seven thousand, eight thousand pounds over three years, when what would a year’s salary have been then – probably only about two thousand, to two and a half. As I say, it was another salary. In fact this person tried to bring charges against me through the Union. Bill Dixon, who was still there then, sent for me one day. He said “have you seen – what’s your name doing on the notice board?” I said I wasn’t aware of it. “You let me know if you’ve got a problem.”
Well this was the Financial Director and, anyway, all I did to clear it was I sent a letter to this person. Told him if my name wasn’t removed and he and his two friends would be charged with offences in the Union, which would endanger his job. Me name disappeared and that was the end of it.
Anyhow, as I say, I found what had been happening with that and the Union dealt with this man. They threw him out of the Union – no messing – just thrown out of the Union and that put Granada in a difficult spot because they employed him and we were a Union Shop. What they did in fact, they put him into Supply Department from being Construction, where he was doing all clerical work there, clerical job. They moved him into Supply Department and the stagehands, shall we say, knew how to wreak revenge on people. It wasn’t noticeable but it was noticeable to anyone who knew what was going on. An outsider wouldn’t have seen it. The information didn’t go to him or things like this, you know.
Anyway he still couldn’t keep his fingers clean and just after I retired, this was ’89, I went to one of our Christmas lunches and this Walter Mariner came to me and said “why didn’t you tell me about this man?” I said “why, what’s the matter?” He’d got himself as Secretary/Treasurer of the Sports and Social Club and when they went for money to buy
This is the Granada Sports and Social Club?
Granada Sports and Social. Sorry. I’ll enlarge on that in a minute, this side of it, for presents for the children. There was nothing. He’d had it. Well then he was on holiday this man. He was summoned – he went to Personnel and he was told “what you have done – that’s Sports and Social Club money is actually looked after by Granada and that’s an offence against the Company” and they fired him. And that was the end of it. You come across odd people like that.
Just recapping on the Sports and Social Club. As I said before, we had a party for them every Christmas, just for the children, and we’d get, one year we had Freddie and the Dreamers and another the Yardbirds. Belle Vue Zoo was still in operation and they would bring a couple of animals down to see the children. Once we had a boxing kangaroo and the kids loved it, but they came in, they’d see this group or something and they’d go and have their tea in the Café, then they’d come back then they’d watch a cartoon film while the meal was digested and then one year we arranged a wrestling match with one of our rigger drivers who was an amateur wrestler and another man who was a wrestler and we rigged one of the posts to collapse. So one of the ones off the Children’s Party Committee, told the kiddies before the wrestling started, this official wrestler, shall we say, was a baddie and he was naughty and they had to boo him. Well of course they did do But he was the one that was going to fall on the rigged post in the corner. And when he did all the kids cheered. It was great and then they’d end up going to see Father Christmas.
In fact I checked this with my elder daughter you know, yesterday, and she admitted it. We sent the boys and the girls in, in twos. As they go into the grotto that had been built, they parted so, one saw one man who was the General Manager as Father Christmas, and the others saw a wood machinist as Father Christmas and they came out of the same exit. And I said to her yesterday, “did you ever know?” She said she never knew at all and they never knew at all, the five of them, the children, just as it was.
But every, this is why when we’d mentioned about it, to the Company, about this party thing, they said “well as long as you looked after them whilst they’re on the building, we’ve no problems. Just tell Miss Longhurst what you want setting up for the children. She’ll do it. Don’t bother about cost, we’ll stand it for you.” So what happened the three of us would go to, there was, again in Chorlton, down the bottom, near Brantingham Road, there was a Frank Clark who was tobacco wholesalers, toys and tobacco and two or three of us would go down there. We’d get off the ones that were coming, we’d sort them into sex, ages, go to see Roy Halls, see what they’d got. Leave it with them. Then all the toys would come up one day and they’d come on to, there was a cupboard on the Accounts floor which was locked up and all the stuff was put in there until the Christmas Party was done and finished with and any, we never had any left over because there was always one or two kiddies that would come at the last minute, stuff like that, but for four hours on a Saturday once a year, you know, it was nothing but the kiddies enjoyed it. They really did.
What about sport?
Sport. You mean sport programmes?
No, sport in the social context -did the Company do much sport?
They didn’t have enough really. We had an inter-departmental – six a side tournament which was held at Whalley Range football club near Brantingham, off Wilbraham Road – there. That was for about six years. I won Player of the Year Award one year. Bill Dixon used to come because he lived round the corner. He’d present the cups and that.
We had occasionally a cricket tournament which would be held at Mellor Cricket Club but that was eleven a side and some departments couldn’t get eleven out. But there were about eight or nine different teams playing just one Sunday afternoon. You’d go play cricket, socialise and that would be it and the others, I said, I played a five a side tournament football a couple of times as an eleven a side. In fact it was funny because we’d played at Altrincham one Sunday and Tony Book, who had captained Manchester City to the European Cup Winners Cup or something two years before and was Captain now played against us and twice, and I’m small, I was in goal, and twice he broke through and twice I stopped him scoring and at the end of the match, he said “how did you get those balls?” I said “you’re one footed, Tony. You can’t use the outside of your right foot” and that’s only from what I’d seen of him on TV. So there’s a little lad up here now, he’s playing for the local team. I said “make sure you use both feet”. I taught myself to use both feet and it paid off.
And did you get any stars playing for the Granada team?
Well there was Ian St John came on our five a side team a couple of times. With Paul Docherty and the rest were just staff. They weren’t allowed to play in the inter-departmental ones but we had no, the one at Altrincham was nearly all staff. We had Freddie Pye, who was professional with Hyde for a long, long time. He was our Captain, oh and we had Frank Haydock who played for City in his younger days. They’d come in and you’d put them in the team.
Of course, Paul Doherty himself played. He played professionally, hadn’t he?
Yes he had.
Was he a goalkeeper?
I can’t remember what he played. Can’t remember.
And of course he was the son of Peter Doherty, the great Manchester City, Huddersfield player?
Well during the war, Maine Road played matches every week and you would go down there. You wouldn’t know the teams. They’d just announce it. Whoever was free. And of a Saturday in the summer, Belle Vue Speedway was going, every Saturday. So you’d go there of a Saturday evening in the summer. Nice night. Why go anywhere?
Yeah, the Granada things were like that. Things like that were really nice. People were mixing you see and you knew people yeah.
Did you feel that there were divisions between the production staff people, like me, producers, researchers, directors and the technicians?
I never really noticed it but I did sense as the years went on, the camaraderie within the units seemed to reach a point and then no, not go any further than that. But I never actually noticed it.
An amusing thing was we were doing the Blackpool Show, the yearly show at Blackpool. Well they used to do anyway. Royal Lancs Show was at Blackpool. Five cameras were fine until the last hour of transmission. Every one of them, five spaced ones, went down. Left one camera on the main ring. That was the only one working. Dave Warwick was directing and Dougie Ryan, he was looking for a bit of a laugh whatever he was working on cameras. In comes the prize bull, Dougie zooms in on its private parts and there’s Warwick hitting the roof. He wouldn’t’ move off, but it was just a quick flash. A lot of people never even realised what he shouldn’t have done. But no, I mean, they seemed to work together the better on OBs. They all knew they relied on one another and I felt we’d ended up at one point getting – there were some people coming in more interested in getting the next promotion rung than actually doing a good job for the Company. It did start to get a little selfish like that but, the thing, also the difference may have come because they were changing over from as I said, tele recordings to the first sort of audio tapes now to videos and there were less crew needed all the time. You went from an average of a thirty man crew on a studio show with stagehands, electricians, the lot, I don’t know what they are now, no idea.
And of course towards the – you leave the company in 1988 – you retired then did you? Retirement age?
Wasn’t the official retirement date. What it was, I’d got to the stage, I realised that my days, if you like, were numbered. It was running well, the Company then really. There were little niggles but there was nothing that I felt I could get my teeth in to and get investigated, anything like this. And, I came home and the Company were offering redundancies to people. So “ok” I said to Norma “how do you fancy if I ask for redundancy. She said “I’d rather you retired” so I said “alright” and when I went in, by this time we’d got a chap, can’t remember his name now, new Financial Director, Dixon had retired about three years before. Harry Coe, that was him. By a strange quirk his mother was in the same class in school as my eldest brother and they lived behind where I lived before I was married. So he came and sought me out when he came into the Company and of course one or two people. And I’d sensed a bit of jealousy there in Accounts. I was seeming to get jobs, this person may have, you know, got fed up with it
But the Company was changing then?
Changing dramatically, yeah it was.
And did that concern you? Presumably budgets were becoming a bit tighter and after you left they became extremely tight?
Yes, they did. Yes very. I could see these things coming on. I used to say to people “there will be cutbacks in staff”. This is before the redundancies were offered. Before anyone knew they were going to merge with London. So, going back to this, when I went back a couple of days later, I went to Personnel and said “I’m not interested in redundancy, as it is but if you tie it in with early retirement for me” bear in mind I was only 53, “tie it in with early retirement for me, we could do a deal”.
It took Harry Coe himself six weeks to comeback to me and said “Well the girl that’s with you, she’s going off on maternity leave. If you put it off until she comes back you, we can do it with the pension.”
I said “great, fabulous.”
So I told her then what was happening. She said I’ll be back and, well it was a little awkward actually, because when I had my farewell do in The Stables which was the Old School opposite Granada House, that was The Stables, we had it in there, she said “I don’t want to stay”. I said ” it’s the baby isn’t it?” She said “yes, I just want to be there all the time. I said ” who’s looking after the baby for you at the moment?” She said “well me mother is” she said. “But she’s sixty, sixty two or something”. I said “well there’s your answer, you’ll have to say you found your mother isn’t really up to looking after the baby. You’ll have to go.”
I got a little phone message. “I’m leaving” and so she was delighted but for me it helped Accounts in a sense because I knew they would have to cut back. We’d got, we started with an Accounts staff of about fifty seven of whom ten were Accountants and I ended up finding work for them to do and I thought this is ridiculous. I’m just a Senior Clerk having to find work for an Accountant to do. I did keep her busy but I knew they’d have to cut down because they were cutting down on staff in the studios and people were saying to me “oh you know this person, they’re going redundant” and but then I left and in fact what happened was I spent twelve months refurbishing this house completely – it won’t be of interest in the book but I then got a job at the Manchester County Football Association in Brantingham Road. I worked there for three years and I was quite happy doing it but then my Retirement Visitor, Norman James, was giving up – he was eighty one or eighty two, and he said to me one day, “would you like to take over?” So I said “yeah, fine.I’ll do that. I’ll take over.” So I then took over the whole of Lancashire, part of Cumbria and part of Cheshire as a Granada Group Retirement Visitor and I did that for three years and then me son-in-law became ill. He got MS and they’d got four children, so I said to Norma “we can’t let them be like this. I’ll finish the retirement.” We only got expenses for it anyway. It didn’t matter. But it kept everybody in touch, you know. And so I finished as a Retirement Visitor then and virtually from then on I’ve only gone to these lunches that were arranged. First Barbara Macdonald. I don’t know if you knew her?
I knew Barbara very well.
She did them first because she actually replaced me as Retirement Visitor, but she lived round the corner from me here.
Does she still live round here?
No, no she moved. When we were married, we lived in Lowood Road, a bungalow virtually opposite them, they were the other side. And she and Ken moved to Bramhall and Ken died and he was only about thirty two. Never found out what it was. Sudden massive heart attack or something. So Barbara was on her own, so, she was at Granada then in the early days. She started, oh it would be November ’56 she came. Stayed there about four years, left and went to BBC to do a couple of documentaries, then came back to Granada afterwards. And this is when I first started noticing the difference from what Granada had been to what it had become. I was on the sixth floor corridor one day and she came up the stairs, into, getting some cash
“Oh hello Frank, how are you? “Oh brilliant, how are you Barbara? Are you back?”
After our little conversation, I went in the office and one man said, “How do you know her, she’s production staff?”. I said “I was production staff once and I have friends.” And I thought that would never have happened years ago.
It had become a much bigger company hadn’t it?
Yes, yeah. Well when we went on air, production side, not talking sales side, pure production side was about two hundred people. When I left there were nearly two and a half thousand. It was massive the number of people there.
I hadn’t realised it was quite that big.
Yeah it was but because so many were freelance then working on programmes and we’d got offices, at the beginning we’d had offices in Leeds for the Sales Department apart from a couple of salesman in our building and the main Sales Office in Golden Square, London.
Selling what? Advertising space?
Advertising space but in those days advertisers or the manufacturer would have to go through an advertising agency to ring Granada. We couldn’t go out and chase the makers, they’d come and we’d had a special, what we called, now what was its title – Home Impact Advertising, it was called. You could have three slots in the afternoon from, well we started transmitting at about half past two then, until six o’clock – Guaranteed Home Impacts. That’s what they were. We guaranteed them a number of people, viewers, figures. If they didn’t reach the figure then they got a rebate. That went for about eight years and then they finished with that and then centralised things. Very interesting.