I joined Granada in January 1969. I’d just graduated from Liverpool University, did a second degree in politics there. I came out after four years at university (Birmingham and Liverpool) vaguely wanting to be a journalist. I mean I’d done a lot of politics and I liked writing. I’d come from a left-wing family. We’d always talked politics, so I thought something in the journalism field. So I wrote to various newspapers. I got a graduate trainee job with the Liverpool Daily Post, coming out of the second degree, but I didn’t like it and they didn’t like me. It was a pretty Neanderthal place to work. Think newsroom scousers in 1968. They hated southerners (especially from Cheltenham!) and hated graduates so I was ideal! Anyway, we parted company and then I was looking for work, worked at Reece’s cafeteria in Liverpool for a bit, and then I saw an advert in the Guardian – Granada Television wants researchers for a new comedy programme. So I wrote off and I think there were 1000 applicants, 12 short listed, they picked five and I was one of the five. Claudia Milne was also one of the five. The programme was Nice Time, produced by John Birt and starring Kenny Everett, Germaine Greer, Jonathan Routh and Sandra Gough. I’d never been to Manchester before I went for that interview in December ’68. Well basically the interview went very well. John Birt and I hit it off.
Did you remember very much about the interview because a lot of people talked about the ‘interviewing process’?
It was very informal. It was just me and him in an office, which is kind of weird as nowadays you get a team of people I suppose.
There used to always be more of a team of people – didn’t there used to be half a dozen around interviewing you?
Well, this is very early days, December ’68 this would have been. Marian Nelson was also on the Nice Time team. You are right, there was a pre-John Birt interview with perhaps her and Andy Mayer and maybe others, but I can’t remember really the details of that but I know the one that got me in was the second interview, me and John Birt. He’s a football fanatic. We just talked about Manchester United for half the time – I remember that – and in some detail. Player by player. I suppose there was some bonding there, we were just of the same ilk, provincial grammar school boys with alot of interest in football. I got the offer after that.