George Turner on his work on the Up series

We’ve obviously just been talking about the World in Action series, which I’m obviously very proud to have been involved with for as long as I was; ’66 to 1998 was a long time. Alright, there were a few little diversions off it for different programmes, one of which was the Up series. It started in 1964 and one of the researchers at the time was Michael Apted who I’d actually worked with as a camera assistant when he did a couple of World in Actions, and then after than I worked with him when he did the Dustbinmen series and also Big Breadwinner Hog. So I’d got to know Michael fairly well. In fact, where we are today, he used to live about a quarter of a mile just up here in a little bungalow in 1966. So they did the first programme and then the second programme that was shot in 1970, that’s when I was in Vietnam. So I didn’t get a chance to do that.

Then in ’77 when the Up series came round to 21 Up, I don’t know how it came about but I came to work with Michael, and that’s been a journey that now’s gone all the way and hopefully a bit longer yet. So I’ve been privileged to do six out of the eight. And for all associated with that project, obviously Michael, Claire, and all the participants, there the key people, but the loyalty that is also in the fact that people like Kim Horton that does the film editing, Nick Steer who’s been on it since he was a boom operator way back on 21, myself, Jackie, my wife, has been involved with it a little bit – it’s like a family get-together every seven years. We expect everybody to be there. We will be there. Although sadly, one of the participants sadly died, Lynn, a couple of years ago, so we’ve lost one of them. And I know now there’s one or two of them have lost their mums and dads. So it’ll be a fairly different programme we make probably in 2018. I’m not wishing my life away, but as long as I can keep walking and looking through a camera, hopefully I’ll be there.

Why do you think it works so well? Because it is one of those must-see programmes, isn’t it?

I think it’s quite interesting really. It’s had all kinds of accolades given to it: it’s a fly-on-the-wall, it’s a soap, it’s social history, and all those kinds of things. I think it’s just one of those kind of things that are typical of what Granada was about. They’d find a subject, they’d believe in it, and you know, here we are. I can’t even compare it to Coronation Street but I think you can in some ways, in the fact that the people who are in it, some of them don’t want to be in it, but there’s a loyalty now. Because, you know, they’re finishing up with a fantastic programme about their lives that their children will be able to show their children, how granddad and grandma were when they were seven, fourteen, and so on. And they don’t touch politics in any way. I think it’s a collection of images, really, of how people change. And their aspects of life: how they do well, how they might not do well. If you take for example Nick from the Yorkshire Dales, you see him trotting down in his wellington boots, sheep and fields and things like that, and he’s gone on to be a professor in America doing all about energy. Well that’s a million miles away from the Yorkshire Dales. But then you could say the little lad that Southport that would have run a bike shop finishes up achieving what he’s done. And I didn’t know my journey would be like that when I started in 1963. But fate for whatever reason has determined that… I’m quite happy with what’s happened.

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