In those days you had to load the magazines with film, which would last ten minutes. That would involve putting the magazine which sat on top of the camera into a changing bag, like a portable darkroom, and in the dark, you learned how to put the film that had been exposed carefully into some black paper, into a tin, because that’s priceless, because, it’s there, and put a new one in, and lace it up, and make sure you did it right, make sure that the lids were on properly, and then take it out and it was ready to put onto the camera.
So far as the sound was concerned, we only really had two neck mics, and there were no radio mics in those days, so we had to run cables. We used to try and do people walking to camera, and you’d put a mic on here and you’d have to feed it right down the trouser, under the heel. And you’d see the presenter sort of dragging this cable along. But that’s how you had to do it because you didn’t have the kind of rifle mics that you have today, the much more sensitive microphones.
So you kind of did a bit of everything. Oh, and you had a hand microphone, so if you ever see any of the old footage you’ll see this Oricon microphone, which kind of looks like a tennis ball, practically, on a stick, and they’re kind of doing this… because that’s what it was. So you did a bit of everything really. Sound. There was the odd time that if someone was ill and couldn’t turn up you’d have to go and do the sound. And partly you kind of learned on the job but you kind of… people, as I said, if you wanted to understand, you asked them if you didn’t understand. The world’s much more competitive, today, in some ways, the way it’s gone. In those days we just all mucked in. You know, if the cables got dirty, somebody cleaned them. I’d be on my knees doing it.
There’s a wonderful story I can tell with my enthusiasm, which might make people laugh because they know what I’m like. The Moors murder was kind of underway, and we went to the police headquarters in Ashton-under-Lyne and we were doing an interview with some police officer. Anyway, one of the bulbs in the lamps blew, so we had to go back to the Bedford van, and in my enthusiasm, from running, when I’m coming back up the stairs, I slipped and broke the only spare bulb we had. I had to go back very pinkish-faced and say, “I’m sorry but I’ve dropped the bulb.” So then you realise, and you think, I won’t do that again. First of all, make sure we’ve got more than two bulbs in the van. And sometimes it’s better to walk rather than run. I have to walk now, but I still ran for a long time after that. …
The way it used to work, certainly in ’63, bearing in mind I’m working with Mancunian Films, as a general rule we used to do stories on a Monday and a Wednesday. News doesn’t really operate like that. But I think obviously in those days there was a bit of a… a money issue or… In those days we’d got People and Places, which came before Scene at 6:30, and there was Freddie Aspen[?] who was one of the presenters that was in Liverpool. Liverpool’s always got great sorties, and you know, I don’t mean just from the pop scene; it was all other kinds of stories as well. So we would go over there, maybe find two stories in the Liverpool area. And then they’d come back and in those days Granada had a little processing plant to process the film actually on the ground floor in the Granada building. And then we’d go back to where Mancunian was based in the Prince’s Cinema in Monton, and if there was some disaster, maybe a mining disaster, we’d maybe go out on the Tuesday, but then on the Wednesday we would go up and it would be maybe Leeds or Sheffield. Had an interview with Barbara Castle who was a Minister at one time. We did something with an Olympic swimmer, I can’t remember, she came from Doncaster. Dorothy (Hyman?)… I can’t think what her name is any more. So there were always local stories that we would do, and bring them back.
And you’d see in the news that most of the things… there was a little studio and it was all red because they’d only got early telecine, not like today where you’ve got instant graphics and all that. So when you look back, I feel like I’m describing an image from 1923, not 1963. It would look so archaic and almost comedy, but that’s the way we did it.