Gordon Burns remembers Sidney Bernstein – and his attention to cleanliness!

Sidney Bernstein. I remember quite vividly, every so often he used to set off round the building, and he had marching in his wake, an assistant who had a clipboard with paper on it, and Sidney Bernstein would head into an office and so on, and bark out things like, “Wall needs painting!” or whatever, and the assistant would be writing all these things down. Of course everyone who’d heard he was coming was a bit edgy and so on – the great Lord Bernstein is touring the building! – so an absolute tidy up, tidy up the office, make sure everything was neat and in place and so on.

There were supposed to be no posters on the walls, is that…?


 Apart from Barnum.

Well, I could imagine that was the case, because he was quite demanding in what he wanted, and clean offices and everything clean and tidy and so on. I don’t actually remember a ban there, and in the end I put up pictures of the programmes around the walls, and nobody ever told me to take them down, because otherwise it was a bit bare on the walls. But I could sort of see that being the case, and in fact being the Bernsteins and so on, so Denis, they only wanted top quality paintings and things on the walls, I mean, this amazing art around the walls of Granada Television. I think that was more their thing than posters and bits and pieces. But it was always fascinating, this man walking around, barking out orders, “That bulb’s gone!” and the assistant behind, writing it down furiously – and it would all be done. So I remember that. But paternalistic? I don’t remember it that way at all. The only pressure was to deliver, and to give it 100%, and to be professional, and to deliver quality – it had to be quality.


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