I’d done this programme I was telling you about on airmen and desertion in World War Two, then I’d worked for eighteen months on a series about how the world was mapped called ‘The Shape of the World’. That sent me all over the world, amazing to think now, and was sponsored by IBM, so it was well resourced.
When I came back I was asked to help out on World in Action by my friend and colleague Dorothy Byrne who said, “You know how you’ve always wanted to work on ‘World in Action’.” So I said, “Yeah” She said, “I’ve got a job for you, we need some help. We’re doing a film about kerb crawling, have you got a short skirt? How would you like to walk up and down this street and see what happens?” I thought, ‘Well if this is the way to get on’. This was at a time when the Director of Public Prosecution had been caught kerb crawling somewhere in Kings Cross. Anyway there was the film that ‘World in Action’ was going to make about kerb crawling.
So my first job was ‘Can you walk up and down this street with a short skirt. Let’s just see how many kerb crawlers there are there out there, can you do this?’ That resulted in my going out with the producer Jeff Anderson and the cameraman Nick Plowright and we ended up on some street in Norwich. They said, “This is the street, we want you walk up and down.” I said, “but I can’t help but notice it’s half past three in the afternoon, surely the kerb crawlers don’t come out until it gets dark?” Nick said “Don’t worry, we can’t see you if it’s dark because the camera won’t pick you up. So we have to do it when it’s daylight.” So I walked up and down, up and down, up and down that street and of course I didn’t get any takers at all, which was a bit humiliating. But as Nick said ‘You’re just too classy Janice’.
The second thing I had to do for that film was to try and find a kerb crawler who would agree to speak on TV. That was my baptism of fire when it came to ‘World in Action’ because I sat and went through lists of people who had been convicted of kerb crawling in recent days in Bradford, I think I chose Bradford. I was ringing people out of the blue and the number of times I’d say “I’m just ringing you…” and they’d say “I didn’t, I was just asking her for directions.” There was one occasion where I had to leave a message for some guy; I think it must have been his mother who took the message. She said “Oh he’s not in at the moment can I ask him to ring you back?” So I said “Yes can you ask him to ring Janice at Granada Television.” So within about ten minutes I got a call from this guy.
“Hi it’s Gary, I gather you left a message. Is this about my application for Blind Date?” I said, “No, it’s about your recent conviction for kerb crawling.” Needless to say he didn’t want to go on TV. But eventually I did find a guy who was ready to speak about it because he had some crisis in his marriage, his wife had just had a baby and he felt that he wanted to speak about why he had ended up being convicted. I really, really worked hard to get that guy and I think that held me in good stead when I eventually went for the job on ‘World in Action’ full-time. Jeff Anderson had high standards and I know he had gone to see Ray afterwards and backed me up in my attempt to get on the programme full time.
I worked then for about a year as a researcher on ‘World in Action’, again doing all sorts of things. I’ve got some stuff with me here to show the breadth of stuff you could be doing. One minute you would be in the old Yugoslavia; we went to Vuckovar and saw the desolation and destruction there. I did a film about Le Pen, I went to South Africa, met Nelson Mandela and we filmed him.
It was an amazing time and an amazing project to work on. If Granada opened doors, ‘World in Action’ opened even more doors although of course you had a lot more doors slammed in your face when you worked at ‘World in Action’. You would say ‘Hello, I’m so and so from ‘World in Action’ and you would hear a deep intake of breath on the other end of the phone because it had this reputation.