I just loved entertainment. I loved the idea of putting on a show, that collaboration, that sort of intense relationship with other creative people. I’d always been exhilarated by that. So, I knew there was no question in my mind, I wanted to work in the field of entertainment.
Theatre seemed, to me, to be, although it was my first love really, my brief exposure to it was so insecure, so badly paid, that you couldn’t really see calling it a career. It was much more of a vocation, I suppose. Whereas it seemed to me, television was an infrastructure that required backstage people like me. That there was a legitimate, organic career for me in television, so I wanted to apply.
I remember in that July of 1977, I graduated. Hadn’t done anything about it at all. I was watching Wimbledon. It was the year Virginia Wade won. And I remember watching her win her semi-final, on a black and white rented television and thinking, “Oh god, I suppose I better get a job.” So I looked around. We had a two-day-old copy of The Guardian. Monday’s Guardian, I think, was the Media Guardian. So there was the jobs in the back and one of the jobs was for a trainee assistant transmission controller at Granada Television. And I really didn’t obviously know the specifics of the job, but there was something about it that just communicated to me that this is a job I could do. This is a job I would enjoy and thrive in. Because it sounded, without giving away any details really, it sounded like an operational job that was heavily about crisis management, when things are going wrong. And I figured I could do that. So, I went to the interview, and honestly, this is not so much about me, but just about the times really. I just thought, “Obviously they’re going to offer me this job,” and they did.
And so, I started in September 1977, which was, looking back on it a really interesting time for Britain as a whole, and for television, and for Granada in particular, because when I got there, 1977 was approaching the end of the post-war consensus. We were heading for Thatcher in the spring of 1979, about a year and a half later. The whole country was changing, in the sense that Granada’s reputation had been this colossus of particularly documentary. I mean, I was aware of Coronation Street obviously, but apart from that, not particularly aware of Granada drama at that point, but very much aware of World in Action and the documentary strand, the documentary ethos really, that is embodied. And I think in any history of television or British culture, you got to say that World in Action, in that first 15 years, was a huge thing, a brave thing, a lot of the time. So, I was very happy to be associated with the company.
It was a formal board with Bob Connell. His name was, what they call the head of personnel back then. And the guy that would be my manager, David Black, head of presentation. Joe Rigby, head of programme planning, who had been head of presentation previously and had a finger in that pie. So it was a fairly formal examination, but I figured that I could spot the questions coming. But the one question that I really remember was, do I have any objection to joining a union? Because it was a closed shop, and that would be required. I was a little surprised at that question because I thought, “What, other people would object to joining a union?” And then the other thing I remember at the end, and this was something that… just a sort of naivety of youth, I suppose, at the end they said, “Is there anything you would like to ask us?” And I said, “No, I think I’m good.” And they said, “Don’t you want to know what you’re going get paid?” And I’d just assumed it would be a salary like anything else. I said, “Yes, okay. How much will I get paid?” And they told me. I thought, “Fuck, yes, I really want this job!” Because it was a very profitable business. It was a very effective union by then. And the workers got their fair share. And I would start low on a trainee salary, but then you would get annual increments and this and that and promotions and so on. And I remember thinking, “I could earn £100 a week here!” And to me, back then, that was it. A hundred pounds a week was everything that you could ever dream of. And the established guys, the senior guys that I immediately met, who, because they were short staffed, which is why me and another guy were getting recruited, they we’re working a lot of overtime and they were making a fortune. I mean, just by what had been my standards, I just thought it was an amazing summer. At that point I thought, “This could be very cool. It’s a job that I would like to do, in an interesting environment. And I get paid a fortune. What’s not to like?”