John Huntley talks about how he joined Granada TV and his first meeting with Gus MacDonald

I was at York University from ’69 to ’72. Also at York University was Jeremy Fox, who I met, and we used to do TV programmes. It was a collegiate university, so they had a TV station, primarily for science lectures so they could beam them around the various colleges. But in the off time, we had access to the studio. So I presented some programmes – just a laugh, no one ever watched the damn things – but it was quite fun. And then we sort of lost contact. After York, I didn’t quite know what to do [with my career] so I went to Bretton Hall and did a teaching postgraduate course in Drama and English, and got a job in a secondary modern school near Wakefield, because I thought that was where the need was, and for three years I did that. After about three years, in 1976, I got a… it must have been a phone call, from Jeremy, who by this stage was at Granada producing Granada Reports, and he said, “There are researchers’ jobs, if you fancy applying.” So I did, came for an interview, Gus Macdonald was the interview. I was in the navy before I went to York as a naval officer, Dartmouth, for a couple of years, I actually resigned when I was at York, and I remember the interview with Gus Macdonald began by saying, “So you’re that bastard who used to drive a battleship?” – first thing he said, not even hello – to which I had the wit to say, “Well, actually that’s not true, because there have ben no battleships in the Royal Navy since 1945.” Anyway, that’s how it went, and I got offered the job. There’s one thing I always remember about that. As a teacher, you have to give half a term’s notice to leave as part of your contract. So I got this call saying, “Yes, you’ve got the job,” but that was it, and I thought, “Well, I’m not resigning on the say so of some Scottish bloke I’ve only met once, I need a bit of paper.” And nothing was forthcoming. It was getting nearer and nearer the deadline for this half term’s notice. So I phoned up Granada – it happened to be a Monday evening, as World in Action had just been on – and I got put through to World in Action, and I can’t remember her name, but the person I spoke to I was actually at York with, not a particular friend, but that was great, and what she said I had to do was, and said, “Gus Macdonald will probably be in the Film Exchange, so phone the Film Exchange.” No, I thought the Film Exchange might be a place where ITV companies swapped films! (The Film Exchange was actually a members’ club) This is true! Eventually got through to Gus Macdonald, bit of paper was coming, gave my notice and started work at Granada on April 12, 1976.

Was Gus the only person on the interview panel?

No, but I can’t remember who else. There must have been more but I honestly can’t remember who the others were. He’s the one I remember because of what he said.

Do you remember anything else about that? A lot of people have talked about the interviewing panels.

He did say… he leant forward and he had either a jumper or a cardigan on with a great sort of hole in the elbow. And he said, “Do you think clothes are important in television?” I thought, “This guy is really trying to wrong foot me.” So I took it in the spirit it was given and was meant, but that’s that. I didn’t think I had done particularly well. Oh, I know what I did do, because I lived in Yorkshire TV region, and the only Granada programmes I saw were the network programmes, which at that stage was primarily World in Action, but I did buy a copy of TV Times at that newsagent in Quay Street as I arrived early, and read up on what all the local programmes were, so I was able to say something. In later years, that used to drive me potty when people came up and I interviewed them, and they had no idea what Granada made. Oh, come on. Basic stuff.

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