John Huntley’s memories of the Granada canteen – and Irma!

I remember the canteen, my God. The canteen had Barnum and Bailey photographs or posters, because that was put there by the Bernsteins, to remind everybody that we’re in show business, that’s what we were. And also – which I thought was extraordinary at the time, and I think was pretty rare – was that everybody ate in the canteen, from David Plowright to Mike Scott to Denis Forman. And the fear was you’d be eating your lunch and someone would sit down and ask you a question! They thought that was excellent. There was also Irma, this wonderful, wonderful woman, who people will remember from those days. “Mashed or roast?” that was her great thing. “Mashed or roast!” and when you went in for breakfast, there was the queue length and she would say, “Do you want a egg?” Yes please, Irma. So ‘a egg’ and ‘mashed or roast’ – everybody will remember Irma. The other thing, Steve, which is quite interesting, is when I joined Granada there was no bar! It was the only dry television station in the country, because the Bernsteins were anti-alcohol. They then opened ‘The Stables’ after I had been there for not that long, and I think from their point of view they suddenly realised, “What a bloody good idea!” Because everybody talked about work – in their own time! … But it was quite extraordinary. And when you had politicians on, I had Denis Healey on a programme, and taking him for a drink, that sort of… get the back dining room key to open the drinks cabinet because it was a dry company. But yes, so I think ‘The Stables’ made a big difference, particularly if you’re doing something like Granada Reports – after the programme, into the bar to wind down.

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