Somebody has described Granada as being ‘unashamedly left-wing’.
Yes. I thought it was left-wing in conventional political terms. I perceived it as being very, very conservative in social terms.
So would you like to…
Yes, I would have to explain that. Obviously – and I’m very glad it was left wing because that was a real, I mean, I’ve always voted Labour since, so it was a real education for me – and I was very much struck by the poverty in the north west. I totally got it that this was the correct response, and going talking to Frances Clarke (Margi Clarke’s mother) and hearing her experience and all that, so that was a complete education for, you know, a middle class London boy, been to public school in Cambridge, and had never… I’ve never seriously been into politics at university. I went to a sit-in once and everything was going fine and then somebody the piped up and said, “We are in the sit-in condemn the Heath government for so-and-so.” I thought, “Oh, fuck off.” Just a stupid… and so… but I found that very interesting, and in retrospect I’m glad I experienced that, even though I didn’t dive in to that political side, but then it sort of infused everything you did really.
And you think that Granada represented that kind of… the poverty that you saw when you moved to Manchester? Do you think that was replicated in Granada’s programmes?
I don’t think the company made a bad fist of it actually. I think it did, and it was like I said in the Daniel Meadows thing of seeing Bob Greaves talking to somebody in the street and then you get this picture of this woman looking out from her door and everything’s really grotty, and there’s grass coming up between the paving stones, and it’s just… and you think, “Granada did have a connection to the north west and the people in the north west.” I do genuinely feel that. I think it went pretty soon after I left in ’82, I don’t see that it really maintained.
But you know it was pretty… I mean, it had the local news and it had the magazine programmes Liverpool and it had the magazine programme in… and had This is Your Right, which I think probably deserves more credit than it got actually, because my last act on This is Your Right is actually talking to a Muslim GP in Liverpool about starting a – and I can’t remember what language it was, it might have been Punjabi – called Aap Kaa Hak, and that was my last act, was to set that up. And that was fascinating. I mean, I was very open-minded about all that stuff. And so to me that was completely fascinating.
And I don’t see how you couldn’t have become more political being not only in the Granada environment but also in the environment of the north west at that time, at the start of Thatcherism. It was brutal. And I remember particularly Liverpool, and I remember going round Liverpool and I had this memory recently – because of course Heseltine has been back in the news – it must have been when I was on Granada Reports and Heseltine was stomping around some… I remember going in with a film crew to see Heseltine stomping around and actually have to say in retrospect Heseltine was quite impressive, but I remember thinking about the disparity between… you’d had the Toxteth riots, and how really poor Liverpool was, really desperate, in a way that Manchester was more cloaked because the poverty was much more to the north and the east, and in Hulme, where it was cloaked by the existence of Didsbury and Chorlton and the suburbs in the south, and you could almost not really see it. But Liverpool was in your face the whole time. And I genuinely found that very… and of course I had a tie-in to it with Margi, you know, so here I am, you know, the southerner who was brought up in Kensington from the age of 13, going to Margi’s house in Anfield – that was a mind-blower. And Margi and I were very close, it wasn’t like, “Well, you’re posh and you’re working class, we were just friends, very close friends. And so that to me was a complete and utter education.
But when I say conservative, there’s a whole other side to Granada, which was what I was saying about it being a hierarchy, the becoming sclerotic and roles being very firmly defined, and people actually being socially quite conservative. So particularly from the point of view of being gay, I never got any shit because I wasn’t necessarily… I mean, I didn’t deny it but I wasn’t… I was just who I was and it was obvious that I was gay and I didn’t really talk about it very much, and I don’t remember getting into trouble for it. But I just thought people like… I’m afraid to say it, I just thought all the kind of disco queens were just ridiculous, and very sort of conservative… and, you know, also I observed that there was a lot of sexism then, because of course in the gender politics at the time, and I was interested in gender politics, and in the gender politics of the time, feminism was much more advanced than gay rights in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, so I had more than a passing interest in feminism, and in fact the first March I ever went on was when I was at Granada and it was against the Corrie Bill, do you remember that? And that was first march I ever went on. … it must have been when I was back in London in the later ‘80s, in the mid to late ‘80s, and then you had the whole AIDS thing and a whole kind of wave of gay activism, that’s when I really got involved with gay politics, with people like Derek Jarman, and so that was five years later.