Judith Jones on Coronation Street and Rock Around the Dock

Well, as a PA, which was great, you worked across the whole range of programmes. So you’d do live programmes, you’d do documentaries, you’d do light entertainment, and you’d do drama. And I think drama was seen as the crème de la crème, and certainly the most senior PAs would get the really prestigious dramas, but the training ground for dramas was Coronation Street. That’s what we started on. It was a really well-oiled machine, so you could slop PAs in and out of it. So you worked on a three-week turnaround. So you would have a week of preparation, a week when you would do filming on a Monday morning, and then be in the studio Thursday, Friday, and then the third week would be just for editing and clearing. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, and I don’t think I was very good at drama. It was too slow for me, I didn’t like standing in the cold, filming. I was not very good at continuity. So one of the main things that you need to be good at as a PA on drama, is to be able to keep your eye on continuity and make sure it matches. So you would just shoot a scene with one camera, several times from different angles, and you had to make sure that those different angles would edit together. So you couldn’t have somebody, I don’t know… say somebody was going to post a letter, you couldn’t have them putting the letter in the box with their right hand and then do the next shot with them putting it in with their left hand, because that obviously wasn’t going to edit together. So you had to have a very good eye for detail and the minutiae of that. And it was a time before you had automatic cameras, or cameras on your phones, or whatever, so you had to actually make a note of it on the script. I wasn’t I wasn’t good at it, and I didn’t enjoy it. So I had a very brief stint on Coronation Street and didn’t do any more dramas. 

What I did do, and what I would have liked to have done more of, was I did a music programme called Rock Around the Dock in 1986, which was based at the Albert Dock, and it was probably about seven or eight different, high-profile – and I mean not just UK-based, but international music artists – performing. It was a point when Frankie Goes to Hollywood – and I know they came from Liverpool, but they were becoming well known – Chaka Khan, the American singer, Spandau Ballet, and American rap group Run DMC. So a whole variety of artists. And we shot them at different locations around the Albert Dock. And that was with a director who was brought in, he wasn’t a Granada director, called Ken O’Neill. And that was probably my first foray into light entertainment, which was quite different from World in Action. So World in Action was very serious, obviously, and people were quite serious. Whereas light entertainment was incredibly light and fluffy. And it was that stage it was run by Steve Leahy. And I can’t remember if it was based in their offices, but certainly going in it was full of flowers and wine, and people just strolling around gossiping, and it was really quite chilled. And so I really enjoyed that. I mean, music is quite complicated in terms of the rules and regulations, quite rightly, what the Musicians Union put in. So in terms of you had to monitor how long people rehearsed for, how long they actually performed for, you had to clear the music very carefully, and exactly how long was each excerpt of music played for. But I really enjoyed it, and I wish I could have done more music. But really, Granada didn’t do that many music programmes. They did that one, and they had done one, I think, in New Brighton a couple of years before. I suspect it was probably quite expensive; not just the musicians, but the whole logistics of it, and the number of crew you had to have, and the setting up of the lights and the stage, etc.. So I’m not sure whether it was worth it. But I absolutely enjoyed that.

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