How did you come to join Granada Television?
Well, in 1980, Granada opened a news base at Exchange Flags in the centre of Liverpool, just behind the town hall. Part of the rationale for doing that was that they wanted to ensure that they still had the franchise in the Granada area; they had been criticised for not really giving sufficient coverage to Liverpool. So this was one of the strategies to demonstrate that they were committed to Liverpool, and they were therefore keen on recruiting people from Liverpool and Merseyside to work at the news base. So I had no experience in anything to do with journalism or television, but I saw an advert that was in the local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, which was for a newsroom secretary, and you needed to have secretarial skills, which I had, and an interest in news, which I also had. So it seemed interesting, but also I remember the salary. Although I don’t remember exactly what it was, the salary was significantly more than what I was earning at the time. So I applied, and fortunately I was one of the two newsroom secretaries who was taken on early in 1980.
What exactly was your role as a secretary?
Okay, so I was taken on… I was think there were four of us who joined around about the same time, although there was only myself and Daphne Hughes who were the newsroom secretaries. But the other two people in the foursome was Annie Margetts who at that stage was working on reception, and Gill Hallifax, who was David Highet’s, the manager of Granada in Liverpool, his secretary. So, we became firm friends, and have stayed that way ever since, 40 years on.
But as a newsroom secretary, and initially, what the Liverpool base was for, was to feed inserts into the local news programme in the evening. So as newsroom secretaries, Daphne and myself, our responsibilities were to type up scripts, take down copy, liaise with the journalists, just generally to offer admin support mainly to journalists, mainly working to the news editor. So we didn’t really have any direct involvement in the programme making, but we were there to do things like type up the scripts and print off the scripts, because everything was done on typewriters and photocopiers at that stage. Although it was only inserts into the programme, it could become very fast paced, so we had to work well together and work well under pressure. But it was also great fun, because we were working at an open plan office, so we weren’t at all tucked away. We were working across from the news editor, the producer, all of the journalists. It was good fun, and fortunately Daphne and I worked really well together.
So you did inserts for Granada Reports?
Yes. Obviously, Liverpool was always a place that had a lot of news going on, but they realised they had extra capacity. probably the first programme that originated from there was a lunchtime magazine programme which was called Exchange Flags, which was a light-hearted, studio-based show with a small audience. It was an entertainment programme really, maybe occasionally have a bit of a news base, but really was a magazine programme.
In addition to the fact that I was significantly better paid, I was also introduced to the world of expenses as well, which was a novelty, because when I joined Granada in Exchange Flags – and it was essentially an office block which had been repurposed – at that stage, they didn’t have a canteen. And so, because as an employer Granada were not able to provide us with any food, which was something new, we were able to go out for lunch every day and claim expenses for our lunches, and also, I think, for our morning and afternoon breaks. So that was something which was a great incentive as well. But once the canteen opened, which was really good, just across the way from our office, that became a real focus point for everybody working in Granada. It also had very good food, and they also made you bacon sandwiches in the morning and cakes in the afternoon.