Judith Jones on the gender challenges at Granada

What was it like being a woman at Granada?

Okay, so at that time, the production assistant, you have to have secretarial skills, you had to be able to type, and to a lesser extent you had to be able to do shorthand. So, because of that skill set, although that was only a small part of what we had to do – we had to be incredibly well organised, diplomatic, be able to anticipate what might go wrong, be calm under pressure, lots of issues – but it was a gendered role. It was exclusively women. And I think particularly in documentaries, you kind of became the person who looked after the crew. So, in documentaries, for the majority of the time, I would be the only woman in a crew of probably six or seven men, who, in my experience, they were all very pleasant and respectful and I didn’t have any issues with any of them. And they certainly never excluded me, and I very much felt, with them, part of the team. But you were seen as the person who looked after the money, who paid for the meals, who smoothed the way, you anticipated what would go wrong, leaving the boys to get on with the proper job. And so for example, you would go and have a meal. And that was something that people were entitled to, and you as the PA would have the float, and you would have to go and pay for the meal. And that’s fine. But crews always expected that along with their meal, particularly in the evening, that they would have some wine with it, or some alcohol. Now, you were not supposed to have alcohol. So if alcohol appeared on the expenses, you would get recharged for it – I remember once I was recharged with a third of a bottle of wine that appeared on the expenses – so you somehow had to conceal that wine. So you had to go and say to the person who was doing your bill, “I know we’ve had three bottles of wine, but can you somehow make them into six starters so it doesn’t show?” There was a restaurant in Liverpool called The Kebab House on Hardman Street, where they were so used to having Granada crews there that they did that without you asking. But generally, that was what you as the PA had to do, because the money had been taken out in your name. And you had to justify every expense on it. So, in some ways, in documentaries, I think that was an issue. 

I think there were also limited opportunities for progressions for PAs. And I think there were people who had incredible skills, you know, women who’d worked for years, who had worked on dramas, who knew the ins and outs, and without which the programmes couldn’t have got on screen. But there wasn’t a clear progression route for PAs, and I don’t think that their value was necessarily seen and respected. Which is not to say that some PAs didn’t go on to – you know, Carolyn Reynolds as an example – to take on other roles, but it would be unusual for a PA to become a director, for example, when I’m sure they were perfectly capable of doing that. But that’s not just particular to Granada. I subsequently did some study and some research, and we can come on to that. But I think that was across the television industry as a whole. And it was also not easy for women with caring responsibilities to work in television, or certainly to work in television as a production assistant. So to some extent that probably inhibited career progression.

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