June Buchan talks about the importance of the Granada canteen

Canteen 1963

The Canteen was a kind of a melting pot of ideas and conversations, and in those days you could smoke in the canteen. I remember they had these horrible tinny little ashtrays, they were sort of, what’s the word, shiny orange, turquoise or green and I think they had the same ones in the Granada motor cafes. To think now, we’d sit a table of six, maybe four people on that table smoking and the other two weren’t and everyone was eating their lunch and nobody said a word, it seems extraordinary now. And we smoked in the studio, we smoked in the gallery. I can remember changing from packet cigarettes to roll-ups because when I used to work on say Granada Reports I’d get through ten cigarettes in the gallery before the show was over so I thought if I start rolling myself maybe I wont smoke so much so when I had a thirty second break I’d sort of roll a cigarette. But I just find that extraordinary now. The air in the canteen and the studios must have been absolutely vile but nobody complained. But I did love the canteen because you could see a group of people and think ‘Yes I really wanted to talk to Ken about so and so. I know he went to see such and such a film last night I must find out about it.’ It was all that interchange with people and it wasn’t too cliquey, you didn’t feel you always had to sit with the same people. It was vile actually, the décor was horrible. I seem to remember it was orange flowers but the canteen ladies were lovely. There was one called, I think she was called Irma but all I can remember she used to go’ Roast or mash, roast or mash?’ and then they’d pour tea from an enormous aluminum teapot. And then while I was away doing my degree, by the time I’d come back it was all smartened up, self-service I think, pick your own salads and I think they’d re-done the actual seating by then. But I do remember, the thing about those early days, was that I remember there were beautiful paintings all round the building which they were what, Bernstein collection I suppose, but they felt like they were being shared with you. They were in the foyer, they were down the corridors by the studios, they were in the canteen and it was just, I don’t know, I’d never worked in a place like that and I found it really exciting.

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