Kathy Arundale recalls working for Sir Denis Forman

The Sixties. I can’t remember when I left personnel — isn’t it terrible! But I went to Fred Boud, who was then general manager, and, after a very short and enjoyable time working for him, went to Denis Forman. That was 1968.

At this stage, Denis Forman would be Programme Controller?

He was Programme Controller and possibly joint Managing Director. I can’t quite remember if he’d got to that then. He certainly became joint Managing Director, and then Managing Director — still keeping on the Programme Controller, I think — and then David Plowright became Programme Controller.

So what sort of thing were you doing for Sir Denis?

Well, secretary. Everything. Tea-making, coffee-making, meeting-fixing. Typing, endlessly. And in those days, of course, there was no taking paragraphs from one bit of the computer and putting it into the next. It was all really hard work, and endless drafts. Everything was circulated to at least six people. So it wasn’t easy, in the physical sense.

But he was just fascinating to work for. Scary, in many ways. Certainly to somebody like me, who hadn’t had a university education. But he, and the breadth of his knowledge and interests, was amazing. And during the time I worked for him, he wrote two books — one of which I typed, in my own time! — about Mozart’s piano concertos. I mean, you could not get anything further from day-to-day television.

And as he took on more, of course I had to take on more, because he became chairman of the opera committee at the Royal Opera House and he was chair of many industry committees, which meant London meetings with loads of paperwork. There was the Annan inquiry into the future of television. Masses and masses of paperwork. Things going on all the time, while Granada had to be kept going.

Was he an easy man to work for?

He had very high standards, but I never found him difficult. I used to get cross with him, as you do, and thought I was being put upon, but no. He was fine.

And held in enormous esteem within the building?

Yes, he was, and I think part of that came from the early days, because when the canteen was in the old building and we were still across the road, and later, when the admin block first opened, he and even Sidney Bernstein used to just wander down to the canteen and have their lunch, and go and sit next to anybody where they saw an empty space. So you’d suddenly find yourself talking to the MD. It never happened to me, of course, because we spent too many hours together as it was! But that all bred a sort of feeling. Everybody said it was like a family, and it was in many ways.

There were obviously disagreements. The unions didn’t always give them an easy time. But, even so, I think there was an enormous respect for what would have been called ‘the management’.

Somebody described it to me as a very paternalistic company?

It was, in many ways, with a lot of benefits. I think Sidney was an amazing man and, yes, it wasn’t like the John Lewis ethic, but we did all have that feeling that we were part of something. Which I doubt most companies had, or have — certainly not now.

And also because it was a creative company, as well.

It was a very creative company. The people who ran the organisation knew what it was like to write, direct, produce. Denis had his knowledge from the British film industry. They were all part of a programme-making team where they knew what they were talking about, and many of them had come up. People like Mike Scott, for instance — who rose to be programme controller from being a floor manager.


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