Leslie Woodhead on how in Granada’s early days, ‘we were having to make up a thing because it didn’t much pre-exist’

I wondered if certainly at the beginning of your career, was there a sense that for most of you, you were kind of novices and learning as you…


And that wasn’t just for you personally.

All of us – and I guess that was what was exhilarating about getting involved at the moment I did. Television was quite new here. I didn’t grow up with television in my house; I remember the first set being brought in for the Coronation. Television was not stitched into my boyhood at all – it was radio. So even by the time I joined Granada in 1961, Granada was still a new place – Coronation Street was six months old when I joined Granada, so we were all learning our trade, journalism and documentary making was mainly occupied by former print journalists, reporters of various kinds, or by people like me who were just layabouts from university! I mean, I had no… I brought no particular expertise to the job, and the people who surrounded me were, like me, dilettantes who read English at university and had no particular equipment for doing this job apart from an interest in the world and their consuming curiosity. But we felt that we were having to make up a thing because it didn’t much pre-exist.

There wasn’t… although it had been back in business since the end of World War Two, it didn’t really start to evolve until the mid- to late-50s into anything like what we know now, and with only two channels for most of the early part of my life in TV, we were all very much novices, all fumbling about to try and discover how to do this thing, even the people who were working with us technically. In the studio there were people lumbering about with these bloody huge studio cameras who sort of knew what they were doing, they had done that elsewhere – but in my area, trying to find out how to tell stories with documentaries, that was a fairly new trade. When I first arrived, all the documentaries – or most of them – were being done on 35mm film, with all the angularities and problems that that provided – World in Action really took Granada into the 16mm world and was really conscious of trying to find new ways of working with this new lightweight – as it then was – film technology. So there was a tremendous sense of newness and learning together how to do this new thing.

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