Leslie Woodhead on how World In Action was part of the wider cultural changes in the 1960’s

I think it’s very hard to estimate how fundamental the change was. Certainly we were part of a wave that was going on, which included rock ‘n’ roll and included fashion, and included new theatre and cinema. We were involved with all of that; it wasn’t an accident that the Beatles’ office was only across the street from Granada’s London office, and there was a great deal of interchange about all of that. So I think that there was… I mean, certainly we were much enlivened by the fact that the Conservative politicians took violently against World in Action, and said it was a ‘nest of Trotskyites’ – which of course it never was, far from it, although some would argue that Gus Macdonald was a little closer to that part of the world than he might have been. Gus joined as part of Jeremy Wallington’s investigative unit.

In the later 60s, I remember working on a film with Gus Macdonald about arms dealers supplying weapons to the AFRA, the breakaway republic in Nigeria, and that was fun, very sweaty and felt dangerous, and of course we liked to glamour ourselves by thinking we were doing hairy stuff, and to a mild degree I suppose we were. So there was a lot of international going about, there was a Vietnam war, I went to Laos to film – not to Vietnam – so there was a lot of all of that sense of pushing boundaries, taking risks, challenging received ideas, and all of that self-aggrandising fun that was going on there. The other thing that was fun for me was that my good friend and long-standing colleague, a guy called Jo Durden-Smith who has now, unhappily, passed away.

David Plowright, who was always enabling of nutty things, set up Jo in an office in Golden Square to make rock ‘n’ roll documentaries. Jo persuaded David that this was the wave of the future, that this was highly political, that things that were happening in rock ‘n’ roll were reshaping the world. So Jo and I did a film together, while I was still very much involved with World in Action – in fact, from late ’67, through ’68 and into ’69, I was series co-editor of World in Action with Jeremy Wallington, but I broke away once to do a film of the first London production of the stage show Hair with a bunch of World in Action camera men who we shipped into the theatre to shoot rehearsals and then perform, so that was a lot of fun. And then, as we began to move into colour, Jo then persuaded Granada to do a film about the Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park.

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