Going right back to the beginning, how did you come to be employed at Granada?
It’s a curious accident and quite simply the most fortunate thing that has ever happened to me. I was in my last year at Cambridge, reading English, and a chum of mine from Halifax, where I grew up, said, “I heard some guys are coming down from Granada to try and recruit graduate trainees – I’m thinking of applying, why don’t you?” So I wrote to these guys at Granada, and oddly enough the chum didn’t go for his interview, but I did, and they said, “Okay, come to the University Arms in Cambridge, and we’ll talk to you.” So I did that. They said I was the only candidate they had ever met who had seen Coronation Street – it was on my patch and it felt like opening a door on my life, in fact it was really very striking when it first came on air. So, armed with my Coronation Street memories, I went and did the interview, and in typical Granada fashion I then heard nothing for three months and I went and got a job in advertising in London, as a copywriter, and was on the verge of taking that up when I got a telegram from Denis Forman in Manchester saying, “Be in Manchester tomorrow.” Again, a perfect Granada introduction!
So my dad drove me from where we lived in Halifax to Manchester, and I was ushered into the presence first of all, in fact, of Sidney Bernstein and his brother Cecil, these two immaculately tailored, softly spoken gentlemen who didn’t seem to me at all to be like television guys. I’ve not forgotten the interview, because it was quite surreal. Sidney mainly wanted to talk about who did I think was the most distinguished writer/novelist of my time. I thought, “What on earth is this? This is very, very peculiar.” So I think I said DH Lawrence or something, and we had an agreeable little chat about… Sidney seemed particularly thrilled when I said that my father had been a dance band musician and he was from Yorkshire, so he ticked every box as far as Granada was concerned – I was the son of a northerner, and better still somebody who could be called ‘in show business’ – so that obviously lit him up, he was fascinated. My father had trodden the boards in a very wacky way in the 30s with an itinerant pop band that he was going around with. I was then shuffled into the presence of Denis Forman, an extremely elegant, silvery-haired gentleman, who said, “Okay, we are able to offer you a job.” And I thought, “Christ – after all this time, suddenly this is happening at an impossible speed!” I said, “When do you need to know? I’ve already got a job in London, in advertising.” He said, “Now.”
What year was that?
It was the early summer of 1962. I often wonder how it would have been if I had gone into advertising. Who knows, I mean it was the period when people like David Puttnam and Alan Parker and all of that were making their lives in advertising, so who knows? But I’m really, really glad I didn’t do that. But again, it was typical Granada, that having waited forever, they now needed an answer within five minutes! I said yes, and shortly thereafter I was hired as part of a group as production trainees.