Luise Fitzwalter describes the innovation on Open House

We created something called Open House for North West Parliament, which was a brilliant idea where we used the House of Commons set that Granada had and we invited local MPs from the north west, and the retired deputy speaker who lived in the north west, and they debated issues like education, health etc. They absolutely loved it and they brought their constituents, their activists, to the backbenchers. So the atmosphere was totally electric, and they really loved it because they did it all in the parliamentary language. We did it, typical Granada, because the MPs would not allow the House to be filmed. The actual House. And this was one of the reasons why they got it through, because the northwest MPs had found it such fun that they couldn’t see the problem of having it in Parliament, you know. And nowadays we can’t believe that we weren’t allowed to watch those debates. But this was a hugely successful thing, and every MP took part.

And that used the set?

It used the set.

Was it First Among Equals?

Yes, it was, The First Among Equals (set). I remember when it was being built, I was only a producer then and I went to (David) Plowright. And I said, “This is all wrong because you have nothing below the gangway, and there’s so much of importance below the gangway. You have the rebels…” – this was before the SNP took over and all that – “And you have the Lib Dems.” And it had been like that for 30 years. The big revolution was in the last election when you had the SNP coming in and taking over masses and masses of space. But I said, “You’ve really got to have a bit of below the gangway, otherwise you’ll never be able to do anything with it.” And Plowright backed me up, and they did, they added a bit, which was good, because we couldn’t have done that programme because the Lib Dems wouldn’t have sat anywhere else! And Cyril Smith had to have a specially reinforced bench. So one of the things I’m proud about, and I thank Granada for, is that my whole career at Granada, especially as producer and editor, was about innovation and that was a key Granada thing.


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