Luise Fitzwalter on attitudes towards her as a woman at Granada

The worst person was a female news editor. I came in as a married woman returner, and I had been doing various degrees at Bradford, I did an MA and a PhD. And then I came to Granada. They were poisonous. Utterly poisonous. I mean, she was, with her coterie of people. And they would send me off on assignments and there was nobody there, or they sent me to talk to Peter O’Toole and asked me to ask three questions which meant he threw something at me, which was fun because, you know, that’s good telly, but… I mean, basically they were really, really nasty.

And I was absolutely saved by Judy Finnegan, who stood up to them and said, “I’m not having this.” You know, if there was an assignment in Barrow at six, they’d send me – or tried to – knowing that I had to get back because my childcare was limited. And Judy just said, “No. Absolutely no.” And Judy was the star, and they couldn’t do anything about it. So I just stood behind her going, “Thank you very much.” And she and Richard were absolutely lovely to me, and they were… Richard was fairly new, and we all sat at one end of the newsroom, and they were fantastic. They taught me a lot and they protected me a lot. And the sort of things like daft things. It’s all so petty. But they really tried to make me give up, and I don’t know why. I presume it’s the bully thing; I was new, they presumed that I didn’t know anything, I would ring a minister and say, “Can you do 10 minutes for us, we’ll come to the Midland while you’re here in Manchester,” and then they would send somebody else to do the interview, and of course the minister was saying, “Where’s Luise?” because we were friendly, I had worked in the Commons library and I had done stuff for all of them. And it’s that kind of place, the Commons, you know, the staff and the members know each other extremely well.

And I was actually the only person in the newsroom when the news came through that those policemen jumped into the sea after a dog, and one by one had been swept away. I think six policemen lost their life in Blackpool. And the reason I was the only person in the newsroom is they’d all gone out to have a drink and they left me, been there five weeks, in charge – because I was not one of them, and so you know, it was fine. I ended up finding Rod Caird and saying, you know, I have to tell you that there’s this big story comes through, and he said, “Well where is everybody?” And I said, “They’re in the pub.” And that’s where they were.

But it was a culture, on the first floor, of bullying which wasn’t there in any other place, and it was horrible. But as a woman, I think actually I never suffered promotion-wise. But there weren’t many women – in fact there weren’t any women – Granada was a fiefdom. There were these very, very egocentric people, with Ray being the huge exception, who ran big departments, executive producers. They had massive egos – or most of them, Ray again being the exception – and they were all men. But the mould-breaker I think was Dianne Nelmes, because she had this massive success on This Morning and promoted by Rod and David Liddiment. Rightly so. And once she’d done that, I think they realised how competent an executive producer could be who was a woman. And I mean it was superb and broke the mould. But I mean, yes, there was a lot of sexism. But it was really more that it was macho rather than…


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