Norma Percy on leaving Granada

Brian (Lapping) was offered voluntary redundancy and set up… and Steve Morrison, or maybe it was Jules Burns, or maybe it was both of them, said, “Well, we could give you a job if Brian leaves, but it definitely would be in Manchester.” They made it quite clear that they probably thought it would be a good idea if I left. And, although Denis Forman said to me, “I wouldn’t exactly go and join Brian as an independent, I’m not quite sure that he has the business sense.” But I really felt like I had no choice. He was absolutely convinced he would go bankrupt quite soon. But he agreed to give me a staff contract for the existence of as long as the company existed. So, I went on it, instead of getting any of the backend.

So, it was he and I, and we left with a leaving present from Granada, which was a Granada commission to do another play, which was the road to war in 1939 (Countdown to War), which we used the transcripts which were published. It was for ‘89, the 50th anniversary of ‘39. And we got Patrick Lau to direct it, and he realised that all the really great actors were in plays in the West End and available for being in a television. My introduction to real drama was making coffee for Ian McKellen, who played Hitler. And I think much of his Shakespeare acting, he was Richard III, has been based on playing Hitler for us! So we did this. Brian came in ‘88. He was determined to be the sole founder of what was Brian Lapping Associates. So, Charlie Smith, the researcher, and I stayed at Granada working on this for a couple of months.

Brian, he must have gone in June and I joined him in September. And so Charlie Smith, the researcher, Brian’s secretary, and me were Brian Lapping Associates. But we came to where Brook were, and Lapping and Phillip Whitehead were, and kind of used their accountants and stuff. But we did finish this leaving present from Granada, which turned out quite well. I hadn’t realised that you had to be thinking about what you’re going to do next.

Brian went to see the BBC about a news quiz that they were asking for tenders for. It was a funny news quiz. It became Have I Got News for You. But they gave it to Hat Trick. They said, “Why don’t you do something like your End of Empire about the Soviet Union?” And that led to the Second Russian Revolution, which we’ve been doing ever since.


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