Interviewed by Stephen Kelly, 15 May 2019.
Okay. All right, Pete. As ever with these things, begin at the beginning. How did you come to join Granada Television?
I was freelancing in Birmingham, ATV – which no longer exists, of course – in the centre of Birmingham. I got a contract there straight from college. I was in the design department, and I had, I think, a nine-month contract to work on their winter campaign of 1979. So this was 1978. A number of the graphic designers working in Birmingham were friends with, or ex-colleagues of the design department in Manchester. They mentioned that there was a possibility of a job coming up in Manchester, and mentioned it to me, linked to access to notice boards. That’s how it came about. And in a way, it just shows all those years ago, the various companies… there was a certain comradery I think, as well as rivalry with the various… well, certainly in the art and design departments around the country. In fact, we ended up playing ATV, Granada TV. We arranged a few football matches in years to come. Yes. That’s how it came about. I heard of it because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Yes.
You were working as a graphics artist. You had completed art school?
Yes. I went to Leicester, it was then, Leicester Polytechnic, doing a graphic design degree. No universities at that time actually did it, in fact. Or, only Reading. Leicester now is De Montfort University. While I was there, one of our tutors developed a relationship with the graphic design department in Birmingham, ATV. We used to get some associate designers come across and talk to us. I got quite friendly with one of them, and he set projects for us and he quite liked some of the work I did. And he said, “Well, keep in touch when you finish.” And I duly did. He offered me then a contract in the September, October to work on what was called their winter campaign, when the ITV companies had a huge region… well, regional stroke national campaigns to advertise and promote ITV programmes throughout the country. They were very big. This was a national winter campaign. Yes, so that was my first taste.
So you applied for the job at Granada in Manchester.
Did you have to go for an interview process?
Oh, yes. Yes. In fact, funny enough, that interview came about in the February, I think, and I’ve started at ATV in the September. It was funny, I had never been further north I don’t think, than Birmingham at that time, within this country. You know, I had to check exactly where Manchester was on the map. I always remember the interview I got, I didn’t make. Because it was one of the few times it was snowbound mid-February and I didn’t get further than Crewe. And I sat in Crewe Station for a couple of hours realising I was going to miss this interview. So as soon as I got back to Manchester, Piccadilly, I found a red phone box. Then phoned and apologised. Of course, there were no mobile phones then. That I didn’t make the interview. The secretary of the design department said “Oh, don’t worry. A few people struggled today. Look, we’ll rearrange.” And I think I had an interview in about 10 days or so later, towards the end of February. But yes, I can remember sitting on Crewe Station thinking, what’s happening? Where am I? Anyway, it’s a very nice station.
Was that a fairly straightforward interview?
I luckily then had the benefit of a certain amount of the interview, and I since have conducted a number of interviews through my latter years at Granada. I think the important part of the interviews is, someone can fit within a department because it’s so tight knit. So I think they look at your work. I was lucky, I then had a certain amount of work from working at ATV that sort of lent itself for television. I guess they must also look at you as a personality to know where you fit or what you fit. Also, it might well have helped that one of the gentlemen interviewing me, Phil Buckley – a lovely man, a friend of mine – was a good friend of the head of the department at ATV. So I think he had the QT from Jeff Pearson. He was Jeff Pearson. I guess Jeff must have said, “Yes, he’s all right. Give him a job.” So again, it’s one of those things that right place, right time. Perhaps knowing people. I guess a lot of careers start that way. Yes, fortunate in that sense. Yes.
So you started at Granada in April 1979?
What would be the first few programmes that you would work on, and what would you be doing?
Well in those early days, you come in as an assistant graphic designer, or even a junior assistant graphic designer. You always go, or we used to, onto the local news. That would have been Granada Reports. The ITV company has retained that name. That’s to my knowledge, the only real link with the past now. Granada Reports, the local news is still called that. A tenuous link, I feel. So yes, Granada. That as you can imagine, was a live programme. I hadn’t done live TV at all at ATV, because I was working on a promotion campaign. So I didn’t have that pressing deadline. But boy, the adrenaline certainly kicks in when you start working on a live programme, a live news programme. And in those days and then years to follow, there would have been an awful amount of live broadcasts. Not least, football and political programmes. Yes, and Harry programmes. I worked on World in Action for about three or four years. It was good training for the years to come, that’s for sure, and knowing what a deadline was.
So what would you be doing?
Well in those days, a lot of it was good old Letraset. Letraset was then actually, a fairly new addition really, to the graphic toolbox… with rubdown letters, where you would make up captions, caption names, putting naming to maps. A lot of the maps would be pre-printed, because it was regional TV, regional news. So you had a stock number of maps of the area with the main towns highlighted. You would then sort of add where there might have been some particular newsworthy event, and you would rub these letters down to form the name. That was Letraset. What was kind of new about it, it was called dry Letraset as opposed to wet Letraset, which had been around only a few years previous, where you actually had to make the stencil wet and apply the Letraset. With this, you just had to rub the ballpoint pen or a stylus. So yes, an Letraset became the standard for the following 10, 15 years, really. It was around for a long time.
So you would do the captioning?
Yes. Sorry, Steve. It would be captions. Name captions, obviously for newsreaders and GESPs. And then any supporting visual, which were often maps. And occasionally… I wasn’t in illustrator, so I couldn’t draw especially well. Some of our more talented illustrators might draw something for the news, whether it be a cartoon or something. And then you might add a graphic to that, like a sound bubble or something. But just in a side thing, going down memory lane… I remember in my interview, there was the head of PR. He was a very dour character, as often people who worked…
Who was he? Who was this?
I honestly can’t remember the name now. I can visualise him still. I just can’t remember his name. But I did comment that I actually wasn’t a particularly good illustrator or drawer. So he looked at me and just stared at me and said, “If you can’t draw, what are you doing in this interview?” So I smiled and I said, “Well, it’s about ideas as well.” But anyway, yes. No, I can’t remember his name now. He had grey hair. Grey hair, I remember that. But good old PR, yes.
So you’re working on Granada Reports and other local programmes.
Yes. I think at that time, I was on a training contract. I forget what you call them now. When your contract could be terminated after three months. If you didn’t quite match up. So I was on that for three months. On that three months, that was pretty much really all I did, really. Local news, because it was a daily programme. So you were preparing other stuff during the day as well, but that would go out. But yes, it was all totally local programmes, local news and sport. I did meet some of the sports department then, because very integral to the news. And of course, I met the lovely Paul Doherty, who I developed I like to think, a good working relationship with. I must say about Paul, his bark was far worse than his bite. I grew to like him and respect him very much.
So when you do sport, what kinds of things are you doing?
Well, sport then was… and of course, the Northwest as we all know, was a hotbed of football then as it is very much now. I wouldn’t have done it in that first three months, but certainly then in the following year or so. We had been working on local sports programmes. Of course one of our classics at the time… and we had one of the preeminent sports presenters, Elton Welsby, who then had developed a very national profile. So you would be working on live football matches. You would go out on a Saturday afternoon to record the match. So again, you’d be taking your kit apart, rubbing down the team names, and of course just hoping you got all the spellings right. But luckily, there weren’t quite so many foreign players then. So there were a lot more Joneses and Smiths. Then of course, there was always the… the directors would always panic. They wanted the score before it was actually at the score goal, and the goal scorer. But hey, you didn’t have a crystal ball, so you had to wait. Funnily enough, they always thought graphics even then, was electronic. They thought it was instant, whereas you’re still physically rubbing a name down. So yes, they would be a bit longer to wait for a name to go up on a caption.
Presumably, you could pre-do the actual scores.
Yes. Well, you could do. But they’d want the scorers, and of course you couldn’t do those. And of course, if it was a long name or something. But yes, we’d be on the outside, OB trucks as they were called, and they’d park up. I always remember, I ended up… I can’t remember if City won or City lost that day, but it was a main road and it was seven goals swinging the game. And that was a frenetic game, I seem to remember. The OB trucks were always really cramped. Although though there’s a comradery, which there is with the sparks and the electricians and the engineers, at the same time everyone’s looking out for themselves as well. So it’s an odd mix, really. Everyone is very professional in that they want to get their own bit done. You look out for each other, but you want to make sure that you get your bit right. So, yes. Yes.
It’s almost been quite good fun doing this.
It was. It was. I think some people take to live more than others. I guess it is a bit nervous. I’ve always liked football and knew a lot about football, I guess. So it helped as well to go there. And of course, going to some of these great grounds and thinking, wow. Yes, this is main road. This is Old Trafford ! Which I had only ever read about in Shoot Magazine, way down south in Devon, where I was born. So, yes. No, it was. It was good. We were also meeting various freelance people or directors and that, that you’d only work with occasionally. On the whole, like I said, there’s a real comradery and professionalism. But at the same time, there was some sharp tongues if you didn’t get things right. Yes, there was an accepted standard always, which is quite right.
Okay. You’ve spent some time working on local programmes. Did you move up then?
Yes. I think you’re a junior… I’m trying to remember now. It’s a long time ago. I’ve done some part-time lecturing in the recent past. When I was doing my lectures, I said, “Well, I worked in broadcast for over four decades.” That really made me think, wow, it is a long time even though the ‘70s was only touched by a year. Yes, I think as a junior for about 18 months, and then you go up to full graphic designer. I’ve got to say, our department, I was one of the youngest going in I think, when I started there 23, 22. The department was made up really, of more early middle-aged people. But a couple of them took me under their wing, which is one in particular, who was a lovely and very talented typographer, Ray Freeman. He was working on World in Action, and he kind of took me under his wing a bit. I used to help out, help him on World in Action. In a year or so’s time after that, he recommended when he went onto another programme, that I could take the programme over for a while. Which at that time, I thought, wow, this is quite special. It was a very special programme. So yes, World in Action. A lot of weekends disappeared, because it was a Monday night programme at one time. Not live, but it was being recorded right up until the death. I think it went out at 8:30 on a Monday. So you were working right up to 7:30 often on that one, on a Monday. Yes. Yes, World in Action was for about two years, I think. Two-and-a-half years I think, I did World in Action then, which had its moments. But the stories I would find very, very fascinating. I was lucky enough to work with some very talented people. In fact, I can remember working on a couple of programmes. He won’t remember me, but I certainly remember Paul Greengrass. Yes, I worked on a few programmes with Paul. Again, a mix of personalities. But I remember Paul being very professional and knew what he wanted, but very pleasant with it. Yes.
And you were still working with Letraset?
Yes. Letraset was… in the background, there was this looming coming of electronic graphics we heard about. You’d hear about it and perhaps read articles about it in trade magazines. But that was in the future. That was to happen in 1986, the electronic graphics department started at Granada TV. But when I moved on from World in Action, which was very much Letraset and hand-drawn maps, and it was filming rostrum techniques under a rostrum camera, where you’d have various layers of cell, and you’d build up maps and animations. We developed a good relationship with the rostrum department. The head of rostrum, who was a very strong union man, that used to be fun. If you brought stuff down during their coffee break, lunch break, “Oh, I can’t do it now. Oh, no. There’s dust on the lens.” Phil Phillips, rest in peace. But yes, he was always an interesting character. But yes, it was still, in those days, a very traditional when I worked on world in action. Yes. But I went moving on from world in action. That was the other great thing about television graphics, it’s the visual support. When people ask me, “What exactly is TV graphics?” In a book or an illustration, it’s kind of easy to say, but to me, it’s the visual stamp of everything you see on television. It is the branding of a TV programme, it’s any visual support, that is graphic design. And of course, a lot of it now, you don’t even see with special effects, but that still comes under a sense of an umbrella of graphic design. But I then went from world in action to what was called promotions. And again, promotions are… that was where you would promote your programmes on the national ITV network to promote your programmes and the whole network programmes if you were doing regional and network campaigns. And that was a really interesting time because it at that time, I suppose, that I had the opportunity to design my most famous logo, if you want to put it that way, the actual ITB logo, and that came about because the network was looking for a new ITV logo. So, there was a lot of network meetings where various designers would go down and take storyboards. And fortunately, we had a good editor from promotions, and I forget his surname now. David, ginger hair and a beard. Again, a nice man.
Yes, head of promotions. David…
Oh, I know who you mean, yes.
Very broad, very Scottish, loved his running. He’d always be out running every lunch hour. And again, bark worse than his bite, but he was a very strong voice on the network and the network meetings and various bodies. And so yes. And as it turned out, they wanted a new ITV logo as a filler for a year or so when they selected my design, as it turned out. So, I always kind of think I’m quite proud that I thought, “Well, actually, I had the ITV logo for about…” I think it lasted for about a year to 18 months. I mean, looking back on it now, it’s perhaps no great shapes, but it must’ve done the job. And also, while on promotions, I think, rightly or wrongly, I think I’m right… I think I was the first designer to animate our Granada G, our beloved G, in a three dimension, to make it into a three-dimensional animated form. So, that was interesting because it coincided in 1984-85 with the dawning of this electronic graphics, which we heard was coming. So, yes, we did a 3D animation of the Granada G, a golden G on a bluish background to keep the colour branding with a company in London, a small company that was starting up called Electric Image. And yes, they were exciting times, really. Yes. And I remember then doing another campaign with Electric Image. In the Christmas campaign of 1984, the Granada department had to do the Christmas network campaign, and I was working then with an editor, a promotions editor called Nick Lake, who was a very nice man. He always knew what he wanted when he saw it, so that was always interesting. So, you had a certain free reign. And I came up with a campaign of a toy train that was sitting under the Christmas tree, and then it flew around the skies, dropping TV programmes to all and sundry. And I always remember an interesting conversation with David Black.
David Black, that’s his name.
David was a very… he was a great organiser, but he wasn’t the most creative of promotion editors. So, he couldn’t quite square the circle why there’d be a flying train. He said, “Well, why isn’t Santa Claus in his sleigh?” I had quite an interesting hour trying to persuade him with storyboards, that, “Look, it’d be different to have this flying train, and we’re going to use this brand new electronic 3D imagery.” So, I managed to persuade him in the end, and I think it all turned out. It all turned out well in the end. And in fact, I was the front cover of a trade magazine with graphic design, Christmas graphics enters the new world or something, which was with a picture of the toy train on the front cover of a magazine called Televisual, December, 1984. So, that was quite nice. So, yes, it was, again, exciting times. Yes.
So, the advent of electronic captioning, etc., must have had a huge impact on the department.
It did. It did. Because it was such a revolution, and I think I use that word not too lightly. And I was very much involved because I ended up actually getting the job, the position of head of electronic graphics. And I think it was more by default than anything else because a couple of very talented designers dropped out of the interview process. It was an internal interview process, and a couple of them decided they didn’t want to go for it, but I thought, “You know what? I’m going to go for this. It’s the brave new world, all exciting.” So, I applied for it and I think I was the last men standing, so they said, “Well, look, see what you can do.”
So, yes. So, I became head of electronic graphics and, hey, the salary got boosted because I was head of a department. So, this was 1986, so sort of seven years on from starting. And the interesting thing then was, of course, my friendships didn’t alter, but it was slightly different having a certain level of authority, if that’s the right word, albeit organisational authority over some fellow designers. So, some took to it quite easily. Some, sometimes, that was a challenge. But yes. So, the electronic graphics departments opened up for business in 1986, and yes. So, we had to take over some offices that was on our floor, the second floor in Keith Street in the main building, and all this electronic equipment and fancy new furniture was made and fancy swivel chairs and lighting and electronic desks and all sorts. And of course, we got to know a lot of characters from another universe called engineers, and they’re another breed. These guys that really knew all the tech stuff, because it was then so new to us that, in a way, the engineers were kind of learning as they went. So, yes, it was an interesting… Interesting times.
So, presumably, because you no longer have the Letrasets, you’re no longer doing the scores, you’re, what, just typing it all in?
Yes. So, there was a piece of machinery that came between Letraset and full-blown electronic graphics, as we call it, and that was called the Aston caption generators, and they were being used then on live sports programmes, mainly football, obviously. And that was, now looking back, quite a basic caption machine, but it was the industry standard, and there was a number of Aston… there was an Aston 1, 2, but Granada entered at Aston 3, and we started off at Aston 3 and then went through to Aston 4. And that was a bit like a big keyboard that would not look at a place in a Doctor Who Tardis with a nice little joystick and nice twirly controls and buttons as well as a QWERTY keyboard. And the floppy disc, the good old floppy disc was an 18-inch square floppy disc, which I still have a few, and it’s just amazing now to look at it and to think the floppy disc held a font, one font, or it would hold the captions that you then typed for that particular programme. So, it didn’t exactly have a great memory capacity. But the Astons, they were actually, like I said, to look at now retro, are a nice work of art, I always feel, and Aston Industries. And yes, like I said, it wouldn’t look out of place on a Tardis, a Doctor Who control panel.
So, the advent of electronic must have caused major ripples within the graphics department.
It did. It did for all of us in a way, because we had all… we were all of a certain age. And of course, this is before the mobile phones and before the household PC, household computer. So, we as a breed, we used to… metal rulers, pens, pencils, Rotring pens, Letraset. So, we used to working with our hands, cardboard, creating imagery, cell, hand-painted animations. So, the skillset isn’t totally natural to go from that to actually a more technically minded sort of operation, and I think I alluded to earlier that a lot of our staff were that much, perhaps seven or eight years older than me. So, it was a middle aged department on the whole without too many youngsters. So, it was a huge, huge learning curve, and I remember some… I wouldn’t say anyone took to it like a duck to water, but a number of us became very, well obviously proficient, good at it, etc, but there were one or two that certainly struggled. And it was obvious in perhaps their future programmes stayed away more from the heavy use of electronic graphics because there was still a need for drawing illustration and what have you, traditional skills. So, yes. The word “Revolution,” I think, is about right within the business, for sure.
And did that cause union problems? Were there long discussions?
I’m trying to think now. I don’t really think that were particularly union problems. Obviously, there was the new sense of what duties and what skillset you then needed to encompass certain payments, additional payments or a change of working title, but as a piece of equipment, it was never… there was no sense of the Luddite approach in that sense at all, no, because it was… by that time, that was the future. Yes. So, there was no problem actually having in, but I think, to be fair, the unions helped to protect and evolve new working titles, really, as people then became proficient with it. Because of course, it’s… because I can remember seeing TV programmes soon after saying, “What are we all going to do with us spare time? Because all these great pieces of equipment can do so much so quickly, you’ll get all your work done in three days.” But hey ho, funnily enough, it means you can do a lot, lot, lot more work that much faster. So, in a way, ironically, deadlines became tighter and a lot more work, looking into the future as they evolve. But I remember we had to do… I did a booklet and we did introductory reviews and workshops for producers and researchers because there was this new beat called electronic graphics. So, the way graphic design was then outputted and, more importantly, required and requisited – is that the right word? – actually authorised and required, it had to be… it was a new learning for the whole building. So, we had producer workshops where producers would come up and look at the equipment and, like I said, researchers and very… and of course, we then developed a lot tighter working relationships with the VT editors, the videotape editors, whereas once upon a time, we would not really have had a great deal to have done with them. So, yes. It formed very different working practises as well to introduce it to the building.
So, you continue to work as head of the electronic graphics department.
Yep. So, from… that was ‘86, and yes, I retained that title until I left, which was in 2005, I think it was. 2005 or 2006, I can’t remember it. But yes, about that time. And obviously, electronics just grew and grew. And in a way, a bit like a tsunami, it took over the whole department because graphic design then was electronic graphics, and everything of the past was consigned to the past. Excuse me. Certainly, by perhaps 1990, the old had completely gone in that sense and it was by 1990, sort of three or four years later, it was a completely new way of working.
And the electronic equipment is coming more and more sophisticated?
Yes. I mean… but to give you some example, when we started the department, one of the market leaders at the time, and I’m not sure where they sit now with a company called Quantel, which was in Newbury. And in fact, the only time I’d flown in a helicopter, the Newbury helicopter picked myself up and an engineer and a manager, and we flew by helicopter from Manchester all the way to Newbury and back, which was thrilling. But yes, Quantel were the market leaders, and they had a system called The Paintbox, which was the kind of Rolls-Royce system of graphic design. And to give you an idea, I think when we brought that into the company, one Paintbox was £120,000. And now, your mobile phone, or the graphics capability of a little graphics card in your computer can do a thousand times more than the Paintbox could ever do, and for pennies, and that then… we’re not going that long back with the £120,000, just to give you some idea. So, it was also an expense by the company to invest in the equipment. And of course, the company, we brought their return for it, but the return was a natural evolvement of graphics for the whole station.
So, by the year 2000, Granada has started to change considerably.
Oh, crikey. Yes. And the graphic design department had changed considerably because we had a merger, and I can’t remember when exactly, probably late-1990s, ‘98, ‘97. I can’t remember exactly, with which I’m sure a lot of colleagues will remember when we merged with the BBC to form a kind of production company called 360 Media. So, that was, as we entered the 2000s, was graphic design then. We had merged with BBC, and the BBC came up from Oxford Road and we had four or five BBC designers within the department as well, but we were all rebranded then as 360 Media.
And you were running that?
I wasn’t running it, per se. No, I was still… there was a head of that department, and that was Paul (Kierden? 20:40). And I was head of the electronic graphics. So, there was more the personnel side and the… so, there were two of us, I guess, sort of jointly looking after it, but from a personnel point of view, Paul (Kierden? 42:01) headed that department. But I was still head of electronic graphic design. So yes, it was a joint operation in that respect. Paul was head of the personnel side, so would ask people to do various projects. He would hand those out, so to speak.
And Granada is changing as a company?
I don’t think Granada exists anymore, personally. The irony is that Granada… because, again, early on, I really enjoyed the network side of promotions. And at the time, I was a Devon lad, so I had Westward TV. So regional TV always made an impact with me. And going to network promotional meetings, all the various companies were there, Anglia, ATV. All that changed as well. I can’t remember. Harlech, all the various companies. So I guess I learned early on that Granada was quite a key player in those early days. And, as we all know, Granada gradually took them all over, and Granada in effect became or did ITV. But for me, Granada does not exist as a brand any shape or form other than Granada reports at 6:30 or 7:00, I don’t even know what time it’s on now, 6:30 or seven o’clock at night. That’s the only time you’ll really see the word Granada on a broadcast programme. So for me, Granada does not exist, and it was becoming very evident the shift of power. Whereas once it was handy to have Golden Square, and I was well aware of it because World in Action office is in Golden Square. But the shift of power now is completely and utterly London. And we just have a floor or so at Salford Quays. And sadly, with moving to Salford Quays, moving out of Quay Street, the graphics department moved for about a year, maybe two years, 18 months, and is no longer. So there is no longer a graphic design department at all, which is sad but I guess inevitable. And it was quite nice that the two designers that did actually go across to Salford Quays, I had interviewed an employee, both of them. So, in a funny way, I guess I had a slight involvement to the bitter end when that department finally went.
So you decided to leave?
No, I didn’t decide to leave. The writing sadly was on the wall. I took a redundancy, but it was becoming quite evident that finances were playing an important role, and it had become an unrecognisable company in many ways. We were then under the auspicious ruling of, I think, Charles Allen, and I think Gerry Robinson was still involved. But it was all about finances, budgets, and what had been spoken about with this merger of the BBC at Oxford Road. And we did create a fantastic opportunity for a design company within Granada TV called 360 Media and the facilities was second to none. And the BBC designers that came across were excellent designers. And our output, our designer output, was I thought very, very of the highest calibre. But it was all monitored so strictly by budget, and of course we now had to pay very high rates to rent our department within the building at Quay Street. So finances were always there in the background and the number of meetings we would all have as designers with budgets and, “Why are you going over spend?,” etc., etc.. It was becoming more and more evident. So, in the end, I think Granada didn’t feel we were commercially viable and had no energy or enthusiasm to support us anymore. I’ll just take this opportunity to say that the general manager of Grenada, who was head of design services, management head of design services, Michael Taylor, Mike Taylor, was a big supporter and he really pushed us. I’ve got to say that, very much. And although of course Mike is a manager and knew a spreadsheet, but I think without his will and I think an enthusiasm and I think a bit perhaps like Margaret Thatcher’s tunnel under the channel, I think Mike might wanted to have that as a legacy perhaps to a degree to his managerial time. And yes, Mike was a big supporter of the department, the electronic graphics department, and the design services. And of course he went on, as we all know, to become general manager of Granada. But again, Mike then left the company. But yes, sorry, getting back to an earlier point. Yes, the writing was on the wall. And the senior designers, as a head of a department and what’s called a production designer, my level was then production designer, we had a reasonable salary, quite a good salary. And yes, so I was encouraged to take a redundancy while the terms were pretty good, so I took it. And then the department haemorrhaged a number of people over the coming 18 months. And then finally, when they moved to Salford Quays, I think they moved with just two designers. And sadly that’s all gone now.
But no, if I had my choice I would happily have stayed on for another probably five years or so I think. But certainly, yes, it was neither the company nor the department that I had started out in all those years previous. Yes, but that’s progress.
Was it a good company to work for in the earlier days?
I think so. I think so. In a way, I can’t compare it to many because I was fortunate enough to work for ITV from leaving college at the age of 22 up until my early 50s. So that’s the only company I’ve ever known, Granada, ITV, ATV for nine months or so previous. And looking back, it’s a bit like I was at college for nearly 30 years, 28 years. It had that slight feeling of a university environment, campus. We’re all there trying to do whatever show you were working on. It was a bit like doing your final show as part of your final qualifications, if that makes sense. It had that slight feel to it. I think, yes, Granada was a good company. I think they looked after us as long as you did your work. Like any company, you’re going to have your run-ins with people and you’re going to have your issues. And the unions were a strong, major part of my early time at ITV. I mean, ironically, I was only working there for about three months when there was the major summer strike where all of ITV went off the air for about three months. So I was actually, at that time, not a member of the union so I had a whole summer of full pay because I wasn’t on strike. I wasn’t a member of the union, I wasn’t on strike, but I couldn’t cross the picket line because there was no work to do. So I had a paid summer. But, excuse me, through that particular summer strike, which I’m sure a number of us will remember, there was a huge percentage increase in wages across the board at ITV. There was a lot of frustration with the unions as well, of course, with the demarcation of jobs when you were filming things or shooting things and strict time breaks and woe betide if you did something you should not do on a film set. So, in many ways, the restrictive practises were very frustrating as a designer when you were trying to get something shot, when you were out filming for a title sequence and time was against you. And then there would be the protected breaks, all the protected jobs, what someone can and can’t do. Or if someone wasn’t on that set that could do that, you’d have to wait for that person to come out to your shoot. So there was an awful lot of frustrations, but the unions I think evolved as well, because they had to. But it was a closed shop. I had to join the union. You were either management or you were a foot soldier I guess. And you had to become part of BECTU whether you wanted to or not. But I think, again, when redundancy was facing a number of us, the unions were supportive. And I can’t remember his surname, Gerry, the very broad Irish gentleman.
No. No, no, the union rep for BECTU, and I can’t remember his surname now. But he always spoke passionately and eloquently in various heated meetings that happened. So I think, on the whole, the unions were good to me and generally supportive. And I think they did modernise within themselves, within the company, because they realised that things had to change as well. And again, as things change and there were certain new job titles and certain new allowances for what people could and couldn’t do.
There was a point in I suppose the late 1970s and early ‘80s when graphics department was not known for being the most cooperative. There were always obstacles put in your work when you went up to get things done.
What do you mean, Steve? You may well be referring to one or two personalities.
Yes, just one or two people. Yes.
But I would not ever dream of mentioning names.
But yes, it was all part of the banter. Yes, so looking back, I can appreciate that. And of course graphic designers notoriously are not the best spellers because we just draw things. We don’t write things. But yes, I know what you’re alluding to. But I hope and I think the show reel of Granada’s 30, 40 years in the spotlight will tell a very good visual tale. And we had some very motivating talks in the mid-90s when the company was going through some changes, changes of management with ownership really I guess, with Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen. And to rally the troops, I can remember a few big meetings in the studios. And the show reel, there’ll be an awful lot of graphics because there’d be clips of programmes headed with graphics. And I remember sitting there or standing there often in the studio with various other members of the department looking up and thinking, “Actually, that’s quite a visual, show reel of our department and Granada are intertwined.” So yes, yes, I guess every department has a few occasionally awkward people. But we were all very nice really. And we had a few reasonable footballers. We made up a contingent of the Granada football team. Yes, yes, the Granada football team, we’d go and play a few matches. Yes, so happy days.
And lots of good social activities within the department?
Yes, there was a number of keen golfers within the graphic designers, although I didn’t really play golf to be fair. So one particular sport that became very popular with graphics, again, because of the age, and I use the word break, the age break, was Snooker. And again, it coincided with a huge popularity of Snooker on the television. And we covered live Snooker matches, again, with the old electro set scoring system and into the electronic age. Snooker was a very popular pastime with the graphic designers. We had a few evening sessions and little mini tournament’s. Yes, yes. But I think, yes, I think, on the whole, reasonably sociable.
I think that’s good. I mean, is there anything else you want to add? Was there anything that you’d be thinking of that you wanted to say and did not have the chance to comment on?
I’d like to put on record that I was proud to be part of I think Granada, and I think still part of its golden heyday early on. And I was able to work on some great programmes, meeting very interesting people. World in Action, right? I had a great respect for Ray Fitzwalter and I worked on a number of programmes with Tony Wilson. And I can remember filming long into the night with Tony for a title sequence for a chat show of his till about four in the morning. I certainly enjoyed that. But I lost my train of thought for a second. I feel honoured, in a way, that I worked for a world-renowned company. And I think, at one point, it was kind of billed as one of the world’s leading television companies. And I think it enjoyed that status because it was I think, for a time. Again, great programmes were worked on when I was there, such as Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown. And then I worked on Cold Feet, and then some ongoing favourites like Krypton Factor. So yes, yes. But I think what I feel now, it’s only a, probably a personal take, I don’t know, that I can’t help thinking that the Granada legacy and the word Granada was a huge brand to the point that it was well known in the Northwest, especially Manchester. There was some cleaners near us called Granada Cleaners, dry cleaners that had nothing to do with Granada television whatsoever. And I don’t think you even got a discount for going there, but they picked up on the name. And what I’m trying to allude to is I think the name has all but absolutely disappeared, and it is ITV. And I can’t help thinking that Manchester as a city has missed bit of a trick because they once upon a time had the greatest TV company in the world right in the centre, and it’s disappeared. And whichever format Quay Street comes back in now, there’s not a great deal of reference really to Granada TV was once here, and the big, red littering that adorned the building that you could see for miles around on the skyline is gone. Of course there’s a lot of high buildings now. And the Beatles famously did their first television recording in a studio, and I forget which number, one of them. Studio two?
And I can’t help thinking City Council of Manchester has missed the trick. And I appreciate this recording is going some way into a time capsule of archive. But physically, I think Granada had been removed from the landscape of Manchester City centre. And I think that’s an indictment to the city really, personally. And to me, Granada does not exist. It is ITV.