Roland Coburn’s memories of Sir Denis Forman and the Bernsteins

Occasionally I was taken off to do particular one-off programmes because, perhaps, World in Action was off the air, and things like that. One of them was The Battle of Monte Cassino; this was the battle in which Sir Denis had been injured and lost his leg during the war. Sir Denis often used to pop in and come and see how it was doing. Not because he would change the programme or anything like that but purely so he could see how we were doing. The director, Mike Beckham, I think, would be, ‘Oh, he’s here again!’ But he actually used to come in and say, ‘Oh, hello young Roland, how are you?’ because he remembered me through my mother. We’d chat for a bit then off he’d trundle. It was amazing.

Did he ever talk about losing his leg? 

No, and it was something we never mentioned, purely out of respect for what he went through. I’m not actually quite sure if it was Mike Beckham or Ken Greaves. It was one of those two.

Would you see people like Denis Forman and Sidney Bernstein around the building?

Sir Denis, often, would walk along the corridors and so would Mr Plowright. They would both walk up and down, and you always knew because somebody would say, ‘Quick! Tidy the room up! Clean the floors! Polish your hair!’ and all that kind of thing. ‘Sir Denis is on the prowl.’ He’d walk up and down the corridor, check up and see what was happening, and it was brilliant, because he was like the god, the main man, and it was wonderful to see him wandering around. You could often be sat in the canteen and he would suddenly appear. He’d have his sleeves rolled up and sit down and have his dinner in the canteen with the workers, and people really liked that. They liked to see that he was there, and he did have this authority about him that left people in awe.

Sidney Bernstein? 

Yeah, the Bernsteins would pop in. But you knew if they were around because the whole company, the whole building, was at attention, because you never were quite sure if he was going to pop in. It always made people slightly nervous and wary. But they were around. Of course, then they used to have the place at Golden Square in London, which was the London side of Granada. So most of the time, if they were around, they would be there.


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