People have mentioned to me about the canteen, the bar and the Stables being very important?
The canteen was very important, for several reasons, I always thought, because anybody who was working at the station and wanted anything to drink or eat would have to go in the canteen. There was none of this, ‘Oh, there’s a separate canteen for this production or programme’. Everybody would be sat there.
One time I was stood in the queue and Tom Jones is stood behind me. They would say, ‘Hello’ and that was about it. There was one time when I was sat in the canteen. Someone said, ‘Can I sit next to you?’ and I looked up and it was Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner, because they were in doing a big drama. They went and sat down and had their lunch and I kind of said, ‘I think I’ll go’ and left them. But that’s what happened. These great stars of film and theatre would appear, because there was only one place to eat. Sir Denis wanted everyone to be part of this lovely family culture.
And the canteen would be open from dawn to dusk?
It would. There was a young lady called Irma, who used to run the tea. She had this huge pot of tea, and if you were at the beginning of the queue it’d be great. But if you got towards the end of the queue, she’d refilled it so many times with tea it would melt the spoon, I think. But it always a laugh and a joke, and it was great fun.
Everybody was nice; everyone looked after the canteen ladies and they looked after you. If you were nice to them, they’d be nice to you. If you gave them any hard times, you’d suffer in the process. There used to be a little theatre group at the side, in the building, and then some bright spark said, ‘We’ll make this into a bar’, which was called the Old School and the Stables.
As you know, television people do like the odd drink or two, and this place would just be absolutely heaving. People would be in there at all times, because some programmes would be finished, some would start, some would start early, some would start late. So whatever time you went in there, it would be full. And also, it would be full of all the so-called actors and actresses. Again, it was still a family unit, and that’s what made it so special.