Sita Williams on joining Granada

Well, the reason I got into television was I grew up in Sri Lanka where there was no television. But I heard about someone, through a friend whose son had joined a television company and I thought, “Oh, that sounds good. I want to do that.” So anyway, I planned my career in a very kind of structured way imagining that I would reach my goal and to my surprise I did. I went to drama school because I wanted to have a theatre background, a drama production background. And then the drama school I went to had an arrangement with the university of Kent, where they took up to six students who’d done three years at drama school. And then you got exempt from the first year and you got a degree at the end of the two years, which was marvellous. So I did a drama school and then English and American literature.

And I applied for the BBC graduate training scheme, which I got on, which was extremely privileged as you know. And there began my career as a trainee at the BBC. I worked in radio and then in television. And what was marvellous was, you really learned your craft because… I know young people do today. We had the protection of the BBC, where you were paid a salary, you were chosen, you had a mentor. My mentor was the controller of BBC too, so they kind of watched your career. And then in television, my first proper job, as not as a trainee, funny enough was with the Michael Parkinson Show. And as you know, Michael did cinema for Granada television. And then after two years, we had to relocate to Manchester. So I wrote to Granada television, to Steve Morrison who was then the head of regional programmes. And I think they asked Michael Parkinson whether they should employ me. And Michael said yes. So I arrived at Granada.

Let me take you back on that a little bit, you had all of BBC graduate trainee course?


When you were how old?

Well, I went into further education later, so I think I was 25.

Did you know what you wanted to do?

Yes, I was going to be this television producer.

A producer, yes. Okay

From the age of 12 and the only organisation I knew growing up in the Commonwealth was the BBC.

Right. How did you get into Granada again?

Well then, we had to relocate as a family to Manchester and I thought, “Well Granada television actually does the best drama I’ve seen.” For example, there was, I remember very clearly Peter Eckersley’s production of Hard Times and I thought, “I’m going to go there.” So, I applied. Steve Morrison encouraged me to apply he and Sandy…



Right. Good?

And so I remember very clearly arriving at Piccadilly Station because we were still living in London. And I said, “Granada Television.” And this young man said to me, “Oh, can we share a taxi? I’m going to Granada too.” So we got into the taxi together and it was after the strike, the ITV very long strike. And the young man said to me, “What you’re going to do at Granada?” And I said, “I’ve just joined as a producer. I’ve come from the BBC in London.” And I said to him, “And what are you going to be doing?” And he said, “Oh, I’ve just taken over directing a thing called Brideshead Revisited.” And it was Charles Sturridge.

My goodness. So that’s how you came to be in Granada. And the first thing you worked on?

I didn’t really make the connection that what Steve Morrison and Sandy were doing were regional programmes. That was a bit of a shock.

Yes. Yes.

And I did Live From Two, with a wonderful person called Shelley Rohde, and it was a fantastic show. It came from Studio Two and we had all sorts of wonderful interviewees and Shelley was a journalist as you know, she was originally a journalist. And she was terrific, it was Nick Turnbull and Shelley Rohde And then it was just Shelley. And I took over from Stephen Leahy, who had been the producer of Live From Two.

All right. Now the Parkinson show was before that then?

Yes, Parkinson was at BBC. I was a producer Parkinson at the BBC.

I see.

So it was obviously a good fit for me to move into the first kind of live discussion, in Granada. And it was very good. And one of the people I remember we had on the show, and I said to Shelley, “I really don’t like him”, and we gave him a hard time, which he was very upset about, was Jimmy Savile.

Oh, gosh.

Because we questioned his support of charities and his proselytising Christianity. It didn’t smell right and Shelley was very good at that.

Yes. Yes.

And I don’t suppose they ever kept that interview, but I remember it as a very, very special interview.

It may have been kept.

In front of an audience because Live from Two was done in front of an audience. And then I moved on because Steve Hawes left producing Celebration. And I loved Celebration because I worked with Tony Wilson then and we did extraordinary things in studio two. We did New Order, we did all the bands that he was promoting or he hadn’t started Factory even then, I’m not quite sure.

What year are we talking about?

1981, it was Celebration. And we managed extraordinary things in that Studio Two, for Celebration. And we had no editing facilities, nothing. So it was all extraordinary. So it was a great time.

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